We all know that exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, but did you also know that not all athletic shoes are created equal? Even if you think you are getting fit and staying healthy by engaging in a new sport or physical activity, you may actually be at risk of a sports injury if you don’t choose the right shoe.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), the following are important guidelines to follow when choosing athletic footwear:

1. Choose your running shoe to fit your foot type: If you have a low arch or a flat foot, you need a shoe with stability and motion-control. Normal arched feet need shoes with both stability and shock absorption. People with high arches should choose cushioned running shoes with softer midsoles and lots of flexibility.

2. Choose your shoe based on the kind of activity you’ll do. If you’re running, you’ll need arch support and cushioning. If you’re playing basketball, high tops will provide you with much needed ankle support as you make side-to-side motions up and down the court.

3. Choose workout and sport shoes at specialty stores; ask to be professionally fitted before buying a pair. Any shoe you buy should fit comfortably right away. You should also shop at the end of the day, because your feet will be at their largest at that time.

4. Regardless of the sport you choose to play, your athletic shoes need to offer support in both the front and back.

5. Replace your shoes when they begin to show signs of wear in the treads, especially at the mid-sole. A good replacement guideline is once a year for general athletic shoes, and every 300 to 400 miles for running shoes.


How Can I Keep My Shoes Feeling Great?

Even if you’ve followed APMA guidelines, and you’ve found the perfect sneaker for your fitness goals, you’re not in the clear—yet. If you want to make sure that your shoes keep protecting you from injury for as long as possible, you have to take extra care before lacing up.

First of all, don’t make your sneaks do double duty. If you have a perfect pair of running shoes, don’t try to hit the grocery store in those sneakers. Here’s the secret—different kinds of shoes are actually made differently. A walking shoe is designed to be stiff; a running shoe has more flexibility. If you want to feel your best, you’ll invest in different pairs for different activities.

It’s also a good idea to re-measure your feet every few months. You may think that your adult foot size is pretty stable, but that’s actually not true. So many factors can affect your shoe size, from pregnancy to weight gain to changes in posture. If you don’t check in with your foot measurements frequently, that perfect-fitting pair of shoes you bought last year may simply stop feeling great on your feet.

It’s also important that your shoes feel good the first time—and every time—you put them on. If a shoe doesn’t feel comfortable right away, forget the idea of breaking it in. The only thing you’re doing during the breaking-in period is causing damage to your feet.

Rules of Thumb for the Shoe Store You'll feel great once you find the proper running shoes!

If you’ve gone through our checklist and realized that you need a new pair of shoes, make sure to be a wise shopper. Here are Dr. Brandt’s rules for the shoe store:

Go at the right time of day: You don’t want to try on running shoes first thing in the morning (at least not for the very first time.) Your foot swells a little bit throughout the day, so it’s important to try on new shoes in the afternoon or evening, when your foot is likely to have reached its largest point. That way, you’ll know that your shoe won’t start hurting if your feet expand a little.

Measure Up: We’ve already discussed the importance of measuring your feet, but within the same shoe size, different brands fit differently. A shoe that fits you properly should have about a thumb’s worth of space between your big toe and its front. Your heel should fit snugly in a sneaker. The top of the shoe should feel snug, but not tight, and you should easily be able to wiggle your toes inside the shoe.

Sock it: Bring the socks you plan to wear with these sneakers to the store. In other words, don’t wear nylons to try on running shoes when, in real life, you’ll be wearing them with thick athletic socks. For the perfect fit, it all starts with the socks.

Be prepared to pay: If you’re paying $20 for an adult’s sneaker, chances are that you won’t get as much support as you would from a pair that costs $50. But, don’t feel like you have to pay $200 for a shoe with jazzy colors and lots of unnecessary features. Supportive shoes aren’t cheap, but you certainly don’t need to spend a full week’s salary on any one pair!

Having the right foot wear is crucial to safely participating in any exercise program. If you are constantly in pain when you exercise or run, you may well have a footwear problem—and it may be the result of a hard-to-fit foot.

Our Utah podiatry practice can help you find the right shoes; by determining your foot type and gait, we can help recommend a shoe that will fit your needs. Schedule your appointment today for a comprehensive consultation!

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
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Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute