How to choose the right fitness shoe

Think of all the stress you put on your feet exercising. This is no time for DIY shoe purchases - get measured properly

Walk into any fitness shoe store and it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused by all the options. Where do you start? Do you choose the best looking? The cheapest? If you want the right shoe for your fitness needs, it is important to find a fit that is specific for your foot type.

The first step in purchasing a new pair of fitness shoes is having an experienced person measure your foot. You’re unlikely to find that person in a department store or box store. You’ll need to go to a store that specializes in fitness shoes. The consultant will use a Brannock device — those metal plates with the sliders that you’ve probably seen before — to assist you in determining your shoe size, width and arch type. As you get older, your feet get wider, so it’s important to get measured each time you purchase shoes. Shoe shopping at the end the day is a good idea, too.

“Go at the right time of day when your feet are the biggest,” said Philip O. Dripchak, M.D., foot and ankle specialist with Norton Orthopedic Specialists. “Try not to go shoe shopping in the morning, because your shoes will not fit your feet the same as they would after a full day of being active.”

You may have a high arch or flat foot, and it’s critical that you find a shoe that will complement your foot’s shape. This will determine whether you need control, support or guidance.

Control provides the ultimate stability for overpronators, people whose feet roll inward when walking. Support allows balance with added stability for moderate overpronators or underpronators. Guidance provides minimal support for those with normal pronation.

You may also have a neutral foot type, for which support might not be essential but superior cushioning is. Once you determine your foot type, you can narrow down your choice of brand, model or style that will be best for you.

Your shoe consultant also should know where you will do your fitness activities. Will you be walking or running on a track, road, trail or treadmill? Are you working out in your home or at a gym? Answering these questions helps to determine how much pressure or impact you will be putting on the exterior wear of the shoe.

Not all brands are the same, despite their similarities.

“Stick with brands you’ve had success with in the past,” Dr. Dripchak said. “Each brand is made differently and may not necessarily fit your foot the same.”

Most brands offer shoes for specific sports or physical activities, such as trail, competition, track running, walking or cross-training. Each model has its own technology and special features to optimize pressure distribution from the heel to the forefoot, as well as adaptive cushioning and responsiveness.

Sound like a lot to consider? It’s worth it in the long run. Proper fit is imperative for avoiding discomfort or injury from wearing the wrong shoe.

“It’s important to wear properly fitting fitness shoes, because otherwise you could experience pain, blisters, wounds and fatigue,” Dr. Dripchak said. “When your feet bother you, everything seems to bother you.”

If you wear the wrong shoes, you may not notice at first, but eventually your body will let you know through aches and pains in the legs and sometimes the back.

“It is a domino of events. You may notice your feet hurt immediately, but otherwise you may feel no immediate pain until it becomes worse,” Dr. Dripchak said.

Making the decision to become physically active is a big commitment, and if you are a beginner it can be intimidating. But with a good pair of fitness shoes you’re on the right path to a healthy lifestyle.


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