Selecting Athletic Shoes - The Right Kind Matters

You’ve probably seen those shiny, fancy sports shoes sitting in display windows everywhere. Each brand claims to be the best of its kind. You may wonder if there’s any difference in this gear—or if it even matters what athletic shoes you buy! The truth is that investing in proper footwear, especially for activities, can mean the difference between an overuse injury and a successful game.

Choices, Choices

Your feet are one of your most important tools when you play sports, so how you protect them matters. Athletic shoes are designed to handle the hard jolts, twists, turns, kicks, and jumps that you subject them to when you play sports or participate in other athletic endeavors.

Not all shoes are made equally--different gear is designed to handle different stressors. Basketball high tops are built to secure the ankle and absorb shock from rapid starts and stops. Soccer and football cleats offer maximum traction in grass and support rapid side-to-side direction changes. Hiking shoes also need solid traction, but are designed to help with stability on uneven surfaces. Running shoes can range from highly cushioned to barely-there, depending on your needs, but are built to help minimize hard impacts and protect against debris. With so many options, it’s important to know how to choose the best type of footwear to fit your sport.

Tips for Choosing

The two most important steps for choosing the right athletic shoes are identifying your needs and fitting the shoe correctly. Identifying your needs includes both knowing what job your shoes will be performing and accommodating your unique lower limb requirements. If you aren’t sure what support needs you may have, Dr. Victoria Melhuish and the expert staff of Sierra Foot & Ankle can examine your lower limbs. We may perform different tests to determine your stability and identify any structural or mechanical issues that your shoes will need to manage. Then we can advise you about cushioning, arch support, and other accommodations that would help you.

When you reach the shoe store, only look at shoes that will meet your needs. Select models that will fulfill your specific purpose—tennis, walking, cross-country, or any other activity—and have features that will support your feet. Then try them on. All footwear should fit comfortably. Walk around the store to test the shoes you have selected. Make sure they bend comfortably at the ball of the foot and firmly grip the heel. Some important fitting tips to remember include:

  • Re-measure your feet and fit your shoes late in the day when your lower limbs are at their largest.

  • Wear the same socks to your fitting that you will use for your sport.

  • Bring any orthotics you use with you to slip into the shoes as well.

  • Make sure you have roughly half an inch of space between your longest toe and the end of your footwear.

  • Your toe box needs to be wide enough that you can wiggle your toes.

  • Make sure your heel doesn’t slip out of the back of the shoe when you walk.

  • Be picky about how the arch fits your foot—if it isn’t right, it will cause more harm than good.

Never underestimate the value of good athletic shoes. They are an important part of your equipment. If you’ve never had your feet properly evaluated to find shoes for your sports, you could be missing key insights that would help you find the best footwear for your unique needs.

Invest in the right gear for your lower limbs instead of cheap models that could cause injuries in the long run. Contact Sierra Foot & Ankle for more information or an appointment to learn how we can help you find what you need. Fill out the online contact form, or call (775) 783-8037 to reach our Carson City, Nevada office.