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Athletic footwear is a serious matter

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If you’re an athlete you know how frustrating it can be to be sidelined by an injury. To help prevent injuries caused by repetitive strain on the lower extremities it is important for athletes to pay special attention to the type of footwear they are wearing.  I treat recreational athletes on a daily basis and the number one culprit is inappropriate footwear.

Ask yourself how long have I had these shoes?  Are they worn out and in need of replacing? Shoes have an expiry date as the integrity of the shoe will eventually wear down regardless if you’re wearing them or not. If your athletic shoe is too old it may not provide adequate shock absorption or sufficient stability thus causing increased strain on your lower leg. Footwear is an essential component of injury prevention and your shoe needs to be appropriate for the activity you are doing (i.e. running, tennis, volleyball etc.).

Your athletic shoes also need to fit properly and provide the right support.  Here are a few tips to help you find a pair that is right for you and your activity:

  • Take the insoles out of your shoes and place both of your feet (standing) on them. To test length, you should have a thumb width between the longest toe and the end of the insole. To test width, your first and fifth toe should fit on the insole, not hang off.
  • Placing one hand on the front of your shoe and one hand around the heel and then try to twist. If you can wring the shoe out like a dish towel the shoe lacks torsional stability and is not right for your needs.
  • Place your hand on the front of the shoe and push in an upward direction. If the front of the shoes meets the back of the shoe to form a donut the shoe is considered flexible and is not appropriate for athletes who overpronate or have forefoot pain.
  • Press down on the back of the heel, it should be stiff and not collapse on pressure.

There are different categories of footwear: cushioned/flexible, neutral support and stability/motion control. Ask a Canadian Certified Pedorthist what type is best suited to you and your activity. Injuries result from weight, previous injuries, biomechanics, and type frequency and duration of activity. Having a Pedorthist perform a biomechanical assessment and gait analysis prior to engaging in activity will help reduce your risk of injury as the Pedorthist will provide advice on footwear, stretching, strengthening, and if custom or off-the-shelf custom foot orthoses are required.

By Tasha Fensom, C. Ped (C), Vancouver, BC

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