Give Your Feet a Little Love: Tips for Buying and Knowing When to Toss Your Tennis Shoes

If you think athletic shoes are one of the better decisions you’ve made for your feet, you might want to think about the quality of those shoes first.

According to a study released by Elsevier Health Sciences:

“…researchers compared the effects on knee, hip and ankle joint motions of running barefoot versus running in modern running shoes. They concluded that running shoes exerted more stress on these joints compared to running barefoot or walking in high-heeled shoes.”

Yes, you read that right. Running shoes can exert more stress than the death traps that are high-heeled shoes.

So while resorting to bare feet isn’t an option most of us would consider, studies like this do stress the importance of being aware of the type of footwear we use during a workout and how old this footwear is.

Next time you go to buy tennis shoes, follow these tips.

Go to the right store

There’s no shortage of stores that sell tennis shoes, but they are certainly far from equal. Instead of choosing the store with the cheapest prices, find the ones with the most knowledgeable sales staff. Yes you will likely pay more, but they will be able to not only fit you properly, but some will be able to watch you run in order to determine the type of shoe that will work best.

If you’re in Colorado, check out the Boulder Running Company or Runners Roost.

Go at the right time wearing the right gear

Experts suggest shopping for shoes when feet are at their largest, so at the end of the day and after a workout or run. This will ensure the shoes you purchase won’t become uncomfortable when your feet swell mid-workout.

Also, make sure you are wearing the type of socks you would normally be wearing with them.

Look for specific signs

When you have the shoe on your foot and laced up, check for these signs:

  • You should be able to wiggle all of your toes.
  • There should be about a thumb’s width between your big toe and the end of the shoe.
  • They shouldn’t be stiff right off the bat – the “breaking in” period is a myth with athletic shoes.
  • The heel should be snug.

Buy the proper shoe for your activity of choice

Gone are the days when all tennis shoes were created equal and could be used for everything from walking to playing basketball. Now there are shoes for every activity imaginable, and according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, you need to buy specialized shoes if you participate in a specific activity at least three times per week.

There are a few key differences – walking shoes should be lightweight, jogging shoes should be able to cushion the impact, basketball shoes should have a thick, stiff sole – but make sure you ask the sales person which is right for what you will be using it for.

When is it time to toss your tennis shoes?

Unfortunately, answering this question boils down to this: it’s complicated. If you are a runner that hits the ground harder than normal, or if you use your shoes frequently, for instance, you’ll likely have to toss them sooner.

According to Michigan State University, plan on your shoes lasting anywhere from 350-500 miles, or between three and six months. 

Keep your shoes in tip-top shape

If you want to avoid buying tennis shoes more than is absolutely necessary, make sure you only use your shoes for exercising — not for everyday uses like walking.

In addition, allow your shoes ample time to dry out in between workout sessions, keeping them in a space where air can reach them.

If you do decide to wash them, use cold water and a mild detergent to keep the glue from breaking down.


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