Choosing the Right Athletic Shoes

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  1. Buy new shoes when the foam in the mid-sole of your old shoes has gotten hard.
  2. Before you go into the shoe store, find out if you walk more on the outside or inside of your feet (you can tell by looking at the wear on an old pair of athletic shoes), and if you have high arches or low arches. (Wet your feet and walk on a piece of paper to see the outline of your feet. If the part of the foot between the heel and ball appears thick, you may have low arches.) Tell the clerk about these peculiarities of your feet.
  3. Show uneven wear on your old shoes (if any) to the clerk. Some shoes may be designed to minimize such wear and to compensate for the poor habits such wear may reveal.
  4. Buy shoes when your feet are largest – in the afternoon.
  5. Pick a reputable shoe store with an informed staff.
  6. Put on socks and other foot gear before trying on shoes.
  7. The heel on the shoes should fit tightly, but your shoes should have plenty of room, at least half an inch between the end of your big toe and the shoe when you're standing. The shoe should be just wide enough – so the foot fits but does not hang over.
  8. Test out both shoes in a pair. Lace them up, move your feet around in the shoes. Flex your foot, extend it, rock from side to side in both shoes. Curl your toes. Make sure the shoes do not wobble when you walk in them. Check tops to see if they are symmetrical. The shoes should be flexible yet supply support.
  9. Try several movements, running and jumping for instance. Make sure your feet do not slide in the shoes.
  10. Inside seams should be smooth. Stitching should be complete.

When buying shoes for specific sports, keep several factors in mind: cushioning, support and stability, flexibility and durability. You are playing with variables: you can have light weight or strong support – but not both.

Walking Shoes – Look for a good tread pattern, strong support for forward movement, and spring in front cushioning for a strong push-off. Your heel can be lower to the ground than in a running shoe. Heel counter should be strong, and the shoe should be designed to keep your foot from moving side to side. Look for an upward sweep of the toe, which augments heel-toe motion. Breathable uppers keep your feet from becoming too hot.

Running Shoes – Running shoes should be lightweight and designed for forward motion. The sole of the running shoe should provide sufficient friction with the ground so that you do not slip, and there should be careful beveled edges on the side and back soles. The shoe should arch up front and back, have elevated heels with strong heel counters, strong arch supports that work against lateral movement. It should also provide spring through air pockets and foam wedges. When you land on the heel of your front foot, powerful force is created and stored as the Achilles tendon compresses into a "spring". As you move onto the ball of your foot, the tendon pushes you ahead by expanding. Good running shoes multiply this energy storage. The heel of the shoe should be well cushioned and elevated a bit (3/4 inch higher than the sole) and the base of the heel should be wide to provide stability, at least as wide as the shoe's top. The front area should be flexible so that the shoe bends as your foot does.