Have you ever asked the question, “Why do I have so many injuries?’ The answer could be in your footwear. Choosing the correct shoe for your foot type and activity can be the difference between being sidelined with injury or being injury free. Good, well-fitting shoes can prevent injury and optimize performance. With technology constantly changing and improving, picking a proper shoe can often be challenging, rather than fun.
Step to it and improve your on-court performance today!
Finding the shoe for you depends on 3 factors:
1. FOOT TYPE
- The best way to determine your foot type is to have your podiatrist perform a biomechanical and functional screen.
- Do you have a high arch or flat foot? You can get an idea of your foot type by doing this simple footprint test.
- Step in water and then walk across a surface that shows your footprint.
Is your foot like this (Image Below Left)?
- Supinating foot type
- High arch
- Rigid stable foot
- Poor flexibility and shock absorption
- Needs more cushioning/shock
- Absorption from a shoe, especially in the heel and forefoot
Or this (Image Below Right)?
- Pronating foot type
- Low arch
- Absorbs shock well
- Well suited for pounding
- Needs more stability, achieved by increased support in a shoe or, if indicated, orthotics
“If the shoe fits wear it” (Proverb)
Another way to determine your foot type is to perform a wear test. Flip your shoes over and assess the rubber tread on the outsole. A supinating foot type will show increased wear and tear on the outer edge of the shoe, whereas a pronating foot type will shoe more wear on the inner edge of the shoe. Wear patterns also help to determine where your shoes need the most durability. Most people fall between the two extremes of full pronator or supinator. A Podiatrist can advise you on your foot type and if you may benefit from orthotics. Read Physically Speaking Topic “Orthotics” for more information.
- Shoes are designed with special parts and features for specific types of activity, like running, walking, tennis, and cross training.
- Tennis shoes are designed for different court surfaces.
- It is important that you wear the shoe appropriate for the activity that you will be doing in order to prevent injury, not only to the foot but also to the knee, hips, and back.
- A cross training shoe will typically be heavier than a running shoe and wearing this for a long-distance run could set you up for injury.
- For tennis, as it is a multi-directional sport you need a shoe with a low profile that has good support both on the inside and outside of the shoe; it should be a quality shoe that can be broken in quickly and is ready to use on the court immediately.
Show your feet some love! They provide the base of support for the entire body.
3) THE SPECS OF THE SHOE AND SOCK
The features and components of a shoe determine whether the shoe is suitable for your foot type and activity. Just as smart phones are continually getting “smarter”, so are our shoes.
Breaking it down
- SHOE WEIGHT: The average tennis shoe weighs 9-12 ounces. Although a light shoe might be easier to move in, it does not always mean you will be more efficient on the tennis court. A shoe needs enough material underfoot to provide shock absorption, control, and withstand the demands of a tennis match.
- SIZE: The shoe should be a proper length, width, and depth for your foot. The longest toe should not touch the end of the shoe; there should be one fingers width of space in-between. Ensure that the shoe is wide enough to comfortable fit your foot. Depth/height may vary, but minimum standard is to just above the back of the heel.
- FLEXPOINT: When choosing a shoe, this is the first thing to look at. Hold the heel counter in one hand and the front of the shoe with the other, bend the front of the shoe to see where to shoe bends. The shoe should ONLY BEND AT ONE POINT, at the beginning of the toe box, where the toes would normally bend. If a shoe bends in two places or bends at the ankle region, this is not the right shoe for you.
- TOE BOX: The depth, height, & width of the toe region. It is essential to prevent friction (which can cause blisters) of the toes on the upper material of the shoe. At least ¼ inch or 8mm of extra toe length should be allowed.
- UPPER: Covers the top of the foot, is typically eye catching to attract the consumer. The upper can provide the shoe with extra support, stability, as well as breathability. Uppers are made from natural and synthetic materials. It is important that your feet stay as cool and dry as possible, while having the necessary support to aid in preventing injury.
- HEEL COUNTER: Provides stability to the rear foot, should be made of durable plastic. If broken down, the shoe should be replaced.
- MIDSOLE: Central area between the insole and the outsole. It provides the “cushion” and contains the technology that the manufacturer uses to showcase their shoe. It can provide shock absorption and/or stability. Terms like “boost, gel, and foam” usually refer to the midsole material. A shoe with a firm midsole is usually heavier than a shoe with a soft midsole. A shoe with a soft midsole usually has more shock absorption qualities, but wears out quickly.
- OUTSOLE: The part of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground. It protects the midsole and improves traction. The material should be durable, flexible, and lightweight. Outsole designs influence stability, traction, and weight. It’s important to choose an outsole with tread appropriate for the court surface you are playing on. Dimpled tread for grass courts, herringbone tread for clay courts, or normal ridged for hard courts.
Supinating Foot Type
- AVOID: Mid sole with unforgiving stability components
- RISKS OF INCORRECT SELECTION: Stress reactions, stress fractures
- CHOOSE: Mid sole with shock absorptive qualities
Pronating Foot Type
- AVOID: Mid sole without stability components
- RISKS OF INCORRECT SELECTION: Injuries from lack of stability
- CHOOSE: Motion-control features e.g. dual density sole (2 colors), more support (density) on the inside of the shoe, upper with added support.
Signs it is time for a new shoe:
- The anatomy of the shoe is failing or falling apart.
- The midsole is losing its shock absorption and/or padding. You can determine this if the material has many stress lines through it.
- The outsole is worn down and loosing traction qualities.
The fit and function of a shoe can greatly be affected by the sock or orthotics you wear. For more information on orthotics read Physically Speaking topic “Orthotics”. Socks have various qualities and are made of various materials:
- HEAT CONTROL: Reduce heat
- MOISTURE MANAGEMENT: Wick moisture and reduce sliding
- ANTIMICROBIAL: Limit growth of bacteria
- SHOCK ABSORPTION: Provide some sock absorption for the foot
- PADDING: Aid in shock absorption, help reduce friction, protect the foot
- ARCH SUPPORT: Provide custom fit through the middle and arch of the foot
- SEAMS: Reduce bulk and friction Material
- BAMBOO: Softer and more breathable than cotton, naturally microbial, durable
- COOLMAX: Brand-name polyester blend designed to wick away moisture
- COTTON: Breathable, washable, durable, absorbs moisture
- DRYMAX: Brand-name olefin fabric that is synthetic and won’t accept moisture, lightweight, durable
- LYCRA: Provides elasticity for increased comfort and fit
- NYLON: Used with other materials to provide added stretch or improve durability
- MERINO WOOL: Natural anti-microbial properties, wicking, breathable SILVER: Anti-microbial
- HEEL: the curve and seams of the heel of the sock should meet your heel with no excessive bulk or wrinkling.
- ANKLE COLLAR: the collar of the sock should sit in a comfortable position, typically not directly over the ankle bones where it could rub and it should not be too tight around the ankle.
- TOE LENGTH: the sock should meet the toes, not squash them and not dangle beyond them.
- ARCH CONTOUR: the sock should hug through the arch following the shape of the foot, not loose or wrinkled.
- SEAMS: the seams of the sock, if any, should be minimal, smooth & flat, not thick or bunched at the toes or heel.
The wear patterns of your socks can help determine where you need more padding and determine if your socks are well constructed to withstand the demands of tennis. If a sock starts to lose any of the mentioned qualities, has holes, or has an odor even after being washed, it is likely time for a new pair. It is recommended you change your socks after every set if you are prone to blisters, are a heavy sweater, in hot weather, or after a long set. Always carry an extra pair in your tennis bag!
The right combination of socks, shoes, and orthotics will help you play like a champion!
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