Play Like The Pros: Buying Athletic Shoes

You?re not just a fan, you?re a player. You don?t settle for being an armchair quarterback, you get out there and get in the game. But professional athletes have trainers and other experts to help them choose the best gear to maximize their performance and minimize risk of injury. How can you make sure that your gear gets it done? In almost every sport, your footwear is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will wear. Whether you need to run for long distances or be able to stop and turn on a dime, the difference between the right shoes and the wrong shoes can mean the difference between spending your day on the field, or on the sidelines. Here are some tips to buying athletic shoes.

First, what activity will you be spending most of your time doing? Athletic shoes have come a long way from your basic sneaker, and are specialized for different sports. There are some good shoes out there for any activity, called cross trainers. If you vary your activity widely, say play a pickup basketball game one week and take an aerobics class the next, these are probably fine. But if you spend the bulk of your time doing one or two sports, shoes customized for those activities will be best for your feet. If you are a runner, cushioning is important since your feet will be pounding on the running surface repeatedly. You also want to make sure that the sole of your shoe is flexible enough, allowing for your foot to bend as your contact with the road or track goes from heel to toe. If you do a lot of walking, your shoe will be similar in terms of needing lots of cushioning, but should be less flexible near the toe.

Another big factor in choosing athletic shoes is the shape of your foot. Like people in general, feet come in all shapes and sizes, and buying a shoe that is not only a top performer for your sport, but also fits your foot properly, is crucial to avoiding pain and injury. Your area of greatest concern will be your arch. People with high arches tend to put more pressure on the outside of their feet. Look for good cushioning through the heel, and especially under the arch. If you have low or almost no arches, you will need more cushioning across the middle of the foot, to avoid uneven pressure on the inside of your feet.

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