Ever started a new sport or exercise regime only to be discouraged by pain or aching in the feet or legs?
More often than not, it’s probably because you’ve started off on the wrong foot… by wearing the wrong shoes.
Purchasing shoes for the active lifestyle can be a daunting experience.
You need to understand what type of shoe you are looking for, what qualities it should have and how to correctly assess the fit to make sure it’s the right shoe for you.
The most generalised and popular types of shoes without being completely sport specific are cross training and running shoes.
The key difference between cross training and running shoes is the direction/s in which the shoe is designed to help you move and provide you with support.
Cross trainers are designed in mind that you may be moving in multiple directions, in different planes of movement.
For this reason they are suitable for a lot of different types of training from Zumba to boot camp to the weights room at your gym.
They will be wider at the sole unit in order to provide more lateral stability for when changing direction and moving side to side.
Running shoes are purely designed to keep you moving in the sagittal plane and propel you in forward motion.
If your main goal is running, you should not be doing this in anything but a running shoe.
There are a multitude of categories for running footwear so it is best to have them fitted professionally or be advised by your podiatrist on which type will be best for you.
With every pair of shoes regardless of the activity purpose, there are some key ideal footwear characteristics that should always be assessed and considered before purchasing.
- The first thing to check is the heel counter stiffness. This is important when rear foot motion control is required and is linked to improving balance. Check this by squeezing the back of the heel of the shoe. It should feel firm and you shouldn’t be able to deform it easily with the strength of your thumb.
- Torsional stability is required to optimise the ‘push off’ phase of gait and for providing mid-foot support. This is tested by how easily it is for you to twist and fold the shoe around its mid-point. If you can fold it in half through the mid-point or wring it out like a towel, this shoe will provide very little support though the mid-sole.
- The last thing to check is the ability of the shoe to flex at the toe area. By placing pressure under the front of the shoe, check to see it bends around the same point as where your toe bends. This will optimise your propulsion during forward movements. If you are still confused, check out the diagram below – a picture tells a thousand words!
Checking the fit of the shoe is not necessarily something to leave up to the salesperson or your previous pair of shoes.
You need to keep in mind, there is often inconsistencies amongst shoe companies as to what is considered a standard size.
It can even vary between models within the same company.
Use your measured shoe size as a guidance tool and be mindful that your size may change between brands and styles of footwear.
Check the size yourself by using the removable shoe liner to check the width and length of the shoe:
- Place the foot on the liner and make sure that the width of the liner is the same width as your foot and that the liner is 1-2cm longer the end of your longest toe.
- Once wearing the shoe, observe any areas whereby the foot deforms the upper of the shoe as this may mean it is not deep enough.
- You should not be able to feel pressure on toes. On the other hand, if there is too much depth to the shoe, there will be excess loose material across the upper of the toe area.
Ensuring you have the right footwear is key to continuing an active lifestyle. If aches and pains persist despite your newly educated efforts, ask your podiatrist.