Walking only requires one piece of equipment – and that’s a decent pair of shoes. Here’s everything you need to know to find the right pair.
Before you start pounding the pavement or thumping the treadmill, spare a thought for your feet. Are you planning on lacing them into well-worn sneakers? This may be a fast-track to injury. Shoes play a vital role in protecting your feet from external dangers. But even if your shoes still feel comfortable, and look relatively new, they may not provide enough support or shock absorption.
The shape of your feet and the way you move determines which shoe is right for you. Sports podiatrist Stewart Hayes says: “It’s very important to choose the correct shoe that will support and correct your foot mechanics. Having the correct function means you will have less wear and tear on your foot, ankle, knee and hip joints.”
Not only will picking the right shoes prevent discomfort and injury, it may also encourage you to aintain an active lifestyle. Here’s how to find the right fit.
- It’s advisable to buy your sports shoes from a reputable store with well-trained staff. That way you’re more likely to end up with the right shoe for you.
- Look for a shoe that matches the natural bend of the foot. This means a shoe should bend slightly at the ball, and twist a little at the midsection. However, if a brand new shoe flexes too much this is not a good thing as it may become soft and unsupportive too quickly.
- To ensure shoes are the right length for your feet allow a thumb-nail width from the end of your longest toe – this isn’t always your big toe – to the end of the shoe. Your toes should never touch the end of the shoe, and always stand when measuring as your feet will spread when you have your full weight on them.
- Update your sneakers after roughly 800km of wear – or six months to a year – as the support and cushioning will have begun to wear, putting you at an increased risk of injury.
- Shop in the afternoon, as your feet may swell during the day, and can be up to half a size bigger.
- Start by selecting up to four different styles, then try two different styles on, one on each foot. Comparing two shoes allows you to get a better idea of comfort. Remove the least comfortable shoe and put on the next style. Do this until you are left with the best shoes for your feet.
- A great idea is to take your old shoes with you when shopping for a new pair. The sales assistant will be able to look at the wear and tear on your old shoes – if it leans inwards, this may indicate you need a more supportive shoe – and they will then be able to determine the type of shoe you need based on this.
- Your heel should never slip out of the back of the shoe, however a little bit of room in the front of the shoe is okay.
- Walking shoes are specifically designed to fit your foot mechanics when you walk, which is very different from how you run. Runners tend to land flat-footed, whereas walkers land on their heels, and roll through the foot before pushing off from the toes. Because of this, you need to look for a walking shoe that’s flexible through the ball of the foot and provides stability and cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot. Generally, you can walk in a running shoe, but shouldn’t run in a walking shoe.
- Make sure the shoes are comfortable before you leave the shop. Your foot shouldn’t have to conform to the shoe’s shape, nor should you have to ‘break in’ or stretch a pair of shoes for them to fit properly and comfortably.
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