Choosing Athletic Shoes
No matter what your sport is, your athletic shoes are one of the most
important pieces of equipment. From tennis to running, basketball to
soccer, choosing the right athletic shoes for the right reasons can
make a huge difference in keeping your feet and body healthy.
will find some of the things you need to consider when choosing shoes
for your sport.
Just about every day, someone asks me about their shoes. Questions vary
from sport to sport, but the fact remains that the majority of people
choose athletic shoes based on brand names and styles, rather than what
is best for their own feet.
I know that it can be hard to pass up those awesome looking shoes that
match your uniform perfectly, but in the long run, the most important
thing is that the shoe serves its function...to support and
protect your feet. So, lets take a closer look at what makes a good
The Heel Box
When I explain shoes to my patients, I always start with the heel box.
This is where most people are similiar in their needs. A sturdy heel
box is essential to help control your rear-foot during athletic
activities. The heel box is essentially the back third of the shoe,
that surrounds your heel. Most athletic shoes have a heel box made up
of leather, and some type of plastic or rubber re-inforcement.
not all athletic shoes are created equal. To test the heel
bending it over, or squeezing it in, and see how much resistance you
encounter. If you can easily fold over the heel box, then chances are
you will not get much support.
This is the area where most
people make the mistake that causes injury.
The "Upper" is the portion of the shoe that surrounds the foot. It is
the upper portion of the shoe, from the heel box to the toe box. Uppers
can be fashioned from all kinds of different materials, from mesh to
leather, and other types of fabrics. Depending on your foot type, you
may need more or less support from the upper.
This portion of the shoe helps to control the mid and forefoot. Too
much motion in these areas will allow for excessive stress through the
meta-tarsals and tarsals, and can result in stress fractures,
tendonitis, and other problems.
determine what type of foot you
have, grab ahold of your foot with both hands, and move it around. Try
moving individual bones around...do you find lots of motion, with
little resistance, or is your foot very rigid, with little movement.
You don't have to be an expert to tell if you have a flexible or rigid
foot. Your athletic shoe should be opposite of your foot type. For
rigid feet, you can get by with mesh or other light materials for the
upper, as you need less support for your foot. For a flexible foot, you
should lean more toward a rigid upper, that will control excessive
motion and reduce stress.
Arch support is essential for good athletic shoes. Even people with
good arches, or great feet mechanics should have sufficient arch
support. But, arch support is more than just the arch. It is the way
that the sole of the athletic shoe is created and constructed that
determines the overall characteristics of the arch. And as far as those
cushy insoles that they try to upsell you at the shoe store - pass on
those as they just add comfort, not support.
When choosing shoes, look closely at the sole of the shoe. A good arch
support will be evident by the shape of the shoe. Notice the outline of
the sole. There should be a minimal amount of change in width between
the toe and the heel. The wider the athletic shoe is at the middle
(where your arch is), the more surface area there is to support your
Avoid shoes that start out wide at the
toe, narrow way down
in the middle, and then flare out again at the heel. (no offense to
Nike, but they are notorious for very narrow arches in their shoes)
Change is Good
the perfect shoe will wear out over time. I have seen
quite a few injuries due to old or worn out shoes. Just like any other
equipment, you should monitor your shoes, and replace them when they
wear out. If you are a runner, monitor your mileage, and replace them
How do you know when to buy new shoes? Well, holes, or pieces falling
off are generally good indicators...But if it isn't that obvious, look
for all of the qualities that you used to choose the athletic shoe in
the first place. Is the heel box still sturdy? Is the upper as rigid as
it needs to be to control your foot? Is the arch still in good shape,
or have you worn down one side of the sole?
these questions, and
inspect your shoes often to keep them protecting your feet.
Good shoes don't have to be flashy, or expensive to serve
their intended purpose. There are lots of shoes out there that will fit
both your needs and your budget. Look for all of the right qualities to
fit your foot, and you are sure to make a wise decision. And when in
doubt? Discuss shoe wear with other athletes, and the sales person at
the shoe store. Chances are they have some good insight. Or, ask your