When we wear footwear that is not meant for the activity we are doing, it can lead to our experiencing injury and poor performance. Let me give an example. You are a runner and decide to go backpacking. Off you go – in your running shoes. At the end of the day, you have turned an ankle several times, your gait is changed because the shoes do not give the necessary support – so your hip and back hurts, and you decide to shorten the four day trip and hike out the next morning.
Your problems are most likely related to the wrong shoes. Here are a few sport shoe shopping tips:
Walkers: Wear shoes specifically made for walking if you power walk. Power or fast walking creates a higher rate of foot/ankle mechanical action than running. Quality walking shoes have a lower heel thickness than running shoes, which aids the faster foot/ankle movement. Remember that a thick heel is not needed for walking due to less impact than running.
For cross training, wear cross training shoes that offer support for weight bearing exercises and activities such as weight lifting, lunges and squats. These shoes typically offer more lateral support (sideways) which gives weight bearing stability. Look for a cross training shoe that bends easily to prevent excessive foot pronation or supination. You want your heels on the ground rather than forcing your body weight on to the ball of our foot.
For running, select running shoes based on your weight, biomechanics, where you will run, and how much. Understanding arch and foot mechanics is always helpful. If you are unaware of your foot/ankle mechanics, ask a knowledgeable sport expert to help determine if your foot turns inward (pronate) or if your foot turns outward (supinate). Low arch runners tend to pronate while high arch runners tend to supinate. Knowing your foot mechanics will help identify a correct shoe match. Use knowledgeable running stores staff or a podiatrist to help determine if you need shoes made for motion control, cushioning, or a combination. If you have a history of unresolved foot or gait problems (lower leg, knee, back, etc.) you may benefit by being personally fitted for orthotics by a podiatrist or certified pedorthist.
Hiking and backpacking shoes and boots give the wearer much more foot and ankle support. These usually are offered in low, mid and high styles. Select one that matches well with the load you will carry and specifics of your feet. If you are prone to turned or sprained ankles, choose one that give added support.
Adventure racing is often done in lightweight hikers or trail running shoes. These athletes are often trained at a higher level of fitness because of their multi-sport involvement. For them, the fit of their footwear is of utmost importance. They want support, traction, protection, water draining capabilities, and lightweight shoes.
It is important to pick footwear based on what activity you will be going and then ensuring that the fit is perfect. I hope the tips above are helpful in understandings selecting footwear for your sport. Shoes are not created equal when it comes to athletic activities. Select your footwear based on function.