If you're a woman in the market for a good pair of athletic shoes, finding the proper shoe is essential to your comfort and ergonomics. Many lower-extremity injuries from physical activity are caused by inappropriate shoes. Determining the best walking shoe, cross-trainer or running shoe for you is based on your foot type and needs. Each type of shoe has different support, cushioning and function.
To determine your arch pattern, use a paper bag for each foot. Fill a shallow container with a thin layer of water, step into the water and then onto the paper bag. The footprints left on the paper bags can give you insight into your arch type. The more of your footprint transferred, the lower your arch.
Determining your wear pattern will help to minimize lower extremity pain and excessive wear. Wear pattern can be evaluated by bringing a pair of your most worn athletic shoes to a qualified shoe representative at your local sports equipment store. Excessive wear on the inside or outside section of the shoe heels may indicate the need for a shoe that controls the type of ankle motion that can cause negative impact on your lower extremities.
Less impact is caused to your feet with walking than running. As a result, walking shoes offer much less cushioning in the heel than running shoes. Walking shoes provide the most cushioning and flexibility under the ball of the foot. There should be only a slight variation between sole, heel and toe heights, guaranteeing an even heel-to-toe gait pattern. Popular walking shoe brands provide excellent heel and arch support, as well as premium shock absorption for walkers.
Cross-training shoes are the most versatile athletic shoes and are used for activities such as weight lifting, kickboxing or aerobics. Cross-training shoes are constructed on a broader, more durable outsole. They have a flexible forefront and added lateral support to help movement, with cushioning added in specific areas to absorb shock. Cross-training shoes have a supportive heel and nonmarking sole, but are not meant for running.
Running shoes emphasize low weight and breathability, and are designed for forward motion. They have thicker heels and midsoles and a flexible toe area. Cushioning is thicker overall to allow for impact shock absorption. Running shoes come in various support types based on ankle motion and arch types. Popular running shoe brands offer models for all foot types and often have cushioning, stability or motion control technology.
Try Them Out
Never purchase athletic shoes without trying them out extensively, just as you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first. Athletic shoe purchases are an investment and should be treated as such. Fit should be the key factor when determining your footwear. The shoe should be snug all over but not tight anywhere, with room to wiggle your toes. A well-fitting shoe will keep you from getting shin splints or cramped toes.
Christina Bhattacharya has been involved in the health and fitness field since 1999. Bhattacharya holds an A.S. in physical therapy from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Arts in technical communications from University of Maryland University College and a Master of Science in health management from Lindenwood University. She also holds personal trainer, senior strength training and Pilates certifications.