Ever started a new sport or exercise regime only to be discouraged by pain or aching in the feet or legs? More often than not, it’s probably because you’ve started off on the wrong foot…by wearing the wrong shoes. Purchasing shoes for the active lifestyle can be a daunting experience. You need to understand what type of shoe you are looking for, what qualities it should have and how to correctly assess the fit to make sure it’s the right shoe for you.
The most generalized and popular types of shoes without being completely sport specific are cross training and running shoes. The key difference between cross training and running shoes is the direction/s in which the shoe is designed to help you move and provide you with support. Cross trainers are designed in mind that you may be moving in multiple directions, in different planes of movement. For this reason they are suitable for a lot of different types of training from Zumba to boot camp to the weights room at your gym. They will be wider at the sole unit in order to provide more lateral stability for when changing direction and moving side to side. Running shoes are purely designed to keep you moving in the sagittal plane and propel you in forward motion. If your main goal is running, you should not be doing this in anything but a running shoe. There are a multitude of categories for running footwear so it is best to have them fitted professionally or be advised by your Podiatrist on which type will be best for you.
With every pair of shoes regardless of the activity purpose, there are some key ideal footwear characteristics
that should always be assessed and considered before purchasing. The first thing to check is the heel counter stiffness.
This is important when rear foot motion control is required and is linked to improving balance. Check this by squeezing the back of the heel of the shoe. It should feel firm and you shouldn’t be able to deform it easily with the strength of your thumb. Torsional stability
is required to optimize the “push off” phase of gait and for providing mid-foot support. This is tested by how easily it is for you to twist and fold the shoe around its mid-point. If you can fold it in half through the mid-point or wring it out like a towel, this shoe will provide very little support though the mid-sole. The last thing to check is the ability of the shoe to flex at the toe
area. By placing pressure under the front of the shoe, check to see it bends around the same point as where your toe bends. This will optimize your propulsion during forward movements. If you are still confused, check out the diagram below - a picture tells a thousand words!