Choosing the Right Athletic Shoes

August 29th, 2014

When it comes to running, walking, jumping and the like, it is important to choose proper footwear. If you have been to a shoe store recently, I am sure you are aware that there is no shortage of options out there. Picking the right shoe can be a bit overwhelming for some, and at the end of the day it can feel like a bit of a crap-shoot. This month’s health tip will focus on important factors to consider when selecting your next pair of kicks, and hopefully take out some of the guess work.

When I go to pick out a new pair the thing I look for above all is fit. Shoes are built around a “last” which is a foot shaped mold that determines the shape of the sole of the shoe. It is important to pick a shoe with a sole that most closely resembles the shape of your foot. The simplest way to do this is to put the sole of the shoe you like up against the sole of your foot and compare for shape.

Other considerations are width and length of the shoe. Different brands will often fit differently even if they are the same size. Be sure to check that the widest part of your foot matches up with the widest part of the toe box. Also be sure to check that there are only a few millimeters of space between your longest toe (not always the big one) and the end of the shoe.

After you have found a shoe that fits the shape of your foot, make sure that the cloth part (known as the “upper”) fits your foot comfortably.

The last couple of things to check have to do with the amount of angle that the shoe has from back to front, and the stiffness of the midsole.

That angle is referred to as the heel-toe drop, and should most often be selected based on your particular running style. For people who tend to heel strike when they run a higher drop is often more comfortable for them, whereas midfoot strikers tend to prefer a lower drop. The drop is often measured in millimeters with those being designed for heel strike runners usually being more than 10 mm and those for midfoot being less, or even 0 mm!

Finally, be sure to check the stiffness of the midsole by bending the toe upwards and twisting the shoe. The best shoes tend to be fairly flexible and easy to twist in these directions, allowing for natural movement of your foot.

Over the past decade or longer, a great deal of time and money has been spent to research claims from shoe companies about injury prevention properties of footwear. Shoe selection was often made based on arch height, but conflicting findings make it difficult to endorse that way of thinking for all but the extreme ends of the spectrum.

My recommendation is to follow the advice I outlined above. Find a comfortable shoe that fits well and has the right drop height for your running style. Should you have extremely high arches, you may want to consider a shoe designed for that.

For those with flat feet, or those who have been told that they over pronate, I would advise avoiding motion control type shoes. While these shoes have been demonstrated to achieve their claims, they tend to decrease proprioception of the foot. Decreased sensation caused by these shoes can lead to injuries of the ankle and knee simply because those who wear them really can’t feel the ground beneath their feet.

Current research also suggests that you should avoid any of the shoes designed to mimic bare foot running. Their lack of cushioning has been associated with increased foot injuries in those who use them in training.

I hope that this short synopsis was helpful! Be sure to let me know if you have any other questions about your specific needs at your next appointment.

Happy trails!