How to Choose the Right Athletic Shoe
Sporting the wrong athletic shoe can lead to unnecessary aches and pains. One step in the right direction is to go for instant gratification. “There’s really no such thing as ‘breaking in’ a pair of shoes,” says Christian Royer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. “If it doesn’t feel right in the store, put it back and go for another pair.”
A good fit is essential. Royer says that many people don’t know what size they wear. “Not only does your foot change as you grow and as you age, but it’s bigger from swelling at the end of the day.” Royer advises, “Always shop after work, when your feet are at their maximum size.” That doesn’t mean you should try on tennis shoes in your sheer-black hosiery. Take along the socks that you’ll wear during your workout.
Remember when your parents would press the front of the shoes you were trying on to see if there was room in front of the toe? There’s something to that; check for a thumb’s width (3/8 to 1/2 inch) of room in the front of the toe box.
Choosing shoes that are appropriate for your activity is key. “Basketball shoes, for example, are engineered to take a beating on the court, whereas a running shoe would be too soft and not constructed to take side-to-side motion,” Royer says. Although cross-training shoes work for most activities, some women find the foot beds too hard and stiff. If you don’t have problems with your ankles and past injuries, says Royer, it’s probably OK to choose a softer shoe, such as a running shoe.
Running shoes are also appropriate for walking, but the reverse isn’t true. Walking shoes, especially the sport casual kind tailored to look great with jeans, won’t offer enough support for running. Shoes with a pump-up tongue or gel inserts are not just trendy but also may help you get a great fit or avoid heel pain. Ask a sales person to help you understand all the creative features.
“Not replacing shoes often enough is a big mistake people make,” says Royer. Properly toe the line by replacing any athletic shoe after 300 hours of activity or sooner if you feel the shoe is giving out.