How to Choose the Right Athletic Shoes
What If Your Feet Get Sweaty and Blistered?
Invest in smarter athletic socks (like the ones pictured from Balega International, from $10, balegasports.com) and get rid of your basic white ones. “When shopping, look at the fabric, size, and seams—not necessarily the amount of cushioning,” says Fleet Feet’s Luke Rowe. Bypass 100 percent cotton and reach for a moisture-management material, like Coolmax, which will wick away irritating sweat. (These synthetic blends are sold under other names, too, including Dri-Fit, ClimaCool, and Drynamix.) Pick a sock that comes in a range of sizes (say, from extra small to extra large) as opposed to a one-size-fits-all style (“sizes 6 to 11”) for less blister-inducing slippage. And, finally, look for seamless construction, which eliminates chafing and irritation, especially around the toe area.
What’s Up With Those Funky Shoes That Look Like Gloves for Feet?
They’re designed for barefoot running, a new movement that tries to replicate the unshod experience using barely-there shoes. This practice, which borrows from indigenous peoples who don’t have the luxury of the latest Nikes, supposedly strengthens the foot muscles and allows the feet to move more naturally. But is it safe? “If you didn’t grow up running on bare feet, it’s extremely risky, resulting in everything from stress fractures to arthritis,” warns John Brummer, DPM, a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association, in New York City. Feet not only need protection from hard, uneven surfaces but also require customized support for their unique structure.
How Can You Tell If You Need New Sneakers?
Keep an eye on the shoe’s midsole—the cushiony layer between the treads and the mesh upper, says the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute’s Megan Leahy. When you notice deep-set wrinkles there (like a squashed marshmallow), it’s time to say good-bye.