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How the Right Athletic Shoes Can Improve Performance and Prevent Injury

Whether you’re a runner, avid walker, amateur soccer player, or you like to play doubles tennis with neighborhood friends, choosing the proper athletic shoes can improve your performance and prevent injury. The question is, how do you select the proper footwear for your needs?

Why the Right Athletic Shoes Matter

According to a study from the American Podiatric Medical Association, an individual who weighs 150 pounds exerts 63.5 tons of force on each foot over the course of a one-mile walk. And when you consider that the only thing providing a cushion between your feet and the pavement, track, or trail below is the sole of a shoe, it becomes abundantly clear why selecting the right athletic footwear matters.

According to orthopedic surgeon Mark Wilson, MD, a Palmetto Bone & Joint sports medicine specialist, “A properly selected, well-fitting athletic shoe provides support for the foot’s arch, offers ample room for your toes to move without excessive friction, and helps to absorb some of the shock that occurs from repetitively striking the ground with your feet.”

Tips for Selecting the Right Athletic Shoes

Unfortunately, many people choose athletic shoes based on trendy styles and brands, when they should really be looking for shoes that are (a) comfortable and (b) provide the appropriate support.

As you search for the right pair of athletic shoes, you may find the following tips helpful:

  • When searching for the best athletic shoes, always shop stores that cater to your sport. (If you’re a soccer player, go to a sporting goods store that specializes in soccer cleats. If you’re a runner, go to a running store.)
  • To ensure you get the proper fit, work with knowledgeable staff members to measure your foot. (Never assume that you already have the proper size.)
  • Try on shoes at the end of the day, or after a workout, to account for the swelling that naturally takes place during the day.
  • When trying on shoes, walk around the store for an extended amount of time. Try different types of surfaces (carpet, tile, etc.) and movements.
  • The heel counter, which is the part of the shoe that holds your heel in place, needs to grip your heel. If there’s too much slippage here, you have the wrong size.
  • You should have ample room to move your toes around when the shoes are tied. (This includes a ½ inch space between your big toe and the tip of the shoe.)

The Different Types of Athletic Shoes

There are a wide variety of athletic shoe types. The one you select will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of physical activity, the terrain, and other individual details related to your body type. Having said that, here are some of the main types of athletic footwear:

  • Running shoes. These shoes are grouped into three main categories. “Neutral” shoes are for runners with high-arched, rigid feet. “Stability” shoes are intended for runners who have an arch that’s prone to collapsing during running. And then there are “motion control” shoes. This type of shoe is ideal for runners with severe arch collapse, making it the primary choice for people with flat feet.
  • Walking shoes. Walking might seem like a pretty innocuous activity, but it involves a substantial heel-toe gait pattern. Thus you want a shoe that’s stable and able to naturally roll with the foot. If you suffer from pain in the arch of the foot, a rocker sole works well.
  • Trail shoes. For hikers and trail runners, a trail shoe offers extra traction and more stability across the sole of the foot. So while you may not be able to run as fast, this type of shoe is more supportive and forgiving.
  • Court shoes. For those playing volleyball, tennis, or basketball, court shoes are designed to be light, yet “grippy.” They also offer extra ankles support to increase stability and lessen the chances of injury.
  • Cross-trainers. Finally, cross-trainers are designed for individuals who participate in a variety of sports and want a good all-around option that’s safe and reliable. These shoes aren’t designed for excessive running, but are suitable for light use.

Palmetto Bone & Joint is Here for You

At Palmetto Bone & Joint, we’ve proudly served the communities of the Midlands and Upstate South Carolina for more than 25 years. Our goal is to help both adult and pediatric patients rediscover their health and freedom of movement after sports-related injuries.

Please contact us today to schedule an appointment!


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