by Ralph J. Napolitano, Jr., DPM, CWSP, FACFAS

Need new athletic shoes? Not sure what to look for or how to decide on a new pair?

Here are Dr. Napolitano’s Top 5 Tips on Athletic Shoes:

  1. Know your foot type and get measured: Arch shape (height) and foot function (what the foot does in walking and running) are important to know since better athletic shoes are designed to accommodate different foot types. It’s a myth that foot size doesn’t change in adults. As we age, feet change which may result in a shoe size change. Note that body type (weight), foot deformities and other health conditions are considerations too.
  2. Match your shoe with your activity: Go with running shoes if you mostly jog or walk, since they’re engineered for heel-to-toe motion, cater to a wider variety of foot types and last longer. Consider cross-trainers if your routine includes an activity like aerobics, weight training or kickboxing (basically any exercise on a hard surface that involves side-to-side movement). Try to avoid shoe “multitasking.” If you do 2 (or more) very different activities frequently, get a pair suited for each activity.
  3. Pick the pair that “feels” right: There are nearly endless makes, models and styles of athletic shoes on the market. Even though size is chosen correctly and foot type is accounted for, the shoe you’re trying on may not feel quite right. Variation among “identical” pairs is a reality since shoes are mass produced. Select another pair to try on, same make and model, or start over looking at something different. A general rule of thumb is the “rule of thumb.” Make sure you have about a full thumb’s nail length from your big toe (or second toe if it’s longer) to the end of the shoe. This may require going up in size from your street shoe. Running and to a lesser extent walking causes our feet to swell so you’ll want to have plenty of room in the toe box. Remember to do a good “test” walk or jog before your final decision.
  4. Strongly consider shopping at a specialty “athletic” (running) shoe store: Selection and sales team knowledge in general is excellent. Try to avoid “mail order” unless the return policy is very liberal.
  5. Replace your shoes when they are worn: Running and fitness walking in old, worn-out shoes is one of the most common causes of both acute and overuse injury. Over time, our shoes lose cushioning, stability and shock absorption (some of which can’t easily be seen). If you start to feel unusual discomfort in your joints and muscles and have not changed your activities or exercise program, it may be time to replace your shoes. If you are a runner, consider replacing your shoes every 300 to 400 miles depending on the surface that you run on.

Dr. Napolitano is a double board-certified podiatrist and wound care specialist physician. (CWSP). He specializes in medicine, surgery and wound care of the foot, ankle and lower leg. He was the first podiatrist in the state of Ohio to earn the board certification Certified Wound Specialist Physician (CWSP).

I strive to educate my patients thoroughly about their problem and offer a comprehensive and holistic treatment plan both medical and surgical. I believe healthy feet are the foundation for healthy living and will do my very best at all times to keep you active and moving along life’s journey—whatever your interests and wherever your feet may take you.

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