By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM-CPT
If you find that your back, knees and feet are throbbing after a workout, you may need to look to your shoes for relief. Frequently, overlooked and poor footwear can be a source of workout-related pain for a host of reasons. Shoes may be too old, inappropriate for a specific activity or simply the wrong fit and type for your body. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your footwear.
For impact activities, a pair of athletic shoes should be used for no more than 500 miles. If you’re very active, say three times a week or more, you should replace your shoes once per quarter. If you’re less active, you should still be replacing your shoes every 6-12 months. Over time, the cushioning and support of your favorite sneakers will break down, leaving you with worsened form and increased susceptibility to impact and injury.
Make sure you’re using the right shoes for your game. Are you wearing the same shoes that took you through last winter’s basketball league to train for your first 5K? Changing your activity calls for a change in footwear. For treadmill or outdoor running, you really need a pair of shoes that are specific to your running anatomy. For non-impact activities, such as elliptical-based cardio, walking and weight lifting, a pair of cross trainers will probably be the most comfortable. If you’re giving an indoor sports league a try, make sure you have shoes that are specific to that sport. The lateral movement and agility demands of basketball, soccer, or even aerobics call for greater stabilization and support than your running and walking shoes provide.
Finally, let’s take a look at your anatomy. This is especially important for runners. If you’re large for your frame or have flattened arches, you’ll probably benefit from a stabilizing or motion-control shoe. Another possibility is to add orthotics or arch supports to your athletic shoes. Flattened arches also increase the likelihood of over-pronation, which can cause plantar fasciitis, an inflammation or arch pain. Extra stretching of tight calves and hips can help eliminate or prevent problems cause by flat feet.
Normal arches are the most common foot type and will allow you to choose your shoes based on your frame size and cushioning preference. If you have a smaller build, you may wish to use a neutral-cushioned shoe. If you’re larger, you’ll likely benefit from a stabilization shoe.
Very high arches result in a rigid foot-strike. Foot problems, including plantar fasciitis or claw toes, can be common with a high arch as well. You will benefit from extra cushioning that allows a greater collapse of the arch to cushion your foot strike. You’ll also benefit from additional stretching for your calves, hamstrings, and IT band.
If you notice persistent or nagging pain, you’ll want to consult a doctor or physical therapist to diagnose the problem, but investing in the right shoes now will help keep you going for the long run.