Step into any sports store and you will be amazed at the array of colourful, sports shoes with equally creative names on display, each promising to up your game.
How do you know which to pick? And what do all those technical-sounding terms really mean? Insidegets to the bottom of the sports shoe saga to help you sought through the heap and find the best fit.
1. Walk This Way
More than anything that you might wear, shoes have to fit right to function right. To begin, you need to know your feet and understand your gait (how you walk). For that, we recommend the ‘wet test’. Wet your feet and place them on a piece of paper to get an imprint.
UnderpronateIf your footprint shows only part of your forefoot and heel and has a narrow imprint of the outer edge of your foot, you have high arches and, therefore, tend to under-pronate. You need cushioned shoes with a soft midsole to help you put pressure on the middle of your foot.
OverpronateIf your print shows almost the entire sole of your foot with little or no curve on the inside, you have low arches and are flat-footed (overpronation). You need maximum support or motion control (high-stability) shoes to balance out and centre the foot.
NeutralIf your footprint has a distinct curve on the inside of the foot, you have natural arches. A mix of cushioned shoe with good support to help you maintain your gait would be good.
2. What’s Out There
Just as one size doesn’t really fit all, one shoe won’t fit every occasion either. That is why there are so many different types of shoes.
RunningThese are shoes designed for maximum overall shock absorption for the foot. They are light, with good traction, cushioning, flexibility, control, and heel stability.
WalkingThese are stiffer in the front than running shoes so you can roll off your toes rather than bend them through. They also have good shock absorption (especially under the ball of the foot or the metatarsal area), smooth tread and a rocker sole design (slightly rounded sole) that helps to smoothly shift the weight from the heal to the toes and encourages the natural roll of the foot when walking.
SpecialisedAerobics, climbing, water, hiking, football, tennis, golf, bike, badminton, basketball, softball – there are as many specialised shoes as there are sports to specialise in. These shoes tend to have better lateral stability to accommodate side-to-side movement when running which running shoes lack.
Court & FieldAmongst specialised shoes, you can further divide them into court shoes (shoes for courts sports like tennis, badminton, squash, basketball, volleyball) and field shoes (those for field sports like football, rugby, baseball). Court shoes have complex soles to support the back-and-forth and side-to-side movements required of the sport while field shoes come with cleats, studs or spikes for a better grip.
Cross-trainerThese allow you to do several sports with the same shoe, combining the different features. A good cross trainer has flexibility in the forefoot for running as well as lateral control for side-to-side movement.
If you engage in that sporting activity at least three times a week, you need to get the specific type of shoe for that sport.
3. Terms to See You Through
Even when you think you have narrowed down the type of shoe you want based on what sport you hope to do them in, you still have to wade through a whole slew of terms that can boggle the average mind.
CushionedThis refers to the arch of the shoe. Cushioned running shoes have very defined arches, increasing the cushion throughout the shoe.
StabilityThis refers to shoes with less of an arch to prevent too much rotation when running common amongst slight overpronators.
Motion controlThese are shoes with no arches and are extremely stiff and supportive around the ankles to prevent over-rotating with extreme overpronators.
RotatingHow the feet point away or towards the body when running.
Drop or low profileThe difference in height between the heel of your shoe and the toe. The lower the height (low profile), the more the shoe mimics barefoot running.
MidsoleThe layer between the outsole or the outer sole of the shoe (where you can see the treads) and the insole within the shoe.
4. The Road Ahead
Apart from the type of exercise, the terrain you are exercising on should be factored into your equation. If your running is limited to the treadmill in the gym or on the track, then most running shoes should be able to afford you the protection and comfort you need.
If you are going off-road to do trail running, then you are likely to encounter a wide variety of terrain. You will need a little more protection from your shoe including reinforced toe bumpers, flexible plates inside the midsole to protect against rocks or pointy obstacles, wide toe box to accommodate swelling feet, defined outsole treads for better grip, and open mesh so the foot can breathe more through the shoe.
5. If the Shoe Fits …
Then, there is the shopping itself. If you use your shoes often, replace them every six to eight months. Like a car, check your mileage. Once your shoe clocks in about 550 kilometres, it is time for a new one.
Here are some Dos when shoe shopping:
- Shop for a new shoe at the end of the day when your feet is at its largest
- Bring along the socks you want to wear with the shoe for a better fitting
- Buy what is comfortable when you first try them on; there should be no be break-in period
- Re-lace the shoe beginning with the eyelets farthest away from you
- Your heel should not be able to slip out of the laced-up shoe when you walk or run
With these tips, you no longer need to be dazzled by colour and style alone the next time you go sports shoe shopping. You will have all you need to spot the right shoe for you. Power on!
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