March 31, 1995 in Seven

Athletic Footwear: If The Sport Fits …

Robert Barrett The Arizona Republic
 

It’s not easy to pick out a pair of athletic shoes these days.

Go into any sporting-goods store and you’ll find a wall of sport-specific shoes. There are shoes for running, walking, basketball, tennis, racquetball, aerobics - the list seems endless.

As a typical weekend athlete, you might jog some, play a little pickup basketball, hit the tennis court, play racquetball or even take an aerobics class.

But that doesn’t mean you need a separate pair of shoes for each sport. After all, you don’t want your closet to look as if it belonged to an athletic version of Imelda Marcos.

While sport-specific shoes are nice, most people don’t need them, because they don’t participate enough in one sport to justify the cost or create the need, said Dr. Steven Zonner of Phoenix, who was the Arizona State University team physician from 1990 to ‘93 and currently is the physician for a Phoenix area high school’s teams.

“If you’re not dedicated to a sport or fanatical about a sport, you probably don’t need shoes specifically for that sport,” Zonner said.

Someone who occasionally jogs does not need shoes designed specifically for running, but if you run more than three to five miles a day, every day, you should have running shoes, said Dr. Richard Buchbinder, a fellow of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine.

Because all athletic shoes are designed for either unidirectional or multidirectional movement, most people do not need more than two pairs, said Buchbinder, who has offices in Phoenix and Tempe, Ariz.

A unidirectional shoe should be used for straight-motion activities, such as running or walking. A multidirectional shoe is for sports with lateral movement, such as tennis, basketball or racquetball.

“If you are a runner, you really need a good unidirectional shoe,” Buchbinder said. “You can better overlap activities with multidirectional shoes - say, one pair for basketball and tennis. But if you run a lot, you really should have a running shoe.”

And if you’re going to buy only one pair of shoes for both walking and running, buy the running shoes, he said.

“The walking shoes are good. But the running shoes are better for walking than walking shoes. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but generally running shoes are good for both because they have better support.”

The lightweight hiking boots that currently are popular also adequately serve a dual purpose, he said.

“They’re real good, especially for people who are going to be doing some running mixed in with hiking,” Buchbinder said. “You might need the heavyweight hiking boots if you are a rock climber and have a heavy pack, but I like to hike, and the lightweight boots seem to be much better for me.”

If you don’t hike, and cost is a serious consideration, you can get by with a good pair of cross-trainers, Zonner said.

“People ask why can’t they have one all-purpose shoe, and I say they can,” Zonner said. “Get a cross-trainer. It’s a combination of unidirectional and multidirectional shoes.”

Good cross-trainers have more cross-stitching on the uppers - essentially everything except the sole - to help brace the foot during lateral movement. Cross-trainers also have good soles, providing shock absorption and cushioning for most runners.

“I have cross-trainers,” Zonner said. “I use those at the health club, to jog occasionally, to play tennis. They serve many purposes. I don’t buy myself shoes for every sport that I do.”

Before purchasing either a sport-specific shoe - if you play one sport a lot - or a cross-trainer, there are several things to consider.

“The most important thing is the fit,” Buchbinder said. “The most common error people make is to buy them too small. Just because you wear a size 9, it doesn’t mean the sport shoe will be size 9. One maker’s size 9 could be a size 10 for another maker. So go somewhere you will be fitted properly.” xxxx

This sidebar ran with story: DON KARDONG’S TIPS Information, please: Have the following information ready when you buy running shoes: your level of running experience, current mileage, weight, type of surface you normally run on, and any history of foot problems you’re able to share. What to look for: Look for cushioning, support and flexibility in your running shoes. Make sure they’re snug but don’t cramp your toes, and expect to buy a half or full size larger than your street shoe. If possible, try jogging on a hard surface before you buy. Don’t wait: Don’t delay in replacing worn-out shoes. Most will last about 500 miles, after which time they lose their support and cushioning. A new pair of shoes can make your running more comfortable and injury-free.

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