Friday, August 6, 2010

Choosing the right Walking Shoes

If you're a fitness freak and walk to keep your fitness going, then having the correct walking shoes should be a priority for you. So here's a quick check on what you should be looking for...

A good pair of walking shoes should have good shock absorption and should be stiffer and more supportive than running shoes, despite having a flexible forefoot. The midsoles are thinner than those of running shoes to accommodate the slower foot roll when you walk. They feature beveled, or slightly angled, heels to allow for a smooth heel-to-toe roll.

Knowing your foot type and having a basic understanding of shoe terminology should help you pick the shoe that's best for you. Even before you put the shoe on, you should be able to do a quick inspection and have an idea as to whether it's a good choice or not. Of course, you should always try on any shoe you buy for fit and comfort.

Taking note of injury patterns
- Pay attention to your usual points of injury — even if your walking routine didn't cause them. If you are prone to joint pain in your ankles, knees, hips, or lower back, look for a well-cushioned shoe that allows your foot to move naturally. Definitely make an effort to walk in walking shoes as opposed to dress shoes or running shoes.
- Your feet support your entire body weight. If you do something to throw your feet off-kilter, you very often cause problems elsewhere in your body.
- For those prone to corns, bunions, and blisters, look for shoes with a wide, roomy toe box. New Balance is one of the few athletic shoe companies that sell various widths from AAA to EEE. Many stores don't carry the full line of New Balance sizes, but many mail order catalogs do.

Keeping mileage, speed, and walking surface in mind
- Walkers who average more than 30 miles a week and/or who walk for speed should look for high-performance walking shoes. Most major brand walking shoes are high performance shoes. These brands include Nike, Reebok, Saucony, New Balance, Asics, and Adidas.
- If you do most of your walking on trails or rocky, sloped, uneven terrain, a hiking shoe or boot is a must for traction and foot protection. Nike and some other major shoe companies make excellent hiking shoes and boots; other companies, such as HighTec, Lowa, and Salomon, concentrate their footwear efforts solely on hiking boots. Companies like Rockport and Timberland also make "rugged walkers" that are specifically designed for trails and high mileage.

Shopping for shoes
The typical athletic shoe store has at least 8 to 30 styles of walking shoes to choose from. Give yourself at least an hour the first time you shop for walking shoes to make the perfect selection. Follow these suggestions and you can't go wrong:
- Shop at a specialty store, rather than a department store. Having a knowledgeable salesperson to guide you can mean the difference between a great purchase and getting stuck with unwearable clodhoppers.
- Write down all the information you know about your feet and your walking program. If you have an old pair of walking shoes, bring them with you so you can show the salesperson your wear pattern. Take along the socks you usually wear so that you can size your new shoes the way you'll actually be wearing them.
- Examine each pair of shoes before you try them on. Turn them over. Does the shape match your foot type? Does it have a good strong heel counter? Slip out the insert to discover what type of last the shoe is built on. Bend the shoes back and forth a few times. Are they flexible in the forefoot?
- Put on both shoes and lace them up completely. Walk around the store for a few minutes to get the feel of the shoe. Whenever possible, try them on a hard-surfaced floor. Your primary concern should be comfort. Do not buy a shoe with the plan of "breaking them in." Doing so is begging for the agony of the feet.
- Be prepared to test several different shoe models. Even if you like the first shoe you lace up, try at least two other models for comparison purposes. Don't be swayed by what your personal trainer or your hairdresser wears. Each person has unique needs.
- Always shop later in the day. Your feet swell during the course of the day, so shoes that fit in the morning may be too snug for afternoon workouts. Have the salesperson measure both of your feet each time you shop so that you can note any size changes. A shoe that fits well has about a thumbnail's space between your longest toe and the end of the toe box.
- If you absolutely love a shoe after three workouts, go back and buy a couple pairs of the same shoe. Shoe companies have an annoying habit of phasing out and "upgrading" shoe models on a regular basis. If your shoe is discontinued, that's it. You have to start the whole selection process all over again.

Happy walking!


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