What Shoes?

Most people don’t think about how their shoes can affect our workouts.  I can honestly say I didn’t think about it much in the beginning.  If it looked cool, I bought it.  Now, after years of being on my feet and working hard, I realize the benefits not only in your feet but your knees, other joints and even your spine that using the right shoes brings.  “The biggest mistake people make when they start running, jogging, or doing any exercise program, is just reaching into the closet and pulling out an old pair of sneakers,” says Tracie Rodgers, PhD, an exercise psychologist and spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.  Your shoes play a huge role in overall training results, and it’s something we all need to pay more attention to.

Every shoe is made different.  A shoe made for running is going to be different than a shoe made for tennis, basketball, weight lifting, etc.  “Running shoes have no lateral stability built into them, because you don’t move your feet laterally when you run,” says Joe Puleo, the author of Running Anatomy and the head men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field coach at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J.  “You’re only going forward, and a running shoe is built to give you support and stability as you move your foot through the running gait cycle,” Puleo says. “Basketball and tennis shoes both have to be stabilized laterally, because you move your feet side to side a lot when playing these sports. You can’t build a running shoe that has lateral stability, and you can’t build a shoe for basketball or tennis that doesn’t have it.”

So when you are in need of new shoes, how do you know what to get?  It can be hard to choose from the many different types of athletic shoes available!  But remember, don’t just go for the color or design you like, there are big differences in material and weight that are sport-specific.  These differences have been developed to protect the areas of the feet that encounter the most stress in a particular athletic activity.  Athletic shoes are grouped into seven categories:

Running, training, and walking. This category includes shoes for hiking, jogging, and exercise walking as well. Look for a good walking shoe to have comfortable, soft upper, good shock absorption, and a rocker sole design that encourages the natural roll of the foot during the walking motion. The features of a good jogging shoe include cushioning, flexibility, control and stability in the heel counter area, lightness, and good traction. 
There’s also a big difference between running shoes and training shoes. Training shoes are usually heavier than running shoes, have better support at the sides and have a lighter tread when compared to running shoes.

Court sports. These include shoes for tennis, basketball, and volleyball. Most court sports require the body to move forward, backward, and side-to-side. As a result, most athletic shoes used for court sports are subjected to heavy abuse. The key to finding a good court shoe is its sole. Ask a coach or shoes salesman to help you select the best type of sole for the sport you plan on participating in.

Field sports. Includes shoes for soccer, football, and baseball. These shoes are cleated, studded, or spiked. The spike and stud formations vary from sport to sport, but generally are replaceable or detachable cleats, spikes, or studs affixed into nylon soles.

Winter sports. Includes footwear for figure skating, ice hockey, alpine skiing, and cross-country skiing. The key to a good winter sports shoe is its ability to provide ample ankle support.

Track and field sport shoes. Because of the specific needs of individual runners, athletic shoe companies produce many models for various foot types, gait patterns, and training styles. It is always best to ask your coach about the type of shoe that should be selected for the event you are participating in.

Specialty sports. Includes shoes for golf, aerobic dancing, and bicycling.

Outdoor sports. Includes shoes used for recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and boating.

Now that you know what KIND of shoe you need, how do you go about picking one to actually buy?  According to the American Orthopedic foot and ankle society these are the steps to take in finding a good shoe.

  1. Try on athletic shoes after a workout or run and at the end of the day. Your feet will be at their largest.
  2. Wear the same type of sock that you will wear for your sport.
  3. When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes.
  4. The shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. There is no break-in period.
  5. Walk or run a few steps in your shoes. They should be immediately be comfortable.
  6. Always re-lace the shoes you are trying on. You should begin at the farthest eyelets and apply even pressure as you do a crisscross lacing pattern towards the top of the shoe.
  7. The shoe should have a firm grip on your heel. Your heel should not slip as you walk or run.
  8. If you participate in a sport three or more times a week, you need a sports specific shoe.

And while it may not be on the doctor’s list… one I’ll personally add in is to find a style or design you like (or at least don’t hate).  J  When you hit the gym or head outside, you want to make sure you feel your best and for me, something as silly as bright orange or hot pink shoes can add a little extra pep in my step!!

All of these tips should help ensure your feet are able to perform at their peak. And hopefully next time you walk into an athletic shoe store you won’t feel quite so overwhelmed by the walls and racks of options!  Thanks for listening and I look forward to questions or comments.