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If the shoe fits…

For years we have been cramming our feet into ill-fitting shoes. Whether it is to adhere to dress codes or for fashion (looking at you High Heels!) wearing improper shoes, for many of us, is just a part of life. Thanks to internet shopping and increasing demand, more options including multiple styles, new technologies, and numerous ways customize the feel of our shoes are becoming available to almost everyone.

Why should I care about the fit of my shoe?
Many people only care about what a shoe looks like and not how it performs, let alone how it fits. Asides from ugly and painful bunions and blisters, wearing shoes that restrict your toes and feet is akin to wearing casts on your feet all day. Do this for long enough and the muscles in your feet can lose the ability to move. Try this quick test to see how well your toes move:

Stand with your feet flat on the ground. Without lifting the sole of your foot or letting your ankles or knees move, try to lift only your great toe. Next, push your great toe down and try to lift the rest of your toes. Try to lift all your toes and tap your great toe, then try tapping the rest of your toes. Finally, lift all your toes and push them down one at a time starting with your little toe.

How did you do? Were you happy with your ability? Feet and toes that don’t move well can cause us to compensate with our ankles, knees, hips, and lower back and often lead to injury.

Shoe fitting tips
When purchasing new athletic shoes you should look for these features:

  • A toe box with enough room to wiggle your toes
  • A flexible sole that bends with your foot
  • A snug fit around the heel and mid-foot
  • The widest part of your foot should sit in the widest part of the shoe

Other considerations:
Make sure they are comfortable

  • Wait until later in the day to try on shoes when your foot is at its largest
  • Bring your own socks, thick socks can make a shoe fit snug while thin socks create room
  • Your lacing can change your fit, and yes there is more than one way to tie a shoe
  • Orthotics or insoles, even store bought insoles can change the feel or function of a shoe

What shoe is best for me?
With so many choices out there, how do you make the right decision? Your choice of shoe should depend on your activity. Just as people wear high heels for fashion and flip flops for comfort, the more unique your activity the more specialized your shoes can become. While a general cross trainer will suffice for most daily activities, if you’re looking to increase performance you will want to get a little more specific.

Cross Training
Cross trainers are the jack of all trades, if you need something for multiple activities; these are a good starting point. They have enough cushioning to comfortably run or walk in, yet have enough stability and flexibility for more demanding activities like sports.

Typically light weight, snug fitting, and cushioned in the heel to absorb the impact forces generated from running. Many people will choose these shoes as a general athletic shoe but running shoes are often narrower and built specifically for running. Trail runners have a deeper tread to maximize grip while other trail shoes are waterproof or include tougher materials to increase durability.

Tennis and Basketball (Court shoes)
These are shoes engineered for quick change of direction and have optimized grip for hard surfaces. Court shoes, like cross trainers, offer good cushioning and all around support but may be stiffer or heavier in order to withstand the higher demands of court sports.

Weight Lifting
Olympic Weight Lifters demand a lot of their footwear. Lifting shoes are incredibly stiff, have no cushioning, and typically have no flex through the sole. Weight Lifting shoes also include a wedge heel that creates a biomechanical advantage to help improve performance.

Popularized by CrossFit® athletes, these shoes have minimal cushioning and a low profile. They perform well when lifting heavy weights but can still be used to run and jump in. Minimalist shoes have room for your toes and flex with your feet while offering basic protection and style.

Barefoot Style
Shoes that mimic wearing nothing on your feet can feel amazing, as long as your feet are ready for it. They may even have individual toes and let you feel connected to the ground. A word of warning, if you have always worn supportive or cushioned shoes, choosing a barefoot option can be hard on the feet and the rest of the body.

No matter how comfortable an advertisement claims a shoe is,
you’re the real judge.
Make the right choice and your feet and body will reward you with better performance and less pain.

Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist