Let's face it, not being able to walk or workout without foot pain is a huge barrier to health and just enjoying your life!
Supportive, proper-fitting shoes make all the difference! Many aches and pains in different parts of the body start with our foundation - our feet. Selecting supportive athletic shoes for your foot type and workout is crucial. Investing in good quality shoes saves you money, pain and keeps you going! The money spent is well worth it - you are worth it! Just think of the medical co-pays, recovery time, pain, and possible permanent damage you'll be avoiding! Here's some tips on selecting shoes for your workouts.
How you roll...You can check the wear pattern on the soles of your current well worn shoes to help determine your shoe needs and bio-mechanics. A wear pattern primarily on the inside edge of the shoes indicates pronation - inward rolling of the foot during normal motion. A wear pattern on the outside of the shoe indicates supination - outward rolling of the foot during motion. This rolling puts a lot of pressure on the feet and ankles. Choose shoes that help counter-balance these tendencies to avoid pain and other issues.
Cushioning, Stability & Arch Support: Well-cushioned shoes provide as much as 50% more cushioning than traditional shoes for greater absorption. Stability shoes can help with pronation and supination. Arch support is important as well and how much you need is determined by your foot type and tendencies. You don't necessarily need expensive, custom orthodic inserts if you get the right shoes.
Consider what athletic activity you will use the shoe for. Runners are generally always in forward motion and need their foot strike to be stabilized and the impact of the landing blow cushioned. In Zumba, cardio dance, aerobics, etc., stability and cushioning (enough to absorb impact, not so much the shoe is unstable) are likewise important, but because there is more lateral (side to side motion), athletes doing these activities need to be sure the shoe doesn't flare out too much; posing a tripping hazard with the side to side motion where the flare could catch and trip you. If you wear your fitness shoes for multiple athletic activities, you will probably need a cross trainer or a shoe that isn't necessarily labeled as that, but you can see it works for multiple needs.
Start by going to a shoe store with trained staff to help you figure out the right shoes for you. Ask your doctor for recommendations as well. There are stores such as the Running Center in Temecula, CA that can take slow motion video of how you walk and run for free to determine whether a shoe is helping or hurting you. The Running Center has done a good job of this for me and several of my students. They have a large assortment of athletic shoes and will help you find a shoe and brand that is right for you. They have a nice referral program. You can receive a 10% discount with referral if you tell them I sent you or another person with an account with them.
Brands: Generally, after doing the process above, you will find a brand that tends to work for you. Be aware, however, that even within brands (i.e., Nike, Asics, New Balance) shoe quality varies greatly. Just picking a brand name and from then on buying it, doesn't guarantee the shoe quality from model to model is the same. Your feet may also change over time. You need to go through the evaluation process every so often to make sure the brand is still generally right for you. My frugal tip: brand names keep changing colors year to year to get you to think it's an all new shoe. You can save often by buying last year's colors if there hasn't been any major structural change to the shoe.
Replacement Timing: You should replace your athletic shoes every 6 months to once a year, depending on how you wear them. If you wear them all the time, they will probably last 6 months. Do you wear them only for workout? They may last up to 1 year.
Think of your feet's relative size to the entire body they support and stabilize. Be in awe of the amazing and challenging job your feet do daily. Love your feet - they are your foundation!