The ABCs of Buying the Right Athletic Shoes

There may not be a more important fitness purchase you can make than buying athletic shoes.

Just like a car won’t operate correctly on tires with no treads or the proper wheel alignment, so to will an athlete bog down if they’re in the wrong shoes.

Here are some basic tips for people to make sure they are wearing the right athletic shoes.

Check your present shoes

A pair of shoes will only last so long depending on how long they’ve been worn and how hard they’ve been used. Many experts say a pair of running shoes will last approximately 350-550 miles and then you should plan on retiring them to just casual wear or possibly even the dumpster.

Many trainers, doctors or even trained specialty shoe store associates prefer watching your gait rather than looking at worn shoes, but you can tell some things from examining your worn shoes.

You want to have fairly even shoe wear, but if you notice the inside or outside of the shoe, or front or back especially worn it may suggest an issue with your gait or foot shape.

There may be a slight difference in the length of your legs, problem with your arches, one foot may pronate more than another or there may be a correction needed in your gait.

Check with a shoe specialist

If you have been having leg/foot problems and/or feel your shoes show unusual wear it would be a good idea to get some expert advice.

I had excellent luck going to a highly recommended specialty athletic shoe store where a well-trained associate actually watched my gait and took an imprint of my stride. He also looked at the wear on my shoe and recommended an orthotic insole to help with my high arches.

The Achilles’ tendonitis problems I’d been having for years practically went away. (Note: It’s also very important to properly stretch and strengthen the calf muscles to deal with Achilles’ problems.)

I had worked with a sports medicine doctor a few years earlier and they had set me up with a special orthotic insole that actually did not work as well – it never quite felt comfortable.

It might be worth doing some research and checking out a specialty athletic shoe store first to save a doctor’s visit, but if that doesn’t work out then definitely see the doctor.

If you have severe pain or tightness in the legs or feet, obviously see a doctor first. Each case will be different.

Remember these key shoe buying tips

When you do shop for athletic shoes, here are some tips to consider:

* Shop for shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are a little bigger after being on them all day.

* Make sure there is about a finger’s width at the front of the shoe. The specialty store I went to told me that many people wear shoes that are actually a half-size too small for them and it leads to feet problems. I had been doing that for many, many years. You actually do need a little extra room to spread the shock, especially if you are active. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggests that you should be able to freely wiggly all of your toes when the shoe is on.

* Shoe buying is one area where brand loyalty is key. If a shoe has worked well for you, try to stick with the same brand and model. There can be a big difference between different brands.

* Lace your shoes properly. We’re all taught around kindergarten how to tie our shoes, but we may not be doing it 100 percent correctly. They need to be laced to the correct tightness. It’s also important to lace the top loop to add to stability.

* Get the right cushioning. Oftentimes heavier people need less cushioning and lighter people need more cushioning. If you have too much cushioning for your body and foot type, it can actually be detrimental. Talk to an expert more about this.

Also, talk to other successful athletes for advice and shop around some for the best specialty athletic shoe store in your area. It can actually be more complicated than people think to find the right athletic shoe (and possibly insole or orthotropic), but taking the time to find the perfect fit is definitely worth it.

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