Foot And Ankle Associates

Specific Shoes for Specific Jobs: Don't Forget Your Feet!

by Jason Rockwood, DPM


Dr. Jason Rockwood DPM of Foot and Ankle Associates

Athletic Shoes

General Athletic Shoes

Athletic footwear should be fitted to hold the foot in the position that's most natural to the movement involved. Athletic shoes protect your feet from stresses encountered in a given sport and to give the player more traction. The differences in design and variations in material, weight, lacing characteristics and other factors among athletic shoes are meant to protect the areas of the feet that encounter the most stress.

Well-fitted athletic shoes need to be comfortable, yet well-constructed and appropriate for a given activity. A good fit will mitigate blisters and other skin irritations.

Sports-specific athletic shoes are a good investment for serious athletes, though perhaps a less critical consideration for non-athletes. Don't wear any sport or other shoes beyond their useful life.

A running shoe is built to take impact, while a tennis shoe is made to give relatively more support, and permit sudden stops and turns. For sports, "cross trainers" are fine for a general athletic shoe, such as for physical education classes. Cross-trainers, ideal for stair machines and weight-lifting, provide more lateral support and less flexibility than running shoes and may be heavier. You don't need light, flexible shoes for cross-training. But if a child is involved more heavily in any single sport, he or she should have a shoe specifically designed for that sport.

Our practice recommends sturdy, properly fitted athletic shoes of proper width, with leather or canvas uppers, soles that are flexible (but only at the ball of the foot), cushioning, arch supports, and room for your toes. Try a well-cushioned sock for reinforcement, preferably one with an acrylic fiber content so that some perspiration moisture is "wicked" away.

Soccer shoes should offer a reinforced toe, wide toebox, soft leather, field-appropriate cleats, well-padded soles and a support system that can help prevent ankle sprains and knee injuries.

Tennis shoes should provide good arch support, a reinforced toe, a roomy toe-box and a comfortable collar in the back of the shoe. If the collar is too high, it rubs against the Achilles' tendon, a problem frequently experienced by tennis players.

Basketball shoes should provide support for lateral movement and extra stability to guard against ankle sprains.

Aerobic Shoes

Proper shoes are crucial to successful, injury-free aerobics. Shoes should provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption to compensate for pressure on the foot many times greater than found in walking. They must also have good medial-lateral stability. Impact forces from aerobics can reach up to six times the force of gravity, which is transmitted to each of the 26 bones in the foot.

Because of the many side-to-side motions, aerobic shoes need an arch design that will compensate for these forces, and sufficiently thick upper leather or strap support to provide forefoot stability and prevent slippage of the foot and lateral shoe "breakup." Make sure shoes have a toe box that is high enough to prevent irritation of your toes and nails.

Many agree that the old sneakers in your closet are probably not the proper shoes for aerobics. Major shoe companies today have designed special shoes for aerobics, which provide the necessary arch and side support; they also have soles that allow for the twisting and turning of an aerobics regimen.

Running shoes, perhaps the most popular of all athletic shoes, lack the necessary lateral stability and lift the heel too high to be considered proper for aerobics. They also often have an acute outside flare that may put the athlete at greater risk of injury in sports, like aerobics, that require side-by-side motion.

Buy your aerobics shoes in the afternoon, when your feet swell slightly. Wear the same socks (podiatrists recommend athletic socks made of an acrylic blend) that you will wear in training.

Baseball Shoes

For children under 10, sneakers are normally suitable for baseball. While cleats are generally not dangerous, children should break them in before bringing them to a game. While cleats may enhance play, they can expose your ankle to twists and turns. Children with pre-existing foot conditions should see a podiatric physician before putting on cleats.

Avoid hand-me-downs or bad-fitting cleats because they may increase the danger of ankle injuries. When sizing cleats, make sure the feet are measured properly, and always wear a game-size sock when trying them on.

In some competitive baseball leagues, the use of metal spikes is permitted. Spikes can be dangerous weapons on the base paths and require a certain level of maturity to be worn safely. They are not necessary for casual play, and should not be worn unless in league competition.

Spikes, which technology has made lighter and more flexible these days, perform the same function as cleats, but grab the ground differently. They too should be worn on a limited basis until the feel of how they engage the turf is understood. Unfamiliarity with spikes can lead to ankle twists and turns in a competitive situation.

When wearing cleats or spikes for the first time, watch for irritation, blisters, or redness, which could indicate a problem in the legs or feet. Pain is a clear indicator of a problem. If cleats cause pain, discontinue wear for two to three days; if it returns, contact our office for an evaluation.

Basketball Shoes

Proper basketball shoes have lots of ankle support and shock absorption. Some high-topped shoes offer more ankle support than others. Shoes should fit well and be replaced before the soles become smooth, or before the uppers begin to tear or come apart. A typical basketball shoe should be replaced every two to three months for five days a week worth of play. Acrylic socks should be worn to avoid blistering.

Basketball shoes should provide support for lateral movement and extra stability to guard against ankle sprains.

Cycling Shoes

Cycling enthusiasts will admit that shoes are the most important piece of cycling equipment next to their two-wheeled ride. Cycling shoes must have a stable shank to efficiently transfer power from your feet to the pedals.

Good shank support will prevent the foot from collapsing through the arch while pedaling. This could cause arch pain, tendon problems, or burning under the bottom of the foot. A rigid shank protects your feet from the stress of pedaling.

If you have a pre-existing problems with your feet or wear shoe inserts, invest in a cycling-specific shoe. Most special shoes prescribed a doctor control the arch and heel, and for cycling, usually require critical forefoot balancing. Riders with mild bunions or hammertoes should select a wider, deeper shoe that will accommodate the deformity.

Cycling shoes are usually categorized by racing and mountain biking. If you are not an avid cyclist and have no known foot problems, cross-training shoes will usually provide the necessary support across the arch and instep. They also provide the heel lift that cycling shoes give. Combination cycling-hiking shoes meet the needs of the casual rider well, and have recently become popular.

More serious cyclists invest in toe clips, which range from traditional to the newer shoe-cleats called "clipless systems," which resemble ski bindings.

Proper shoes and clips or cleats working as a unit are important to achieve maximum efficiency in transferring power generated by the hips to the foot. For most efficient pedaling, shoes should extend fully under the ball of the foot.

Golf Shoes

Wearing proper golf shoes is very important to your foot health. The "old fashioned" golf shoes were wing-tip oxfords with spikes. Golf shoes today are designed more like athletic footwear. Some even incorporate such innovations as graphite shank reinforcements, which keep them light and add strength.

Choose golf shoes as if you were choosing shoes for taking a good long walk. Ensure that your golf shoes fit well in the store before purchasing them.

If you already wear special inserts in your street shoes, transfer them to your golf shoes. Some special shoe inserts are designed specifically for golf shoes and will be different than those designed for street shoes.

If a round of golf leads to painful feet, check the quality of your shoes. Persistent pain even after choosing proper golf shoes means you should visit our office.

Jogging/Running Shoes

Running and jogging exert brute force on your feet, legs, hips and spine. Proper shoe selection is very vital to protecting these from injury or long-term problems.

Some general tips:

  • Fit the shoe to your longest toe, which is often your second toe.

  • Shoes should be comfortable when you first try them on. Don't buy shoes and plan to "break them in" by wearing them.

  • Take the same socks you'll use for jogging. They should fit well, be made without seams, which could cause irritation to the foot. If you use extra-thick socks while running, select shoes with enough room. Socks should be made mostly out of synthetic materials which "wick" moisture away from the foot. This reduces the chance of developing blisters

  • The shoe should grip your heel firmly.

  • While the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to wiggle all your toes.

  • You should have at least 1/4 inch of space beyond your longest toe.

Weight, foot structure, and running regimen are all deciding factors. Be mindful that all shoes have a different shape, and sizes and widths are not uniform from shoe to shoe.

Consider whether a special insert will be placed in your shoe, and whether your running style is flat-footed or on the balls of the feet.

Shoes should provide cushioning for shock absorption, and ought to be able to fully bend at the ball of the foot area.

Soccer Shoes

Soccer shoes should offer a reinforced toe, wide toebox, soft leather, field-appropriate cleats, well-padded soles and a support system that can help prevent ankle sprains and knee injuries.

Tennis Shoes

Experts advise that if you plan to play tennis, buy shoes designed specially for the sport. Running shoes, for example, are not designed to allow for the side-to side sliding common in tennis. Running shoes have too much traction and may cause injury to the foot and ankle. In addition, running shoes don't have padded toe boxes, which leads to toe injuries for tennis players.

Tennis shoes should provide good arch support, a reinforced toe, a roomy toe-box and a comfortable collar in the back of the shoe. If the collar is too high, it rubs against the Achilles' tendon, a problem frequently experienced by tennis players.

Heels in tennis shoes should be snug-fitting to prevent slipping from side to side, and both heel and toe areas should have adequate cushioning. The arch should provide both soft support, and the toe box should have adequate depth to prevent toenail injuries. Our practice can recommend a shoe that is best for your foot.

When shopping for tennis shoes, try on several pairs with tennis socks. Put on and lace both shoes and walk around for a minute or two. Make sure your ankles don't roll in the shoes.

For more information on the proper shoe for your sport, see a podiatrist. If you are in Northern New Mexico, please call (505) 982-0123 or visit us at to schedule an appointment.

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