Choosing sports shoes and trainers

Sports shoes are probably the most important piece of fitness equipment you’ll buy, so it's vital to pick the right pair.

There are big differences in the way various sports shoes support your feet. This means that it’s not good for your feet if you play football or tennis in the same trainers you use for jogging, for example.

Mike O’Neill, from The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists, says that serious back, knee and hip pain, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints (leg pain), traumatised toes and painful blisters are some of the conditions people wearing ill-fitting trainers may face.

“Unfortunately, 65% of the UK’s recreational sportsmen and women wear the wrong shoes for their chosen sport,” he says. “Trainers are the most important piece of fitness equipment you’ll ever buy, and changing what you wear on your feet can prevent injuries.”

Football boots

Football can put a lot of stress on the feet, especially when you're playing on hard surfaces such as artificial turf. The boots can also put pressure on your feet, and it's not unusual for a footballer to develop corns and calluses or damaged, thickened and ingrown toenails. A good, well-fitting pair of boots is essential. There shouldn’t be any signs of pressure on the foot after a game or training session.

Tennis and squash shoes

It’s important when playing racquet sports, such as tennis or squash, to choose shoes specifically designed for the purpose. These sports involve a lot of side-to-side movement and running shoes won’t offer the right stability. Racquet-sport shoes are heavier and stiffer than running shoes, as their toes are built for stop-and-go action. Comfort should be your number one priority and it’s important to replace your sports shoes frequently.

Aerobics trainers

Fitness shoes are ideal for aerobics because they combine flexibility, support and cushioning to absorb impact and lessen shock to the feet.

Running shoes

Running shoes are great for running, and only running. They’re very flexible, allowing the foot to bend and flex through each step, but they’re not suitable for sports such as tennis that involve sideways stepping.

It’s a good idea to get your running shoes properly fitted to suit your foot type. If they’re too small they can cause blisters and black toenails. There are many types of trainers on the market, so try to find a specialist retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.

London Marathon Store manager Gary Malmström says it’s important to buy a shoe appropriate to your gait – that's how your foot reacts when you run. “All good specialist running shoe retailers will offer gait analysis to get you in the right type of running shoe,” he says.

Walking and hiking boots 

Walking is a great way to increase your activity levels, while the more adventurous might go for hiking. They're both good for your heart and lungs but are low-impact activities, so carry less risk of injury.

The Ramblers Association offers the following advice on the best footwear for walking and hiking:

  • For short walks in urban areas or easy countryside, all you need is a good, comfortable pair of shoes that won’t cause blisters. Use tough shoes that are a good fit, with an arch support, a slightly elevated heel and "breathable" uppers such as leather. Casual shoes or quality trainers with heavy soles will do.
  • If you go walking regularly, you could invest in a pair of proper walking shoes or some lightweight walking boots. These will give your feet and ankles support and may be waterproof. For highland walks over difficult terrain, good walking boots are essential.

Basketball and netball shoes

Sports shoes for court games such as basketball and netball give a combination of flexibility and sideways support. Cross-trainers are stiffer, provide more support for side-to-side movements, and can be used across a range of activities.

Read advice from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists on how to look after sporty feet.

Page last reviewed: 11/12/2013

Next review due: 11/12/2015

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