My last post I mentioned the importance of replacing your shoes regularly to help avoid injury, but new shoes alone is often not enough. For the shoes to help give the most support possible and to truly help reduce the chance of injury they must be worn correctly. If you put a football helmet on that is too big, the cushions in it aren’t fully inflated and it isn’t strapped on correctly it isn’t going to give you much protection. If shoes aren’t correct size, type, and laced up correctly, they’re not going to do you much good either.
When buying new shoes it is important to make sure that you get shoes that fit properly. Too much, or too little space in the shoes can cause problems. And just because you wear a certain size in one brand doesn’t mean that that same size in another brand or even another model of the same brand is going to fit you the same way. It is important to actually size out a shoe when switching brands or models, or for youth athletes, after any growth of the foot. Buying shoes online can be much cheaper, but unless you are buying the same exact shoe you’ve worn before and your shoe size hasn’t changed, can lead to problems (blisters, chaffing, arch problems, Achilles, shin, calf problems, etc). Going to a discount sporting goods store isn’t much better than buying online. Their salespeople usually don’t have proper training to properly fit you for athletic shoes. Your best bet for a good fit is to go to a reputable local store that specializes in the type of shoe/sport that you’re looking for.
Just getting a properly fit shoe is only part of the issue you also need to wear it correctly. Common sense tells you that when stepping on a rock that is loose in the ground you have to be careful or you can get injured. Well, wearing a shoe that isn’t laced up and tied correctly can be basically the same thing. If a shoe isn’t snug to the foot there can be a little instability to it, and just like that loose rock, can slightly increase your risk of injury. The feel that your foot is down and secure may not be actually the case and there may be additional unexpected movement in the foot that the body isn’t ready for.
Another problem arises if there are biomechanical issues in the foot. Part of the support of the shoe comes not just from the sole, and arch support, but also from the sides of the shoe (more so for heel strikers than fore/midfoot runners). If the shoes aren’t laced nice and snug then the sides of the shoes can’t offer any additional support, which can be very important, especially with pronators or people with high arches. You don’t want to tie the shoes too tight and cut off circulation or cause pain, but they do need to be very snug, and the laces, from bottom to top, pulled tight so there is no slack.
So many of the athletes that I see as an athletic trainer that come in to my athletic training room complaining of foot/arch pain, ankle problems, knee pain, hip or low back pain that can’t pin point an actual cause or mechanism of pain or injury and I trace the injury back to their shoes. And it’s not just my athletes, my coaches, family and friends are just as likely for this to happen as my athletes. Do yourself a favor, if you’re going to wear shoes, wear them right.