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10 Tips for Choosing Athletic Shoes

Description: Choosing the most comfortable athletic shoes can make a difference between a great workout and a tiresome session that negatively affects your health. Find useful tips on choosing the best athletic shoes tailored to your needs and workout routines.

By Lucas CappelPublished 5 years ago 7 min read

Shopping for the most comfortable athletic shoes is not as challenging as some people would think. However, it’s not always as simple either. Buying shoes that will be risk-free and will have what it takes to optimize your workout cannot go down to such simplistic criteria as ‘comfy or not.’

Buying the right kind of workout shoes for men and women alike can help avoid shin splints, spawned ankles, and even exercise fatigue. And mostly, all-important tips go down to these ten shopping and maintenance rules.

1. Do not go for universal models

The first word of advice is to never downsize on your health and well-being, and that includes having different types of athletic shoes for any activity. Running, training, walking—those are all different kinds of activities, associated with different workloads. There is no such thing as a universal athletic shoe model, so if you do different sports, you should have different shoes for each of them. That may not sound fair or budget-friendly, but there is really no compromise here. The very rough subdivision of athletic works shoes presupposes:

Running shoes: here, the main principle is shock absorption; so, most running models will be heavily cushioned. Even though some women's athletic shoe brands today advocate for minimal cushioning, the safest measure is still to go with strong support and shock absorption.

Walking shoes: lightweight athletic shoes are best for walking. Such models are supposed to shift weight from heel to toe easily, so such athletic shoes will often come with rounded toes. Also, athletic walking shoes come with more rigid soles than most running and training models.

Then, there are plenty of other, specific athletic shoe models for different sports (i.e., for tennis, basketball, etc.). It is also possible to shop for cross-training shoes—this type gets as close to the ‘universal’ and ‘casual athletic shoes’ concepts as possible. But, they are only suitable for people who engage in different sports less than three times a week. In addition, even getting a pair of cross-trainers does not mean that you can use this pair for running and walking. You will still need different athletic shoes for that.

2. Measure your arch and your foot length

Most people believe that feet do not change over time, but this is not true. The adult body keeps going through regular changes, even though the pace is not as sky-rocketing as it used to be. Besides, you already know that different brands have different size variations, so it is always important to know your exact foot length.

However, understanding your foot pronation (that is, your foot arch) is even more important when choosing orthopedic athletic shoes. Study your footprint carefully. Low arches (flat feet) are especially challenging to shop for. If this is your case, you will need athletic shoes for flat feet that guarantee maximum support—preferably, shoes with motion control features.

High arches, on the other hand, call for athletic shoes with a high cushion. They will balance out your feet, leaning outward and ensure the ultimate sports experience. If you are in the majority and have a neutral arch, choosing the right shoes will not be a challenge. So, you can just focus on other shopping criteria.

3. Ankles are important, too

Most men's athletic shoes remain relatively conservative, while female athletic models sometimes seem to go over the top. Still, in some reliable brands, those springy soles, gel cushions, and other, seemingly cosmic features, often serve a clear purpose. They are designed to alleviate heel pain. However, you should avoid this extra support if you are prone to ankle sprains (or, let us be completely honest—just a bit clumsy). If you have had more than a few ankle sprains in your life, go for athletic shoes with very simplistic heels. Also, do not go for heels that are too high.

4. Understand your workout routine

Now that you know the most important advice, it’s time to think through your workout routine. By now, you should understand if you need walking or running sneakers. Another question is—how and where exactly do you train? For example, jogging in the park calls for waterproof athletic shoes. After all, you will want your feet not only comfortable but also dry. Regular hiking might call for safety toe athletic shoes to avoid any injuries. You get the idea, right?

5. Shop in specialty stores whenever possible

While some things can be bought online or in the nearest mall, quality athletic shoes are not among those items. Besides, going to specialty stores has several other, equally important advantages. For starters, shop assistants will usually have the expertise to answer any of your questions about suitable models. No matter if, you need the best athletic shoes for wide feet, low or high arches, etc. Of course, you should not come to the store unprepared. Still, having an expert to consult is always great—you can pop their brains about the best brands, see if you qualify for any discounts, etc. Most importantly, you will have a chance to try any athletic shoes you like out, making sure they are a perfect fit.

6. Make sure it’s a perfect fit

So, how should athletic shoes fit? First, make sure there is enough space between your toe and the end of the shoe—at least half-inch is enough. Usually, that is about your thumb width, so you may also remember this tip as a ‘rule of thumb.’ Consider your exercise socks in these calculations — ideally, try the new shoes on with the socks you will be exercising in. You should also be able to wiggle all of your toes while wearing athletic shoes. It ensures proper blood circulation, alleviates the pressure on your feet, and helps to prevent after-exercise fatigue. Simply put, properly fitting athletic shoes should not be too tight or too narrow.

7. Don’t trust first impressions—test-drive!

Always try both shoes on and walk (or even run) in them. Think of this as a test-drive. You’ll see that even the shoes that seem to match when you are standing still may not be a perfect fit when you take a couple of steps. That’s just another reason to shop for athletic shoes locally. Note how your feet move, if there is any pressure, etc. Remember that athletic shoes—virtually any athletic shoes—should be comfortable right from the start. There is no break-in or wear-down period. Another tip while trying a new pair of athletic shoes is to carefully re-lace them. This way, you will see just how good they fit.

8. Shop by the end of the day

Another suggestion while shopping for the right athletic shoes is to visit the store in the evening. The logic behind this tip is simple: your legs swell a bit by the end of the day—just like they swell while exercising. Another reason is purely psychological—we tend to jump to decisions quicker after a day at work. In the morning, most people hesitate and think of exploring more options.

9. Don’t downsize but don’t overpay either

Orthopedics experts will unanimously tell you that quality athletic shoes cannot be cheap. Usually, an average price tag on proper shoes is somewhere around $80. So, do not think you can get quality sportswear for under $20. On the other hand, ‘the pricier, the better’ principle does not always apply to quality athletic shoes.

Besides, established brands will always charge extra simply because their reputations allow it. Finding great athletic shoes, however, has nothing to do with fashion or branding. It is totally ok to want to look nice when you jog in the park. Still, comfort should always be your top priority, so do not go looking for a brand that matches your sports pants. Go looking for a pair of athletic shoes that work for you.

10. Replace any athletic shoes regularly

Athletic shoes are not exactly disposable items, but like all other products, they do have a shelf life of their own. Approximately 300 hours of physical exercise is the limit for wearing any athletic shoes. In the case of running models, there is also a mile limit—somewhere between 300 and 500 miles is as far as you can run. After that, the internal cushioning wears out—even with the best, the most expensive, and the most comfortable athletic shoes. Besides, by this time, any athletic shoes will be soaked in sweat, so wearing them any longer becomes unsanitary. Of course, you do not have to use a timer or an odometer. But, you still have to remember replacing all of your sportswear, athletic one in particular, regularly.

With these in mind, your choice of the right athletic shoes should no longer be a challenge. Make sure you follow all of these tips, and you will see that your next pair of athletic shoes fit like a glove. Or perhaps, you have other ideas on how to make your sports shopping routine easier? Any hacks about quality brands and discount-offers in specialty shops to save some cash?

Author’s bio: Daniel Graves is an exercise and workout expert who pays special attention to health and safety precautions. According to him, every workout and every piece of sporting equipment—sportswear, in particular—should, first of all, be individual and perfectly tailored to each person’s needs. Only such an approach can ensure maximum comfort and efficiency when working out.

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