How to Choose Exercise Shoes

October 25, 2010

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Photo: Courtesy of Suet Eman

As fall starts and the leaves begin to change color, I find myself ready to go outside and enjoy the crisp air. The sights and smells of fall are invigorating, and make even the most routine walk seem more enjoyable. However, the blisters that I get from wearing my favorite pair of shoes are not enjoyable. This week, I finally broke down and decided that it was time to buy a new pair of shoes that would make my feet feel good, instead of cramped and sweaty. Rather than heading over to the mall and grabbing the first pair of shoes that I could find, I decided to research what to look for in a pair of exercise shoes. While researching, I was impressed by all of the factors that play into choosing the right shoe. After reading several articles, the best advice that I was able to find was an article posted by WebMD. This article describes the following 10 tips for choosing the right exercise shoe:

  1. Don’t make shoes multitask: Buy a pair of exercise shoes for a specific activity (ie. Do not try to use walking shoes if you want to go running).
  2. Know your foot: Figure out what section of your shoes tends to wear out the fastest and what your foot shape is (ie. If your shoes tend to wear on the outer edge, you probably have high arches in your feet and want to look for cushioning inside of the shoe that will help support the natural arch of your foot).
  3. Measure your foot frequently: Shoe sizes continue to change throughout your life, so measure your feet at least once or twice per year.
  4. Shop toward the end of the day: Feet swell throughout the day, so it’s important that you find shoes that will fit your feet when they are at their largest.
  5. Don’t believe in breaking in: Your shoes should feel comfortable when you leave the store. Also, make sure to walk around the store in your shoes to see if they are comfortable in action.
  6. Use the rule of thumb: There should be about a thumb’s width of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe.
  7. Bring your own socks:  Bring the socks that you plan to use when you exercise to make sure they fit comfortably inside the shoe.
  8. Understand the bells and whistles: Understand the features that your shoes come with, such as gel inserts or springs inside of the shoe’s heel.
  9. Don’t over or underpay: Shop around to make sure that you are getting the best value for your shoes. You don’t need to buy the most fashionable shoes, but know that you won’t get the same quality of shoes for $15 as you will for $75.
  10. Know when to replace them: You should replace your shoes every 350-400 miles, or once the soles begin to tear or wear out.

Choosing the right exercise shoe requires a little extra work, but it pays off in the end. Not only will your feet feel better after you workout, but wearing the right shoes can also help prevent injuries. Sometimes, it can be hard to set aside the money to buy a high-quality pair of exercise shoes or to carve out the time to go shoe shopping. However, make the shopping experience fun by inviting your workout partners, or make a “shoe-shopping” fund. Do whatever you need to do to find the right exercise shoes for you, because your feet are worth it.

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