When you think of sports equipment, you probably envision things like football helmets, basketballs, and hockey sticks. While bats and balls are an important part of many sports, a key piece of equipment almost any athlete depends on is a pair of athletic shoes.
Whether you’re a short-distance runner pushing off the starting blocks or are a weekend warrior who jogs on a walking trail, proper footwear is key. If you don’t get it right, it can be expensive and painful, resulting in injuries ranging from blisters to sprains, or even spin splints or worse.
With all the whistles and bells available, like gel-filled insoles and shoe tongues that inflate, how do you sort through the plethora of options to find the best athletic shoe for you?
Take a deep breath, and let Dr. Jarna Rathod-Bhatt, Dr. Rahul Bhatt, and our podiatry team at Apple Podiatry Group help you navigate the wonderful and sometimes confusing world of athletic shoes.
Here are our five tips to help you choose the proper athletic shoes.
1. Choose different shoes for different activities
Shop for shoes specifically for the sport you’ll be playing and what kind of surface you’ll be on -- for example, grass, turf, or a court. The activity and surface will dictate the type of shoe and support you require to do the activity safely. For instance, if you will be walking or hiking on a gravel trail, you’ll need a different kind of shoe than you would if you’re working out at the gym. The salesperson in the store can usually guide you, but you may want to do a little research online before venturing out to shop.
2. Buy athletic shoes for fit, not fashion (or status)
This one may be harder for the more fashion- and status-conscious among us, but try not to get sucked in by the celebrity endorsements. If you fall in love with a shoe because “everyone” is wearing it, but it isn’t the proper athletic shoe for you, you’ll pay for it in discomfort and possibly injuries. Properly fitting athletic shoes are built to address not only the activity you’ll be doing, but also your foot arch and how your foot naturally makes contact with the ground.
3. Size definitely matters
This one may sound obvious. But despite the fact that as an adult you’ve always worn the same size, it’s not a given that you always will. Adult feet can change in size. When you go to shop for your athletic shoes, get your foot measured first. Then remember that like clothes some styles may run large or small.
It’s the fit that should determine the right size. It’s also a good idea to shop later in the day since it’s not uncommon for feet to swell during the day. If you wear insoles in your shoes, bring them along with you as well as the socks you normally wear during your chosen activity or sport.
4. Toes must pass the wiggle test
A great way to double check the fit before buying your athletic shoe is to perform the wiggle test. There should be enough room in your shoes that all your toes have plenty of space to wiggle freely. You can also pinch the shoe to feel where your big toe is. In a properly fitting shoe there should be a thumb-sized space between the top of your big toe and the end of the shoe.
Also check to make sure your heel is securely in the shoe and not slipping when you walk. Take your time while putting the shoe through its paces prior to making your decision to purchase. You’ll be glad you did.
5. Just say “No!” to breaking them in
Unlike some dress shoes, athletic shoes should feel good and fit perfectly when you walk out of the store. If you think you need to break them in, then you’ve probably bought the wrong size or shoe for you. Don’t rush through the process. A little extra time and thought can mean the difference between blisters and injury versus comfort and excelling in your chosen sport.
If you have questions about what athletics shoes are right for you and want to talk with our podiatrists, contact one of our offices in Arlington and Irving, Texas. Book your appointment online or call us today.