Fitness

So you’ve committed to getting more active. How do you choose the right shoe?

Shoes are an incredibly important part of any workout. Your feet are your foundation, and how you keep them healthy can affect just about every other major joint, bone, and muscle in your lower body. If you have an unhealthy alignment in your feet, your ankles, knees, and hips could suffer greatly, especially with the repetitive movement many exercise routines include.

Whether you have decided to hit the pavement running, you your eyes set on a long-distance hike, or ou just want to hop into the nearest Zumba class, you will need to choose the right shoe to keep the rest of your body pain-free.

It’s all about that gait.

You may have heard the term “gait” when referring to horses, but don’t be surprised if your local shoe salesperson brings up this vocabulary word in relation to your feet. A gait is a pattern of limb movements during locomotion. For us humans, it speaks to how our legs and feet participate in the bipedal fun of walking and running. 

What most people may not know is that their gait is an important factor when choosing the right shoes, especially if you plan to do any running or long bouts of walking. Your gait determines how your feet hit the ground, also called pronation, of which there are three types: 

  • Neutral: Your foot rolls inward a healthy amount
  • Overpronation: Your foot rolls inward too much
  • Supination: Your foot rolls outward instead of inward

To check your own pronation, have a look at an old pair of sneakers. If you see wear and tear where the balls of the feet are, you have a neutral gait. If you find that the part of your shoe in contact with the inside edge of your foot and big toe gets the most wear, you are most likely overpronating. Supination will cause wear where the outside edges of your feet fall. 

Purchasing the right shoe is important in supporting your feet and depends on your pronation style. By bringing your feet toward a neutral place, you will notice less pain or injury in other parts of your body, and your performance will naturally increase. 

Don’t forget about the comfort.

Along with gait, comfort is an important factor in determining the correct shoe type for your activity. Although shoes used to be multi-use, today’s shoes are more specialized, meaning a shoe that is comfortable for running will most likely not do the trick if you are hiking. You will need to know which activities you are gearing up to participate in and then shop accordingly. 

Running – Running shoes generally have more cushion to act as padding when your feet hit the ground. This helps to absorb the shock each hit sends up through your legs. By minimizing these forces, you will experience less tendonitis, fewer stress fractures, and reduced knee pain. Some people go for the minimalist running shoes, which are meant to emulate your natural, barefoot stride and so offer almost no cushioning. While this may work for them, these shoes aren’t for everyone. Take care with your feet and, if you need more support, find it in the perfect running shoe for your body. 

Hiking – Hiking shoes tend to have a thick bottom and aren’t generally as flexible as running shoes. This protects the feet and ankles from slipping and sliding on rocky or uneven terrain. Which hiking boots you choose will depend on the weather you are getting ready for. If you will be somewhere slippery and wet, you will want ankle support and even waterproofing. However, if you are just doing an easy hike on even terrain, low-cut hiking shoes might do the trick.

Everything Else – If you are someone who likes to try out different activities, such as strength training, group fitness classes, biking, walking, and more, then cross trainers are the way to go. These shoes may not be as specialized as our other friends, but a good pair of cross trainers can get you active doing all types of things. If you aren’t planning to do heavy hiking or run a marathon, then choose cross trainers with the right support for your gait. Make sure to try out your shoes before you buy them to ensure ultimate comfort. 

Increasing your activity level is a great way to ensure your continued health throughout the year. If you top it off by finding the right footwear, you can be unstoppable in reaching your health and wellness goals.

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