What is the best shoe for me?
Choosing the right athletic shoe for a sport can be confusing. Each sport has shoes designed for specific demands. Athletic shoes protect the feet from the stresses of a given sport. If you take part in a sport three or more times per week, it is likely you need a shoe designed for that sport.
Differences in weight, width, soles, materials, lacing patterns, and cushioning are needed for each sport.
- Running shoes: Running shoes should be lightweight and have cushioning to absorb the impact of each stride. Running should also be fitted to how your foot is shaped. See our Running Shoe Guide.
- Walking shoes: Walking shoes are more rigid then running shoes and designed to roll from heel to toe.
- Basketball shoes: Basketball shoes have a thick stiff sole and must provide more side to side ankle support for sudden starts and stops. Basketball shoes need support on the inside and the outside of your foot and ankle.
- Tennis and other racquet sport shoes: These must also allow for the quick side-to-side movements and support on the inside and outside of the foot.
- Field sport shoes: These usually have cleats, spikes, or studs. Track and field shoes need to meet the needs of the person, as do other specialty sport shoes such as those for golf and bicycling.
Select a sport-specific shoe based on comfort, fit, and cost. Brand name, special features, and price mean nothing if the shoe does not fit comfortably. Shoes that fit right decrease the chance for injury. This is particularly true for walkers and runners.
What about cross-training shoes?
Cross trainers combine several features of the above shoes such as flexibility and lateral control. Cross-training shoes may be good enough in some cases. Sport-specific athletic shoes are generally better. Be sure the shoes have good cushioning and shock absorption for the heel and the ball of the foot. Learn about the size and shape of your feet. Know where the soles of your other shoes wear down fastest. Shoe manufactures make shoes specific not only for the demands of the sport, but also for the different foot types.
What should I do when trying on shoes?
Follow these guidelines when trying on shoes:
- Try on shoes at the end of the day or after a workout because feet have a tendency to swell.
- Have both feet measured, being sure to stand and having your weight evenly divided on both feet. Feet get larger as you grow older.
- Wear the same type of sock you will be wearing most often.
- Try on both shoes and walk or jog in them.
- Make sure there is one-half inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Make sure your heel does not slip.
- Make sure the shoe is comfortable right away. There should be no "breaking in" period.
Consider taking a pair of worn shoes when purchasing new ones. The salesclerk can then see your pattern of wear on the shoes. The arch of your foot falls into one of three categories: Low-arched, neutral-arched, or high-arched. The type of arch determines whether your foot has a tendency to roll in or out during sports activities. If you have a low arch, your ankle rolls inward when you walk, and your shoe shows more wear on the inside that means you may over-pronate. If you have a high arch , have a tendency to walk on the outside of your foot, and your shoe shows more wear on the outside, then you probably over-supinate. Some people just slightly pronate or supinate. If you can't tell if you pronate or supinate, you probably have a fairly neutral foot. People who pronate need shoes with more stability. Supinators need more cushion and flexibility.
Also, women with wide feet may want to consider men's shoes which are wider through the heel and the ball of the foot. If you have a bunion or hammertoe, look for shoes with a wide toe box so your toes may move freely.
How often do I need to replace athletic shoes?
And finally, remember that athletic shoes wear out. Even though they may still feel comfortable, they may not be giving you good support. You may not be able to see the wear and tear. Replace them if the soles are worn or you get new aches and pains.
The midsoles (bottom cushiony part of the shoe) tend to lose their effectiveness after 600 miles or 600 hours of use, depending on how much you weigh and the material used in the shoe. Some runners buy two pair of shoes at a time and alternate them from day to day. This method is fine, but it's also important to note that shoes have a "shelf-life." The midsole will eventually lose its ability to absorb shock, even if the shoes haven't been worn for several years.
Remember, brands and styles change every year, so the shoe that works for you this year might not be the best shoe for you next year.