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Pick Your Shoes Wisely

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD, Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity with MyDiet™ -

Have you ever walked into an athletic shoe store and felt overwhelmed? How do you know which pair to choose? There is such a variety of shoes at several price ranges and each brand with its own catchy advertisements. They make you believe that wearing their product will make you a better athlete. In order to make the best choice, learn a little about your feet, your sport or activity, and various shoes.

First learn about your feet. Find out if they have high, medium, or low arches. Wet the bottom of your bare foot and make a footprint on a hard surface. Use a surface where the footprint will show up clearly, like a piece of cardboard or colored paper. If the forefoot and heel areas are connected by a thin line, you have high-arched feet. If the footprint looks pretty much like the shape of your complete foot, you have a low arch. A medium arch is somewhere in between. If your feet are high-arched, it means they are not very flexible, and you will need a cushioned shoe. A low arch, or flat foot, indicates that your feet are too flexible, and you will need motion control shoes. If you fall in between (medium arch), try a stability shoe.

Next, think about any foot problems you have had in the past. For example, if you have sprained or twisted your ankles in the past, you may want a high-top shoe to better support your ankles. If you experience pain in the arch of your feet, you may need a special arch support. Bunions may require a shoe with a wide toe box.

The type of shoe you select should reflect the activity or activities you do most often. For example, if you participate in several activities but don’t focus on one for an extended period of time, you may want an all-purpose cross training shoe. However, if you participate in an activity three or more times per week, you will need shoes specifically for that sport. Choosing sport/activity-specific shoes will help you avoid sports injuries, such as ankle sprains. If you participate in high-impact activities, such as running/jogging or aerobics, you need shoes with impact-absorbing cushioning. Extra shock absorption in the heel is important for walkers. They should also look for soles that provide a good roll off the toes. If you play court sports, such as tennis and basketball, you need shoes that help keep the ankle stable when you move from side-to-side. The soles on court-sport shoes cannot be too thick.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society makes several recommendations for getting a good fit. Make sure you get your feet measured when they are at their largest. This would be at the end of the day, or after a run, walk, game, or practice. Have both feet measured. One could be slightly bigger than the other. Go with the bigger size, rather than the smaller one. The shoe should have at least one thumb’s width of space from the longest toe to the end of the toe box. You should probably buy athletic shoes in a half to a whole size bigger than your regular shoe size to prevent blisters and black toenails. When you try on shoes, wear your workout socks. Try on several pairs. The sizes may vary by manufacturer. You should try on both shoes every time. Make sure they fit comfortably on both feet. Jog around the store in your shoes to make sure they feel good when you put impact on them.

Athletic shoes should feel comfortable throughout the arch. They should fit well across the ball of the foot, and hold the heel firmly. The heels should not slide. Because they may have narrower heels, women may need to look for models designed specifically for their feet. Nike, Asics, Reebok, and Saucony all have women’s lines.

Shoes should feel comfortable immediately. Keep in mind that you still need to break them in before using them for extended periods of activity, so don’t run a marathon in a brand new pair of shoes. Give your shoes some time to conform to your feet, but make sure they do not get too old. The cushioning on most shoes wears out after they have been worn for 300-500 miles. Depending on your fitness level, this could take 3 months to one year. To extend the life of your shoes, you can rotate two or three pairs.

Some athletic shoe stores have trained personnel that can help you pick out the most appropriate shoes. Do your homework before getting there. If you know your foot type, the activities in which you participate, and exactly what to look for in an athletic shoe, it will make it much easier to make a decision, and you will feel much less overwhelmed.


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