810 East 23rd St. P.O. Box 5116 Sioux Falls, SD 57117
| 605.331.5890 |
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Orthopedic Institute The Sports Medicine Center
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What Makes a Good Athletic Shoe?

Wearing the proper shoe can be one of the most important ways to prevent overuse injuries. Selecting an athletic shoe is not an easy task, especially a running shoe. You must keep in mind the foot type, foot function, and any existing foot problems to determine the correct shoe. This article will provide you with some practical information to assist in this all-important decision.


First, you must select the proper shoe type for the current activity. Purchasing shoes for each sport is more expensive, but is important for preventing athletic injuries.Sport specific shoes help prevent injuries by giving support in the appropriate areas. A running shoe can create injuries if used for volleyball or basketball.Running and walking shoes are made for straight-ahead activities. Tennis, basketball, and other court-shoes provide additional support for side-to-side motion.

Next, you must determine what type of foot, or more specifically what type of arch you have: low, medium, or high. The arch height should always be determined when the person is standing since a false impression can be made when the foot is not weight bearing. Arch height will determine the shape of the shoe needed, which is known as the last. The last of the shoe can be determined by looking at the bottom. The amount of curve to the bottom of a shoe determines the type of last. Shoes are built on a straight, semi-curved, or curved last.Identifying the foot type will also determine how much cushioning or support is necessary in the shoe.

A flat-arched foot is usually a more mobile foot. This is also referred to as a pronated foot.This foot has the potential to allow too much motion and needs a more supportive shoe that offers better motion control and stability. This type foot may benefit from a straight to slightly curved last shoe. In some cases, the use of custom shoe inserts, called orthotics, may be necessary to control the foot's motion.

A high-arched foot is usually a more rigid, stable foot. This is also called a supinated foot. This type of foot needs more cushioning inherent in the shoe to provide for better absorption of shock to prevent injuries to the feet and legs. The use of a curved or semi-curved last shoe is best for the athlete with this foot type as it contours better to the shape of the foot.

Three things should be checked in all shoes before they are tried on: heel counter, torsional stability, and "shoe break." The heel counter is the portion of the shoe surrounding the heel and should be firm and reinforced for extra stability. Torsional stability (the amount of twist in a shoe) is determined by grabbing the back and front of the shoe and attempting to twist as if one was wringing out a towel. Very little twisting motion should occur.The final feature to establish is where does the shoe "break" or fold. Attempts to fold the shoe in half should allow folding out near the toes at the most distant quarter of the shoe. Shoes that fold in the middle or near the heel provide inadequate support and may cause discomfort or even injury.

Medial support in a shoe must also be a consideration. This term is used in reference to stability built into a shoe to prevent the foot from over-pronating or rolling to the inside. For flat arches, more medial support is needed; for high arches, less or even no medial support is needed.

Finally, you must remember that there is a shoe out there for every foot. So don't settle for less than a perfect fit. Don’t get caught up in the hype of the look, colors, or advertisements. Expect to pay between $70 and $120 for a good-quality, good-fitting pair of athletic shoes. If the price seems high, consider the cost of treating an injury that may be caused by improper shoe selection.

  • If you wear an orthotic, bring it along. This also goes for ankle braces.

  • Shop in the afternoon, when the feet are slightly swollen.

  • Wear your sport socks when trying on shoes.

  • Make sure the heel is snug and does not slide. Alternative lacing methods can be used to snug the heel if the rest of the shoe is appropriate.

  • You should have a thumb's width between the longest toe and the tip of the toe box. DO NOT purchase shoes that are too small!

  • Always try on both shoes and lace them as you would for activity.

  • Walk (or jog) around the store.

  • The shoes you try on should feel good immediately; you should NEVER have to "break in" a pair of athletic shoes.

To get a complete list of the atheltic shoes that we recommend, please call our Sports Hotline 1-866-777-7678.


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