Exercise Shoes: More Than An Accessory

Your exercise shoes are more than just an accessory… they are the main player when it comes to exercising to your full potential while decreasing risk for injury. Why are your exercise shoes so important? •    Shock Absorption: Every time you take a step, there is a force from the ground that travels from your foot, to your knee, to your hips.  The more your shoe is able to absorb that force, the less intense that force is on your joints. •    Stability: Your shoe is the main thing that keeps you from twisting an ankle or irritating a tendon/ligament around your ankle while exercising. How often should you get new shoes? •    It is generally recommended that exercise shoes are replaced every 350-500 miles.  (This is somewhat variable based on whether you are walking vs. running and how much you weigh.) •    Keep in mind that your shoes actually lose shock absorption over time just from sitting in your closet… so even if you haven’t been exercising a lot, they may not be as good as new when it comes to shock absorption. •    Consider wearing your exercise shoes just for exercise so that you can prolong their life. What is the best exercise shoe for you? This question is a toughie because there is not one shoe that is perfect for everyone.  There are various factors that should be taken into consideration when shopping for an exercise shoe. The obvious factor is comfort, and generally this has to do with how wide or narrow your foot is.  It is important to try on various brands in order to find the one that you feel fits best. Keep your environment in mind. If you will be exercising outdoors, especially in the heat, it is important to have a shoe than has mesh that allows that heat to dissipate from your foot. Another important factor is assessing your gait pattern during exercise.  This is generally correlated with your foot’s arch.  You can look at the wear on your current exercise shoes to help assess your current foot strike pattern. Three main gait patterns: Neutral Pronation
  • Usually associated with a normal arch
  • As you take a step, the force is transferred from your heel through the ball of the foot evenly.
  • A Stability shoe tends to be best because it helps guide your foot through its natural pattern.
  • Usually associated with a flat arch
  • As you take a step, the force starts in the heel and then moves mostly towards the inside of the foot because the foot rolls inward during the stride.
  • A Motion Control shoe tends to be best because it keeps the foot from rolling too far inward.
  • Usually associated with a high arch.
  • As you take a step, the force starts in the heel and stays towards the outside of the foot because the foot does not roll inward during the stride.
  • A Cushioned shoe tends to be best because it allows a slight inward roll of the foot, thus keeping the outside of the foot from having to absorb all the shock.
  Tips for shoe shopping •    Try on both the right and left shoe, and be sure to walk around the store in them (some stores will even let you jog around for a few minutes). •    It is best to try on exercise shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen since your feet tend to swell with exercise. •    Wear the same socks that you generally wear for exercise. •    Don’t assume that the most expensive pair is the best.  You can still get a quality exercise shoe on a budget… just keep the above factors in mind!  With that said, also remember that it may be worth spending a little bit more to get the shoe that is best for you since it is crucial in preventing injury and taking care of your joints … think of it as an investment to your health! •    After purchasing the shoe, give your feet time to get used to them.  Try them out on a shorter exercise route first before you jump into your longer routes. A few notes •    The above recommendations are generally for walking, jogging, and exercise cardio exercise modes such as the elliptical.  If you are doing an aerobics or Zumba class, it may be best to wear an aerobics or dance shoe because this helps protect your ankles as you move side to side. •    As you saw in my last post, I am not a fan of the “weight loss / toning” shoes, especially when it comes to exercising in them.  These shoes do not have the above mentioned properties and can put you at higher risk for injury because of the lack of stability.


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