Posted by: Thixia | March 3, 2008

Walking shoes: Features and fit that keep you moving

Walking shoes: Features and fit that keep you moving

Wearing walking shoes that are comfortable and fit your feet can help prevent injuries such as blisters and calluses. Walking shoes that fit properly can also help you stick with your walking program. But not all shoes are created equal. Find the features and fit that are right for you.

Look for helpful features

How a shoe is built makes a difference in its fit and function. Knowing the basic parts of a walking shoe can help you sort through the many available styles and brands. Note: Not all walking shoes have roll bars or gel pads, though many have features that provide stability and cushioning.

Account for the shape of your feet

Feet come in many shapes and sizes. To avoid painful problems, consider the shape and size of your feet when buying a pair of walking shoes.

Width and length

Shoes that are too narrow or too wide can lead to painful blisters and calluses. In addition, a toe box that’s not high enough — and doesn’t provide enough room for your toes — can aggravate foot disorders such as bunions and hammertoes.

Arch type

The intricate alignment of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons in your feet form side-to-side (metatarsal) and lengthwise (longitudinal) arches. As you walk, these springy, flexible arches help distribute your body weight evenly across your feet. Your arches play an important role in how you adapt to various surfaces as you walk.
Choose walking shoes that accommodate your arch type. Generally speaking, your feet fall into one of three categories:

• Neutral-arched feet. Your feet aren’t overly arched nor are they overly flat. Look for shoes with firm midsoles, straight to semicurved lasts — last refers to the shape of the sole and the footprint around which the shoe is built — and moderate rear-foot stability.
• Low-arched or flat feet. Low arches or flat feet may cause muscle stress and joint problems in your feet and knees because your feet don’t support your body as well. Look for a walking shoe with motion control to help stabilize your feet.
• High-arched feet. High arches can result in excessive strain on joints and muscles, as your feet may not absorb shock as well. Look for cushioning to compensate for your lack of natural shock absorption.
Not sure about your foot type? Dip your foot in water and step on a piece of cardboard. Examine your footprint. If you can see most of your footprint, you probably have low arches. If you see very little of your footprint, you likely have high arches.
You can also look to your old shoes for clues to the shape of your foot. Bring your old walking shoes with you when you shop for a new pair — most shoe professionals can give you some tips on what to buy based on the wear of your old shoes.

Get the best fit

A good rule of thumb is to look for comfort and fit — not fancy design. The latest technology won’t matter if the shoe pinches, pokes or hurts your foot. Here are some tips for selecting walking shoes:

• Wear the same socks you’ll wear when walking, or take the socks with you to the store.
• Buy shoes at an athletic shoe store with professional fitters or at a store where you have lots of options.
• Ask the salesperson to measure both feet, measure them yourself, or have a friend or family member help you. Stand up while your foot is measured to get the most accurate measurement.
• If one foot is larger than the other, try on a pair that fits your larger foot.
• Try on both shoes and check the fit. Wiggle your toes. If you don’t have at least a half-inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe — approximately the width of your finger — try a larger size.
• If you can detect the outline of your toes in the top or on the side of the shoe, try a larger size or wider shoe.
• Be sure the shoe is wide enough. The side-to-side fit of the shoe should be snug, not tight. If you’re a woman with wide feet, consider men’s or boys’ shoes, which are cut a bit larger through the heel and the ball of the foot.
• Walk in the shoes before buying them. They should feel comfortable right away. Make sure your heel fits snugly in each shoe and doesn’t slip as you walk.

Replace worn-out shoes to prevent injury
All walking shoes eventually show signs of wear. And even if they still feel comfortable, they might not be providing enough support or shock absorption. Pay attention to the condition of your shoes. If the outsole is worn through, it’s time for a new pair.

Make an informed decision
Improperly fitting shoes are the source of many problems. Now that you know what features to look for, you can shop with confidence. Wear walking shoes that are comfortable and properly fitted for a walk that’s worry-free.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.


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