Being active means you have to have the proper gear.  Clothes, water, equipment and shoes.  Out of all of that, shoes are the most important thing in your gym bag if you don’t have the right type of shoe, your body will let you know sometimes resulting in injury.

Here are a few things you need to know about athletic shoes:

1.  They are only good for about 3 months or 300km’s.  This means if you pull the shoes out of the back of your closet, you know the ones you have had since high school graduation, (and you have had your ten year reunion) it’s time for a new pair of shoes.  Shoes DO breakdown especially if you have worn them in the past, stored them and are getting them out again.  The do not keep their cushion and support forever.

2.  Not all shoes are the same.  Depending on what you intend to do while wearing, depends on the type of shoe you will need.  Would you wear heels to the gym?  Would you wear racing flats to play basketball?  I hope you answered “No!” to those questions.  Running shoes are made for running they are made to go in a forward motion, while cross trainers are made for side to side motions.  They have more support in the sides of your shoe to stop you from rolling your ankle. Example: working out on the gym floor or doing a dance class.

3.  Shoes should NEVER be picked based on colour or style unless you are just wearing them to go to your local store and home.

4.  You need to have a thumb width of toe room in the front of your shoe.  The reason for this is? When you are active your hands and feet tend to swell. How to check? Just lift your big toe and measure with your thumb; you should be able to push down the toe of the shoe.  If your feet do not t have the room to swell you will lose a toe nail or two.  This is very painful and so not worth it.

You also need to know what kind of pronator you are. (How your foot strikes the ground when you walk or run). There are three types of pronation:  normal pronation, overpronation and under pronation.  A neat way to test this is to look down at your foot print after you step out of the shower.  If you have absolutely no arch and can see the whole bottom of your foot, you are an overpronator, if you have about half of an arch, you are a normal pronator, if you see just the heel and the ball of your foot (high arch) you are an underpronator.

1.  Normal pronation: The outside of your heel makes the first contact with the ground, as the rest of your foot comes down it is a pretty centered foot strike.  Then you push off you big toe.  The wear on your shoes tends to be pretty even on the heel and toe of your shoe. If this is you, you will need to buy a “neutral” shoe which basically has cushioning and no “corrective” controls.

2. Overpronation: In this type of foot strike, your heel again is the first thing to hit the ground, but as the rest of your foot hits the ground your ankle rolls in fairly significantly causing your foot to roll inwards. Your big toe and second toe have to do all the work to push off.  You will notice you have a very side to side motion when you run because your ankle rolls inward. Your shoes will mainly wear out on the outside of your heels and the inside step of your toes.  If you are in this category you will need to wear “motion control” or a “stability” shoe, this shoe has a sturdy heel and a very supportive arch.

3.  Underpronation: lastly, in this type of heel strike, the outside of the heel makes contact with the ground first, then instead of rolling inwards the outside of the foot hits the ground  and the baby toe does all the pushing off work.  The wear on these shoes will be mainly on the outside of the heel and outside of your toes.  This sounds like your foot? Then you want a stability shoe, they have extra cushioning and very little corrective features.

When you go to buy that new pair of shoes remember this: Take your time; don’t worry about trying on too many shoes.  Don’t worry about the staff getting frustrated with you.  Just be polite and patient with them they are there to help you and other customers.  Secondly, Ask questions, if the staff suggests a shoe, ask why they suggested it for you.  Are they trying to get you to buy a racing flat when you are a bigger person just starting out in running?  When you really need a shoe with support and cushion? Do you need a running shoe or a cross trainer?

Remember most shoe stores have a 30 day return policy as long as you DO NOT wear the shoes outdoors.  Which means: take them home, run on the treadmill, and wear them around the house.  If you bought them for dancing, dance in them.  Get used to them.  If they are wrong for you, your feet will tell you quickly.  Lastly, enjoy the experience of buying your shoes.  They will become you new best friend.  Treat them well and they will take care of you.

I would like to thank Sport Cheq in Shawnessy Calgary, Alberta for letting me come into their store and take photos of their shoes.

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