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Updated 06 November 2015

Fitting a sports shoe

The most common sports shoe buying mistakes - and how to avoid them.

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That R450 you plunk down for a new pair of sports shoe finances more than celebrity endorsements and cool ad campaigns. Sports shoes are dramatically better than they used to be, says podiatrist Kenneth Meisler, D.P.M., director of podiatry at the Preventive and Sports Medicine Centre in New York City, U.S.A..

But even the best shoe can cost you comfort, money and injuries unless it fits right. Here are the most common mistakes sports shoe buyers make.

Expert tips on how to avoid them:

Cheaping out
The difference in quality between discount-store shoes and name-brand sports shoes is like night and day, says Paul Carrozza, footwear and wear-test editor for U.S. Runner's World magazine. "There's a lot of science that goes into making the mould for the shoe that the no-names don't have," he says, not to mention better materials.

Aim for shoes with quite a price tag -- the latest technology trickles down to a mid-price range every year.

Not matching your shoe to your sport
Certain aerobic shoes might look like running shoes, walking shoes or cross trainers, but they're worlds apart in construction. Stick with the shoe designed for your sport the differences aren't just hype, Meisler says. They can reduce your risk of injury.

Forgetting about flexibility
Before you go to the shop, you need to figure out whether you have a flexible foot or a rigid one, Carrozza advises. Sit down, put your foot on a ruler and measure where your toes fall. Stand up on the ruler, and if your feet have spread forward more than 0.8 cm, then you have a flexible foot.

If there's no movement at all, you have a rigid foot. Your foot is neutral if you have some movement but less than 0.8 cm of it. In general, flexible feet need more stable shoes; rigid feet need shoes with more cushioning.

Being too brand loyal
Each brand has its own shoe moulds, called "lasts", that vary in shape, heel height, width and more. It's essential to try on more than one brand to find out what's comfortable.

An investment of time in the shoe shop may save you a trip to the doctor's office later.

Thinking all shoes are all-terrain
Every surface has different needs. Playing tennis on a soft court requires softer-soled shoes for better traction while hard court players need soles with better treads.

Walkers and runners who prefer the street have different needs than those who train on a track. Tell the person fitting you where you play your sport.

Having "stepsisters syndrome"
"If your running shoe isn't a full size larger than your dress shoe, it's probably too small," Carrozza says. "Your foot needs to be able to lengthen on impact, and it can't do that if your shoe is too short." If a longer shoe starts to feel sloppy, then try a narrower shoe in the same length.

Going to the store sockless
Take your usual athletic socks along when fitting a shoe, Meisler says. "Some of the most expensive socks are really thick.

You have to watch them because they'll make your shoes too tight," so try them on with the shoes you're considering.

Tossing the receipt
"Make sure the store lets you return the shoe," Carrozza says. Wear the shoes three or four hours at home before you hit the track. If you feel uncomfortable pressure or numbness anywhere, return them.

Expecting laces to pick up the slack
"If you have to mess with laces, you're probably in the wrong shoe," Carrozza says. Fancy lacing tricks "are usually done to keep people in a shoe that they should have been able to return."

South African Podiatry Association (SAPA)

 
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