Four Essential Keys To Athletic Shoe Fit

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By Josh White, DPM, CPed

At one time, sneakers with canvas uppers and gum rubber soles worked well for almost any athletic activity. Now manufacturers design shoes for very specific activities and surfaces, and use a slew of high-tech components. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of the time, people do not wear shoes designed for the given activity. Therefore, foot care providers must step in and differentiate the substance of shoe style from the sizzle.

Running shoes. These shoes are lightest in weight and offer maximum cushioning. They are designed for linear activity and should never be worn for court activity. Running shoes are acceptable for walking but walking shoes are never acceptable for running.

Walking shoes. Similar to running shoes, athletic walking shoes often have more leather in the upper, making them more durable and slightly heavier. These shoes generally are not as boldly designed and are often more appropriate for everyday wear.

Court shoes. Tennis, basketball and other court sports require quick changes in direction. Accordingly, these shoes must have superior medial and lateral forefoot support. Tennis also entails a lot of forefoot dragging so this type of court shoe often features extra thickness in the big toe area.

Cross-training shoes. These versatile shoes generally come in two different versions: lighter weight models similar to running shoes and those similar to court shoes. Lightweight cross trainers are okay for running up to three miles and for use on exercise machines. For basketball, tennis and other court activities, the heavier weight cross trainer, often made from leather, is better.

Hiking shoes. Hiking requires support, durability and protection from the environment. Such shoes feature thicker soles and come up higher on the foot to increase ankle support. Waterproof lining and sealed seams keep the feet dry.

In Conclusion

A well fitting shoe feels good. To ensure the right fit, it is best to take shoes for a test run. While patients should always anticipate a break-in period, a properly fit shoe will generally feel good right away. As mentioned above, when a person has become used to wearing shoes that are too small, the correct size usually feels excessively loose.

Podiatrists need to encourage patients to try the correct fit if the shoes have no objective signs of looseness such as slipping in the heel. Soon, patients will appreciate the normal “wiggle room” of fitting shoes and the fact that their feet no longer ache at the end of the day.

Dr. White is the President and founder of SafeStep. He serves as a Medical Advisor to New Balance in New York. He has specialized in proper fit of footwear for the last 15 years. Dr. White lectures in the Department of Orthopedics at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and the Department of Applied Biomechanics at the California School of Podiatric Medicine.

Dr. Caselli is a staff podiatrist at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System in Montrose, N.Y. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the New York College of  Podiatric Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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