How Important is the Right Shoe? | Opinion

Whether you are an avid exerciser or not, you may be asking yourself, “how important are shoes and what type of shoes should I look for when exercising?” As the lead personal trainer at YWCA Clinton, I would tell you the standard answer of, “it depends.”

First, let us discuss running shoes. Especially since you may be participating in the YWCA’s Clinton Half Marathon on September 10th, let us start with the type of shoe you may want for running on the street. There are differing opinions on how much cushioning you should have in running shoes. Because the outdoor terrain may be uncertain, I encourage individuals to find shoes that have enough cushioning and support so that they don’t feel every pebble on the road. This is especially important for people running long distances which may traverse various terrains.

Second, we will discuss trail running shoes. You may have thought; “I need to wear different shoes for trail running vs. street running” and you would be absolutely right. While trail running may put less stress on the joints since you are not pounding on the pavement, you still need to have a good support shoe. This is especially important because trail runners often run on uneven ground and varying terrain. So, if street runners and trailer runners need a different shoe, do walkers?

Third, if you are a walker, you will likely want a little bit more flexibility in your shoes than if you were looking specifically for running shoes. Most running shoes will have thicker heels than walking shoes and may cause a walker discomfort. Many of the athletic shoe stores will analyze your gait while walking or running to determine what shoe is best for you based on your foot placement, etc.

So, what if you don’t run or walk? Those that attend group exercise classes will want a shoe that keeps your ankles from rolling when you pivot. One fantastic way to test shoe stability is by taking one foot back into a lunge. If the toe does not slip and the shoe does not slide off the heel, it might be a keeper. Weight-lifting shoes tend to be rather specific but generally you are looking for a bit flatter shoe. If you are doing more of a cross-training focus of lifting and something like plyometrics (jumping), you will want shoes that are not only flat but light. You definitely don’t want a heavy shoe when trying to do a box jump.

Perhaps you have found the type of shoe you need for the exercise you are performing but want more of a tailored fit. So much of what type of shoe you get has to do with your feet. Are they narrow or wide? Long or short? Speaking from experience, I do not have anatomically perfect feet. In fact, many of the folks that I see at the YWCA, have flat feet. Because of this, you will want to select the appropriate shoe with the specifics that you need for your unique foot. You want to make sure that you walk a bit in the shoes you get so that the pair feels great when you put them on, and still feels great when you walk or jog. You do this to ensure that your feet don’t suddenly feel like they have grown a half inch and pinch your big toe or got a half inch wider and pinch your little toe. In addition, research shoes based on your foot type and talk to other experienced runners to see what worked for them and what did not.

  After you have spent the time selecting the right type of shoe for the exercise you are participating in, you may be curious when it is time to replace your shoes. A general rule of thumb is to replace your shoes between 300-500 miles. As a personal trainer, I would suggest sooner. One of the best indications of shoe wear is when you start to feel the pounding on your heels – that feeling indicates it is time for a new pair.

As a personal trainer, I don’t want to promote any particular brands because the brands that I like may not work for you. Everyone is different. The important part is for you to do some research before you buy a pair of shoes. If the shoe you want is a bit pricey, you may want to keep an eye out for sales. They all eventually will be on sale. If the shoe you like is one version back from the latest, but is significantly less expensive, you may be able to get a great shoe for less money. Always remember, function is more important than style when style makes your feet hurt and/or breaks your budget for shoes.

The staff at YWCA Clinton wants to help you out. If you purchase a YWCA Clinton membership between September 1st and November 30th of this year, you will be entered into a drawing to win a pair of shoes with a retail value of approximate $140. Come in and take advantage of everything the Clinton YWCA has to offer and you may be the lucky winner of a new pair of very cool shoes!

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