Choosing the Right Athletic Shoe for You
Just like selecting any article of clothing or accessory, shoes will fit and feel different for everyone. It is always important to try on your shoes in-store before you buy them. What feels comfortable for your family member or friend, may not feel comfortable for you. It is a common misconception (perpetuated by marketing strategists for shoe and orthotic companies) that if you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, you need something soft, cushiony and flexible, when in reality, the opposite is true. All shoe companies make a spectrum of shoes from very flexible, to more rigid. Keep in mind that more rigid shoes tend to be more expensive because they generally require more materials or a more intensive manufacturing process. However, if one is experiencing foot/ankle pain, a rigid shoe is likely worth the extra money because rigidity in a shoe offers better motion control of the numerous bones, joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments in each foot. Reducing unwanted and/or unnecessary motion in these structures oftentimes reduces or eliminates foot/ankle pain associated with a myriad of conditions. At a minimum, all shoes should ideally come with 3 characteristics: The shoe should bend at the toes and not in the middle of the arch, the back of the shoe which encompasses the heel should not be easily collapsible, and there should be adequate torsional stability. When these characteristics are present in a shoe, it will significantly reduce a majority of the abnormal motion the foot and ankle experience during the gait cycle.
Mild Motion Control Shoes
These shoes are ideal for the individual who does not suffer from any significant foot/ankle structural deformity, or biomechanical abnormality, but is seeking a high-quality, daily shoe to hopefully prevent any future foot ailments. Shoes in this category tend to be a little bit more flexible, due to construction from softer foams. Because of this, these shoes can feel a bit more springy or bouncy. A downside is that some of these shoes tend to wear out faster or lose their bounce faster since the materials are more compressible and less dense. These shoes can provide adequate all-day support and comfort for people looking for an all-purpose shoe.
Asics: Cumulus, Nimbus
Nike: Pegasus, Vomero
New Balance: 1080, 880
Adidas: Solar Boost, Solar Glide, Boston
Brooks: Dyad, Revel
Mizuno: Wave Rider
Saucony: Ride, Kinvara, Triumph
Moderate Motion Control
Shoes in this category begin to employ more structure and rigidity into the midsole. This is done using a combination of higher density foams, thicker foam, and/or plastics, in order to increase stability and prevent excessive foot motion throughout the gait cycle. Limiting excessive motion will yield a more efficient gait cycle, which leads to less muscle fatigue and decreased foot/ankle pain. In addition to a stiffer midsole, shoes in this category may also offer different density foams in different areas of the sole to provide some springiness, shock absorption, or bounce. Individuals with mild to moderate biomechanical abnormalities (i.e. over-pronation or over-supination) would benefit from a shoe in this category, however even individuals without biomechanical or structural abnormalities will like the added support these shoes offer. Since the foams used in the construction of these shoes are a bit denser, they are more durable than shoes in the mild motion control category.
Asics: 1000, 2000, Kayano
Brooks: Adrenaline, Ravenna, Bedlam
New Balance: 860, 890, Vongo
Nike: Air Structure
Adidas: Solar Glide ST
Maximum Motion Control
The technologies which are used to construct shoes in this category rely on hard plastics which extend through the arch. They will also use stiffer and denser foams in the construction of the sole throughout the entire shoe. Some shoe companies are even incorporating a carbon fiber plate into their maximum control shoes. These shoes will be significantly stiffer in the sole than the shoes mentioned in the two previous categories. These shoes will still have some flexibility towards the toes, which is necessary for push-off during the gait cycle, however it will be less flexibility than the categories mentioned above. The stiffness throughout the rest of the shoe will help limit pronation or supination which occurs during the gait cycle which can help reduce pain from conditions like arthritis, tendinitis, and pain caused by bony prominences on the bottom of the foot. In individuals with foot pain, simply making a switch to shoes in this category can significantly reduce pain by limiting the motion in the foot and ankle.
Brooks: Ariel, Beast