fitness

Looking to buy new exercise shoes? Here's what you need to consider first.

Like so many others, I'm walking (and trying to run) more than ever before.

My morning walk is the highlight of my day and checking my step count has become second nature. But while I've got the new workout gear (an obvious lockdown purchase), I don't own the right pair of shoes. 

Side note... these characters would own the pandemic. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

As I recently learned, different types of exercise require different pairs of shoes. 

So, to figure out which would be best for walking, running or weight training, I spoke to podiatrist Sarah Sweeney, of Sarah Sweeney Podiatry in Queensland, to understand what I need to know before investing in a new pair of sneakers.

When shopping for new exercise shoes, what are the first things you need to consider?

As Sarah explained, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before buying a new pair of kicks.

First, you need to think about what type of exercise you're doing - whether that's walking, running, or training in a gym. Then look at some podiatrist-approved brands.

"I would only ever exercise in a good quality shoe, specifically made for my type of exercise. The brands I generally stick to are New Balance, Brookes, Asics, Mizuno and potentially Hokka," she said.

Sarah also has a list of things you should look out for when trying shoes on:

  • A nice firm heel counter.
  • Laces.
  • You want lots of cushioning.
  • A good tread.
  • Check that you can’t twist the shoe at the midfoot.
  • Check that the forefoot doesn’t bend backwards more than 45 degrees.
  • Check that the shoe bends back at the forefoot, not the midfoot.

Why is it important to have different exercise shoes for different types of workouts?

"Different types of workouts place different demands on your feet and lower limbs," Sarah explained. 

"For example, when walking, your feet generally go from heel to toe, your feet absorb about one to two times your body weight and your weight is more evenly distributed than when you run. 

"Running, however, we see a lot more excess movement with your feet," she said. 

"Your muscles and tendons are working harder to stabilise you, your feet absorb about two to three times your body weight and there are moments where both feet are not on the ground. [So] there’s a lot more impact.

"Some sports like netball for example, really require a specific shoe for that outer lateral support in order to prevent sprains," Sarah added.

What features make training shoes different from running or walking shoes?

If you've been walking or running in training shoes (like me, oops), perhaps think again, as they aren't designed for long distances.

"Training shoes usually have extra ankle support and they accommodate forward and lateral movement for that high agility sort of training," Sarah explained. 

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"You can only run in these sorts of shoes for a short time, under about five kilometres, as they’re designed with features knowing that the wearer will be doing a range of activities from lifting weights, to using a treadmill and aerobics."

"Whereas a running or walking shoe is designed in mind to accommodate for the biomechanics and needs of a runner and a walker," she said.

"A running shoe will have more cushioning and protection at the heel, [and] more mesh due to the extra heat produced when running. While a walking shoe may have more arch support and more flexibility at the forefoot to allow for that heel to toe motion."

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What exercise shoes does a podiatrist recommend?

Once you know what type of exercise shoe you're looking for and the specific features you want them to include, Sarah suggests heading to a store that specialises in exercise shoes to try a variety of pairs from different brands.

"Because every foot structure and every gait is so different, I never recommend an exact shoe unless I have assessed that person. And even after I have assessed them and I may believe a certain shoe is best, they really need to try it for themselves to make sure it is super comfortable," she said.

If you're serious about finding the right shoe for your specific foot type, Sarah insists on seeing a podiatrist. 

"We can perform a thorough Biomechanical assessment and assess you walking and running, perform pressure plate analysis to see exactly where the pressure in your feet is, assess your foot structure, muscles, joints, limb length and obtain a thorough history about any pain, any complications and your medical history in order to give a tailored and specific footwear prescription," she said.

Read more: I've run 5 times a week for 10 years. Here are my super simple tips to make it easier.

Feature image: Getty.

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