For athletic shoes, brawn beats beauty

By: By Kathy Hansen
Kathy Hansen

Living in a household of athletic women, there is a ton of athletic footwear lying around. There are running shoes, soccer cleats, softball cleats, CrossFit shoes as well as just plain old sneakers for daily wear. Our cars need extra air fresheners just to manage the stink.

My daughter, Nikki, is the Imelda Marcos of athletic shoes. This year she has her sights set on the Nike soccer cleats worn by the U.S. women’s soccer team. Last weekend, while at a soccer tournament, she tried on said shoes and found out they might not be all they are advertised to be. They are high tops and may not accommodate her ankle brace and the sizes do not ring true. The jury is still out on the soccer cleat decision but I am sure when she decides they will be prominent on her Facebook postings.

There are many considerations in selecting your fitness shoes. The right size and actually trying them on are just two of the no-brainers. Here are some helpful tips for selecting the right fitness footwear:

— Shoes are not for multitasking: Fitness shoes are made for specific activities so you need to choose the right one for the right activity. Walking shoes are stiffer and running shoes more flexible with more cushioning. Choose a shoe based on what you are doing not how you think they look.

— Know your foot: Everyone’s foot is different and our feet change as we age. Before embarking on a shoe-buying trip, figure out your foot structure (high arch, low arch, etc.) Most athletic shoe stores and even drug stores have machines that check your arch structure for free, then you can pick shoes that will be the most comfortable for your foot.

— Know your size: This might sound like a no-brainer, but did you know that your foot size can change even when you are an adult? After the birth of my twins, I went from a size 7 to an 8. Measure your shoe size twice a year and remember that not all brands sizes are equivalent. A 7.5 in an Adidas may well be an 8 in a Nike or vice versa.

— Shop towards the end of the day: Our feet expand as the day progresses and likewise when we walk or run. Trying them on at the end of the day will ensure they fit when your feet are the biggest.

— BYOS (bring your own socks): Besides being kind of nasty putting your bare feet into shoes someone else may end up buying, the fit may be wrong. Bring along the type of sock you intend to use with the shoes for try-on purposes.

— Breaking in shoes is a myth: If the shoe is not comfortable when you try it on, it is not going to be comfortable later. Walk, jump or jog some in the store, and if they feel wrong, then don’t buy them.

— Use the rule of thumb: When standing, there should be a gap no larger than the width of your thumb at the front of the shoe. Too much means they are too big and too little means they are too small.

— Don’t over pay or underpay: Athletic shoes are pricey but don’t need to break you either. While $15 shoes would be a mistake, you don’t need $200 ones either. I normally buy last year’s models so I get the same quality for a much better price.

— Know when to retire them: The average pair of running shoes should be replaced every 400 miles of use. If you are like me and don’t track miles, it is easier to just look at them for wear. If the back of the sole is worn out or they start to feel like the support is gone, it is time to go shopping.

Careful selection of your next pair of fitness shoes can make your workouts much more enjoyable. You can avoid injuries, blisters and sore feet that can keep you on the couch. Your best bet is to find a sporting goods store with staff who understand how to fit your shoes. Stay away from online ordering unless it is a brand and style you already wear.

Kathy Hansen Hansen

By Kathy Hansen

Kathy Hansen has over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness field and only one more season to pay for soccer cleats. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

Kathy Hansen has over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness field and only one more season to pay for soccer cleats. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]