This week we are going to help protect your tootsies by sharing some great tips on how to choose the right pair of fitness shoes. Those shoes you lace up for physical activity have a pretty important and tough job - they absorb the shock of your every move in an effort to help minimize negative impact to your spine, work to support your stability needs and ensure your safety as you quickly move from one exercise to the next, all while striving to reduce your risk of injury. Ever been halfway through a run and your feet start throbbing? On a hiking trail with a nasty blister? Walking the dog and your shins ache? Training at the gym and your feet are sloshing about as you struggle to keep your balance? Let's face it, your shoes can make or break your fitness experience!
Here are a few things to consider when purchasing your next pair of athletic shoes:
1. Give your shoes one task: no one shoe is perfect for all fitness activities. There are different types of shoes out there for a reason (no not just for their flashy colors!) Your feet need a different type of shoe for hiking vs. running vs walking vs training. Each type of fitness shoe will offer unique tread, arch and ankle support, cushioning, and estimated mileage (aka life of the shoe) based on the type of activity it was created for. If you want your shoe to do the job right, you have to get the right shoe for the job.
2. Consider your feet: athletic shoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from minimalist to ultra cushioning, in wide and narrow widths. And guess what? So do your feet! Do you have low or high arches? Do you need a shoe for over or under pronation? In general, do you find you need more or less support? With so many variables influencing how a shoe might fit and feel when you are wearing it (not to mention how it will feel to the rest of your body) it is always a good idea to know your particular feet's needs in order to help you choose the best shoe for the job. And bonus, many athletic shoe stores will provide a fit assessment and services for free.
3. Ensure proper fit: not only do you need to know the type of shoe that will work with your unique feet's needs, but they should also fit well right out of the box. The theory of "breaking in" your shoes is actually a myth. As a general rule, a pair of athletic shoes should fit snug and secure with a bit of wiggle room in the toe box, and yes straight out of the box! A few other things to consider -
Our feet swell a bit throughout the day so trying on a shoe first thing in the morning vs later in the day will often yield a different set of results;
The socks you plan to wear with the athletic shoes you are purchasing are also the socks you should wear when you try them on;
Not all sizes are created equal, in other words not every size 8 shoe will fit you the same, so be sure and try each pair on - even if it is the same brand you've purchased before, because product styles and sizing often change slightly from year to year!
4. Re-assess your shoe needs: you may have heard that people's feet grow or shrink over time....yep it's true! Our body's do not remain the same size forever, feet included. To ensure the best fit for your feet as well as support for your overall fitness needs it is important to periodically reassess your shoe size and note any other changes (arches, pronation changes, and overall support needs) to ensure your best fit. This will not only support your performance and recovery needs, but also help keep injuries at bay!
5. Listen to your body: if right out of the box you walk around the store and the shoes pinch, make your toes tingle, are too cushy or are not cushy enough, are a bit loose or a bit too tight they are just not the shoes for you (no matter how cute or on sale they are!) On the same token if after a few months of wear you start to experience shin splints, sore heels, blisters you never had before, or aches and pains in the legs (and even hips, back and so on...) and you haven't increased drastically changed your fitness routine (increased mileage of a run/walk/hike or the intensity level of exercise) bad news - your shoes are worn out and it is time to invest in a new pair.