How to Choose Athletic Shoes

How to Choose Athletic Shoes

Dr. David Agoada, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates


Are you feeling inspired by the thousands of runners who will soon lace up their sneakers to run the Boston Marathon this April? Whether you’re training for your next marathon or are just beginning to run, be sure to select the right pair of running shoes before you hit the pavement.


The modern athletic shoe is a far cry from the canvas Keds and Converse high top sneakers that your parents and grandparents may have grown up with. Today there are many athletic shoe options, each designed for a specific sport, with many brands, styles and features available.  With so many choices, going into a store to pick out the perfect running shoe can be overwhelming. Use the tips below to help guide you while shopping.


Running shoes should provide cushioning, traction and stability. The outer sole should be durable, the counter and midsole shank should be rigid, and the shoe itself should be as light and flexible as possible. Running shoes tend to have more cushioning in the heel and less at the ball of the foot.  Running shoe uppers tend to have more mesh to keep the feet cooler.


Before choosing a running shoe, it is important to know the type of foot you have.  To get an idea of your arch type, place your wet foot on dry concrete or a piece of paper. If most of your footprint appears, you may have a flat foot. If most of the middle portion of your footprint is not visible, you may have a high arch. If you suspect you may have a flat foot or high arch, it’s best to consult with a podiatrist for an evaluation so you can be sure to choose the best shoe for your foot type. 


Proper fit is an important factor in choosing the right shoe. It is important that the shoe you choose is based on how well it fits, and not its labeled size. Shoe size can vary by style and manufacturer.  Ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters and injury to your toes and toenails. To avoid a shoe that does not fit properly, shop for shoes later in the day when your foot may be a little swollen; wear the socks you exercise in when trying on shoes; allow a finger’s breadth between the edge of the shoe and the end of your longest toe.  Your heel should fit snuggly in the counter of the shoe, without slipping or causing rubbing or irritation. 


When possible, buy shoes you can return.  Wear the shoes around the house and if they are not comfortable, return them.  Shoes should be comfortable from the time you put them on in the store.  Beware of shoes that you feel you have to “break in” to be comfortable. 


If you participate in sports other than running, you may need a separate pair of athletic shoes. Whether you really need a separate pair of shoes for each sport that you participate in will be determined by the sport and your level of participation. For example, walking in a running shoe is possible, depending upon the shoe, the comfort, and the level of activity. However, due to the walking shoe structure and the greater stress that is placed on the foot with running, it is not recommended to run or jog in walking shoes. Because walking shoes are stiffer and running shoes are more flexible with extra cushioning to handle greater impact, it is recommended that you get a pair for each activity if you do both frequently.


With this knowledge, you should be prepared to hit the road with a new pair of running shoes. Once you’ve racked up a few miles, it is important that you retire worn-out, old shoes after about 400 miles to prevent injury through a loss of support and shock absorbency.


Dr. David Agoada has been a podiatrist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates since 1983, and practices at our Kenmore and Watertown locations.



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