The Right Shoe For Your Workout: Fit & Features

Old high top runners
by Christian Johanssen, guest blogger and pedorthist at Foot Solutions.
A pedorthist is a professional who has specialized training to modify footwear and employ supportive devicesvto address conditions which affect the feet and lower limbs.

When choosing the right footwear for your workout there are 3 key things to consider when it comes to fit to reduce the likelihood of injury while participating in the sport of your choice. They are not the color, design, or name of the shoe (despite what shoe manufacturer’s want to your to think). They are:

  • The length of your foot.
  • The width of your foot at it’s widest point.
  • The width of your foot at it’s narrowest point.

At the Foot Solution, we use 3 tests to ensure our customers have the fit they need to move comfortably, efficiently, and without injury.

Getting the Right Fit

The Thumb Test

To reduce black toe nails (bruising), corns, and/or callouses caused by pressure on your toes, measure the length of your foot in the shoe using the Thumb Test.  The Thumb Test ensures that the longest toes on each foot (and, thus, all the shorter ones) have enough room to ensure low pressure on all your toes while moving in the shoe.

How to do the Thumb Test:

  1. Be sure to stand up when you perform this test.
  2. With the shoes on, press the top of the shoe at the tip of the longest toe on each foot with the tip of your thumb (we all have one foot that is bigger than the other and, thus, the test should be done on both shoes).
  3. Ensure that there is a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

Can’t reach your toes?

Ask someone else to help you measure your foot — any of our Staff will be ready and happy to help — or, better yet, if you can’t reach your toes when standing, get BoomerBody’s stretching routine and get stretching for the next time you buy shoes.

Can’t feel your toes through the footwear upper?

Remove the insole from the shoe and stand on it with your full weight, heel at the back. If your toes are overlapping the insole at any given point, the shoe is too small and you should try a longer and/or wider pair of shoes.

The Pinch Test

To avoid corns, callouses, and pain across the width of your foot, use the Pinch Test.

How to do the Pinch Test:

  1. Again, standing up to perform this test.
  2. Grab the shoe at its widest point with the thumb and the index finger. This is where the big toe and little toe joint should be located.
  3. Then bring The two fingers together to see if you’re able to pinch the material at the top of the forefoot. the amount of material you can pinch indicates whether or not the shoe fits properly.
    • It you are able to pinch material on the top of the foot, the shoes are too wide and you need to try a narrower shoe or size.
    • If there is no give in the material at all when you pinch your thumb and forefinger together, the shoes are too tight and you need to try a wider shoe or size.
    • If there is just a little bit of movement in the material, but the fingers can’t pinch the material, you’re good to go.

The Ankle Test

The final test to do is the Ankle Test to ensure the width of the shoe at the narrowest part of our foot — below our ankle and through our heel — is supported properly. An improperly fitted heel will result in blisters, bone spurs, corns, and/or callouses.

  1. Once again, be sure to stand up for this test.
  2. Reach down and grasp the shoe opening.
  3. Place the tip of your index finger on top of the fabric at the shoe opening and touch underneath your ankle with the side of the finger, then run it backward toward the heel, around the heel, and  back up to the other side of your ankle on each foot. If you feel any gaps between the fabric and your lower leg, they should be no larger than 1/8th on an inch (3 millimeters).
  4. If the spacing seems correct, try walking around in the shoes to check for heel slippage. The heel should barely move up and down in the shoe when you walk.

Ideally, the shoe should not slip on and off your foot easily, there should be some resistance when you slip your full foot into the shoe. There’s a reason shoe horns exist — to easily put on shoes that fit properly. If there’s too much space at the heel and around the sides of the ankle, the shoe’s heel counter is too wide and won’t provide proper heel support for your foot. If the heel counter is too small, the heel will have too much pressure on it and pain, blisters, callouses, heel spurs or ankle spurs (in boots) may result. If the heel counter is the correct size, your heel will fit snugly into the shoe without rubbing and minimal slippage when you walk.

If you have a wide forefoot, consider footwear with good combination lasts, this is where the heel counter is narrower than the forefoot and hence continues to allow ample space for the toes.

Choosing the Right Shoe for your Sport

Running

running shoes

The right shoe will carry you a long way without pain or injury.

Running shoes come in many shapes, colours, sole thicknesses, and weights. Comfort continues to be the number one factor when fitting a pair of funning shoes to your feet.

The primary objective when selecting a running shoe is to choose a pair that has a snug fit around the heel yet provides sufficient space around the forefoot.

Mesh uppers reduce the weight of the footwear, allow the foot to breathe, and allows the release of moisture from the foot, all of which are of great importance in long distance running, Heel counters reenforced with plastics to improve stability.

Barefoot running

Minimalist running shoes seek to match the sensation of running barefoot.

If you are considering switching to barefoot running shoes, also known in some circles as minimalist shoes, be aware that you must break them in gradually to allow your foot to adjust to less structural support. Extended wear of these shoes without proper muscular training may result in overuse injuries.

Walking

Although any properly fitting shoe will do for walking, consider some of these pointers when making your footwear choices.

  • If you have balance issues, look for shoes with soles that flare outwards for improved stability. Flared heels are those whose heel base flares away from the centre of the shoe.
  • In most cases, dress shoes have heels that flare inward to make the product
    appear more sleek. This increases instability in the ankle and should be avoided for walking.
  • When choosing sandals for your walking trip we recommend choosing a sandal with a closed back or strap, so the feet to require less effort to keep the sandal on your foot, which reduces leg fatigue, arch strain, and the incidence of claw toes.

Hiking

When hitting the trails, you should consider trail runners, ankle boots, or high-top boots to improve your traction on slippery, rocky, and wooded pathways. The soles should be made of rubber to reduce slipping on wet surfaces and preferably feature a rock plate to reduce the pressure of rocks pushing through the ball of the foot. Note that traditional, high-top boots with firm soles are usually not required unless you’re considering an extended hiking trip with a large backpack in tow.

Agressive tread

The most critical feature of trail runners is their sole & tread. This pair has a good tread and a wide base for stability.

Trail runners are the newest addition to the hiking group. As their name suggests, these shoes are used primarly for trail running or day hikes and incorporate the lightweight design of runners by using lighter materials and lower ankle height while having an agressive tread to improve traction on the uneven surfaces of trails and pathways. Many of these shoes include a plastic rock plate to help reduce the pressure of rocks hitting the sole of your foot.

Ankle boots are great for day hikes. Just like the trail runner, many feature a rock plate made of plastic to reduce pressure on the ball of the foot, for day-hikers who take on more challenging and less travelled trails, some ankle boots have metal rock plates . Ankle boots provide more stability than trail runners and their height helps protect the foot and ankle from interactions with brush and rocks.

traditional hiking bootHigh-top, solid sole boots tend to be made of leather for improved waterproofing. The firm rubber soles prevent compression of the sole material and the bottom of your foot due to the additional weight of a backpack.

Cross-training & Tennis

Most tennis & cross-training shoes are designed for sports where the movement involves a lot of side-stepping, stopping, and starting. This group of activities involved racquet sports, aerobics, dance fitness, indoor soccer, and other activites where directional changes are required.

Becuase these aports require a lot of side-stepping, the side walls of the footwear are well reinforced, especially across the forefoot. This prevents the foot from sliding over the edge of the shoe’s outsole and allows the athlete to transition faster from one side of the body to the other.

athletic-shoes-clip-art-quoteko-com-hxwcyx-clipartShoes in these categories usually feature leather uppers for improved support, durability, and — in some cases — waterproofing. This is not to say that these shoes can’t have mesh uppers, however, if they do, the side walls of the shoes are usually reinforced with vinyl or leather.

Crossfit

Given the the varying activities Crossfitters participate in during any given workout it’s important to choose footwear that provides stability as well as flexibility. Shoes here should have a stable base, including a less cushioned sole (to improve stability during weightlifting exercises) yet a flexible forefoot. This allows the athlete to go from running to weightlifting without having to switch footwear.

If the Shoe Fits…

wlaking footprintsTo sum up, choose shoes that are comfortable from the day you try them at the store. At Foot Solutions and BoomerBody we don’t believe in break-in periods for shoes. Your feet should always feel good. Looking for expert advice from a pedorthists or foot geek? Why not stop into a Foot Solutions location nearest you for a complimentary foot analysis.

Author Christian Johannsen is a Certified Pedorthist at Foot Solutions in Vancouver and West Vancouver with over 15 years of experience in the field of pedorthics.
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Barb Kelly
 

Barb is a content specialist with BoomerBody and fitness enthusiast.

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