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By Meg Barton, St Joes/Chandler
Updated On: Oct 10, 2006

Finding the Right Athletic Shoe

 

The feet act as supporting "floor" for the entire body. They aid in balance, give support and help propel the body forward during motion. Many times, the feet are required to perform all these functions within seconds. Just as everybody’s feet vary, so do the sports and fitness levels. For example, if you only jog a little every week and play some basketball in your driveway occasionally then an all-purpose cross training shoe should be fine for your needs. But, if you do or play a certain sport at least three or more times per week then you should wear a shoe that is specific to that sport. Wearing a shoe specific to its sport has many benefits such as: giving the proper cushion where needed, traction for outdoors running, support around the ankle to prevent sprains and gender specific shoes. If the feet are to accommodate the stress placed on them they must be supported by a good pair of shoes that meets the demands of the sport and the individual.

Your first line of defense is to buy shoes that fit. Ill-fitting can cause pain that alters your gait along with the aliments such as bunions, calluses, corns, nail deformities and other deformities such as hammer toe. With shoes that are not properly fit, the toes can be cramped or twisted (leads to hammer toe), it can decrease the ventilation throughout the shoe as it is designed leading to excessive perspiration, which causes rotting of the inner soles, linings and upper leather. Every step that you take strains the foot and arch therefore, without proper support for the entire arch the foot sags down and nerves and blood vessels can pinched both of which can cause decreased circulation and pain in the foot. Another important fact to remember is that your feet continue to change throughout your adult life. Your shoe size may change when your weight or pattern of activity changes. The pads on your feet get thinner as you grow older. As well as fitting your shoes to your foot it should also fit your lifestyle. If you walk or run on hard surfaces or stand up for several hours each day, you need shoes with thick soles and soft uppers.

Guidelines for Shoe Fit

widest part of the shoe.

Make sure the shoe’s arch matches up with your arch (the highest part of the shoe should fit right underneath the highest point of your arch.

Try to shoe for shoes in the middle of a normal day or at the end of the day if that is when you exercise, not early in the morning since feet tend to swell as the day goes on.

Heavy and tall people wear away shoes faster than do lighter, shorter people. If you are heavy, choose shoes with mid-soles (the layer between the insole and the shoe bottom) made of polyurethane. It lasts longer.

Don’t expect shoes to "stretch" or "loosen up." If it doesn’t feel good in the store, it will not feel any better at home. Don’t buy tight shoes.

If you wear orthotics or braces during sporting activities then make sure that you try on the shoes while wearing them to ensure a proper fit for them and your feet.

Running Shoes

These are good for activities that primarily involve forward movement. Most are lightweight and have a durable, deeply patterned outer sole; a thick heel wedge to tilt the body forward; a firm shock-absorbent mid-sole; and a breathable upper. The best covering for a shoe is nylon or leather to accommodate the weather. The heel when placed on a flat surface should be straight up and down. Make sure the uppers are correctly attached to the soles. They should be perpendicular to the heels, not slanted, when examined from the back or side view. Running shoes should bend at the ball of the foot; shoes that bend at the mid-foot offer no support. A mid-sole that is too soft will feel very good in the store, but can cause the foot to turn inwards. Make sure that the uppers are correctly attached to the soles. A good running shoe will usually last for 300-500 miles.

Walking Shoes

Walking shoes need to be more flexible than running shoes because you bend your feet more when walking and you push off your toes with more oomph. Also, because your heels bear most of your weight when you walk, you need a firm, stable heel counter to keep your foot in place. They should have a rigid shank for support. Rubber heels are a must because they absorb shock better. Also, consider curved soles to facilitate the rocking motion of walking and extended heel counters at the backs. A good walking shoe should hold up for 1,000 to 1,500 miles

Other Considerations

There are shoes on the market that are designed for special foot problems. If you have a pronation of your feet; a straight shoe provides more stability on the inside of the shoe and therefore is more suitable for this type of foot. A soft mid-sole will allow for more shock absorption. The heel counter should be rigid. The more rigid the heel counter, the less motion occurs in the foot, and therefore pronation is controlled. Many specialty shoe stores carry variety of shoes made for both pronators or supinators. Try on different brands to find one that feels the most comfortable for you.

A woman’s foot is typically narrower than a man’s and has a narrower heel relative to the forefoot.

Total measure. Have both feet measures and always with full weight on the foot that is being measured. They try the size that fits the larger foot. When testing new shoes, stand on one foot at a time. Wiggle your toes. Stand on tiptoes, the shoe should bend where your foot bends. Jump or cut changing direction if you play basketball or volleyball. Jog either in place or for a few feet to check the feel. Make sure that your toes are not jamming into the end of the shoes when you jump or run as this can cause the nails to bruise and come off.

The toe bed (the area between your big toe and little toes) should lie flat. Check to see that you have one half inch space (about one’s thumb width) between the end of your big toe and the tip of the shoe, this also the foot to slide in the shoe when you jump or stop quickly without jamming the toes into to the end of the shoe and causing damage.

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If your second or third toes are longer than your big toe then use them to measure the distance in the end of the shoe.

Make sure that the widest part of your foot (ball section) fits comfortably in the


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