Sunday, September 27, 2009

Replacing Atheltic Shoes

In the last couple of months I've spoken to people about replacing worn-out shoes. Several years ago I wrote an article on the subject, so I pulled that out. The information is still relevant today.

Below is an excerpt:

We need to start looking at our feet as a starting point for a strong, functional, injury-free, symmetrically aligned body. Our body parts are all interconnected. It reminds me of that song, "the ankle bone connected to the shin bone, the shin bone connected to the thigh bone..." well, take them bones and add muscles that attach here, insert there and cross joints, and you've got a whole lot of integration going on!

The alignment of any body part will respond, positively or negatively, to it's adjacent part. When we are standing, our feet and legs are the foundation to good neutral alignment. When we are sitting in proper posture, the pelvis and spine are the foundation. Therefore, looking at our feet as the first in a long chain of strong support systems can open our eyes to the importance of caring for them to last a lifetime.

Wearing "dead" athletic shoes can cause pain in the feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips and low back.

Here are some tips on buying shoes, (or you can google search "buying athletic shoes" to get some other good information.) If you have feet that under or overpronate, flat feet or high arches, you may need to pay particular attention to the shoes you buy and proper fit. Going to a specialty store such as Metro Running in Falls Church may be a good place to purchase shoes.

* Buy sports specific shoes. Whatever your activity is, buy a shoe that matches it. You can walk in a running shoe, but not the other way around. A studio shoe or cross-trainer is good for a cardio or group exercise class; a walking or running shoe is not. There are usually a lot of lateral movements in a group exercise class that requires extra lateral support that walking/running shoes do not have.

* Try on shoes after a workout or later in the day when your feet are at their largest. Make sure you try on both shoes.

* Wear the same type of sock normally worn during your activity. Speaking of socks, a good pair is extremely important for comfort and foot health. Make sock bunnies or wax the car with all those old, thin, holey socks!

* When the shoe is on your foot, there should be about a thumb's width - about 1/2 inch - of space between the longest toe and front of the shoe. The toes should be able to wiggle freely.

* There is no "breaking-in" period. Shoes should be comfortable right away.

* Shoes should be fitted to your heel as well as your toes. There should be a firm grip of the shoe to your heel, without slipping as you walk or run.

* Have both feet measured if possible. Foot size increases as we age. Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Judge a shoe by how it fits, not by the marked size.

* Your feet should never be forced to conform to the shape of a pair of shoes.

One of the leading culprits of pain and discomfort in the feet, legs and back is working out in "dead athletic shoes." The breakdown of the shoe happens in an area we cannot see, the midsole, which is why so many people continue to workout in dead shoes.

If you are seeing signs of wear and tear on the outside, your shoes are way past their prime and it is time to replace them. Heavier people are harder on shoes, running is tough on shoes and people who pronate their feet will need to replace their shoes more frequently. Walking and running shoes should be replaced after 300-500 miles of use. Those who work out mainly in a group exercise atmosphere, replacing shoes after 100 hours of use seems to be a good general guideline. You could apply some of this logic to other types of shoes as well, for example, hiking or tennis.

Listen to your body and look at your shoes, the two may be trying to tell you something. Our athletic shoes should be a vital piece of equipment to enhance our workouts and an insurance policy to protect us from injury.