How to Choose the Correct Sport Shoes for You
An athletic shoe is a generic name for a shoe designed for sporting activities. They were originally sporting apparel separate from sports equipment but are worn much more commonly as casual footwear for both men and women today. It can also go by sports shoes, running shoes, gym shoes, tennis shoes, sneakers (American), or trainers (British).
Wearing the right athletic shoes for different sports activities can help increase performance, provide more comfort, and prevent injuries. Sports can put a lot of pressure on the body, primarily on the feet, ankles, and legs. For example, running and jumping can generate force through your legs 3 to 4 times your body weight.
Recent athletic shoes are created with specific functions in mind. If you are engaged in a single sport more than 2 times a week, you should get a shoe designed specifically for that sport: a running shoe, court shoe, cleats for soccer, or hiking shoes. If you are engaged in various sports each week, a cross-training shoe would be the best choice.
Tips for Finding the Right Athletic Shoe
- Whenever possible, you should shop with a brand or shop that specializes in the sport you are engaged in. For example, if you are a runner, visit a running store or search for Brands specializing in running on their e-store; if you are a basketball player, visit a store specializing in basketball equipment.
- If possible, it would be best to research what is available and most appropriate for your favorite sport. Some websites can help compare prices and find out what is available on various e-commerce platforms.
- Because your feet will swell up throughout the day, it’s best to try on shoes at the end of the day or after a workout.
- To ensure a snug fit, wear the usual pair of socks you normally wear when you are engaged in the sport you are using the shoes for.
- Make sure the heel counter – the back of the shoe that holds the heel in place – sufficiently grips your heel to provide stability.
- Space for your toes should ideally be at half an inch to provide ample room to wiggle your toes.
- If you can try your shoes, walk around on different surfaces (carpet, tile, etc.) to ensure they are comfortable.
- Try on both right and left shoes to make sure that they fit. Then, inspect the shoes on a flat surface to ensure they are straight, even balance in bearing your weight, and without defects.
Types of Athletic Shoes
Most of the new technologies in athletic shoes focus on the development and performance of running shoes. These can be broken into 3 major areas of focus.
Cushioned or “neutral” shoes are designed for runners with high arches and rigid feet. A runner with this type of foot is classified as a “supinator.” The midsole of a cushioned running shoe will normally have one type of soft foam material called Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) in the arch and heel. As a moldable synthetic material, EVA has varying density properties that can be adjusted when being made to provide more or less cushion in the shoe.
Stability shoes provide light to moderate stability for individuals with an arch that may collapse while running. This type of runner, classified as a “pronator,” needs to maintain its arch while running. Stability shoes may have two to three different polyurethane materials in the arch and possibly the heel, each with a different density to support the flat foot type. The polyurethane material will make the shoe feel heavier than a shoe made only with EVA. The manufacturer may also add other components to the shoe to help add stability.
Motion-control shoes are designed for runners who are “severe pronators.” This type of shoe provides maximum stability and is the choice for runners with flat feet and higher body weight. A motion control shoe may have an extra stabilizer added to the inside of the shoe at the edge of the heel counter to provide maximum control. The outer sole of the running shoe will be made of carbon rubber or blown rubber, which is made using injected air. A carbon rubber sole is made from a denser material and is somewhat stiffer. This, in turn, provides more durability. Blown rubber soles are more flexible and lighter in weight and provide more cushion at the expense of stability.
The best way to determine if you are a supinator or pronator runner is to evaluate your foot professionally. To determine your foot type on your own, view your footprint when you step out of the pool or shower. If you leave a wide, flat footprint, you have a pronated foot. If the footprint is missing the inside of the foot, where your arch did not touch the ground, you have a supinated foot type.
A trail shoe is designed for those who prefer to run off-road. This shoe has a deeper tread pattern for solid traction and offers more stability across the shoe than a normal running shoe.
A cross-training shoe is designed to take you from sport to sport with one pair of shoes. This type of shoe is not appropriate for someone who plans on running more than four to five miles a day. A cross trainer is usually made of mesh materials and strips of leather in the fabric. If the shoe has a “running” tread on the sole, it may be difficult to wear the shoe on a court for an exercise class or game.
Walking shoes provide stability through the arch, good shock absorption, and a smooth tread. Walking involves a heel-toe gait pattern, so you want to ensure that the shoe, particularly the counter, is stable. If you have arthritis or pain in the arch of your foot, you may benefit from a rocker sole that encourages a natural roll of the foot while walking.
Court shoes include those designed for basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Court shoes have a solid tread and typically are made of soft leather. They are designed to provide stability in all directions. They may have the traditional low cut just below the ankle or a high cut. The higher cut is normally found on basketball shoes to offer increased ankle support during jumping and landing.
Many sports, such as soccer, lacrosse, football, and baseball, require athletes to wear cleated shoes. Shoes with cleats (also called “spikes” or “studs”) have multiple protrusions made of steel or hard plastic that provide additional traction on grass or soft turf.
Spikes are usually preferred on a grass or field turf surface, allowing players to dig into the surface and resist forces to stop forward movement. Removable cleats are advantageous because they can be switched out for different surfaces. They come in 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, and 1-inch sizes. Molded cleats are preferred on turf surfaces to provide more traction.
A hiking shoe needs to provide stability as you walk across uneven surfaces and comfort and cushion in the insole to absorb the shock from various impacts. Hiking shoes should also have a good tread on the sole to keep your foot firmly planted on the surfaces you encounter on your trek. Most hiking shoes have a higher upper, providing added ankle support.
Other Sports Shoes
There are shoes designed for virtually every sport, including golf, ballet, skating, hockey, cycling, and skiing. As always, a professional can help you purchase the shoe that is best for you and the sport you enjoy.
Golf shoes need to provide stability in the shoe’s arch as the game requires players to walk long distances on changing surfaces. If possible, it is best to purchase a golf shoe with a removable insole so that you can add an orthotic if necessary.
Cycling shoes are fit snuggly, without additional room for inserts. A cycling shoe with some cushion under the ball of the foot will help reduce any compression while you repetitively push the foot as it is securely attached to the pedal.
Andrew was elected Vice President of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians in 2020 after being a member for 7 years.
He has worked as a PSC Consultant and Research Assistant from 2013-2015, Consultant, and Sprint Coach at Zamboanga Sports Academy from 2015-2017.
Current editor and chief of Pinoyathletics.info, and has recently done consultancy work for Ayala Corp evaluating the Track and Field Program.
Coaches Sprints, Middle and Jump events he is working towards his Level 3 Athletics Australia Coaching Certification in Sprints and Hurdles.
He can be contacted on [email protected]
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