by Pam George

This question is a question I’m asked quite often as a trainer, and the answer is “it depends.” It depends on what you ask. Let’s take a look at some questions and how their answers help you choose the right shoe.

First, what activity do you plan to do?
A short list includes walking, running, weight lifting, a specific class, a specific sport, racquetball, tennis, and basketball. Each sport may mean you choose a different shoe. While some shoes are designated for cross training, the demands of different activities mean different shoes are best.

Second, what foot type do you have?
You feet may be neutral, flat, or have pronation or supination. Different shoes support different feet in different ways. A good sporting goods store with trained associates can tell you what kind of foot you have and can help you choose a shoe that will best support it.

How do you know which shoes are for which type of foot?
You have to be a smart and savvy shopper. Looking online could help. If you use the word neutral shoe in the search box it should populate that type of shoe. But, which shoe do you need? There is a wet paper test you can try (wet the bottom of your feet, stand on paper and look at the outline of your foot). For instance, no visible arch means a flat foot or heavy pronation. A regular arch means neutral or slightly pronated. A very small outline on the outside of the foot means supination. You can also check your current shoe. Look straight down at your shoe. Is either side leaning in or out? Look at the bottom of your shoe. Is the wear pattern located outside of heal or inside of the toe box?

How much can you afford to spend?
A quality shoe can be pricey, but painful feet may cost more in the end. Spend what you can to take care of your feet. It matters more how your feet are supported than it does that you have the latest fashion in the gym.

Where can I buy them?
The most common thought would be a store at the mall, next would be online, sometimes a doctor is needed. Depending on how much help you need, be sure to choose the option that gets you the right shoes for your feet. Types of the most common shoes used for adult fitness are walking, running, training, hiking, and minimalist. Brands of shoes include Asics, Brooks, Saucony, Nike, Reebox, Ryka, Adidas, New Balance, and Vibrams, but there are many more.

After all that it should be easy to find your perfect shoe, right?
Wrong. After years of trial and error I can tell you finding your perfect shoe is a difficult task. I have bought every brand with mild pronation control for myself, and have narrowed what works for me to the brand and type of shoe in that brand. This process took a lot of trials and errors.

If you are only doing an activity occasionally you may not notice you are wearing the wrong shoe, but if you participate in an activity on a regular basis the wrong shoe will cause you many problems throughout your body. Your feet may hurt, or you may feel pain in your ankles, knees, hips, and low back… the list goes on. If you finally found the shoe you love you may be ok with your current shoe for a long time, but as time goes by and your foot flattens from years of training you many no longer like the current style and need to start over.

What if you buy the wrong type of shoe?
Some online shoe companies will let you try them for a few days as long as they are not worn outside and will accept returns. If you shop at a store shop at night when your foot is swollen from a day of walking. Walk around the store with both shoes on and ask about their return policy.

Happy shoe shopping from a shoe connoisseur.