Make the shoe fit!
When purchasing an athletic shoe we often pay more attention to how a particular shoe looks and fits our foot, and less attention to how appropriate that shoe is for our chosen activity. With the broad variety of activities that people enjoy nowadays it is equally important to choose the right type of shoe. Following are some physical activities that you might be involved in and some general guidelines on what to look for in purchasing the appropriate shoe.
Walking/running/jogging/trail running: All of these activities require movement that is conducted in a linear fashion. It is important to pick a shoe that provides good cushioning, flexibility, stability and traction. Running puts extra stress on the ankle and knee joints and it is important to get good quality shoes to protect them. To avoid injury and pain, overpronators (those whose feet roll inward) and underpronators (those whose feet roll outward and are high-arched) must get shoes that are recommended for their foot type. When trail running, consider extra cushioning, grip and traction when on slippery grounds. Shoes that are made with Gore-Tex are also a good choice when running in wet, hilly/mountainous regions. Be sure to replace shoes every five to six months, depending on the amount of usage.
Basketball/tennis/racquetball/volleyball: While all of these activities are played on the court, each has specific shoe requirements. Comfort, durability, maximum padding, traction, support and cushioning are all important in a basketball shoe due to the constant high jumping, abrupt stopping and side-to-side moves. A good lacing system and ankle support are equally critical. Tennis, which has quick, fast steps, lateral moves and jumps, requires shoes that have good grip and lateral support. Along with comfort and breathability, the sole of the tennis shoe is also to be considered here—the herringbone pattern is best for hard courts. It is important to note that a general sneaker-type shoe is not a good tennis shoe.
As racquetball is played on wooden floors, look for shoes that provide better grip and the best traction. Shoes specifically built for the sport, with gummy bottoms that feel sticky to the touch, are what you would need. Gummy bottom shoes help prevent marks on the floor as well. Ankle support is also important here because of the quick start and stopping moves. Just like racquetball, volleyball requires shoes with gummy bottoms. Because volleyball incorporates a lot of jumping movement with players landing on the balls of their feet, the soles of the shoe are an important factor here. The shoe should fit well without extra room. Once you’ve picked the shoe, try out some jumps and lateral shuffling to make sure it’s the right fit.
Cycling: If you enjoy cycling for hours, consider professional cycling shoes. These shoes have a very snug fit, are light-weight and unpadded, with stiff soles. However, for the recreational cyclist, a good pair of sneakers or walking shoes will usually suffice. Sandals and slippers are not a good option even for the recreational cyclist.
Soccer: Purchasing the right kind of soccer cleats will depend on the type of surface the game is played on—soft, firm or hard. Cleats come in two basic types—detachable and molded. Molded cleats are great for beginners, while detachable ones are ideal for more experienced players as they can change the cleats according to field condition.
Finally, it is best to try on shoes later in the day since our feet swell as the day goes on. Leave the pretty-looking athletic shoes and sandals for leisure wear and not for sports activities. When considering athletic shoes, it is not always the best option to purchase cheap, discounted shoes. Good quality shoes that are comfortable and durable and that are a right fit for your chosen activity can not only help you improve your game but also prevent injury.
[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404) 376-5655; firstname.lastname@example.org. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]
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