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The Right Shoes for Active Adults

If you're ready to get active, one of the first steps you should take is to find a high-quality pair of shoes for your chosen activity. By selecting the right shoes, you can avoid pain, discomfort and even traumatic injury when you are exercising.

Don Greiert, a certified pedorthist at The Sports Medicine Clinic, works closely with podiatrists and patients to match footwear to individuals and their activities.

"Shoes should protect your feet when you're active, but the wrong pair can quickly damage your feet. Your shoes should not make you worker harder. Your shoes should fit properly from the start," Greiert explained. "The need to break in new shoes is a myth."

In order to find the shoe that's right for you, it's important to know a bit about "shoe anatomy" and how each part of a shoe affects you.

Sole: This is the part of the sole that is in contact with the ground. The flex grooves in front of the sole should line up with where your toes bend. If it doesn't match, it can feel like you're hitting a speed bump with each step.

Insole: This is the most technological part of the shoe. It creates a layer between the sole and the wearer's foot. Manufacturers are constantly offering new innovations, especially in athletic shoes. The use air or gel inside the insole may absorb and disperse shock or energy during athletic activity, but such insoles should not make your gait wobbly.

Heel counter: This insert strengthens the heel of the shoe. It is extremely important because it's an anchor point for all foot activity and should be stable and supportive, like the foundation of a building.

Toe box: This is the front of the shoe. Consider the depth and volume your foot needs — wide, medium or narrow? Pointed toe boxes may look good, but they won't function as well as a style that properly accommodates your toes.

Vamp or tongue: Depending on the style of your shoe's vamp or tongue, there may be excessive pressure on the nerves at the top of your foot, which can be painful. Many athletic footwear manufacturers use lacing systems to minimize slippage and maximize support.

Greiert says that it is crucial to consider what level of motion control you will need in your chosen activity. The shoe industry classifies levels of support into the following categories:

  • Barefoot technology
  • Minimalist
  • Neutral (soft cushioning)
  • Support shoe (moderate support)
  • Control (maximum support)

You can test your shoes before you buy them with these simple steps:

  • Grab the front and rear of the shoe and wring it. If you can twist it too much, it's too soft.
  • Press the front of the shoe down on a counter and lift the back. The natural bend of your toes should match where the shoe bends.
  • Set the shoe down and see if it lies perpendicular to the ground, appears to be twisted or wobbles if you push on it lightly.
Once you've got a pair of shoes that works for you, you're ready to start exercising. One of the best ways to get active after being sedentary for a long period is to walk.

"Walking regularly can improve your cardiovascular function, help you maintain a healthy weight, and strengthen your bones and muscles," says Dr. Carol J. Wilder, a board-certified family practice physician who is also fellowship-trained in sports medicine. "Even if walking is already part of your fitness routine, there are a number of ways you can make your walk more beneficial to your health."

  • Try to walk at least 30 to 60 minutes, four or five times a week.
  • Walk briskly to burn more calories and challenge your cardiovascular system.
  • Swing your arms smoothly or carry light hand weights.
  • Don't just walk on a flat track — add some hills to your route.
  • Invest in a pedometer or a smartphone app to track how long and how far you walk.
  • Stretch 2 to 3 times per week. This is most effective when the muscles are warm, so try stretching after your walk or mid-walk.
  • After your walk, do a few sets of squats or lunges to maximize your workout and build muscle.
For more information about Don Greiert or Dr. Carol Wilder, or to make an appointment, call 206.368.6100 or visit thesportsmedicineclinic.com.

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