Find Proper Athletic Shoes For Your Feet

So you want to find proper athletic shoes for your feet.  You run on down to your local big box store and see the wall of athletic shoes.  Your vision blurs, your head pounds.  You wonder how to choose an athletic shoe that is comfortable and will keep you injury-free.  The “wall” has shoes with all sorts of technical features; each seems to outdo the other with patented claims for stability, cushioning, maybe weight loss or hair growth. You’re left wondering “how do I choose a proper athletic shoe that will make my feet, knees, hips and back feel comfortable”.  Not to worry!  We’re here to help!  Follow these 3 simple steps when picking your new pair of shoes and you will be on your way to comfortable, happy feet!

1. Consider Your Foot Arch Type

Every pair of feet is different, every shoe has different features, and overall comfort is a very personal decision. When picking a new pair of athletic shoes, be sure to consider your arch type, this will help guide you to the type of shoe that your feet need.
Arches can be classified into 3 categories; low, high and neutral

flat-arch

Low Arch

Stand up and put your weight evenly on both feet. Look at your arches. Does your arch almost touch the floor? Does your foot or ankle roll in (overpronate)?  People with low arches tend to have stability issues leading to muscle and joint stress in the feet and knees. Athletic shoes that are more structured will provide stability.  Look for shoes with inside (medial) support to limit over-pronation and support your feet.  A great example is the New Balance NB 1540v2 – designed with stability features to keep your feet from rolling.  This shoe will help guide your foot forward, keeping you on track.

 

high-arch

High Arch

Is your arch really high?  Can you almost fit a golf ball under your instep?  The high-arched foot usually results in a foot that rolls to the outside (oversupinates).  Feet with high arches may be prone to stress because of the lack of natural shock absorption.  Look for shoes with cushioning under the ball of the foot and additional support for the outside of the shoe. The Brooks Glycerine is the ultimate in super-soft cushioning, and comes equipped with everything you could ever want to glide you through your run in supreme comfort.

 

normal-arch

Normal Arch

Lucky you, you’re somewhere in the middle.  The neutral foot is the easiest to fit and assuming you have no other structural issues, you can feel comfortable in a number of shoe designs.  The Saucony ECHELON 5 in a great choice – it provides extra comfort and cushioning under the entire length of the foot and is built on Saucony’s Foundation Platform creating an accommodating fit that is highly compatible with orthotics or shoe inserts.

 

2. Match the Shoe to the Activity

A wide variety of athletic shoes exist, from walking shoes and running shoes, to squash and golf shoes. Each activity involves different movement patterns and therefore different footwear features to provide comfort and support. Amongst the most popular shoes are walking shoes and running shoes.

 

Walking Shoes

Walking is a fairly straight forward motion, literally!  If walking is your preferred mode of exercise, the high impact areas of the foot include the outside (lateral aspect) of your heel where you land, the arch where you roll in (pronate) and the toes where you push forward into your next step (toe off).  These are the areas where your shoes should be most cushioned and supportive.  Walking shoes should also have a curvature at the toe (similar to a curvature at the base of a rocking chair), so your toes can naturally roll forward at the end of each step.  This prevents too much pressure being placed upon the ball of the foot and the joints mentioned.  A great shoe that does exactly this is the Saucony ProGrid Echelon , available at most BioPed Clinics across Canada (contact your local BioPed for availability of sizes and colours).
normal-arch

 

Running Shoes

Running is all the rage! From light jogging to serious road racing there are shoes out there for all types of runners. Running requires the support of at least 2-3x your body weight and each stride has moments when neither foot is touching the ground.  With each step, the outer heel absorbs most of the impact before distributing weight through the foot in an S motion through toe off.  Running shoes have more cushioning in the heel–the point of impact–and less protection through the ball of the foot.  Running shoes should provide cushioning, traction and stability.  The outer sole should be durable, the counter and midsole shank should be rigid, and the shoe itself should be as light and flexible as possible. The amount of heat generated in the running motion is greater, so running shoes also are made with a higher amount of mesh to keep feet cool during exercise.
normal-arch

 

3. Determine Your Biomechanical Needs

While knowing what type of arch you have is a first step toward buying the correct shoe and narrowing down the type of activity you are going to be engaged in, the second step towards buying the correct shoe is to understand that the pronation/supination component may be magnified during activity. A Canadian Certified Pedorthist has a formal education and specializes in foot mechanics.  They are qualified to perform a proper gait analysis to definitely determine how your foot functions while you are running, and can analyze your gait to help determine the best type of shoe for you.  See a Canadian Certified Pedorthist to ensure that you aren’t doing more harm than good.

If you have experienced a previous lower limb injury or suffer from foot, leg or knee pain, it’s even more critical that you take this into consideration when selecting an athletic shoe.  At BioPed our foot care specialists take a unique and comprehensive approach when selecting footwear for you and your lifestyle, and can ensure you remain pain-free while exercising.  The Pedorthist will thoroughly assess your lower limb mechanics, as well as your fitness goals.  They will also make specific recommendations related to features, brands and styles that will work best for you.

Overall, shoes should be comfortable on your feet and support your feet throughout the intended activity.  A poorly fitting shoe with the greatest technology will not make you a better athlete, nor prevent injuries.  It will only cost you more.  If they don’t feel comfortable right off the bat, keep looking.