The Benefits Of The Correct Footwear
Wearing the correct type of sports shoe is very important to maximising your sporting performance, improving comfort, prolonging the lifespan of your footwear and perhaps most importantly reducing the risk of injury. It is important to recognise that there is no such thing as a perfect pair of sports shoes, as different types of sports activities and movements will require different properties from your footwear; also when you consider everybody has very different feet there is so much to take into account! A single pair of trainers will not suit all sporting situations.
At Alexandra Sports we stock a range of the highest quality footwear that has been designed specifically for certain sports and in some cases for certain biomechanics.
Choosing the Correct Footwear for Your Chosen Activity
Before making a purchase decision you should work out the primary activity you will be using the shoes for.
If, for example, most of your training contains a high percentage of multi-directional movements, such as tennis, netball or body-combat, then a running shoe is not recommended. Tennis shoes, indoor court shoes (squash, etc.), netball shoes and cross trainers would be more suitable for this type of activity.
These shoes will have a broad flat base so that your foot is grounded and pivoting is made easier. The shoe will be stiff and firm and also have a lower profile, as being closer to the ground makes them more responsive; aiding quicker changes of direction and means there is less chance of going over on your ankle during lateral movements. In many cases the sole of the shoe will also overlap the upper to prevent the shoe from separating with constant aggressive changes of direction. The shoes will also have a relatively solid upper; often made from leather or synthetics to increase stability and support the ankle during multi-directional movements.
In contrast to this, running shoes have been designed for more repetitive and predictive movements. Running shoes will generally have a thicker, softer more cushioned sole to deal will constant pounding and high impacts. The curved sole aids efficient heel to toe movement and promotes forward momentum. The upper is a mesh fabric to increase breathability and help make the shoes as light as possible. When looking at this type of shoe there are different types of cushioning, such as gel, which will give each brand/model a unique feel or ‘ride’. The key features of this type of shoe make them perfect for running, walking and most gym-based activities (where you don’t require multi-directional support).
Running trainers are normally selected based on the amount of support they offer. Getting the correct level of support will improve your biomechanics, maximising the efficiency of your running therefore reducing the risk of running related injuries. We perform a biomechanical gait analysis in-store to help determine the correct level of support and help you to pick the correct footwear for your needs.
Using the correct shoe that has been designed specifically for your chosen activity will result in maximising your performance.
Running Trainers – Very cushioned sole for shock absorption and energy return; support to improve posture and running efficiency; curved sole to promote forward momentum and lightweight to make you faster.
Off Road Running Trainers – Have similar features to running trainers, but with different outsoles and tread patterns to cope with varying terrain. They have deeper lugs to increase surface area for grip and softer rubber compounds to make the sole tackier and increase traction.
Tennis Shoes – Low profile for responsiveness; solid upper for support when stopping and changing direction and a broad, flat base to reduce the risk of ankle inversion sprains.
Netball Shoes – Similar in design to tennis shoes with support for changing direction quickly but lighter, more flexible and more cushioned for running further distances.
Cross Trainers – Similar to netball shoes but designed for use indoors. Lighter fabrics used with softer outsole for increased grip on indoor floors. Indoor Court Shoes – Squash and Badminton are racket sports where you perform the same movements as Tennis. The tough fabrics used give plenty of support and low profiles increase the responsiveness as these are very fast paced sports. Gum rubber on the outsole becomes very tacky as it warms up, so you will not slip on a wooden court surface. The Yonex badminton range is slightly lighter and more flexible making them better for the jumping aspect of the sport.
Improving Comfort and Getting the Correct Fit
We only stock high quality products at Alexandra Sports, the majority of our range of road running shoes are designed for Marathon distance training; meaning that they offer a huge amount of cushioning for the user. It doesn’t matter if you are running your first ever mile or you are an experienced ultra-marathon runner, you will benefit from the comfort offered by highly cushioned training shoes. The ‘ride’ or the way that a shoe’s cushioning feels will vary with each brand, and each individual will have their own preference. Saucony running shoes for example offer a very soft ‘springy’ ride, where as Brooks running shoes may feel a little firmer but offer a stable feel and are very durable for the heavier footed runner.
All of our footwear is stocked in half sizes. Some brands, such as New Balance, Brooks and ASICS, produce shoes in different width fittings and other brands such as Adidas may suit those with a narrower foot.
It is important to get a shoe that fits your foot in the correct way. It should be snug around the heel and ankle and also around the mid-foot. The laces here will hold your foot into place so that your foot is supported when in motion. The forefoot area of the shoe or ‘toe box’ will need to be more spacious. Your feet will swell and expand during exercise so it is important to have a gap at the end of the shoe.
If you are using a shoe that is too small and your feet expand then this could lead to numb feet as the blood flow will be restricted, blisters due to friction or pressure points on the foot or bruised toenails that go black and fall off; nasty stuff! We have found that on average most people will need to buy a shoe that is half a size to a size and a half bigger that their normal shoe size.
If you would like more information on how shoes should fit, please read our guide on the fundamentals of fit.
Lifespan of Your Footwear
There has been a lot of thought put into the design of our range of sports shoes. Various types of cushioning and support have been put into the shoes to make the foot more comfortable and behave in a particular way. This technology all comes at a cost and therefore it is important that the shoes are durable. Durability is achieved through the use of different materials. Some examples of these are the use of high resistance carbon rubbers that are positioned on the high impact areas of the outsoles.
You will also find that shoes designed for multi directional movement will have tougher leather uppers to offer support and reduce stretch and distortion whilst performing twisting motions. So, you can see that using a running shoe for tennis or netball would fall apart in no time at all as the mesh top would distort and rip as you change direction quickly. To get the most out of your shoes you should only use them for their specific purpose and if need be have a secondary pair to use for other activities.
Most manufacturers expect their running shoes to last for 400-600 miles worth of running. This would take the average recreational runner about 10-12 months to achieve. Lightweight trainers such as track spikes are only designed to last a season. The same could be said for indoor court shoes, netball shoes and tennis shoes if the user is playing very hard or several times a week. So as a rough guide most people should change their footwear on a yearly basis. There are, however, many factors that can affect this. A heavier person is likely to compress a shoe’s cushioning sooner, a lighter footed person or running technique will cause less wear on the outsole and how many activities the shoe is used for are all things to consider.
Reducing the Risk of Injury – Gait Biomechanics and Supportive Footwear
At Alexandra Sports we perform a biomechanical assessment using podiatry-based testing and video gait analysis to identify any problems or faults in an individual’s gait cycle. An inefficient gait or instability of the foot is often the primary cause of most running related injuries.
Pronation is the anatomical movement that describes the inwards and downwards rolling motion of the foot after it strikes the ground (above, shown in red). We all pronate to varying degrees, with only a few people under-pronating (or supinating); where the foot does not roll enough. Pronation helps with shock attenuation as it spreads the impact. Without pronation the full impact of landing would transmit up the body. The correct amount of cushioning will help absorb shock if this is something that the body is not naturally doing.
Most people over-pronate; where the foot rolls inwards excessively. When the foot pronates to an excessive level the arch of the foot can drop, the ankle, shin and knee will start to rotate and the pelvis alignment is altered. This unwanted torsion and twisting is the most common cause of shin pain. With the knee and hip alignment being altered joint injuries are more common. The lowering and elongation of the arch also causes foot pain such as plantar fasciitis (‘policeman’s heel’).
For people that over-pronate we have a great selection of trainers that have various levels of in-built medial support. A typical support device is the grey area of the midsole on the above model. The support will stabilise the foot and guide it along a better path and in some cases can improve posture. With an improved posture there will be an improvement in running efficiency; making injuries and wear and tear on the body far less likely.