By Steve Infanti
Scripps Howard News Service
There are so many types of athletic shoes on the market today. Here are some shoe characteristics and features to watch for when selecting the right shoe for you.
Running shoes are designed in three major categories — control, stability and cushion.
The (often called "motion control") is designed to control pronation — the rolling inward of the foot when it strikes the ground, which can lead to lower-leg injuries over time. These shoes generally have a more rigid sole along the inside of the foot to prevent the foot from rolling inward. They are good for the overpronator ("flat foot,") and sometimes recommended for the heavy runner (over 180 pounds) as well.
The has some motion-control properties, but differs from the motion control shoe in that it also controls excessive side-to-side motion, and generally has less flexibility at the toe area.
"This is good for people with toe problems such as arthritis, stiff big toes, pain in the ball of the foot or people who have had surgery in the toe area, and good for people who tend to twist their ankles or have poor balance," says Dr. Carol Frey of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The provides more cushioning in the midsole than usual. This shoe is good for underpronators (high arches), runners who suffer from heel pain, poor natural padding, or who have had shin splints or stress fractures.
Since shoes are designed and marketed for several foot types, runners should have an idea what type of foot they have. Take the "wet footprint" test.
Step in water and then step down on a surface and look at your footprint. If you can see the entire outline of your foot, you have low (or non-) arch; if you see the ball of the foot and the heel connected by an isthmus on the outside, you have a normal arch; if you see the ball of the foot and the heel with no connection, you have a high arch.
"Fit is the most important feature of an athletic shoe," Frey says. "Shop for shoes within an hour of the activity because your feet will be at their largest and you will get a better fit. If you perform a sports activity three or more times per week, you need a sports-specific shoe. "
Otherwise, a may do the trick. The exceptions to this are court sports — or — when you probably need a sports-specific shoe.
To see if your shoes are worn out, take them off and put them on a flat surface and look at them from behind.
"If they roll in too much or out too much without you in them, they are probably shot and you should throw them away," Frey says.
Remember, shoes lose most of their cushioning property at about 500 miles of running or 500 hours of aerobic activity. It can be as early as 300 miles if you are heavy, land hard, run on cement or on wet surfaces.