Wearing the right workout shoe makes a difference

Ask your feet and they’ll tell you without hesitation – your choice of workout shoes is an important decision. Your shoes can either improve your performance or increase your risk of pain and injury. How can you make sure you choose the right shoe? Do you wear what’s in your closet or should you buy a new pair?

If it’s time to go shoe shopping, you may have a difficult time narrowing down your choice to one pair as dozens of brands, prices, and styles of shoes line store shelves. While difficult to decide, you don’t want to make the costly mistake of wearing the wrong kind. Here are the most common workout shoe mistakes and how to make sure you’re wearing the right pair.

Whether you’re new to exercise or have been working out for years, it’s easy to make the mistake of wearing an old pair of sneakers to the gym. Maybe they’re your standby for exercise and you’ve had them so long you don’t know what a new pair of shoes would feel like.

Unfortunately, after being worn for a long period of time, shoes begin to lose their support. Even if they still look brand new or have never been worn to run in, they may still lack their original support. Simple, everyday activities can wear down the support. For those new to exercise or those who’ve been exercising for years, the risk of pain or injury increases with an old pair of shoes. Don’t wait until your shoes look old or dirty to buy a new pair.

Runners should be sure to get new kicks every 300 to 500 miles. If you don’t keep track of your miles, here’s a good rule to follow: Everyday exercisers replace shoes every six months. Occasional exercisers replace shoes once a year.

There’s no one-shoe-fits-all shoe solution when it comes to sports. A running shoe is made differently than a shoe for tennis, walking, or volleyball. Running shoes have no lateral support because you don’t move side to side, whereas in other sports you need that lateral stability. So obviously, your feet need different types of support depending on the activity you’re doing.

For someone who does a little of everything and isn’t concerned with performance, cross-trainers may be a good option. Look for cross-trainers that have a firm heel, are lightweight, and provide adequate support.

Wearing the right shoe gets even more complicated than tossing the wrong. It’s not just about choosing the right type of shoe for your sport, but choosing the right type of shoe for your foot and gait as well. For running, you can’t just choose a shoe that’s labeled for running and think you’re good to go. Specific shoes are made to support your particular foot shape and running style.

And don’t make the mistake of buying shoes based on their appearance. Instead, go to a specialty shoe store and have a professional salesperson help you find the shoe that truly fits. A knowledgeable salesperson will take three measurements of your foot (its length, width, and arch) to determine your shoe size. The shoe guru should also evaluate the way your foot hits the ground when you walk or run. Some people’s feet supinate or under-pronate (roll outward), some over-pronate (roll inward), and some have neutral pronation when their feet hit the ground. Under-pronated and over-pronated feet require extra support to avoid injury. This knowledge can help you find the shoe that truly fits.

Old shoes, wrong shoes, and the wrong type of right shoes are three common mistakes people make. Ensure a successful, pain-free workout by wearing supportive shoes made for your foot and your activity of choice.

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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