IF THE SHOE FITS…
For some, exercise is fun and a great way to release tension from life’s various stressors. For others, exercise can lose its luster rather quickly when pain begins in the hip, knee or foot and seemingly lingers after every workout. However, the answer to these common aches and pains may be rather simple.
As you already know, everyone’s body is different, which means the way our body reacts during exercise is also unique. When you do something like running, your body forms a stride. Your unique stride can be dependent on many things including your form, body weight, muscle tension, injuries, the surface, your clothes, how you feel that day, etc. Nonetheless, various research done in the world of exercise and running has revealed that there is one center point for all athletes.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks to buying the shoe that fits you best!
TASK YOUR SHOES
Like most of us, shoes cannot perform best while multi tasking. This is because each shoe has different structure and support. Shoes should be purchased with an intention. So in the beginning, set aside the style and color of the shoe, and think about the task you wish to use them for. For example, I have individual pairs of sneakers for running, strength training, kickboxing and everyday walking. Yes that may seem like overkill BUT my everyday walking shoes are stiff and stable, my running shoes are light and flexible, my training pair is flat with good support and my kickboxing pair is cushioning and semi-stiff.
UNDERSTAND YOUR FEET INDIVIDUALLY
Look at the bottom of an old pair of your sneakers. What does your wear pattern look like? Is it mostly on the inside front of your shoe? Or perhaps in the middle or even outer edge of the shoe? Another way to understand your foot is to conduct a “wet test.” To perform a wet test: lay a brown paper bag on a flat surface you can stand on, wet your foot, step on the brown bag, and trace your wet footprint. Like your body, your feet are unique to you. Believe it or not, the underneath side of an old pair of shoes or this simple “wet test” can reveal a lot about your body’s style of exercise. When testing, observe the height of your arch, heel pressure, weight distribution. When looking at your shoes, you may notice where you put the greatest amount of force during exercise. You also may observe differences in each foot which might require special inserts or a better suited shoe. These observations can greatly help your shoe shopping.
RECOGNIZE THE BIOMETRICS
This tip is one of the most important so pay close attention! Pronation is the foot’s inward roll which can provide correct shock absorption and evenly distribute the force of impact during exercise as well as in your push off. This is common and necessary for the foot to function perfectly. However, over-pronation can cause injury as the arch of the foot flattens and stretches the tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the foot. Over-pronation is most noticeable with a larger roll of the ankle inward while performing activities. On the flip side, supination is the foot’s outward roll which is normal during the push off phase of some exercise but continuous supination can place great pressure on the stabilizing muscles and tendons of the ankle. This constant pressure can lead to total ligament rupture, ankle sprains, and other injuries related to improper footing. If you are uncertain of what your feet do during exercise, professionals at shoe stores designated for running are often trained to look for ques of what your body does naturally just by watching you walk.
KNOW THE WORDS THAT SUIT YOU
The goal while shopping for a new pair of sneakers is to ensure you get the right type of shoe for the activity you have in mind. Whether you are looking for a walking, running, training, or everyday kind of shoe, pay attention to these common terms used in the sneaker world.
Width and Length of your foot should correspond with your prefered shoe. It is typically recommended that you have about a thumb’s width between the top of your toes to the front edge of the shoe so not to create unnecessary pain from being too short or blistering of your feet from being too long. Look for wide options if your foot needs a little extra room or try a narrow shoe if you notice excessive horizontal sliding in your your sneakers.
Offset of the shoe is the heel to toe drop. This number, measured in millimeters, is the difference in the stack of the heel of your shoe and the toe of the shoe. Typically, shoes will have a 8-12mm drop which forces you to strike on your heel. There are various options with a lower drop for those looking for a more minimal or barefoot shoe. However, because of the different muscles used during exercise, it is recommended that if you are adjusting to a minimal or barefoot shoe from a larger offset, you do so gradually. Understanding the offset can also lend helpful when looking for a flat training shoe or stiff shoe.
Stiffness/Flexibility in a shoe is precisely what you think about in your own body. A flexible shoe is typically light with some grooves on the sole so that the shoe can move with the foot easier than a stiff shoe. This type of sneaker may be good for those looking for less stability and support but more range of motion for the foot. A stiff shoe may show various indicators of support in the ankle, mid-foot, heel or other areas of the sneaker. A stiffer shoe may lend more natural for those looking for stability and support in those areas as well as specific activities, like cycling or training.
Motion-Control shoes can aid in moderate to severe pronation. This type of shoe may have medial and lateral posts as well as a rollbar to prevent or help restrict the foot’s inward roll. If there is a lot of noticeable tread wear on the inside upper edge of your sneakers, you may need to shop for a shoe with motion control.
Neutral or Cushioning shoes are intended for runners or exercisers who have a higher arch, do not pronate, or may supinate. If the wear on the bottom of your sneakers appears to be on the outside edges or mid-forefoot, you are likely a neutral runner.
Stability shoes can help with pronation control. These shoes may come with support that helps stabilize the foot like medial or lateral posts, rollbars, extended-web or stability core. If the wear on your sneakers is most noticeable on the inside edge near the ball of the foot, you may need stability control.
Terrain or the ground in which you are exercising can be important. If you are typically on pavement or the treadmill, you may be seeking a road shoe with less grip and more cushion. If you prefer to hit the trail, then a trail shoe with tread and support may be better suited for your task. If you are shopping for an all purpose running shoe, an all-terrain shoe can go just about anywhere with no problem. Cross trainers are good for those looking to trying various exercises during a workout while trainers serve well for those looking just to strength train. Whether you are on a treadmill or in your neighborhood, walking shoes are designed for the right support for your activity.
The list above is a great place to begin while shopping for a new pair of sneakers. You may also encounter terms like arch support, ankle support, shoe weight, flatness, vamp (side of shoe), shank (arch of shoe), toe box, etc. No matter what words cross your path in your shopping endeavors, do not let them puzzle you.
UPGRADE WHEN IT’S TIME
On average, a pair of running shoes can go upwards of 300-400 miles. However, you do not have to track your mileage so closely especially if running isn’t your sport. You can also understand the shoes’ lifetime by how they look and feel. If the rear sole of the shoe is worn, the shoe feels less supportive, you begin feeling aches and pains again, or you notice injuries creeping in, it may just be time to toss the shoes and upgrade.
So when shopping for your best pair of sneakers yet, use these tips and tricks to navigate through the isles of options!
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHC
Feature Photo: Livestrong