When it comes to workout equipment, you may be surprised that your most important item is not an iPod, digital pedometer, or trendy workout clothes. Top priority is given to what is protecting the bottom of your feet—your shoes. The success of your workout and the health of your legs and feet depend largely on what type of shoe you wear.
Make sure you get the right ones by avoiding common athletic shoe mistakes. And do this by checking out this expert advice on selecting the best shoe for your foot type and kind of exercise.
It May Cost You
Wearing the wrong kind of shoe when you exercise may cost you. And not financially. Sneakers that don’t fit properly, are worn down, or aren’t designed for your sport may lead to aches and pains in your feet, knees, hips, and back.
Early-onset arthritis, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis are just a few examples of problems that develop from repeated impact activities done while wearing the wrong type of shoe.
Make sure you’re wearing shoes designed to prevent injury, improve your body’s alignment, and improve your performance. Not sure what shoes will do that for you? Talk with a knowledgeable shoe rep or your personal trainer.
Looks Aren’t Everything
You may have a go-to pair of sneakers for when you work out or are on your feet all day. They may look as if they’re in good condition, but their inner support may be worn down or they may not be made for your type of activity. Instead of wearing the same shoes all the time, keep a pair of casual sneakers for around town and a pair of athletic shoes to wear during your workout.
If your shoes look fine but you don’t know about how well their support is holding up, here are some rules to follow.
Replace your athletic shoes…
…every six months if you work out daily.
…at least once a year if you work out several days a week.
…every 300–500 miles if you’re a runner and track your miles.
Find the Shoe that Fits your Foot
The first step to the right shoe is finding the shoe that best fits your foot. Be confident you’re wearing the right shoe by visiting an athletic shoe store and have a staff member assist you. He or she will size your foot (the length, width, and arch), evaluate the movement of your foot, and help you determine what shoe is best for your type of activity.
Remember: each person’s foot is designed differently and touches the ground differently. Look at an old pair of shoes with worn down soles. You can tell the wear patterns from the places your foot places pressure.
Top outer edges of your shoes receive more pressure? You’re a supinator. You probably have high arches and your feet roll outward. Supinators need extra cushioning and support. Look for shoes with soft midsoles and flexible soles with extra rubber.
If your old shoes appear evenly worn, your foot probably evenly distributes your weight. This foot type is called neutral. You have the most freedom when it comes to buying shoes. Find what feels most comfortable with a balance of support and cushion.
Those whose foot places pressure on the top inner edge of their foot are called over-pronators. You likely have flat or low arches and your feet roll inward. Look for shoes with high-stability and motion control.
Find the Shoe that Fits your Sport
Athletic shoes aren’t all the same. Find the shoe that fits your type of exercise. Running shoes are different than tennis shoes or even walking shoes. Running shoes give support mainly on your forefoot. Tennis and basketball shoes will support your foot laterally as you move side to side. Shoes made for walking give more support and cushioning in the heel area.
Perhaps you’re not committed to one type of sport. You do aerobics, play basketball with your kids, and occasionally lift weights. In this case, cross-trainers may be best for you. They provide some lateral stability and support, but aren’t designed for any one activity. If you think cross-trainers are your best bet, look for those that are light weight, have a firm heel, and are supportive (can’t bend the shoe easily).