Athletic Footwear: Finding the Shoe That’s Right for You

Athletic shoes are among the most comfortable shoes you can wear. High-quality athletic footwear will provide you with enhanced support and improved foot function for your sports activities and while walking.

Here are some ideas to help you choose shoes that will work well for you:

  • Athletic shoes should have a firm sole that bends easily at the ball of the foot. This is where the shoe should flex when you go up on your toes. If the sole of the shoe can easily bend in the middle portion, then the shoe may not offer enough support. Test: See if you can easily bend the shoe in half. If it folds easily at the mid-part of the shoe, support may be inadequate.
  • An athletic shoe should have good cushioning under the heel area. If this area is thin, it won’t provide good shock absorption at heel strike.
  • Pick your shoes according to your sports activity. For instance, running shoes should not be worn for tennis, as you could wind up with an ankle sprain. Running shoes are made for forward motion, while tennis shoes are designed for side-to–side motion. Be sure to wear the right shoe with each activity.
  • The heel counter of the shoes (back and side portion that goes around your heel) should be firm and supportive. If it is soft and pliable, it may not offer enough support.
  • Inside the shoe, there should be about 1 cm of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.
  • If you are older, you may notice that your feet or ankles can swell at the end of the day. If this is the case, try making your shoe purchase later in the day so that the fit will be better and your shoes won’t feel tight.
  • If you have a wide forefoot or have bunions (enlarged big toe joints), be sure to select shoes with a wider fit.
  • If you have hammer toes (curled/contracted toes), the tops of the toes can rub against the shoes, so look for shoes with a deep toe box.
  • If you are a larger-sized individual, you may want to ask the salesperson in the store to recommend a more solid, stable shoe that will retain its shape and provide longer-lasting wear.
  • Arch pain or foot fatigue can often be relieved with new supportive athletic shoes.  Older shoes that are worn down can cause a subtle structural shift in your foot and leg that often translates into discomfort or pain. A new pair of shoes that fits well and comfortably supports the entire foot can make a world of difference in how your feet feel at the end of the day or at the end of your workout.

 A good pair of athletic shoes will last for about one season. If you’re a runner, then your shoes will be more mileage-dependent. After about 500 km of running, the shoe typically loses about half of the cushioning of the midsole.

For avid runners, it may be a good idea to have more than one pair of running shoes, so that each pair can air out adequately after a run.

Don’t make your purchasing decision based on style alone. The shoes should feel perfectly comfortable as soon as you try them on. Don’t expect to have to break them in.

Dr. Lloyd NesbittLloyd Nesbitt DPM
Lloyd is a graduate of the California College of Podiatric Medicine in San Francisco, and completed his hospital residency programme at Vancouver General Hospital in B.C.
He has authored numerous articles and has appeared on several t.v. and radio programmes.
Presently, he is in private practice in Toronto.
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