While the clothes you choose for a workout are important, the sneakers you select can make a huge difference in how you perform your fitness activity, while the wrong athletic shoes can hurt your feet and even cause injury to other parts of your body.
Athletic Shoes Tailored to Your Activity
Before determining which athletic shoes will be best for your feet, consider what type of exercise you’ll be doing. The exercise will help determine which athletic shoes offer the best features for your needs.
- Running. If running is your main form of exercise, look for running shoes that provide plenty of cushioning, traction, and stability. They should also be lightweight and flexible.
- Walking. Walking shoes should offer a comfortable cushion that absorbs shock, and a sole designed to support the natural walking movement of the foot.
- Court shoes. If you play tennis, volleyball, basketball, racquetball, or other court sports, find a shoe with a sturdy, stable sole that can support your feet during constant back-and-forth movement.
- Outdoor field sport shoes. If you’re looking for footwear for baseball, soccer, golf, or football, you’ll want shoes with cleats, spikes, or studs for better traction.
A quick tip to check a shoe’s stability before you buy: Bend the shoe, holding it at both ends. It should bend naturally behind where the ball of the foot would be, since that’s where your foot naturally bends. Also, make sure the heel counter is sturdy. The heel counter is a stiff cup that surrounds the heel part of the shoe. Squeeze the heel counter and make sure it doesn’t cave in when you apply pressure.
Athletic Shoes: Fitting and Testing
Trying on shoes in the store can be different than wearing them during your workouts, but there are ways to make sure your shoes will fit well when you’re in the middle of a hard workout:
- Shop in the afternoon. If you try on athletic shoes toward the end of the day, when your feet are more swollen, you’ll get a better idea of how they fit.
- Shop in socks. When you look for athletic shoes, wear the socks that you use during a workout. You want to make sure the shoes fit properly with your athletic socks.
- Go large in the toes. Make sure that your shoes have about half an inch of wiggle room between the end of the shoe and your longest toe. If your feet are different sizes, opt for the larger shoes for better comfort.
- Snug fit in the heel. New athletic shoes shouldn’t slip on your heels, but they shouldn’t be too snug in the toes, either. Make sure that the ball of your foot fits easily in the widest part of the athletic shoe.
- Try them out. Test out the shoes for at least 10 minutes in the store, or even outside if the store will allow it, before you decide to buy.
If you have problem feet, talk to the sales representative at the store about what types of sneakers are best for you. If you have high arches, for example, you’ll need a different style of shoe than someone with flat arches.
Remember, every athletic shoe is different, as is every foot, so don’t rely on a style you find attractive or a shoe that you like on someone else. Be clear about your needs and any special foot problems you have, try on lots of different styles, and test them out in the store.