The right shoes may help you stick to your exercise plan

Tendons and ligaments gradually lose strength and their ability to ‘spring back’; this can increase foot length slightly and require an increase in shoe size.

Janet Cranston Fit for Life
Janet Cranston
Fit for Life

Whatever exercise you choose, if it involves being on your feet a properly fitted sports shoe is essential. Investing in a quality shoe can help you prevent foot and ankle damage, and make physical activity a more pleasant and comfortable experience.

Many people notice that, as the years go by, their shoe size or foot shape changes. It’s not uncommon for someone to experience an increase in shoe size by a half-size or more as they age. This happens because of the changes that occur in the body’s ligaments and tendons through the aging process. Tendons and ligaments gradually lose strength and their ability to “spring back”; this can amount to a decrease in arch height of the feet, increasing foot length slightly and requiring an increase in shoe size. Age-related tendon and ligament changes may also increase the risk of injury such as tendonitis, tendon tears or muscle strains.

A properly fitted shoe will help to prevent foot and ankle damage.
A properly fitted shoe will help to prevent foot and ankle damage.

Here are 10 tips from the Harvard Medical School to remember when buying shoes;

  1. Take a tracing of your foot with you. Place any shoe you think you might buy on top of the tracing. If the shoe is narrower or shorter than the tracing, don’t even try it on.
  2. Shop for shoes during the afternoon. Your foot naturally expands with use during the day.
  3. Wear the same type of socks to the store as you intend to wear with the shoes.
  4. Have a salesperson measure both your feet — and get measured every time you buy new shoes. Feet change with age, often growing larger and wider. If one foot is larger than the other, buy a size that fits the larger foot.
  5. Stand in the shoes. Press gently on the top of the shoe to make sure you have about a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This provides enough room for your foot to press forward as you walk. Wiggle your toes to make sure there’s enough room.
  6. Walk around in the shoes to determine how they feel. Is there enough room at the balls of the feet? Do the heels fit snugly, or do they pinch or slip off? Don’t rationalize that the shoes just need to be “broken in”. Find shoes that fit from the start.
  7. Trust your own comfort level rather than a shoe’s size or description. Sizes vary between manufacturers. And no matter how comfortable an advertisement claims those shoes are, you’re the real judge.
  8. Pay attention to width as well as length. If the ball of your foot feels compressed in a particular shoe, ask if it comes in a wider size. Buying shoes that are a half-size bigger — but not any wider — won’t necessarily solve the problem.
  9. Feel the inside of the shoes to see if they have any tags, seams, or other material that might irritate your foot.
  10. Examine the soles. Are they sturdy enough to provide protection from sharp objects? Do they provide any cushioning? Take note of how they feel as you walk around the shoe store. Try to walk on hard surfaces as well as carpet to see how the shoe feels on both.

Janet Cranston is director of health and fitness at Winnipeg’s Reh-Fit Centre

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