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Considerations on Choosing Your Athletic Shoe

The June long weekend generally provides us with the opportunity to get out and do those things we usually don’t get time to do.  My wife and I chose to spend some time with friends, sharing an osso buco and a cheeky glass of red or two whilst catching up on everything that has gone on since we last got together.  It was during this lovely afternoon that the number one question I get asked as a podiatrist was thrown to me.  My mate Simon, who is an AFL nut and is keen about fitness, turns to me, glass of wine in hand and asks:

“So Andrea, what’s the best shoe for me to run in?”

As a sports podiatrist, getting asked this question is like being asked “How long is a piece of string?”

The reality is there isn’t one shoe (or brand for that matter) that is right for every person.  There are so many variables that one must take into account when purchasing an athletic shoe, that to answer this question in any other way would be simply disingenuous.

It is important, however, that people are at least aware of what to look for and what to consider when purchasing athletic footwear.  Below is a list of some of the considerations that you should take into account when looking to buy athletic footwear:

  1. Comfort and Fit:
    • This is the MOST important consideration, irrespective of foot type or footwear engineering
    • We understand that comfort is a subjective measure and difficult to quantify, however evidence released last year linked improved comfort to as much as a 13% reduction in frequency of injury in a running cohort
  2. Activity to be Performed
    • All premier footwear brands spend vast amounts of money designing shoes for specific activities.
    • I regularly see sports related injuries where a shoe designed for running has not been used for its intended purpose. An example would be a sport requiring sudden changes of direction and side to side movement (e.g. Netball)
    • This may mean you need to buy two pairs of shoes, one for running and one for your other activity
  3. Type of Injury
    • Different shoes will have an impact on different parts of the lower leg anatomy
    • High drop/offset shoes will load the knee and offload the ankle and Achilles
    • Low drop/offset shoes will load the ankle and Achilles and offload the knee
    • Posted shoes (both medial and lateral) will affect the knee in different ways. If in doubt go for a stable “neutral” shoe or, even better, seek professional advice.
  4. Biomechanical Profile
    • This does not relate to whether your foot is flat or not. The evidence surrounding footwear engineering with regard to foot type and reduced injury is very weak and not something I personally subscribe to
    • What is important though is how an individual moves taking into account all parts of the kinetic chain including hip, knee and foot function
    • Considerations in footwear affected by one’s biomechanical profile include, but are not limited to, weight of the shoe, midsole posting/density and offset.

As I finished my monologue espousing everything I know about footwear, explaining the complexities and how they pertain to him, Simon placed his empty glass on the table, looked at me with a mixture of surprise and disbelief and exclaimed,

“Wow, I didn’t realise there was that much to it Andrea”

I smiled and replied,

“You’re not alone mate.  Now how about we refill that glass of yours?”