Why the Right Shoe Matters
For some activities, nobody ever skimps on having the right equipment for the job.
Like, say, skydiving, for example!
Nobody ever boards a plane to go up thinking, “Well, I was in a rush so I just grabbed that parachute from the back of the closet. Should be fine!” Any skydiver who wants to ensure they can dive again checks vigorously to ensure the parachute they have is the right tool and in the right condition for the job.
Yes, we admit that skydiving is a pretty extreme example here. A morning run or an afternoon hike is not the same as throwing yourself out of an airplane. However, there is no way anyone should be putting the fate of their feet and ankles in shoes that were not made for the activities they love. Making wise choices can save you from pain and problems, all while upping your performance.
What’s the Big Deal About Footwear?
Every time you move your feet and ankles, it is placing certain amounts of force in certain areas. This will differ depending on what you’re doing.
The forces on your feet while walking, for example, will be different than those endured while running.
Force does not just differ by amount, however, but also by location. You might run on both a trail and a basketball court, but basketball will also involve a lot more sudden stops and pivots. This places more strain on your ankles.
So when you see separate sections for running shoes and basketball shoes in a sporting goods store, that is not simply some scheme from the shoe companies to milk more money out of you. These shoes are designed to provide better levels of support, sturdiness, or flexibility where it is demanded from the sport. A running shoe will likely not provide the stability needed for basketball, and a basketball shoe will likely not provide as much flexibility that is needed for running.
How specific can these adjustments go? Different sports shoes can be made for different positions in a certain sport! A wide receiver in football, for example, may have shoes built more to accommodate quick dashes while a lineman may have shoes designed for greater stability. An associate at a sporting goods store is often well trained in determining the best type of footwear for your active needs, so do not be afraid to ask them about it.
What About More Low-Impact Pursuits?
The importance of shoes for highly active sports can be pretty clear, but what about potentially slower pursuits like walking and hiking?
A sneaker or tennis shoe may be fine for taking small walks on flat, easy terrain. However, if you really want to hike, going on all-day pursuits and/or over more uneven ground, then a good hiking shoe or boot will be preferable.
One very important factor a hiking shoe can provide better than a standard sneaker is a deeper tread. If you expect uneven surfaces and downhill trekking, having more grip is essential to helping prevent slips and falls. You certainly don’t want to sprain your ankle when you’re out in the middle of a forest.
Another factor to consider is durability and support. If you are carrying a heavy backpack with you on longer excursions, a stiffer hiking boot that provides added protection and stability around the ankle can be very helpful. Also look for a stiffer midsole that can handle excess weight over uneven ground.
And then there’s water. If you expect to be hiking through mud or have creeks and streams cutting through your intended trails, a waterproof lining can help keep your feet drier. This is not only less miserable to trudge on with, but will help prevent blisters and other painful skin damage as well.
And Just Having General Fun?
Even if you’re not going on a hike or charging down a field, it still makes a lot of sense to think about your footwear—both for you and your family.
If your children are at the playground, they should ideally be in sneakers or, at the very least, a good pair of sandals that will not slip off or slide around the foot, causing blisters. Those shoes should also stay on their feet the whole time, especially in public areas. Not only does it offer some protection from playing around with other rambunctious kids, but you never know what might be hiding in grass or a sandbox.
Whatever the footwear may be, make sure it is never flip-flops. They can be reasonable for making a quick walk to and from a pool or the beach, but for anything else that’s more than a few minutes, they just won’t help your feet. They easily slip off, leaving your foot potentially exposed, and they provide next-to-zero support for your arch, heel, toes… pretty much everything. Long use of flip-flops, especially in any activity, is a ticket to pain.
Questions About Footwear? Come to Us!
We know that sometimes there’s a lot of decisions to make regarding the best choices in footwear. And sometimes, even if you have been making the right choices, things still don’t feel right.
At Waukesha Foot Specialists, we can help you determine the best shoes for your active plans and goals. And, in cases where additional support may be needed, we can provide custom orthotics to adjust cushioning, stability, and support even more in your favor.
Give our Waukesha office a call at (262) 544-0700 to schedule an appointment with us. Or, if you prefer to contact us electronically, simply fill out our contact form instead to have a member of our office reach out to you.