by Mike Levinson
Your feet work hard every day, carrying you through your daily tasks while you walk, stand, carry, lift, climb, clean, work and exercise. If you neglect your feet—especially during a workout—then your feet with have to deal with swelling, blisters and lasting discomfort on top of everything else.
One of the best ways to care for your feet is to invest in a good pair of workout shoes. There is nothing worse than trying to work out when you’re experiencing pain and risking injury. To improve your workouts, look for a high-quality shoe with a good fit that is made to support the activities you do.
Although most people buy running shoes even if they have never jogged, the shoes you buy should be specific to the activity that you will be using them for.
- Running shoes have additional cushioning to absorb shock as your foot hits the ground, which helps to reduce blisters. They are flexible and light.
- Trail shoes have added traction for running and walking in grass, mud, or trails.
- Walking shoes tend to be stiffer and heavier than running shoes. These provide more support because your foot rolls from heel to toe more slowly than when you run.
- Cross-training shoes are great for people who have a varied workout routine or play different sports. This is the most versatile athletic shoe, designed to give more support for changes in direction and impact, making them an economical choice. They’re heavier and less cushioned than running shoes and not recommended if running is your main mode of training.
- Specialty shoes exist for weight lifting, cycling, hiking, tennis, basketball, soccer and more. If you do these activities several days per week, consider buying a sport-specific shoe to fit your needs.
Finding the Best Running or Walking Shoe
When you get fitted for a new pair of running or walking shoes, go to the experts at a sporting goods store, running store or even a podiatrist. Ask the expert of your choice to help you evaluate the arch of your foot.
- Shoes should be replaced every five to six months (or 400-600 miles of running/walking), depending on how often you use them. If the tread (on the outer sole) is worn or if the sides are worn to the point that your shoe leans one way or the other, it’s time for a new pair.
- Get refitted for each year. Don’t assume that a new design of the same shoe will fit the same way as the previous model did. It may have been modified slightly in the design process.
- When you try out new shoes, wear the same type of socks that you wear when working out.
- Shop in the evening, when your feet tend to be larger.
- When standing, your shoe should have about a half-inch gap between your longest toe and the toe box of the shoe.
- Walk or jog around the store to see how the shoes feel. Try movements that you plan to use this shoe for (jumping, marching, aerobics, etc.) Your feet shouldn’t slide back and forth or side-to-side as you move around. If the shoe does not feel “just right” in the store, try on another shoe. Shoes do not need a breaking in period, per se, so keep shopping.
- Ask about the return/exchange policy at the store. Exchange and return policies vary between stores. Some stores will not accept returns if the shoe shows wear or if the return period is greater than 30 days. Many stores will offer an exchange if you don’t like your shoes after trying them, but be sure to ask.
- Most experts recommend wearing your new shoes around the house for a couple hours a day for a few days before wearing them for longer workouts. This allows the heat from your foot to mold the inner sole to your foot for better comfort. Then, don’t wear your new shoes for your longest run or walk until you have worn them for a few shorter workouts first. You will want to allow time to transition into your new shoes, even if they are the same make and model you have worn before. This is one reason why you do not want to wait before your old shoes completely wear out before you get fitted for your new ones. And never wear new shoes for a race without wearing them for a few weeks first.