Today I purchased new shoes for teaching Zumba. I was wearing a pair of shoes that are dance shoes made by Nike - many of my participants and fellow instructors wear them and LOVE them. My feet, however, do not agree! This reminded me of a question clients often ask...."What is the proper shoe wear for my particular class/activity?" From years of experience, LOTS of fitness hours on my feet, many different athletic activities, and sensitive knees/feet - I can tell you that shoes really DO make a difference in how your joints feel during/after activity!
Does that mean you need to buy the fanciest, most expensive shoes on the rack? Nope! The great news is that every foot is different (just like every person is different). What works for me, may not be the best fit for you.
Generally speaking, it's best to try on shoes when your feet have recently finished a workout. Why? Because your feet swell a bit during a workout and shoes that fit in relaxed feet might not fit your feet when working out. As a runner, the general rule of thumb is one half size bigger than your normal shoe size. I use this rule in my other fitness shoes and have had great success.
Should you buy shoes geared toward your particular activity? You bet. Running shoes have more cushion and mobility control than cross trainers. Dance shoes tend to be flat and have hard, non-sticking soles. Basketball and traditional aerobics shoes have ankle support for lateral movement.
Does that mean you need different shoes for every activity you do? If money is no object, sure! But for most of us, picking shoes for the activities we do most is probably the best plan. If possible, and you want to get the most 'time' out of your shoes, don't wear them around town - have an everyday pair, and a pair you keep just for your fitness activities.
Where should you buy shoes? You have lots of options. Internet is great for finding sales - but I recommend trying on some pairs before you buy online (see paragraph above). Finding a store with knowledgeable staff that can help you find particular shoes for your fitness activities is a great place to start. If you prefer running shoes, I have a few local favorites. Check out Run26 in Mill Creek Town Plaza (voted Best of the Northwest and locally owned), Running In Motion (in downtown Edmonds), and Everyday Athlete in Kirkland. They are all top notch, have expert staff that will fit you perfectly, and stand behind the products they sell.
Lastly, when should you replace your shoes? The reality is that your shoes will likely wear out on the INSIDE long before you notice them looking shabby on the outside. For runners, every 300 miles or so is recommended. If you take fitness classes, plan (at minimum) every 6 months. If your feet, knees, or ankles suddenly hurt (after ruling out possible injury), take a look at your shoes and consider when they were purchased. Often, a quick change into new shoes will alleviate joint pain and send you happily on your way to your next workout!
Happy Running (or whatever your fitness passion)!