Anyone who is serious about fitness needs a good pair of athletic shoes. You have been dreading the words “sensible shoes,’ since you were sixteen but it is time to admit that feet, as well as everything else, change with age. The foot begins to widen and the Achilles heel as well as the ligaments on the bottoms of the feet become more susceptible to tearing, and we won’t even talk about warts and fungus and bunions that rear their ugly heads.
Proper shoes can mean the difference between comfort and discomfort, and we all know that foot pain can cripple a fitness program more thoroughly than anything else. The foot, with its 26 bones, dozens of muscles, tendons and nerve endings take an enormous beating throughout a lifetime, so it isn’t any wonder that problems crop up as we reach “middle age”. I use the words middle age loosely because we all know that we would have to live to be 120 or beyond to be considered in the middle of anything right now, but if we do, we don’t want our feet to hurt.
You are probably already familiar with words like Morton’ Neuroma, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, heel bruises and bunions. I am personally acquainted with two of these conditions right now and have to start each day with stretching exercises and ice packs just to walk comfortably. Your feet might not hurt right now but I can tell you from personal experience that it all happens very quickly and without warning.
Feet are important if you still want to be able to get from point A to point B with relative ease and enjoy the journey. Be aware of common foot problems and treat your feet kindly (a.k.a. prevention):
- Keep your weight down
- Avoid over exertion during exercise sessions
- Avoid concrete and asphalt (try jogging on grass or along trails rather than on asphalt of cement)
- Learn good walking, jogging or running techniques
- Wear shoe inserts (insoles or orthotics) for support and cushioning
- Wear good shoes
Choosing the right athletic shoe is rather mind boggling. Your favorite sporting goods store will have walls, shelves, and racks full of shoes for every sport imaginable. Hopefully you can find a salesperson who is also an athlete to help you wade through the maze. Much research, done by shoe companies, has gone into injury prevention and impact cushioning. However, independent research has concluded that there isn’t much difference as far as feel and performance when it comes to different brands, so a little research and judicious shopping will be required on your part. I have read several newspaper articles lately and both concluded that price is not the best indicator of quality in an athletic shoe. If money is no object, go ahead and buy the name brand advertized by your favorite sports star, but many of the less expensive brands or models are perfectly adequate for your purposes.
There are tennis shoes, basketball shoes, running shoes, walking shoes and cross-training shoes. Cross training shoes are the newest addition to the exercise shoe family. They are versatile and more economical than buying a different shoe for every sport. They work well for running, walking, racquet sports and fitness training. Cross trainers are good for sports in general but I will be the first to admit that I really love the shoes that I bought for running better than anything else that I have ever put on my feet, so buy the shoe that is right for what you want to do. In general you will find that running shoes are more flexible, walking shoes are sturdier, court shoes have more side support and hiking shoes grip terrain better. If you perform the same activity more than three times a week, buy a shoe specifically for that activity.
Athletic Shoes should fit like a glove. Athletic shoes should never be uncomfortable. You should be able to find a size and a brand that meets your specifications. Follow the recommendations as to how often you should spring for a new pair. It is common among people who exercise to go too long before buying new shoes.
Take care of the shoes that you have. As you know, it doesn’t take long for hard working sweaty feet to ruin a pair of shoes. Always use dry absorbent socks and let the shoes air out after your workout. If you use inserts, get the kind that can be removed and washed often. Sprinkle talcum or medicated powder in the shoe prior to wearing and keep the outside of the shoe conditioned with special preparations for athletic shoes.
Most importantly, especially at this stage in your lives, is to remember that the primary function of the workout shoe is to cushion and protect your feet, as well as protecting your ankles, knees and hip joint from injury. Take a little extra care when choosing your athletic shoes and your body will thank you.