Sensible shoes: BCM expert weighs in on choosing the right footwear

During these summer months, many are walking or running outside and participating in summer sports. Just like it’s important to wear the right clothing and use the right equipment for any athletic endeavor, it’s vital to wear the right kinds of shoes.

Dr. Theodore Shybut, a sports medicine specialist and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at BCM, answers questions about choosing the right shoes for workouts.

Running Shoes

In general, what are signs that we’re wearing the wrong types of shoes?

Signs of poor/improper shoe fit include:

  • Blisters or other breakdown from routine wear
  • Feet are going numb
  • Pressure points
  • Worsening pain
  • Toenail problems
  • Toe deformities, such as bunions

Wear shoes that fit you well. The term “sensible shoes,” while clichéd, is accurate.

You want shoes that are comfortable–they should move with your foot as you walk, and they should fit the dimensions of your foot.

Any tips for women who want to wear professional-looking shoes but who may experience foot pain?

Many women’s shoes have narrow toe boxes, which may contribute to the development of a bunion.

That is not to say that people should never wear stylish shoes, but, as with running, listening to your body is critically important–if you don’t, you may end up in the office of one of my foot surgeon colleagues discussing the merits of bunion surgery.

Your best bet is to find shoes that look good, feel good, fit well, and painlessly move with your foot.

Make sure you try on every pair you buy–don’t just assume the size is right because of prior experience with a particular make or model of shoe.  The shoes change and your feet do too.

What is important to know about choosing the right shoes for sports activities?

Shoes should follow the same general guidelines of good fit, good feel, and moving well with your foot.  Shoes for other activities will incorporate activity specific features.

For example, if you work in a construction or industrial setting, you should wear work boots with a rigid toe-box, such as steel-toed boots, so that your feet are protected if heavy equipment falls on your foot.

Most sports activities also have specific footwear requirements beyond the biomechanics.

For example, baseball cleats are designed to provide traction on the dirt and grass of the baseball diamond. Soccer, football, and rugby all require traction on grass pitches in variable weather conditions. Often the size of cleat is adjustable by a “screw in” mechanisms.

Soccer boots, in particular, also are designed with specific surface coating to enhance control of the ball and force transfer when the ball is struck.

Track and cross-country spikes are designed for the running surfaces unique to each sport. Hiking boots are often rugged to provide protection from variable terrain and extend above the ankle to provide support to that joint to facilitate safe navigation of uneven ground. If there’s any question, get recommendations from an experienced athlete or coach.

Finally, if you already have foot problems or need to wear prescriptions shoes or orthotics, make sure you discuss any new activities or new footwear with your health care provider.

What kinds of shoes are most comfortable for your lifestyle or favorite sports activity?

-By Jordan Magaziner

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