When you walk into a sporting goods store, all the sneakers look similar.
You can choose them:
- By design – the most beautiful or modern.
- In accordance with a specific physical activity – the ones that will increase your physical performance and better protect you from injury.
Everyone has different tastes, so from now on, we will only talk about the suitability of athletic shoes for various physical activities.
Choosing the right athletic shoes is extremely important. Proper footwear not only increases productivity but also provides stability of the foot and shock absorption, which, in turn, helps to avoid injuries to the heel, foot or ankle.
Each sport has its specifics, i.e., the most common injuries are different in different sports, and therefore the design of shoes is also different for each of them.
When choosing suitable shoes, in addition to the specifics of a particular sport, you should also consider your gait and the structure of the arch of the foot, which determines the necessary level of cushioning and support.
Types of athletic shoes
When I started my sports career, I had only one pair of trainers (and we also remember the usual rubber slippers and sneakers), and they were quite suitable for me for all kinds of sports and leisure.
But times are changing – today, there are sports shoes specially designed for almost every type of athletic activity:
- Running, training, and walking shoes, including shoes for hiking, jogging, and exercise walking.
- Court sports shoes, including shoes for tennis, basketball, and volleyball. In these sports, shoes are particularly stressed because players move forward, backwards, and side to side.
- Field sports shoes, such as those for soccer, football, and baseball. These shoes are cleated, studded, or spiked. The spike and stud formations vary from sport to sport, but generally, there are replaceable or detachable cleats, spikes, or studs affixed onto nylon soles.
- Track and field sports shoes often come in many models to meet the specific needs and training style of each discipline.
- Speciality sports shoes, including shoes for golf, aerobics, dancing, and bicycling.
- Outdoor sports shoes, including shoes for recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and boating.
How to choose the most suitable running shoes?
Running shoes are designed for forward motion and should protect your forefoot and heel and reduce the impact on your foot and knee joints.
When choosing running shoes, you should consider:
- Running conditions – whether you will run on a trainer in a gym, on asphalt, on an artificial surface in a stadium or on forest paths …
- Running goals – run for fun, to improve your health or to prepare for a marathon …
- Your gait.
- Your body type.
- Your training frequency – if you run every day, you will need shoes with a more durable sole than if you run only once or twice a week.
- How many kilometres do you run a week? If you, for example, are preparing for a marathon – your shoes must be very durable and comfortable enough to run for a long time.
If you are going to run on asphalt, the most important thing is good cushioning, then stability and, finally, comfort.
If you are going to run in the woods, choose durable and comfortable shoes suitable for all weather conditions.
When running on the artificial turf at the stadium, the most important thing will be the lightness and comfort of shoes.
Type of walking
This criterion should not be forgotten when choosing running shoes.
Generally, terms like supination and pronation are used to describe your gait – the movement of your foot and ankle when you walk or run, and how your weight is distributed when you walk or run:
- Supination means that when you walk or run, your weight falls more on the outside of the foot.
- Pronation means that when you walk or run, your weight falls more on the inner surface of the foot.
Ideally, your weight moving from heel to toe should be evenly balanced throughout the movement.
When looking at the foot and leg from behind, the heel, ankle and knee should form a straight line.
Such an ideal gait, when the body weight is evenly distributed on the foot, is not typical for everyone.
Three different gaits are distinguished:
- Neutral or universal gait – the foot lands on the outer edge and then turns inward in a controlled manner, evenly distributing the weight and helping to absorb the impact.
- Supination gait (also called underpronation) – the outside of the foot hits the ground at a steeper angle than usual with a slight inward movement. This causes additional shock and shock transfer to the lower leg.
- Pronation gait – the opposite happens, the foot bends inwards upon contact with the ground, transferring the weight to the inner edge.
How to determine your gait?
There are many methods, but 2 are very simple and available to everyone:
- Look at the soles of your old shoes:
- If the soles in the front and heel part of the feet are worn evenly in the middle – you have a neutral gait.
- If they are more worn on the outside of the feet – you have a supination gait.
- If they are more worn on the inside of the feet – you have a pronation gait.
- To find out what your gait is when running, run on a treadmill and ask a friend to film you from behind. Then watch the footage frame by frame, and you will see which part of your foot touches the treadmill first.
Shoes suitable for your body type
When walking on level ground, the weight resting on your knees is approximately equal to 1½ of your body weight. This means that if your weight is, for example, 60 kg, around 90 kg rests on your knees with each step!
When running, the load on the knee joints increases significantly, and some parts of the knee may even be exposed to a load 7-11 times the weight of your body.
Respectively, shoe cushioning is of great importance.
By choosing shoes that match your weight, you will reduce the impact on your knee joints and protect both your knees and your back.
I would recommend:
- If your weight is more than 85 kg – choose sneakers with heel cushioning of at least 26 mm or more and a height difference from the heel to toe of at least 7 mm.
- If you are an experienced runner weighing about 70 kg and want to improve your running performance – choose lightweight, high-tech shoes.
4 types of running shoes
You can usually tell the type of running shoes by looking at their design. However, many manufacturers also label their shoes as “neutral”, “support”, or “stability”.
Neutral running shoes are recommended for people with a neutral or mild supination gait and a normal or high arch shape.
Neutral shoes are characterized by:
- A greater proportion of cushioning in the heel part – runners with a neutral gait do not need additional cushioning in other areas of the sole, because when the foot encounters the ground, the weight on it is evenly distributed.
- Shoes are lighter (compared to support and stabilization shoes) because they are designed to provide comfort and support in a neutral way and have few additional support technologies.
They are also called motion-control shoes.
Support running shoes provide additional corrective support and maximum stability. They are designed for runners with a pronounced pronation gait and low arches of the foot or flat feet and /or large body weight.
Support shoes are characterized by:
- Firmer midsole.
- A medial strut is incorporated in the middle of the shoe to help reduce overpronation and provide additional arch support.
- An additional stabilizer may be added to the inner edge of the heel support for maximum control.
- Shoe soles are made from a heavier and more durable material, so support running shoes are heavier (compared to neutral and stability shoes).
Stability running shoes sit between neutral and support shoes in terms of cushioning and support. They are designed for runners with mild overpronation and a normal or low arch, or who need moderate foot support for other reasons.
Stability shoes are characterized by:
- A midsole of two or three materials of different densities, which provides an optimal combination of cushioning and support.
- Wider platform for added stability.
- The density of the sole may be different in the heel area to provide more support for people with a low arch shape.
Minimalist shoes are designed for people who want to run “barefoot”.
Running without shoes, or “barefoot running”, has become popular in the last decade. Technically, the difference is in how the foot contacts the ground – when running “barefoot”, the first contact with the ground is usually not the heel but the forefoot or middle part of the foot.
This changes the way the foot touches the ground, reduces stress on the joints of the legs and theoretically can help reduce the risk of injury. It is unclear if this is the case. Some studies show that pain and injury are more common in runners wearing minimalist shoes, but there are too few studies to say for sure.
Minimalist shoes provide some protection against sharp objects and uncomfortable surfaces but provide neither support nor additional cushioning.
Now that you know what types of running shoes there are and what you should pay attention to when choosing them – let’s “take the bull by the horns” and go through the process of choosing shoes step by step.
And let’s start with
Determining shoe size
Before we start choosing sneakers, we need to determine what size we need.
Size means not only the length of the foot but also its width – the shoes must be “loose” enough so that the foot is not compressed and, at the same time, provide sufficient support so that the foot does not move or slide inside the shoe.
Measure the length and width of your foot with your socks on (the ones you wear when you run) and measure both feet. If one foot is larger than the other, use the larger size.
To ensure the correct shoe length, leave at least 1 to 1.5 centimetres (the width of the thumb) between the big toe and the toe of the shoe.
A running shoe size is usually half a size larger than your normal shoe size.
Buy shoes after a workout or in the evening, because then the foot will be the widest.
Go to the store in socks of the same type that you run (or plan to run).
Try on different shoes – both from different manufacturers and different types. It happens that shoes of the same size, but made by different manufacturers, are not the same.
Remember, if you have one foot larger than the other, choose the size that fits the larger foot.
When standing straight, make sure there is at least 1 to 1.5 centimetres of space between the big toe and the toe of the shoe. This will provide enough space for your foot to move forward while running (and walking) without resting against the toe of the shoe. Wiggle your toes to make sure they have enough room.
Put the shoes on both feet and take a walk to understand how your foot feels in them:
- Is there enough space for feet?
- Do the shoes fit your heels tightly, or maybe they are too tight or slip?
Pay attention not only to the length of the shoes but also to the width. Make sure the shoes are not too tight in the middle. If you feel that your foot is being “squeezed” – ask for a “wider” size.
Feel the inside of the shoe to make sure there are no tags, seams, or anything else that could irritate your foot.
Check the soles:
- Are they strong enough to protect against sharp objects?
- Do they provide sufficient cushioning?
- Try the shoes walking on both hard and soft surfaces (such as carpet) to see how your foot feels when walking on different surfaces in the specific shoes.
Do not buy shoes if they are not comfortable enough for you. Forget that shoes “have to be worn in”. Find shoes that are comfortable from the start.
Trust your comfort level, not the shoe size or the ad description. Remember, no matter what the ads say – you are the one who will be wearing these shoes. Respectively – You are the one who determines whether they are comfortable enough and suitable for you.
Shoes for other sports
Many different types of sports shoes are specially designed for various sports. As you have already noticed, there are 4 main types of running shoes, and each of them has several more variations.
So, let’s look at just a few of the most popular types of sports shoes and the most important factors to consider when choosing them.
Cross-training shoes are designed for people who engage in various physical activities, such as visiting the gym, doing strength, aerobic or HIIT workouts, etc. These shoes equally provide support, stability and flexibility and are designed for a variety of movements.
Cross-training shoes are characterized by:
- Multi-purpose sole that provides good grip on various surfaces, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor activities.
- Various additional support features such as – reinforced heel supports, arch support and/or midfoot straps provide stability, for example, during weightlifting.
- Highly flexible to accommodate multi-directional movements associated with different types of exercise.
- Increased durability – durable sole and surface materials, reinforced toes, and additional cushioning in places where the load on the foot is the greatest.
- Cushioning in the heel area and forefoot to ensure shock absorption during intense activities (jumping, running, etc.) while maintaining stability during strength training.
Basketball is characterized by fast movements – jumps and sudden changes of direction, so shoes must provide ankle support, good grip on the basketball court surface and cushioning.
Basketball shoes are characterized by:
- Special soles that provide excellent grip and allow players to make sharp cuts, stop quickly and make rapid movements without slipping.
- Increased cushioning padding in the midsole and/or heel to provide shock absorption and support during jumps and landings.
- Higher cut (the shoe covers the ankles), which provides additional support and stability of the ankle joint during lateral movements, jumping and rapid changes in running direction.
- Highly breathable materials help reduce moisture build-up inside the shoe, which in turn can help prevent blisters.
- Very durable materials so that the shoes can withstand the heavy load – frequent turning, jumping, and sliding on the court.
- Can be equipped with additional laces, straps or other fastening systems that allow players to adjust the shoes to their feet to fit them as tightly as possible.
The soles of football boots are equipped with studs or spikes to ensure maximum grip on the grass surface. They have a tight and lightweight construction and are optimized for running and kicking.
Football boots are characterized by:
- Soles with studs, pins or rivets that provide traction on natural or artificial grass football pitch surfaces. Studs can be permanent or screw-in (so they can be changed depending on the pitch surface and weather conditions). Stud configuration and pattern may vary depending on player’s position and style of play.
- Lightweight design so players can move quickly around the playing field.
- Often equipped with a textured upper or “impact zone” that helps players better control the ball during dribbling, passing, and shooting.
- Some football boots have a low cut for maximum freedom of movement, while others may have a medium or high cut for extra ankle support.
Tennis shoes typically have a tight fit with a flexible, flat sole and lateral support for stability during quick lateral movements. Additional protection in the toe area is also possible.
Tennis shoes are characterized by:
- A special sole that would ensure excellent grip on tennis courts. When playing on soft courts, the sole of the shoe should also be softer, but when playing on a hard surface, shoes with harder wedge-shaped soles are usually chosen.
- Midsole cushioning to provide shock absorption during jumps and rapid lateral movements. The cushioning of tennis shoes is usually designed to provide good energy return and help players move faster on the court.
- Reinforcements in high-stress areas such as the toes and medial (inner) side for durability and support during fast movements.
- Good support for the arch of the foot and around the ankle to help prevent injuries and provide stability during lateral movements.
- Like basketball shoes, they can be equipped with additional fastening systems to ensure stability and prevent the foot from slipping inside the shoe during intense movements.
Golf shoes usually have a firm sole with short studs or spikes to help maintain balance (prevent slipping) and stability during the swing.
Golf shoes are characterized by:
- Soles with special ridges or studs to ensure traction and stability on the golf course – especially on wet or uneven terrain.
- The reinforced midsoles, arch support, and cushioning help maintain balance and stability during the swing (helps maintain proper foot alignment and weight transfer).
- Good waterproofing as many golf courses is damp, and golfers often encounter dew or rain during their games.
Hiking shoes are designed for activities that involve walking long distances over rough and sometimes difficult terrain.
Hiking shoes are characterized by:
- Soles with deep grooves, which provide excellent grip on various surfaces – stones, mud, etc., and helps maintain stability on slippery or uneven terrain.
- More durable construction with rigid ankle support that helps protect feet and ankles from twisting when walking on uneven terrain.
- Are more resistant to wear, water, and other environmental factors.
- There is often cushioning in both the midsole and insole to keep feet comfortable during long hikes.
- Generally lighter compared to traditional hiking boots, reducing fatigue, and allowing faster movement.
- Provides natural foot movement while providing sufficient stability.
Trail running shoes
Trail running shoes are specifically designed for off-road running, which often includes uneven terrain, rocky or muddy ground, and other challenging surfaces.
Trail running shoes are characterized by:
- Made of waterproof materials to keep your feet dry even when running through mud, dew, etc.
- Sole with multi-directional ridges that provide excellent grip on various surfaces – stones, roots, mud, etc.
- Additional protection, for example – reinforced toe and ankle protection, anti-sharp plates in the sole, etc.
- Increased stability to help runners maintain balance and stability on uneven terrain (wider base, extra midsole cushioning, etc.).
- Increased wear resistance.
- Usually, lighter compared to traditional running shoes.
Cycling shoes usually have a rigid sole to effectively transfer power from the feet to the pedals. They often can be attached to pedals to increase efficiency and control while cycling.
Cycling shoes are characterized by:
- The rigid sole, made of materials such as carbon fibre, nylon, or composite materials, provides an efficient transfer of power from the athlete’s feet to the pedals, helping to improve performance. Mountain and leisure cycling shoes have more flexible soles so that you can also walk comfortably with them.
- A specialized fastening system on the sole that allows you to attach shoes to the pedals.
- Tight-fitting design that prevents excessive movement of the foot inside the shoe.
- Reinforced heel and toe protection to protect the foot from abrasions and bumps.
Shoe lacing patterns
How your feet feel in shoes is also strongly influenced by how they are laced up.
This is especially true for running shoes since the type of lacing can affect the biomechanics of the foot, as well as reduce pronation.
There is no ideal and suitable way for everyone to lace up sports shoes – this is determined by the shape of your foot, the type of shoes and your feelings during training.
Experiment and find what works best for you.
Here are some tips on how to lace up your running shoes for maximum comfort.
Ideal shoes are those that you do not “feel” during running or other activities.
Choose shoes that are suitable for a specific purpose and match your gait and body type.
The importance of the other criteria is up to you, and the decision mainly depends on which features you prefer:
- Comfort – inner lining material, waterproofing, air permeability…
- Cushioning – to reduce impacts on your joints;
- Stability – which is closely related to your gait (whether you are a supinator or a pronator)
- Practicality – easy maintenance, durable materials, waterproof…
- Shoe weight – for performance enhancement, such as increasing running speed…
Never participate in competitions or other serious events in new shoes.
If you do sports more than 3 – 4 times a week – buy 2 pairs of shoes and change them (one in one workout and the other in the next). This advice is especially true for running enthusiasts.
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