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How to choose the correct training footwear

Shoes, shoes, shoes. They can be the cause of your injury, or help you avoid or overcome an injury. With so many different shoe types (and colours) on the market, how does one choose the correct footwear for their foot-type and activity?

Firstly some pointers for correctly choosing footwear in general:

  • The shoe should be flat – even a small heel raise can cause long term compensatory problems
  • The shoe should bend at the toe (where your foot naturally bends)
  • The shoe should have some flex and forgiveness in the middle – our foot is not supposed to be locked up in a coffin all day!
  • The widest part of the shoe should be at your toes – your toes are supposed to wiggle and grip – not be squeezed together all day (sorry ladies and gents – pointy toes are a no no)
  • Allow your thumb’s width gap at the end of the longest toe (which may be the 2nd toe)
  • The shape of the shoe should match the foot (eg. curved last for a curved foot)
  • The midsole of the shoe should be firm yet shock absorbing

Next you need to choose the correct shoe for your foot-type. Just because Asics for example is a good brand of footwear, not all Asics will be suited to your foot-type.

Neutral shoe – for a foot-type that is structurally correct (no excessive arch collapse). A neutral shoe provides cushioning but no extra support as a neutral foot-type does not need extra support.

Anti-pronation shoe – for a foot-type that requires more support (due to excessive arch collapse). An anti-pronation shoe has a medial post (firmer grey rubber) on the inside of the shoe which makes this part of the shoe stronger. Anti-pronation shoes come in mild, moderate and severe anti-pronation control.

Lastly, it’s really important to match your footwear to your activity. Playing touch football in a tennis shoe is likely end up in all sorts of mischief!

Walking shoes
Walking and running is a straight line motion sport (versus change of direction such as aerobics). Therefore a walking shoe should have good flexibility in the toe, however may not be as flexible in the toe as a running shoe. Midsole cushioning in the heel and forefoot is important for walking shoes, especially if you are walking on bitumen or concrete. A good walking shoe will have a slightly rounded sole or rocker bottom which helps to shift weight from heel strike into toe-off, reducing the forces on forefoot.

Running shoes
Running is also straight line motion, so having lots of flexibility in the toe is really important. Running shoes should also have good cushioning in the midsole, especially if you are road running. Over the years opinions on ‘the best’ running shoes have jumped about – from conventional running shoes, to minimalist running shoes, and more recently to maximalist, highly cushioned running shoes. Not one type of running shoe suits everybody. Take into consideration your body weight, running technique, running experience, terrain, mileage, foot-type and any injuries you may have.

Cross training / Court sports Shoes
Activities such as aerobics, netball and tennis involve predominantly lateral (side-to-side) movements. Shoes for these activities should provide good lateral support to reduce the risk of an injury ocuring, such as an ankle sprain. They often incorporate more leather in the upper compared to mesh which also provides more side to side stability. A cross training shoe must have some flexibility in the toe, but not as much as a running shoe would need. They have less flex grooves in the forefoot and more rubber in the outer-sole to contact the ground to provide grip.

Some cross-trainers are now made with a 80% running base and 20% court base, which would be suitable for someone who wants to do maybe 2 aerobics classes, 1 run and 1 hit of tennis per week. Other cross-trainers are 80% court base and 20% running based for those wanting to do predominantly court activities.

You do not necessarily need a different pair of shoes for every activity you participate in. However, if you are doing a certain activity (such as running) 3 times per week or more than you would benefit from wearing a sport-specific shoe.

Sporting and running injuries are extremely common and often poor footwear is the culprit – are your training shoes up to scratch?

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