Kick Off The Season With The Right Shoe

It's that time of year again when many people dig out their fitness gear and get back into the exercise game after a winter's worth of screen time and baked goodies.

Some people, teetering on the edge of spring fitness fever, are ready. But for those who haven't exercised in awhile, getting the right shoes is one of the most important steps in bouncing back to the routine.

There are so many sport shoes on the market that it can be hard to choose. Some people like to select a shoe based on fashion sense.

But Springfield podiatrist Dr. John Sigle says you should get the right shoe for the sport or activity - no matter what.

"It can make activities more enjoyable," Sigle says.

More importantly, the right shoe can keep you from getting hurt.

Pros and cons
Most athletic shoes are built for a specific purpose.

*Running shoes: If you want to run, get a running shoe, Sigle says. Don't rely on a walking shoe, which won't offer the support you need.

"A running shoe has a thicker sole, and it's more rigid to preserve the joints in your foot. It's important to have to prevent injuries, even if you are doing it a couple of times a week," Sigle said.

On the other hand, Sigle does recommend running shoes for people who would rather take a brisk walk for exercise.

Running shoes are a good choice if you want footwear that's comfortable, lightweight, breathable and provides traction. Plus, running shoes are marketed for comfort and style to look great with a pair of jeans - whether you're walking at the mall, touring Mayan ruins or taking the kids to Disney World.

You do not want running shoes if you're into aerobics, however, because they do not offer support for side-to-side movement.

*Cross-trainers: If you want versatility, cross-trainers offer the most options. They can be used for aerobics, and Matt Lamsargis, co-owner of the Springfield Running Center, says he often sees people wear them for other activities.

"Cross trainers are used by people to lift weights, or occasionally for the basketball court," he says. "But if you're going to do a specific sport a lot, get a specific shoe designed for that activity."

Sigle said cross-trainers stabilize the foot for side-to-side movement and offer a wider sole.

*Basketball: While cross-trainers may be OK for the occasional basketball game, frequent basketball players should opt for a basketball shoe. Basketball includes frequent quick starts and stops and long runs up and down the court. Basketball shoes offer flexibility and stability, and they can absorb pressure on players' feet, ankles and lower legs.

*Court shoes: A shoe made for tennis - another game with frequent changes of direction - is made for side-to-side motion and foot stability.

*Soccer: Like court shoes, soccer shoes provide lateral support but allow for more foot dexterity - a key consideration for a game in which you can't use your hands to handle the ball.

*Cycling: A cycling shoe has a firmer outsole to give the rider more power when pedaling. It can also help reduce foot fatigue.

*Cleats: Sports such as football, baseball, soccer or golf often require shoes with cleats, spikes or studs to gain traction on the field.

However, cleats are not interchangeable - you wouldn't wear baseball spikes on the golf course, or golf cleats to play football. The type of cleats differ in cleat materials (metal or plastic), range of foot support and shape of the cleats.

Buying sport shoes

*Do not wear hand-me-down shoes. Buy new shoes that are made for your sport and your foot.

*Shop for shoes later in the day - feet tend to swell throughout the day.

*Have your feet measured while you are standing.

*Try on shoes with the socks you'll wear for your sport.

*If you wear orthotics, use them when trying on shoes.

*Try on both shoes and walk (or jog) around the store.

*Buy shoes sized to fit your larger foot.

*Sport shoes should be comfortable immediately. They should not need a breaking-in period.

*Look for shoes awarded with the Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Caring for sport shoes
*Keep shoes clean and dry.

*Allow shoes to breathe. Instead of using the same pair each day, buy two pairs and rotate use.

*Replace shoes every six months or every 500 miles