Sports footwear is big business. Nothing drove that point home as forcefully as a story we heard from a patient.
The patient (we’ll call him Daniel) had just returned from a Caribbean cruise. One of the workshops on the cruise ship focused on healthy feet. A fitness trainer spewed a mixture of fact and fiction before attempting to sell Daniel and his fellow cruisers a pair of so-called orthopedic shoes— which were really just fancy running shoes. This $500 value, he explained, could be theirs for only $199!
We were amused by the story, but not surprised. With the aging of America has come an epidemic of flat feet. Add in the fact that more people are staying active well into their sixth and seventh decades, and . . . bingo! It’s a multimillion-dollar market just waiting to explode.
Sports heroes such as Lebron James can afford the best advice and the most expensive shoes. But how about the rest of us? Should we fork over hundreds of dollars for so-called orthopedic sneakers?
How to Choose the Right Sports Shoes
The exploitation is unfortunate because there is a real need for information about shoes.
Foot injuries are very common. The wrong type of footwear can lead to serious problems with the hips, knees and back as well as the feet.
Acute injuries include toe problems caused by sudden stops— in basketball, for instance. Contact sports such as football or soccer can cause chronic, overuse problems. Athletes as well as regular guys often try to play through pain, exacerbating an injury.
We should think of footwear as an important piece of equipment— as critical as the ball, racquet or glove. If you participate in a sport or active at least three times a week, you need a sports-specific shoe.
Footwear should also be fitted to the individual’s height, weight, history, and foot physiology. A brightly-colored, pricey brand may not give you the support and protection you need.
Shopping for Fit, not Fashion Can Prevent Injury
A few simple rules to keep in mind:
- Don’t shop for shoes early in the day. Your feet tend to relax and expand over the course of the day, and the shoes should fit your feet at their largest.
- Wear the same type of socks for the fitting that you will wear while you’re training or playing a match.
- Walk or run a few steps in your new shoes.
- Shoes should fit comfortably on the first wearing, with no need to be broken in.
- There should be a firm grip of the shoe around the heel. If your heel slips or moves around while you run or walk, walk on by . . . to the next pair.
A Shoe for Every Sport
According to guidelines developed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, here are some features to consider while shopping for shoes:
Running, training and walking shoes can be used for hiking and jogging. Look for a soft upper, good shock absorption and a smooth tread. The heel should allow the foot to roll naturally as you move. Cushioning, flexibility, control and stability in the heel are important, as well as good traction.
Court shoes include footwear for tennis, basketball and volleyball. A good pair of court shoes allow the foot to move forward, backward and sideways. You should pay special attention to the soles of court shoes. Special court footwear can protect your feet from a ton of abuse.
Field shoes are used for soccer, football and baseball. They usually come with cleated or spiked soles. Spikes or studs may vary depending on the specific sport. You can find detachable or replaceable spokes that fit on nylon soles, so that you can re-use the cleats on your next pair of shoes.
There are also specialized shoes for golf, aerobic dance and bicycling, as well as for outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and boating.
Whatever your favorite activity, don’t neglect the feet. Unhappy feet will punish you with blisters, athlete’s foot, aching heels or sprained ankles. Happy feet will carry you through years of active life.
If you feel your pain cannot be cured by changing footwear, schedule an appointment and we can help you find a solution.