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Sports-specific shoes aren’t just a marketing gimmick. Angela Tufvesson discovers that choosing the right shoe for your sport maximises performance and reduces the risk of injury
The tread on your old pair of trainers has worn flat and you’re in the market for a new pair. You walk into your local sports store and the array of shoes on offer simply boggles the mind – how is one to choose?
Think of the decision making process as a double axis – one for the type of sport and the other for the type of foot – and choose the right shoe accordingly.
“Runners really only move in one direction,” Alan says. “Sure they run up and down hills and around corners, but they don’t specifically go side to side or stop suddenly.” Running shoes are designed to optimise the position of the rear foot at ‘heel strike’ or ‘touchdown’ (when the heel hits the ground), then in ‘mid-strike position’ where the huge force of your body weight comes down over your foot. They are controlling but have motion built into the shoe, yet don’t allow for sideways movement.
“A good running shoe is ideal for the gym,” Allan says. “One of the main injuries that I see from gym work is achilles or hamstring pain, which can be associated with a shoe that doesn’t have a high enough heel, or enough cushion in the rear foot.” He recommends that women who usually wear heels select shoes for gym activities with a little more heel so the foot is active at its typical walking angle. However, if you normally wear ballet flats, choose shoes with a flatter heel.
“If you’re doing a serious walk, maybe an hour a day or more at a good aerobic pace, and particularly if you’re a bit heavier, if your body mass index is up, a cross trainer is good choice as it’s a strong shoe,” Allan says.
Netballers need to take most care in selecting the right shoe as the foot undergoes significant stress from sudden stoppages and frequent multi-directional movement. Allan says one of the common injuries he sees from netball is inversion ankle sprains, which is a sprain to the outside of the ankle. “If you see a patient coming in from netball, you can bet they’ve got an inversion ankle injury. Often it’s associated with the wrong shoe.”
Indoor sports are fast and furious over a short distance – a bit like netball with lots of stopping, starting and changing direction – so ankles, knees, Achilles and hamstring tendons are at risk of injury. “You want to be careful if you have a neutral or high-arch foot that you don’t choose a control shoe,” Allan says. “A cushion shoe, but not necessarily a runner, is a good choice for indoor sports. This is also where a cross trainer may be more suitable for this type of exercise.”