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Health, Beauty & Fashion

On the right footing

When exercising regularly, wearing the correct footwear is important
The Straits Times - January 5, 2012
By: Gloria Chan
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On the right footing -- ST FILE PHOTO

Specific shoes are designed to work in harmony with the biomechanics - the science behind movement - associated with specific sports.

What should you look out for when buying shoes for your favourite exercise or sport?

Not all shoes are made for walking. Some are for cross-country running. Others are for games such as tennis and badminton.

'A surprising amount of thought and technology has gone into the design and manufacture of sports and exercise shoes,' said Mr Johan Steenkamp, a podiatrist at the department of rehabilitation at National University Hospital.

For example, running shoes are designed to accommodate shock and aid forward motion, whereas shoes for squash, tennis and badminton are designed for forward and lateral motion, and abrupt changes in direction.

Dr Michael Soon, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said: 'Running shoes are meant for straight-line running and are meant to absorb shock, protect the foot and encourage a forward-moving gait. They, however, do not have protection for sudden change of direction, spinning and twisting motions. If you wear such shoes for sports such as basketball, you will run the risk of injuring your ankle, through a sprain or worse.'

Even the same sport played on different surfaces requires different types of shoes, Dr Soon added.

For instance, traditional football boots with studs are suitable for playing on a grass pitch. But if you are playing on artificial turf, there is too much grip from these shoes and you risk injuring your knee ligaments.

Then there are cross-trainers, which are almost like all-purpose sport shoes.

They are a good choice if you are participating in a variety of sports or varying your workout routine.

For example, if you are only running on the treadmill in the gym, running shoes will do. But if you are also doing other exercises such as aerobics, then cross-trainers are more suitable.

Incorrect footwear is one of the most common causes of foot ailments, said Mr Steenkamp.

Wearing the wrong type of shoes or shoes that are too small can subject you to injuries and deformities such as claw toes and bunions. It can also cause soft tissue problems such as blisters, corns, calluses and fungal infection.

Mr Steenkamp said that any good footwear shop should be able to assess your feet and help you pick the most suitable pair of shoes for your purpose and your particular foot type. Or you can consult a podiatrist.

While cost may be a good gauge of the quality of the shoes, it does not necessarily mean that the more expensive shoes are better.

Dr Soon said: 'What is important is choosing the type of shoes appropriate for the sports, your foot type and the way your feet strike the ground. Some people have wider fore-feet and require shoes with wider widths and there are some brands which provide such ranges of shoes.' 

TIPS

How to choose shoes

In choosing shoes, you should consider the function of the shoes, Mr Steenkamp said, and these other factors:

1 TRACTION: This is the grip provided by the shoes for a specific activity.

For example, in a game like squash, you need shoes which have more traction than running shoes as this is a form of high-impact sport with rapid changes in direction and speed.

Traction is the amount of grip to maintain the foot in a stable position to prevent excessive movement during games.

The soles should be made from natural rubber which provides more grip.

2 SHOCK-ABSORBING: Certain sports that are played on hard surfaces require shoes with more shock absorption to reduce the impact on the feet.

High impact can cause injuries to the plantar, the connective tissue which connects your heel bone to your toes and supports the arch of your foot.

3 VENTILATION: Shoes with 'breathable' fabric provide good ventilation which allows evaporation of perspiration.

This reduces the risk of fungal infection and also makes the shoes generally more comfortable.

4 ANKLE SUPPORT: This is important when taking part in high-impact sports such as squash or off-road cross-country running.

Running on tar roads, for example, is very different from running cross-country on gravel paths. Running on gravel paths requires shoes that provide more ankle stability to prevent sprains.

5 SHOE FIT: The shoe should hold your ankle firmly when fastened, or you run the risk of sprains from lack of protection to the ankles.

Make sure there is the equivalent of a thumb's width in front of your longest toe and you should be able to wriggle your toes freely. If not, compression of the toes can lead to deformity, friction, blisters, corns and calluses.

6 SHOE FLEXION: Make sure the sole of the shoe flexes at the same position as the sole of your foot during motion, otherwise the foot may become strained and the shoe would be uncomfortable.

7 MOTION CONTROL: This refers to the amount of arch support and depends on whether you pronate (inward roll of your foot) during motion.

Lack of support in the long term can cause injuries such as posterior tibalis tendonitis, a common ankle problem which causes pain on the inner side of the foot and ankle, and Achilles tendonitis or pain in the heel.

 

 

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