As a chiropractor, one of the most common questions I am asked is "What type of sneaker should I buy?" Unfortunately the answer to that is not so easy because each person's foot is unique and what sneaker is good for one person may not be good for another.
Too many people buy a sneaker based on fashion or name brand recognition instead of what they need for their particular type of foot. Footwear plays such an important function for the mechanics of our bones and joints, especially for runners and other athletes that choosing the right shoe can help prevent back, hip and knee pain and also prevent injury.
The first thing you need to do is determine what type of foot you have. Basically speaking, there are three different foot types, a normal foot, a flat foot and a high arched foot.
A normal foot has a normal sized arch and when wet will leave a footprint that has a flare to it and the forefoot and heel are connected by a broad band. The best shoe for you is a stability sneaker with a slightly curved shape.
A flat foot has a low arch and when wet leaves a footprint of the entire sole of the foot. Your foot will roll in as you walk because of the collapsed arch and over time this can lead to overuse injury. The best sneaker for you is a high stability shoe with a firm mid sole. These sneakers should be firm through the middle of the shoe so there is not a lot of bending or twisting aloud. Avoid sneakers that have mesh sidewalls.
A high arched foot when wet leaves a footprint showing a very narrow band or no band at all between the forefoot and heel. Because you tend to walk on the outside of your foot, your foot is not a good shock absorber and tends to be fairly rigid. The best shoe for you is a well cushioned shoe that has a lot of flexibility and encourages foot motion. Stay away from sneakers that are motion controlled and reduce foot mobility.
Now that you have established your foot type, consider these tips as you head out the door to purchase those new sneakers.
The most important consideration for you is to match the sneaker with the type of activity that you are going to be doing. For example, do not purchase a running shoe because it has fabulous neon colors on it if you are going to be in the gym doing group exercise classes such as Zumba or Step Class. Running and group exercise classes have an entirely different motion and require different support for your foot. If possible shop at a specialty store that has trained staff that can help you with your sneaker selection. Shop late in the day or after a workout when your foot is at its largest, and wear the same socks that you wear during exercise class. Another important tip is have your feet measured in a standing position each time the length and width of the foot purchase as our feet do change with age and lifestyle.
Lastly, make sure the sneaker fits correctly. The sneaker should fit with an index finger's width between the end of the shoe and the longest toe. The toe box should have room and not be tight, and heel of the foot should fit snug against the back of the sneaker and should not slide up and down when walking or running. If possible, see if you can walk around in the new sneakers for at least 10 minutes before making the purchase.
Finally the golden question: How often should I replace my sneakers? Again the answer to that is different for everyone depending on your lifestyle and exercise intensity. If you are a runner, you are looking at between 300 to 500 hundred miles. Most sneakers should be replaced before they start to show moderate wear. When we fail to replace our sneakers injuries such as shin splints, heel spurs, and plantar fascitis will occur.