Athletic Shoe Guidelines

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Athletic footwear should be fitted to hold the foot in the position that's most natural to the movement involved. Athletic shoes protect your feet from stresses encountered in a given sport and to give the player more traction. The differences in design and variations in material, weight, lacing characteristics, and other factors among athletic shoes are meant to protect the areas of the feet that encounter the most stress.

Well-fitted athletic shoes need to be comfortable, yet well-constructed and appropriate for a given activity. A good fit will mitigate blisters and other skin irritations.

Sports-specific athletic shoes are a good investment for serious athletes, though perhaps a less critical consideration for non-athletes. Don't wear any sport or other shoes beyond their useful life.

A running shoe is built to take impact, while a tennis shoe is made to give relatively more support, and permit sudden stops and turns. Cross training shoes are fine for a general athletic shoe, such as for physical education classes or health club exercising, such as on stair machines and weight-lifting because they provide more lateral support and less flexibility than running shoes. They also tend to be heavier than running shoes, but most people don't need light, flexible shoes for cross-training. If a child is involved more heavily in any single sport, he or she should wear shoes specifically designed for that sport.

Our practice recommends sturdy, properly fitted athletic shoes of proper width with leather or canvas uppers, soles that are flexible (but only at the ball of the foot), cushioning, arch supports, and room for your toes. Try a well-cushioned sock for reinforcement, preferably one with acrylic fiber content so that some perspiration moisture is "wicked" away.

Athletic shoes need to be replaced after one year, whether or not they are worn, and after a certain amount of repetitive load is placed on them and wears them down. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine advises replacing running or walking shoes after 300 to 500 miles of wear, and replacing aerobic, basketball, and tennis shoes after 45 to 60 hours of wear. Athletic shoes should also be replaced if they show signs of unevenness when placed on a flat surface, display noticeable creasing, and/or when the heel counter breaks down.