Shoes not only protect your feet during movement, but are a major performance determining factor in sports. Athletic shoes are designed to withstand the increased pressures that sporting activities place on the feet, ankles and legs. They prevent injuries, and improve performance and comfort.

Having a clear idea of the type of foot (especially the arch of your foot) you have and how your foot works during different activities is important in choosing the best fit. While walking, your feet roll from your heel to your toe and there is more time that both feet spend on the ground. This distributes your weight evenly on different parts of each foot and on both feet. To facilitate this movement, walking shoes must provide good shock absorption, stability throughout the arch of your feet (underneath the midfoot), and flexible forefoot support.

However, while running, you only have one foot on the ground at a time, bearing an impact of up to five times your body’s weight on each foot. The majority of this impact is felt on the outer aspect of the heel before the weight distributes. Running shoes therefore, should provide more cushioning at the heel and more mesh material to dissipate the heat produced during running.

Different types of shoes are available for different athletic activities and should be carefully chosen for maximum benefit. Cross-trainers are shoes designed for those who move from one sport to another. Other shoes are available for different sports such as cleats or spikes for football and soccer, court shoes for volleyball and basketball, and hiking shoes that keep your feet stable on irregular surfaces. Barefoot running is a growing trend, for which shoes are designed with no cushioning; only protection against sharp and irregular surfaces.

When purchasing athletic shoes make sure they are designed for your particular sport. Try to buy them in the evening when your feet are expanded to the maximum. They should have a stable heel counter (support behind your heel) and enough room to wiggle your toes, with a gap of about half an inch between your big toe and the tip of the shoe. Always wear the socks that you would normally wear during your sport when trying out a new shoe, fasten the laces as you would normally and walk around the store with both shoes on different surfaces to ensure comfort.