Good sports need good shoes

Shelves in shoe stores are loaded with athletic shoes. But all of them are not created equally.

Our feet take a pounding during everyday activities. But when we play sports, they’re under even more stress.

Serious athletes should give serious thought to their shoes. The right shoes can help protect feet and ankles and guard against injury.

Glitzy ad campaigns would have you believe that the best shoe is the one endorsed by the biggest-name athlete, but that’s not always the case.

Buying the right athletic shoes requires thought and effort.

Choices, choices, choices

For the occasional sports enthusiast, cross trainers may be adequate, but generally, they’re not the best choice for people who spend a lot of time playing certain sports or doing certain activities, says Stephen Pribut, DPM, a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Different activities put different stresses on your feet and may require shoes that provide different types of support, he says.

Running, tennis and aerobics, for example, may all require shoes that have good shock absorption. But tennis and aerobic shoes generally offer additional foot support for side-to-side movement. Running shoes, on the other hand, are made for straight-ahead motion.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society offers these buying tips:

Running. Look for a shoe that has good heel support and good cushioning to absorb shock.

Walking. Choose a lightweight shoe that has extra shock absorption in the heel and under the ball of the foot. A shoe with a slightly curved sole is also beneficial. It will help you shift weight smoothly from the heels to the toes, while at the same time decreasing the forces across the foot.

Tennis. Look for shoes that provide sturdy support to the inside and outside of the foot. A flexible sole under the ball of the foot will allow for quicker forward movement when charging the net. With racket sports shock absorption is less important than it is with running. On soft courts, wear a softer-soled shoe that provides good traction. On hard courts, look for a sole with greater tread.

Aerobics. Wear shoes that are lightweight and have extra shock absorption in the sole beneath the ball of the foot.

Basketball. Look for shoes with a thick, stiff sole. This provides extra stability when running on a court. High-top shoes provide extra support when jumping and help guard against ankle sprains.

Hiking. For a short day hike that doesn’t involve a heavy pack or technical terrain, basic low-cut trail shoes are great. For longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or more technical terrain, hiking boots offer more support. Click here to find the right boot for your hiking needs.

In with the new, out with the old

When buying new sports shoes, break them in slowly. If you usually run five to seven miles in a day, for example, spend several days running only 2 to 3 miles. It will give your feet time to adjust to the new shoes.

Finally, watch your shoes for signs of wear. A worn-out shoe won’t protect your foot.

Running shoes may be good for 350 to 450 miles, says Dr. Pribut. But they may wear out far earlier. “You may have to change your shoes twice as often as you think you do,” he says.

Be a good sport

Remember, good sports need good shoes. For more information about choosing the best shoes, talk to your doctor.

reviewed 1/22/2014

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