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The Perfect Fit: Tips for Choosing Your Athletic Shoes

Thursday, June 02, 2016 10:13 AM

The weather is finally clearing up, just in time for those who are starting to train for long distance runs and marathons. While you’re working on conditioning, strengthening and endurance, you should also be aware of two very simple things; your feet. Your shoes affect your arches and ankles, and a bad fit can lead to poor circulation and chronic pain.

Dr. Michael Weisman, NorthShore Podiatrist, recently discussed topics including fitness and shoes in our recent foot health chat, and is now providing more tips on what to look for in fitness shoes and how to wear them properly:

What factors should a person think about when choosing an athletic shoe? Is it important to pick shoes depending on the type of activity you’re doing?
Choosing the “right” shoe can be extremely important for maximizing your athletic performance and maintaining comfort while protecting yourself from injury. Selection of the shoe starts with a general knowledge of your foot type:

  • Are you an over-pronator (feet roll inwards after making contact), neutral, or supinator (feet roll outwards after making contact)?
  • Do you have an arthritic joint that would be more comfortable with a stiff mid-sole?
  • Do you have a tendency toward excessive perspiration or dermatological problems that might benefit from a mesh top shoe that breathes more?

What do different wear patterns indicate in terms of what I should look for?
The wear pattern on the sole of the shoe can help you determine what kind of foot structure and function you have. It is considered normal to wear the heel of the shoe on the outside. Wear at the center or inside of the heel usually suggests over-pronating.

Should fitness shoes be fitted in a certain way? – Should there be little space between the shoe and the toe, or a loose fit?
Although some athletes like to fit their shoes on the snug side, feeling that they have more control and feedback with every step, I see many more problems from too small a shoe. Shoes should be fitted late in the day when you may have a bit of swelling. I advise patients to wear the sock they will be using for their activity. Put full weight on the foot and wiggle your toes to be sure you can’t contact the end of the shoe.

Does the arch of the foot impact exercise? What kind of shoes should I be looking for depending on my arch type?
Our arch type is one of many factors that impacts our ability to participate comfortably in weight bearing physical activity.  It’s hard to generalize when we talk about arch type / height. Flat feet often function at a mechanical disadvantage, predisposing us to pain or fatigue. High arches focus pressure over a smaller surface area on the sole of the foot, predisposing us to calluses or blisters. To summarize, we have to consider much more than just arch type when we evaluate a person’s function.

Does the way I lace my shoes matter? Are there different ways to lace shoes depending on my feet?
Shoes should be laced snugly, with your foot placed back in the shoe against the counter. I haven’t found much real world difference in the lace pattern you choose.