Many of us grew up thinking that a pair of athletic shoes was suitable for just about any sport. However, over the years, we’ve seen a specialization in athletic footwear… from cross-trainers and running shoes to sport-specific cleats. There are even sub-specializations within a category nowadays, for example, you can go to a running specialty store and find shoes for short, middle and long distance training, or varieties that are neutral or motion-controlled (to limit over-pronation).
If you are looking to engage in a sport or athletic activity, it’s important to consider the qualities your footwear will need to provide. Such considerations include shock absorption, support, grip/traction properties, cushioning, weight, and how they conform to the foot. Generally, running shoes should absorb impact in the mid-foot and heel areas in a light and flexible form factor. They also tend to have mesh uppers that allow for maximum airflow. Basketball sneakers are designed to provide additional support for lateral movement, while protecting the ankle from twists and sprains. Soccer cleats are designed to provide excellent traction and foot agility, with a minimal upper that allows the player to be very aware of how his or her foot makes contact with the ball. Football and baseball cleats, on the other hand, are designed to provide structure, traction, and protection to the whole foot. There are general cross-trainers, but those aren’t suitable for all sports. They are best used in gym settings when working out with weights and fitness equipment. If you’re involved in multiple sports, you should invest in separate shoes appropriate for each different activity.
Purchase shoes that fit well. Running shoes should run 1/2 to a full size larger to allow for the foot’s swelling during a run. If you go to a sporting goods store, ask questions if you’re unsure about how to select the right pair of shoes. And remember that athletic shoes have an expiration date. Running shoes should be retired after 350-400 miles, depending on manufacturer specifications. Shoes for other sports are good for anywhere from 45-60 hours of use. Don’t try to use athletic shoes for more than a single season. And if you notice a change in the way a pair of shoes fit, or uneven support, that’s a sign you should replace them.