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Choosing the right trainers – part 1

Choosing the wrong trainers can be painful!

You could end up lying on the sofa nursing shin splints, serious back, knee and hip pain or blisters… instead of enjoying your chosen activity.

According to one expert at The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, up to 65% of sports people in the UK choose the wrong shoe.

There are big differences in the way various sports shoes support your feet. This means that there isn’t a ‘one shoe for all sports’ solution. Playing football or tennis, for example, will need a different trainer to when you’re jogging.

We have 14 Top Tips for choosing training shoes – here are 1-7.

1. Don’t make shoes multitask

Base your choice on activity. Experts confirm that different trainers are needed for different sports. It isn’t simply a marketing ploy by shoe manufacturers!

Research from the Medical College of Wisconsin shows that the wrong shoes may contribute to the development of stress fractures. For example, tennis involves lots of lateral movement and changes of direction, while running is pure forward motion.

Manufacturers design shoes to help facilitate the actions of each sport. This helps athletes to perform better and reduce their likelihood of injury. For instance, basketball shoes are designed with a flat sole perfect for gripping the court and making quick, agile movements. They also tend to have greater support around the ankles to help prevent sprains – a common injury in the sport. Likewise, running and trail running shoes are built differently – trail running shoes tend to be heavier and sturdier, with greater grip on the soles and more support around the ankles.

It’s important to select an athletic shoe based on the exercise you plan to perform. If you’re a gym buff, consider buying a cross-trainer designed for a wider variety of activities. While it can get expensive, if you regularly split your time between several specific activities (such as court volleyball and cycling), go ahead and invest in two separate pairs of shoes – one for each. You’re less likely to injure yourself, and you may see overall enhancements in performance. Trust me – you can move better on a volleyball court with volleyball shoes than you can wearing basic cross-trainers!

2. Think function over fashion

What’s the first thing you do when you try on trainers? You probably look in the mirror. But don’t be seduced by appearance – how they feel is far more important than how they look. Trainers are part of your protective equipment, so make sure they fit correctly.

3. Avoid shopping based on brand

It doesn’t matter if you love ‘X’ more than any other athletic brand in the world – it might not offer the right shoe for your foot, your fit, or your sport. Commit to trying on several different brands. You might be surprised to learn that the shoe that fits you best is actually from a brand you’ve never tried before.

4. Know your foot

We’ve all got 10 toes and two heels, but beyond that, feet come in a variety of shapes! Knowing your foot’s particular quirks is key to selecting the right pair of shoes. Most major brands now offer a model to suit every foot type.
One way to determine your foot’s shape is to do a “wet test” – wet your foot, step on a piece of brown paper and trace your footprint. Or just look at where your last pair of shoes shows the most wear.

If your footprint shows the entire sole of your foot with little to no curve on the inside – or if your shoes show the most wear on the inside edge – it means you’ve got low arches or flat feet and tend towards over-pronation – meaning your feet roll inwards. Over-pronation can create extra wear on the heel and inside forefoot. You’ll want a shoe with a motion-control feature and maximum support.

If the footprint shows only a portion of your forefoot and heel with a narrow connection between the two – or if your shoes wear out mostly on the outside edge – you have high arches and tend to under-pronate (also called supinate), meaning your feet roll outwards. Under-pronation causes wear on the outer edge of the heel and the little toe. Look for a cushioned shoe with a soft midsole.

You have a neutral arch if your footprint has a distinct curve along the inside and your shoes wear out uniformly. Look for a “stability” shoe, which has the right mix of cushioning and support.

5. Measure your foot frequently / get fitted

It’s a myth that foot size doesn’t change in adults. Feet grow and change over time, and factors like weight gain or weight loss, pregnancy, and lower-body injury can all contribute to changes in foot size.

In the same light, it’s not unusual for each foot to be a different size. If your left foot is bigger than your right foot by a half or full size, simply buy shoes based on the larger of the two. If one foot is bigger than the other by more than a full size, you need to buy mismatched shoes, so talk to the store clerk about options to avoid having to buy two different pairs.

Sizes also vary between brands, so go by what fits, not by what size the shoe is.
When your feet are being measured, stand, don’t sit, for a more accurate measurement.

6. Ask the professionals

In 2000, a Which? study found the advice given at most high street sports stores on trainers was well below par. If possible go to a specialist store where the staff will provide valuable input on the type of shoe needed for your sport as well as help with proper fitting. This may cost a premium in price but is worthwhile, particularly for shoes that are used often. Some shops offer gait analysis, where you run on a treadmill instore – definitely worth considering if you are serious about your sport.

7. Shop towards the end of the day or after your activity

Feet swell over the course of the day; they also expand while you do your activity, so shoes should fit your feet when they’re at their largest.

For our next top tips for choosing the right trainers, click here.