It is important to have appropriate footwear for the activity that is being carried out.
As the analogy goes, “you wouldn’t play football in high heels” for the same reason as you wouldn’t go hiking barefoot. Damage to your feet, because the chosen footwear does not accurately protect the foot. Athletic footwear has gone through an evolution with its design, functionality and material, therefore it is now more socially acceptable than ever to wear athletic footwear for daily use!
Footwear activity – Walking:
Walking shoes are similar to running shoes in that they provide:
- stability during gait
- rear-foot control during heel-strike
- shock absorption
However, shock attenuation is not as critical in a walking shoe compared to the running shoe since the activity doesn’t generate as much for as it would in running. A good walking shoe provides the wearer stability during gait. Components to focus on would be:
- a firm heel counter and a wide toe box
Brands that offer good walking shoes are Nike, Reebok and HOKA. Brands that offer a good walking shoe for a wider foot is Brooks Glycerin 20.
Footwear activity – Running:
Running shoes must provide hindfoot stability and shock absorption. Since rearfoot pronation during running is increased, manufacturers have implemented multiple techniques to increase rear-foot stability such as extending the heel counter, adding a plastic stabiliser between the midsole + outsole, reinforcing the counter with additional material (called foxing), or extending material from the midsole into the Quarter superiorly.
High-density materials would be used in the midsole to absorb the high-velocity impact of running. Shock absorption is a key element of a running shoe, as the forces generated can be 2-3 times the runner’s body weight. Materials that absorb shock particularly well in a running shoe are called EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) or polyurethane this is key to look out for in a running shoe, e.g, KangaROOS have interlocking coil fabric encapsulated in polyurethane surrounded by EVA.
Running shoes are divided into a trail, road and track. It is crucial that the right type of footwear is chosen for each running activity. A trail shoe needs to have:
- cushioning support
- an outsole that is durable for softer surfaces
- protection against sharp surfaces.
The shoe that provides all these components for a wider fitting foot is the Asics Gel Venture – 8.
For track runners, the ideal design and function to look out for are:
- metal studs under either the forefoot or whole sole
- a minimalist design
- aids in grip during propulsion at toe-off
Brands that offer track shoes are Bont and they also do a wider fitting foot with the Bont Vaypor T Wide
For running on the road or harder surfaces, the qualities in a shoe you’d be looking for are:
- leather upper
- EVA midsole
- rigid heel to stabilise the heel during heel-strike
- traction and grip with a rubber/blown-out rubber outsole.
Brands that offer road running shoes are HOKA and Brooks, however, for a wider fitting foot, the recommended shoe is: HOKA Bondi 8.
Footwear activity – Aerobics: ‘Tennis Shoe’
For Aerobic activities such as racquet sports, the shoe design must provide stability, even shock distribution, and must allow for extra grip at the forefoot due to the rapid diagonal movements. The shoe should ideally allow for some flexibility at the big toe joint to allow for a wider range of movement since aerobic sporting activities such as any racquet sports involve a lot of jumping. A rigid shoe would cause quite some damage to the big toe joint if the movement was not allowed and even cause damage to the surrounding structures. Brands that execute the manufacturing of a good tennis shoe would be K-Swiss and they even accommodate a wider fitting foot with their: K-Swiss Hypercourt Express 2.
McPoil Jr, Thomas G. 1988. “Footwear.” In Physical Therapy, 1857-1865. Vol. 68. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/68.12.1857.