5 signs you're wearing the wrong athletic shoesProfessional and amateur athletes spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each year on shoes. Often shoe purchases are made based on promises from shoe companies that athletes will be able to run faster, jump higher, and have less foot pain because of extra cushioning, more revolutionary materials, or special qualities.

While some of these claims may be accurate they can't possibly be right for all of us. We each have a different foot type, different needs when it comes to our level and type of exercise, and different foot problems that require a range of solutions.

With injuries of the foot and ankle rampant among athletes it's important to buy a shoe that's ideal for the foot, level, and type of activity.

Here are 5 signs you're wearing the wrong athletic shoes.

1. Toenail loss or bruising

While toenail bruising and loss are common among athletes, wearing shoes that are too short will certainly accelerate the process. If you've lost a toenail or notice that your toenails have become black or purple it's time to get your feet measured. Learn more about runner's toe and toenail loss prevention.

2. Blisters

Blisters form when a shoe rubs continuously over a part of the foot. This occurs when shoes are either too tight or too loose. It's important to check the length and the width of the shoe to be sure it's the right size for you. Learn about other ways to prevent blisters.

3. Plantar fasciitis

Because athletes often apply tremendous force to their feet during sports activities, they are at greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, a related condition. Many factors combine to cause these foot problems, including unsupportive or inappropriate shoes. Athletic shoes are created to support the foot for specific sports. It's important to wear shoes designed for that activity only.

4. Stress fractures

Stress fractures are tiny, hairline cracks in the bone caused by repetitive force. These can occur in the foot and are common in athletes. If left untreated stress fractures can result in a complete break. Runners and athletes who play basketball, tennis, or are involved in gymnastics are most at risk, but any sport where your feet take a pounding can cause this condition.

Athletes who have flat feet and other faulty foot mechanics should wear shoes appropriate to their sport and should talk to their podiatrist about getting custom orthotics.

Low weight women athletes including those with an eating disorder and male and female athletes with osteoporosis are at particularly high risk for stress fractures.

5. Shoes That Are Worn Out/Have Uneven Wear

Athletic shoes should be purchased every 500 miles or when shoes wear unevenly on the bottom. Worn out shoes can't provide the proper support required for athletic endeavors resulting in greater likelihood of an injury. Uneven wear on shoes can result in trips, falls and turned ankles.

Many factors go into ensuring if an athletic shoe is right for you. In addition to replacing your shoes at the right time, follow these guidelines to help you make that determination.

  • Only wear shoes made for your particular athletic pursuit.

  • Neutral, flat, and high arched foot typesKnow your foot type. For some sports such as running, certain shoe types will work better than others to prevent foot problems. To determine your foot type, wet the sole of your foot. Step onto a blank piece of paper or a shopping bag. Step off the paper or shopping bag to examine the shape of your footprint and compare it to the photo on the right.

  • Know your motion mechanics. (e.g. over pronation, flat feet)

  • Your level of running experience including number of miles/week can also affect the best type of shoe for you.

  • Test your shoes before purchasing them. Although new athletic shoes should be supportive, it's always a good idea to test the shoes yourself as demonstrated in this video.

Learn how to buy the best running shoes for your feet

Before you go shopping for a new pair of running shoes, visit our blog, "How to Buy the Best Running Shoes for Your Feet".

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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