Oh My Aching Feet!

Over the decades that I have worked as a personal trainer, my clients all have asked me that common question regarding which athletic shoe to wear. Many of them would have to pull out their old shoes from the back of the closet that had seen better days. They didn’t, nor do many people realize the importance of a good shoe when working out. Did you know that one of the most important pieces of gear is your shoes? It all starts with your feet! Think of the song “Dem Bones” that we learned as children. The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s is connected to the leg bone. Get the picture? Think of this as a chain link from your feet to your head. If you have a problem with your feet, (this sometimes can be caused by the improper shoes), this may very well over time affect your knees, hips, spine, posture, your gait, creating muscle imbalances, instability and improper alignment. You may develop pain that your feet could have caused over time. 

Wear the Right Shoe

Wearing the right shoe for the type workout will make all of the difference in the world.For example: A running shoe won’t work well if you are a tennis player because a running shoe is designed for the forward movement of running, and doesn’t have the support needed for the quick side -to -side movements of tennis. 

What to Look for in the Right Shoe

Your workouts can be more comfortable, safer and even easier!  Let’s dig in to what you should be looking for based on your exercise choice type. 

Let’s start with RUNNING shoes

The goal of a great running shoe is to reduce the shock load that travels through your foot and up your leg when your heel strikes the ground. This can reduce the risk of things like shin splints, knee pain, tendinitis and stress fractures. The function of the shoe is more important than the fashion of the shoe!

Your gait determines how your feet strike the ground. You will notice this by taking a look at the wear pattern on the bottom of your shoes. 

For example: 

If you have a neutral gait, the wear will be closer to the center of the heel with just a little wear to either side.  The best running shoe for you will be a stability shoe with light support.

If you are an overpronator or have flat feet, look for wear on the inside edge of your shoe and around your big toe.  The shoe for you is a high stability shoe with firm midsoles or a motion control shoe.  

If you are a supinator or have a high arch, you will see wear on the outside edge of the shoe. You will want to look for a neutral shoe that will have cushioning and lots of flexibility.  

Another great way to determine the type of shoe you need is to shop at a shoe store that specializes in jogging/running. Ask that they evaluate your gait and foot strike. Your feet, shins, knees and back will thank you!  

Lastly, the support and cushioning of your shoes will wear out and will need to be replaced every 300-500 miles.  Each brand may be slightly different.

running shoes

Exercise Class Shoes

If you enjoy attending group fitness classes you will want a flexible shoe that offers lateral support and has good shock absorbency.  These types of workouts have more forefoot impact opposed to a running shoe that is designed for more heel impact. 

Strength Training Exercise Shoes

For strength training and for weightlifters that like to lift heavy, you want to avoid cushioned shoes.  You won’t be as stable when you lift.  You don’t want to be wobbly and risk getting injured.  Look for a hard, stable, non-compressible sole that really doesn’t have any shock absorbing qualities. Remember these are not the shoes you want when running or using the rowing ma

Court Sport Shoes

If you enjoy court sports such as tennis, pickleball, volleyball, or racquetball, there are soles designed for specific court surfaces. You will want lateral support for quick changes in direction and to move in all directions. These shoes will commonly ha

Exercise group training shoe

Hiking Shoes

Hiking boots and shoes will have thick soles and larger tread, which will improve stability on uneven terrain. This type of footwear needs to offer a combination of cushion and support. There are boots that are high-top which offer ankle support which will help prevent you from rolling your ankle on uneven terrain and also keep debris out of your boot.  A low-cut hiking boot is great for a well maintained trail without many rocks or obstacles. Consider waterproof boots depending on your terrain and weather.  

lacrosse hiking boots

Biking Shoes

There are many advantages to using a cycling shoe while on your indoor or outdoor bike. First, they are very stiff so that energy is not wasted. If your shoes are squishy, some of that energy is absorbed into the sole of the shoe. You will have a much more efficient pedal stroke if you have bike clips. This allows you to push forward, pull backward and pull up, not just push down on the pedals. Cycling shoes are not ideal for walking in, so if you plan to make stops and walk around, you will need to carry extra shoes.  

Field Sports Shoes

Field sports require shoes that have studs or spikes for traction on grass or turf. You want the grip and support. Each sport will likely have a specific type of cleat or stud for that specific sport and since it’s common for there to be contact there must not be sharp edges on the cleats. 

Cross Training Shoes

There are so many choices and I enjoy a variety of sports, do I need a shoe for each sport? Consider a cross training shoe or a minimalist exercise shoe. They are designed to be used for a variety of activities.  They are the “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of shoe.  Not perfect for every sport, but very adequate. Cross trainers will be a little firmer than running shoes, more shock absorbing than weightlifting shoes and offer some lateral support for court sports. Minimalist shoes are light, flexible and offer little cushioning.

Biking Shoes

Always consider your health in making any decisions about exercise and even in choosing your shoe. Consult your physician before starting an exercise program and choose a sport specific shoe if you are going to practice a specific activity consistently.  

Stay Safe While Exercising

Lastly, stay safe while exercising! Perform an adequate warm up before any exercise. Stay hydrated. Make sure that you cool down and stretch when you have completed your exercise. Always carry I.D. and your phone while exercising outdoors, be aware of your surroundings, inform someone of the route that you will run or bike. 

Read more articles on fitness: Walking for Fitness, The Importance of Owning A First Aid Kit, 11 Tips To Reduce Anxiety

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