The Importance of Proper Shoes when Exercising

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • Anyone who plays sports or exercises regularly knows that it’s important to stretch, warm up and cool down, wear the proper clothes and keep hydrated.  It’s also important to have the right gear, especially people with special orthopedic problems, like people with rheumatoid arthritis.  It’s important to buy shoes from a store with knowledgeable sales people who really know what the shoe’s bells and whistles do.  And it’s important to see a podiatrist and/or physical therapist when problems or pain start.

    In January, I wrote about my New Year’s resolution to actually lose weight and exercise more.  I joined a gym and have been fairly good about working out 2-4 times per week for 1-2 hours.  Sometimes I walk 1-2 miles around a local lake.  I do various things at my gym, usually either swimming, rowing, treadmill or elliptical trainer and lifting light weights. I’ve even built up to jogging ½ to ¾ of a mile during my walks.  In the past five months, I unfortunately haven’t lost a bit of weight, but I have definitely built muscle, toned up, and I have more energy when I can avoid shin splints.  And, the biggest kicker, I haven’t flared yet this year.  I get some knee pain when I push too hard, but I’m usually ready to go again after a day or two.   Everything is great, except that recently I’ve managed to aggravate my feet and legs with shin splints and constant arch pain from not wearing the right shoes.
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    I didn’t know I wasn’t wearing the right shoes. I have annoyingly small feet, so I often have to order my shoes online.  Many of the big name running shoe manufacturers don’t even make women’s shoes in my size anymore. I have a lot of issues with my feet, not all from RA, such as fused toes, an ankle that over pronates, high arches and two different size feet. I wore custom orthotics for years, but stopped wearing them probably 8 years ago.  So I thought I had done my research.  I bought an expensive pair of walk/run shoes online that are endorsed by one of the national podiatric medical associations.  I did really well with them until I started jogging last summer.  I developed shin splints pretty quickly.  So I saw a physical therapist who gave me calf exercises to do along with exercises to help stabilize my weak knees.  Then I went online again and bought a pair of running shoes with stability control to help keep my ankle from rolling.  I assumed that they would also have more cushion.  But my pain has gotten progressively worse.  I’ve stumped two specialty running stores, either because they can’t help all my problems or because they don’t carry shoes in my size.

    The second store sent me to a third because they only had one pair of shoes in my size and he wouldn’t sell them to me since I couldn’t compare them against other shoes.  I thought that was really professional and very nice.  At the third store, I nearly exasperated the salesman with my problems, but he was actually happy to be so challenged by my poor feet.  He said the same thing as the first two stores – “Go see a podiatrist, you need custom orthotics.”  In the mean time, he spent 45 minutes helping me try on four pairs of shoes with two different kinds of special inserts to find the combination that fits the best and helps all of my problems.  And joy of joys, the pair that fit the best and that he recommended over the others wasn’t the most expensive pair.  I’m now a devoted customer of Holabird Sports in Maryland.  It’s mainly an online catalog company, so they have a bigger stock than a lot of other specialty stores, and they carry some small sizes that most regular sporting goods stores don’t bother carrying.  I was just lucky that I live close enough to go in and be fitted in person.  The sales people are all very knowledgeable but like any store, they do need to see people in person to make real recommendations.  And they aren’t doctors or therapists, so the salesman repeatedly told me that I really should see a podiatrist.  And I appreciate that.  I was so happy that I immediately took them out for a two mile test walk/jog.  The shoes aren’t pretty, but they feel great and I didn’t have a lot of pain in my feet and legs.   

  •       So this is a long winded way of saying how important it is to talk to specialists and take their advice when exercising.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting out there to exercise.  But it’s important to buy shoes from a store with knowledgeable sales people who really know what the shoe’s bells and whistles do.  And it’s important to see a podiatrist and/or physical therapist when problems or pain start.

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Published On: June 25, 2007