Do You Really Need Special Shoes for Every Sport and Activity?

by | May 28, 2019

Whenever you plan to get active this summer, you should also plan on having the right kind of sports shoes for the activities you wish to participate in.

How far does this go, however? Make a stop at any standard sporting goods store and you will find shoes made for a wide world of sports: walking, running, football, basketball, golf, and more. Are they all that necessary? Do you really need to invest in tennis shoes if your games are geared more toward pickleball, for example?

While it is true you will likely not find a pair of “pickleball shoes” at Superior Sports or Dunham’s, it is still very important that the shoes you wear while active are accommodating the needs of your feet and ankles well—and this will change depending on what you are doing.

The Right Shoes for the Right Moves

Sports shoes are about more than providing a protective cover for the feet. They should also provide support for the ways the feet and ankles will move and be adaptable to the terrain you are playing on.

For one example, let’s take a closer look into the footwear needs of two sports: running and tennis.

Running mainly consists of long-term, sustained, repetitive motion—most of it in a forward direction. In general, a good running shoe will be light and have a flexible outsole. This helps keep the foot moving without too much restriction while still being able to absorb the impacts of the feet against the ground.

Tennis, on the other hand, features many more starts, stops, and quick dashes than running. Much more side-to-side movement is also involved. To accommodate these conditions, tennis shoes tend to be built sturdier than running shoes and provide more support for lateral movement.

Differences in footwear do not simply exist from sport to sport. They can also exist within each sport, depending on your position and playing surface. If you run on trails instead of pavement, your running shoes should have a thicker, more durable outsole to provide better traction and protection on more rugged terrain. Tennis shoe composition can also vary depending on the court surface, but position is also important. A tennis shoe designed for baseline players will have even more lateral support, while a shoe for those who like to charge the net may have more forefoot support.

What else might you have to consider for other sports and activities?

  • Basketball shoes are designed to be more supportive of quick stops and pivots, and often provide additional support for the ankle. The amounts of support and durability can differ depending on whether a player emphasizes speed and agility (low-tops) or power and aggression (high-tops).
  • Baseball cleats tend to be designed for durability, and breathability, making them lasting and comfortable. They also tend to be more water resistant than other shoes, as playing in rain and mud can be more frequent. The spikes of a cleat are also very important, as different compositions will have different amounts of traction depending on the environment.
  • For gym-goers who like variety, cross-trainers are built for those who like to mix things up without going to extremes. Cross-trainers tend to provide an overall decent level of support and cushioning throughout, making them useful for a variety of different movements. They also tend to hold up relatively well on hard floors, courts, and asphalt.

What Works for Your Feet Themselves?

We have so far discussed the demands of the sport itself, but a shoe must also accommodate the structure and tendencies of your feet when they move.

If you have an abnormality in foot shape such as high arches or flat feet, it can have a significant effect on how weight and forces are distributed over your feet. This can create areas of greater stress that can increase your odds of suffering a sports injury. An abnormal foot shape can also affect the way your foot moves while walking or running (such as rolling inward too far), which can have the same effects and risks.

A shoe that is built for both your activities of choice and your foot shape will be ideal. Ultimately, fit and comfort will always be essential no matter what shoes you try. Do not go with a shoe that does not feel right on your foot even if it might have all the features you need.

How Do We Figure It All Out?

There can be a lot of factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right kind of sports shoes for your needs. Fortunately, you are rarely left on your own when it comes to sorting it all out.

Sporting goods stores are staffed with trained associates who can listen to your needs and find the right types of shoes for you. They are often also aware of gait abnormalities and can test the way you walk to determine which shoes will best accommodate your foot structure. If you don’t feel the associate you have is knowledgeable, ask for one who is.

In some situations, however, you may still need additional support for gait and foot structure issues. Custom orthotics may be a significant help, and custom orthotic inserts can often be swapped effectively between different styles of shoes.

If you have questions about the optimal footwear for your outings and activities, or are experiencing pain or other issues that need attention, Northwood Foot and Ankle Center can help. Please call us today to schedule an appointment!

  • Holland – (616) 393-8886

If you prefer to reach us electronically, please feel free to fill out our online contact form.

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