How To Choose the Right Athletic Shoe
Why It Is Important to Choose the Right Shoe
Avoid Developing Foot Problems
- Blisters—fluid-filled bump on the skin
- Bunions—swollen, sore bump from displacement of the joint that connects your big toe to your foot
- Calluses—abnormal thickening of the top layer of skin
- Corns—small, thickened area of skin that forms on the toes
- Hammertoes—a toe that tends to remain bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position
Minimize Risk of Injury or Chronic Ailment
- Plantar fasciitis—the plantar fascia, a supportive, fibrous band of tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot, is injured, resulting in pain on the bottom of the foot
- Stress fractures—tiny cracks in your bones that develop when the repetitive impact of jogging or running overcomes the ability of the foot bones to withstand this stress
- Heel spurs—calcium deposits that form where the plantar fascia connects to your heel bone
- Sesamoiditis—tenderness or inflammation at the sesamoid bones, accessory bones found beneath the large first metatarsal bone in the ball of the foot
- Extra stress on the ankles, knees, hips, and spine, which can lead to pain and disability
What You Need to Consider in Making the Decision
- Pronators have a low or flat arch and tend to wear down the inner edges of their shoes. If you are a pronator, you should look for shoes that offer support for your midfoot area, which limits overuse of the inside edge of your feet.
- Supinators have a high arch and tend to wear down the outer edges of their shoes. Supinators require shoes with extra cushioning, particularly in the mid-arch area, to absorb shock and stabilize the heel.
- People with neutral feet have an average arch and tend to wear down the heels of shoes evenly. They can wear just about any type of shoe.
When Making Your Purchase
- Lateral and stop-and-go movement—Virtually all sport-specific and cross-training shoes are designed for activities that require lateral and stop-and-go movement, such as baseball, basketball, tennis, racquetball, and soccer. To enhance performance and prevent injury, all sport-specific and cross-training shoes include a great deal of support on the sides and are flat across the sole.
- Continuous forward motion—Unlike most other athletic activities, running is done in a continuous forward motion, requiring very little lateral movement and very little starting and stopping. In addition, running inflicts a great deal more continuous and sustained pounding on the feet than almost any other athletic activity. So, although running shoes require relatively little lateral support, they incorporate a great deal of padding underneath the feet to act as shock absorbers. In addition, most running shoes include a slightly elevated heel (to reduce the transfer of stress to the Achilles tendons), as well as a much larger toe box (to accommodate the forward motion of the foot).
- Running—Runners and joggers should wear shoes that provide flexibility in the toe area and overall cushioning for impact (shock absorption). Such shoes should also have good heel control.
- Trail running—This type of running increases the risk of ankle sprains because of the uneven terrain. You may need a shoe with a wider base, more traction, and more lateral support.
- Barefoot running—Talk to a trainer before making the transition to barefoot running shoes. It is not for every type of runner and the switch needs to be done gradually. Keep in mind that barefoot running shoes may not have extra support or cushion, but will give your feet some protection.
- Walking—Walkers should also look for shock absorption in the heel and especially under the ball of the foot. Walking shoes have more rigidity in the front than running shoes, so you can roll off your toes rather than bend through them.
- Aerobics—Shoes for aerobic conditioning should be lightweight to prevent foot fatigue and have extra shock absorption in the sole beneath the ball of the foot where the most stress occurs.
- Tennis—For tennis and other court sports, you will need shoes that provide stability on the inside and outside of the foot plus flexibility in the sole beneath the ball of the foot.
- Basketball—Basketball players should choose a shoe with a wider base and a thick, stiff sole to give extra stability on the court. A high-top shoe provides support when landing from a jump.
- Field sports, hiking, and specialty sports—Cleats, studs, or spikes are appropriate for field sports like soccer, football, and baseball. Special hiking shoes are available for trail blazing. Likewise, for sports such as skating, hockey, golf, and bicycling, you may want to wear shoes made specifically for these activities.
Getting the Right Fit
American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine http://www.aapsm.org
American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Armand S, Tavcar Z, et al. Effects of unstable shoes on chronic low back pain in health professionals: A randomized controlled trial. Joint Bone Spine. 2014;81(6):527-532.
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Criteria for AAPSM athletic shoe recommendation list. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/crishoe.html. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Fitness begins with feet. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/footwear-begins-feet.html. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Plantar fasiitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 23, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Selecting a running shoe. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/selectingshoes.html. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Selecting and effectively using running shoes. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-running-shoes.pdf. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Shoes: Finding the right fit. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00143. Updated August 2012. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Sesamoiditis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 16, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Stress fractures. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/stressfractures.pdf. Accessed December 11, 2014.
Tight shoes and foot problems. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00146. Updated August 2012. Accessed December 11, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014 -
- Update Date: 12/11/2014 -