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How To Choose the Right Athletic Shoe

PD_7_ss07009The right pair of athletic shoes can lower the risk of injuries and keep you comfortable. Shopping for these shoes can be confusing. Here are some fast facts you need to know before you head to the store.

Why Choosing the Right Shoe Matters

Wearing the right shoe may enhance your performance and give you the comfort and support you need to enjoy staying active. It can also help you:

Avoid Getting Foot Problems

The proper fit and shoe for your activity help protect your feet from problems that can happen over time. Common foot problems that may be from poor shoes are:

  • Blister—a fluid-filled bump on the skin
  • Bunion—a swollen, sore bump on the joint that connects your big toe to your foot
  • Callus—abnormal thickening of the top layer of skin
  • Corn—a small, thickened area of skin that forms on the toe
  • Hammer toe—a toe that stays bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position

Lower the Risk of Injury

The wrong shoes can raise the risk of these injuries that can keep you from doing the things you like to do:

  • Plantar fasciitis—inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs the length of the bottom of the foot and connects to the heel bone, resulting in pain on the bottom of the foot
  • Stress fractures—tiny cracks in bones from repetitive stress or overuse, such as from running
  • Achilles tendinopathy—inflammation or tearing of the Achilles tendon
  • Heel spurs—calcium deposits that form where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone
  • Sesamoiditis—tenderness or inflammation of the pea-shaped bones in the ball of the foot under the big toe

Factors to Think About in Choosing New Shoes

Tracking down a pair of shoes does not need to be scary. First, look to see if you need a new pair. Shoes should be replaced every 4 to 6 months. Some signs that you need new ones are cracks in the sole of the shoe or worn down heels. Other signs of wear are stiff feel in the shoe or changes in the shape of the upper shoe. If you have had pain or soreness in your feet, knees, or hips after a workout, it could also mean you are due for a new pair.

Let's go over a few things you need to know before you choose your shoes.

Foot Types

The first thing to think about is the type of feet that you have. There are three types:

  • Pronators have a low or flat arch and tend to wear down the inner edges of their shoes. These people should look for shoes that support the midfoot area, which limits overuse of the inside edge of your feet.
  • Supinators have a high arch and tend to wear down the outer edges of their shoes. They need shoes with extra cushioning in the mid-arch area to absorb shock and stabilize the heel.
  • People with neutral feet have an average arch and tend to wear down the heels of shoes evenly. They can wear just about any type of shoe.

Getting the right fit will also mean finding out if you need a wider or larger shoe than you usually wear.

Types of Shoes

A good cross-training shoe is best for most people. They are flexible in the forefoot and protect you from side to side motions. This will let you do more than one sport. These shoes are great for general use, but people who do a sport 2 to 3 times a week will want shoes that are made for that sport. Here are a few types:

  • Walking —People who walk for exercise need shoes that cushion impact in the heel and under the ball of the foot. Walking shoes are more rigid in the front than running shoes, so you can roll off your toes rather than bend through them.
  • Running —Runners should wear shoes that are flexible in the toe area, cushion impact, and have good heel control.
  • Trail running —This type of running raises the risk of ankle sprains because of the uneven surfaces. You may need a shoe with a wider base, more traction, and more side to side support.
  • Barefoot running —Talk to a trainer before making the move to barefoot running shoes. It is not for every type of runner and the switch needs to be done slowly. Keep in mind that these shoes often do not have support or cushion, but they will give your feet some protection.
  • Aerobics —These shoes should be light so your feet do not tire easily. They should also cushion impact under the ball of the foot.
  • Tennis and other court sports —You will need shoes that have stability on the inside and outside of the foot. They will also need to be flexible in the sole under the ball of the foot.
  • Basketball —Basketball players should choose a shoe with a wider base and a thick, stiff sole for extra stability. A high-top shoe will also give you support when landing from a jump.
  • Field sports, hiking, and specialty sports —Cleats, studs, or spikes are best for field sports like soccer, football, and baseball. Special hiking shoes are best for trail blazing. For sports like golf, and bicycling, you may want to wear shoes made for these activities.

You may not need a different type of shoe for each activity you do if the sports are similar.

Getting the Right Fit

Try to get fitted for shoes a store that focuses on the sport that you do. They know more about the right shoes you will need. The store will also factor in things like your gait, weight, and foot shape to help you choose your shoes.

It is best to go shopping for shoes after a workout or at the end of the day. This is when your feet will be largest. You will also want to wear the same type of socks you will be wearing when you exercise. This will help you get the best fit.

When you get to the store, be sure to have both feet measured. Fit shoes to your larger foot. You will want to try on many pairs of shoes. The right shoes will have a firm grip to your heel and let you wiggle all of your toes. They should not feel too tight or too lose. Be sure to walk or run a few steps. Keep in mind that you should not need to break in your shoes after you take them home.

Keep in mind that you should not be swayed by the price tag. The most expensive is not always the best. In the end, getting the right shoe with the right fit is what you want.


American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine

American Podiatric Medical Association.


Canadian Orthopaedic Association

Health Canada


Athletic shoes. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.

Plantar fasiitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.

Selecting a running shoe. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: June 30, 2021.

Sesamoiditis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.

Shoes: Finding the right fit. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.

Tight shoes and foot problems. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: Accessed June 30, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/30/2021