When it comes to fitness footwear it’s not about brand, cost, colour or look. It’s about the fit. If the sports shoes don’t provide enough cushioning or aren’t comfortable, you’ll be less inclined to go out and exercise, and you’re more likely to injure yourself. Here are some tips.
Get someone to watch you walk barefoot down the hall. If your ankles roll in when you’re walking that means you pronate. If you tend to walk on the outside of your foot you supinate. If your exercise of choice is walking, you shouldn’t need to go to a podiatrist or get expensive orthotics, you just need to get the right shoe.
In general, three types of sports shoes/trainers are currently sold in Australia for walking and light exercise:
Control/posted shoes. These are cushioned runners, which have a denser area of foam (called a post), under the arch of your foot to prevent or alleviate pronation. When you try a control shoe on, walk around in it for a while and walk in a straight line with the same gait you would normally use whilst exercising: if you feel like it is pushing you to the outside of your foot, it has too much correction. If your ankle is still rolling in, then you need a little more.
Neutral shoes. These runners only provide cushioning to lessen impact and do not alter your gait. If you have a normal gait or supinate, this is your option. There are no runners which correct supination; however, if you do supinate choose a runner with denser foam cushioning to provide maximum support and comfort.
Barefoot shoes. These are the highly flexible lightweight shoes you see many people currently wearing. While comfortable, unless you are very light on your feet and quite fit, they will not provide enough cushioning.
Getting fitted for shoes
It is often better to go to a smaller privately-owned sports store rather than the big chains, as you will have a greater chance of finding someone with the skill to fit your shoes. Having said that, if you are in a large chain store, explain that you are just getting into exercise and that you would like to have their most experienced shoe fitter do the fitting.
Don’t be upsold
You’re not setting out to run a marathon, so you do not need a $300 pair of runners. Go at sale time and you should be able to get last season’s much cheaper than the new model. You will need to spend between $90 and $130 (full price) to get a pair with good cushioning. You can expect to get 1000km out of a pair of runners, which means they should last you two years or more. Remember there is no other expense involved for these two years: no gym fees or special clothing.
The other thing to consider is width. It is important that the width and the shape (last) of the shoe fit you snugly, but without discomfort. Once you start to increase your pace, you don’t want to slop around in your shoes.
Women’s trainers are available in widths from AA to D and men’s from B to EE. Most stores will need to order in the non-standard widths for you; make sure the fit is right when you try them on and, if not, don’t be pressured into taking them because they were specially ordered.
Your shoe may stretch a little, loosen up after a while and start to slip on your foot. How to fix this: loosen the laces all the way to the bottom of the tongue then tighten from the bottom to the top, and once at the top use a ‘loop lacing’ technique to tighten them at the ankle.
You have the shoes, so now there is no excuse. Get out there and get your value out of them.