Athletic Footwear

Athletic Footwear

Athletic Footwear

It is important to wear the correct type of footwear when participating in any sport or physical activity. The right shoes can enhance your performance and may also help prevent soreness and injury. There are different types of shoes for nearly every major sport. Each type of shoe is designed to provide maximum protection and performance for the movements which occur in that particular activity.

Athletic shoes come in three basic heights, each having its own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Low tops: Low tops provide the best mobility and are best for activities that involve lots of sprinting and forward movement like running. These shoes offer minimal ankle support and are not good for persons who have a history of ankle problems or for sports that require a lot of lateral movement.
  • Three-quarter tops: These offer better mobility than high tops and better ankle support than low tops. However, three-quarter tops offer less mobility than low tops and less ankle support than high tops. Tennis shoes and cross-training shoes are commonly available in this height.
  • High tops: These shoes have sides that extend above the ankles to provide extra ankle support. However, they can restrict mobility and quickness. High tops are common in basketball and many other sports which require significant lateral movement.

When participating in any activity that requires lateral, or side-to-side, movement, and plenty of cutting motions, it is important to wear shoes that are designed for these types of movement. Tennis, basketball, and racquetball are examples of sports that involve lots of lateral movement. It is probably smart to choose a high top or three-quarter top shoe for these kind of activities, especially if you have a history of ankle problems.

How to Select the Right Sports Shoe

  1. Identify those activities for which you are choosing shoes.
  2. If these activities require lots of lateral movement, make sure that the shoes are designed for this type of movement.
  3. To help with proper sizing, wear or bring a pair of socks to the shoe store like the ones you will wear with your new shoes.
  4. Examine the shoes. If the stitching is uneven, or if there are areas where glue can be seen, these are signs of poor construction. Pick another pair of shoes.
  5. Try on your favorite two or three pairs of shoes in the store to see which pair fits and feels the best.
  6. Make sure your shoes fit properly. A good salesperson should be able to tell you what size is appropriate for you. Do not buy a shoe that does not feel comfortable and fit well.
  7. If you have a history of ankle injuries, you may want to choose high tops to give you extra ankle support.
  8. Make sure the shoes you select have ample cushioning in the midsole for their intended use.
  9. Pick shoes with arch supports that are big enough to give your arches good support, but not so big that they are uncomfortable.
  10. Do not hesitate to ask the salesperson how good a particular pair of shoes would be for a certain activity, or how one shoe compares to another, or even what shoe they think is best. Remember, they are there to help you.
  11. If, after wearing a pair of shoes for a couple of weeks, you decide that you really like them, you may want to purchase multiple pairs just in case that particular shoe is no longer available in the future.

Types of Shoes

  • Aerobics: Aerobics shoes must absorb shock and be comfortable. It is not necessary for an aerobics shoe to have a big tread on the sole. However, details at the ball of the foot, like concentric circles will help cushion the foot and will provide a sufficient amount of traction. The arch support on an aerobics shoe should provide you with comfortable support. The insole should be made from material that will prevent the foot from slipping around inside of the shoe and that will keep the foot dry. If the insole is shiny it probably will not do these things very well. It is a good idea to try on at least a couple of different styles and brands of shoes to see which fit and feel the best.
  • Baseball/softball cleats: These shoes are commonly constructed of leather or synthetic leather. Most baseball shoes have cleats on them which can be made of plastic, rubber, or metal. However, some leagues do not allow metal cleats. There are also baseball shoes with molded rubber soles or smaller cleats which are designed for use on artificial turf. Baseball shoes are available in low, mid, and high tops.
  • Cross training: This type of shoe is designed for use in a variety of activities. Cross trainers can be used in just about any normal sports activity which requires forward or lateral movement. These shoes are excellent all-around shoes that can be used for jogging, walking, tennis, aerobics, basketball and many other activities. Most cross training shoes are mid-cut and provide decent ankle support for side to side motion. Cross trainer midsoles typically have ample cushioning for most activities. If you like to participate in several different sports, but do not want to buy several pairs of shoes, a cross training shoe is probably a smart choice.
  • Football shoes: Typically made from leather or synthetic leather, football shoes normally have cleats to provide superior traction on grass which is often wet or muddy. Plastic, rubber, and metal cleats are available. Cleats can usually be no longer than 1/2 inch in length. Football shoes with no cleats, or smaller rubber cleats, are used for artificial turf. Low, 3/4, and high top football shoes are available.
  • Golf shoes: Any golfer who plays more than a few rounds each year should invest in a pair of golf shoes. Most golf shoes have metal spikes on the bottom to keep the feet from moving during the swing. This is a very important function. When choosing a pair of golf shoes, look for a pair that is water-proof or water resistant. Buy golf shoes that are comfortable, fit properly, and are designed for walking. Older style golf shoes have leather soles on them which are not suitable for walking the long distances required in golf. If you walk when you play golf, make sure to buy some of the newer style shoes that have a lighter weight, flexible rubber sole and a cushioned mid-sole designed for walking. Remember, if you walk a typical 18 hole course, you could end up walking more than five miles each round.
  • Hiking shoes/boots: A good pair of hiking boots or shoes will support your ankles and stabilize your feet. They should be comfortable, lightweight, and waterproof. The sole should be made of hardened rubber with a waffle tread design. The shank (the part of the sole beneath the instep) should be made of steel or reinforced with some material that will provide rigidity and keep the shoe from twisting. This can prevent leg injuries. The midsole should provide ample cushioning and the arch support should be fairly large. The upper portion of the hiking shoe has traditionally been made of leather. Many are now made from a combination of leather and synthetic materials which can make the shoe lighter and more breathable. In extremely wet conditions, you may want to choose a shoe made with a waterproof, yet breathable material like Gore-Tex®.
  • Running shoes: A good pair of running shoes should be comfortable, lightweight, supportive, and provide adequate cushion. When selecting a running shoe to be used for training or casual running on a variety of surfaces and in a variety of weather conditions, you cannot go wrong with a well made training shoe from any of the top manufacturers. You may want to choose one model over another based on fit, weight, cushioning, and stability characteristics of the different shoes. When you are buying a pair of running shoes, make sure you are buying shoes that were specifically designed for running. Running shoes are made for forward movement and contain plenty of cushioning materials to protect the feet and legs. The sole of a running shoe will often be made of durable, carbonized rubber. It should have a well-defined, varied tread pattern for good traction. The midsole will be the area of the shoe that absorbs a lot of the impact with the road and it should possess ample cushioning abilities to protect the legs from injury. Good insoles are made from polyurethane, EVA, air, or gel. The heel counter should be stable and should hold your foot firmly in place. The arch support should be large enough to support the arch of the foot, but not so large that it is uncomfortable. The insole should draw moisture away from the foot and keep the foot from sliding around in the shoe. If the insole is shiny, it probably will not accomplish these tasks. For those individuals who like to run or jog for exercise, or even run competitively, a training shoe with good cushioning and stability characteristics is ideal.
  • Spikes and racing shoes: Athletes who are performing in track competitions may want to switch from their training shoes to a lighter weight shoe or to a spike to enhance their performance. Remember that many racing shoes are not designed to be used for long distance running or for certain events, such as the hurdles, which place a large amount of stress on the foot upon impact with the track. Often, these lighter weight racing shoes are designed for sprints or short to intermediate races only. Most do not possess the cushioning, support, and stability characteristics found in a training shoe. Track spikes are commonly worn by sprinters to give them extra traction with a very lightweight shoe. Some cross country runners also wear them. Keep in mind that many sets of spikes have little cushioning and are fairly unstable. Also, remember different types of tracks and weather conditions require different lengths and shapes of spikes. Spikes are not suitable on all track surfaces.
  • Soccer shoes: Soccer shoes are commonly made of leather or synthetic leather. Outdoor soccer shoes typically have cleats on them which are made of plastic, rubber, or metal. These cleats must be one-half inch in diameter and no longer than three-quarters of an inch in length. Indoor soccer shoes have molded rubber or plastic soles with smaller cleats or no cleats at all. These shoes are designed to give superior traction on artificial turf.
  • Tennis shoes: These shoes typically have a leather or synthetic leather upper and a molded rubber sole. Tennis shoes are available in low, mid, and high tops. Look for shoes with air holes or other materials that air can flow through to keep your feet cool and dry. If you are playing tennis on a hot day, it is a good idea to wear lightly colored shoes to keep your feet cooler. Tennis shoes are designed for the constant lateral movements and changes of direction made on the tennis court. Because of these movements, it is important that a tennis shoe be extremely stable. Never wear shoes to play tennis that were not designed for lateral movement, such as running shoes.
  • Weight lifting shoes: When extremely heavy weights are being lifted, it is important to have a shoe that not only cushions the feet from the weight of the athlete and the weight being lifted, but also provides ample ankle and lateral support. Cross training shoes, basketball shoes, and work boots are often used to lift weights in and in many cases these shoes are sufficient. However, for individuals who often lift large amounts of weight, such as Olympic lifters and power lifters, athletic shoes may not hold up to the stress placed on them and most work boots do not have good cushioning or arch supports. These individuals may want to purchase a pair of shoes designed specifically for weight lifting.

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