26 Jun 2009
"Proper Shoe-wear for Your Fragile Feet"
Lauren Downes MSPT
No matter what type of off-ice training you do, (running, functional training, aerobics, etc.) it is very important to wear the proper shoe-wear for your foot type. Good, and unfortunately expensive, sneakers typically have more cushioning and support than cheaper models. It is very easy to go to the local discount store and buy the $35 pair on sale, but you get what you pay for.
The more expensive models of sneakers are built with cushioning and stability systems that last longer than the inexpensive models. Why is that important? When you exercise, whether it is walking or strength training, your body absorbs shock from the feet up. If a shoe is not properly cushioned, the shock absorption is transferred up through the lower extremity to the knee and hip. Over time, the excessive stress may cause overuse injuries in these joints. Through the years, I have treated numerous knee and hip injuries that improve at least 50% just by a patient purchasing the correct shoe-wear.
Before you make the investment in the $75+ pair of sneakers, you may want to investigate which type of shoe is right for your foot. The shape and mobility of your arch will determine which type of shoe corresponds to your foot. A person with a flattened arch is categorized as an overpronater. As an overpronater walks, the arch descends toward the ground and decreases the stability of the foot. Pronation may cause numerous injuries in the lower extremities, such as plantar fascitis (inflammation in the muscle in the arch), patellofemoral syndrome (pain at the kneecap), and various hip conditions. A healthy body requires that the whole kinetic chain of movement is correct, starting from the bottom up. A person with a high and rigid arch has a foot that supinates. A supinator’s foot lacks shock absorption, and its rigidity may cause the forces from the ground up to be absorbed by the knee and hip, and possibly the back.
You may be saying, how do I know what my foot type is? In most areas, you can find a specialty shoe store or athletic store which hires knowledgeable people who will look at your foot type and make a proper shoe-wear recommendation. Instead of going to the local superstore, where the employees are not typically trained in this area, take the time to get your foot fitted. You may even want to meet with your physician or local physical therapist to evaluate your need for a better shoe. If you are curious right now, try a simple evaluative technique. If you want to get a general idea of what your arch does, stand barefoot with your feet about shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and look down at your arches. If you find that your arch completely touches the ground and your knees turn inward, you may be a pronator. If you can do this exercise and fit two fingers underneath you arch, you may be a supinator. Please note that this test does not substitute for medical advice. It only gives you an idea of the direction you are heading in….
The top brands of sneakers build shoes for both foot types . An educated footwear specialist will point you in the right direction once you have determined your foot type. I gravitate toward the Eastbay catalog (at www.eastbay.com), which tells you if a shoe is a stability shoe or a cushioned shoe. Cushioned shoes are appropriate for supinators, and stability/support shoes are appropriate for pronators.
Take the time to buy the right shoe for you, as you are treating your body right, and may avoid future injuries!