Most people don’t really think about what they wear on their feet when working out… and if I’m completely honest, I fall under that category. As long as my footwear allows me to do what I want in the gym and gets me from A to B during my workouts, then my job here is done! Yet the science behind having the correct footwear does affect your workouts, prevents injury, supports your foot type and – for some shoes – looks great and fashionable on your feet! In this article we explore the benefits of wearing correct footwear for your chosen sport or at the gym, finding the right footwear for your foot type, the science behind choosing the right footwear, and the effects that come with it.
‘On your mark…..
Not all feet are the same, they come in all shapes and sizes and have their own unique qualities. Our feet, like the rest of our body, are determined by what we inherit through genetics and DNA. Our feet are made up primarily of bone, ligaments, tendons, and muscle tissue, and they’re responsible for balance, force absorption and propulsion. Feet can be categorised into 3 types of shapes:
Pronation – is a flat or pronated foot that is caused by an imbalance of weight distribution through the inside of the foot. The arch in the foot has collapsed, and the heel bone is everted. If left over time, pronated feet can lead to injuries in the knees, hips and lower back.
Neutral – has a balanced weight distribution. The arch is at the right height for the foot, and the heel sits proportionately with the floor.
Supination – is a very high arch of the foot, which causes an imbalance of weight distribution through the outside of the foot. Sprained ankles are common with this type of foot.
The next time you put on a pair of trainers, have a look at the soles: this should indicate one of the three types mentioned above from the wear and tear. If you find that your trainer has worn severely on the outer edge, then your weight distribution and shape type is that of a supinated foot.
The right footwear can increase foot muscle strength and help ease short-term aches and pains. Research has shown that 35% of gym-goers wear the incorrect shoe.
Which kind of shoe benefits each foot type?
People that have pronation in the foot should look at a shoe that restricts pronation, offers arch support, redistributes ground reaction forces upon landing, and rebalances weight distribution statically. Researchers suggest a motion control shoe that is quite rigid, while still offering support and comfort.
A supinated foot should look for a shoe that offers supportive cushioning for their high arch. Cushioned shoes will aid in arch support and foot alignment.
People with a neutral foot are lucky in that they can consider a shoe that offers cushioning, support and rigidity – but also can consider shoes that offer little or no support, like a minimalist shoe. (This is like running barefoot, with a little bit of support.)
Athletes have long looked to science and technology to improve, and to some extent push barriers, and excel in their chosen sport. On 12th October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge broke the record of running a marathon under 2 hours. However there has been contentious debate around some of the factors that resulted in this record time. One hotly debated factor was the bespoke running shoes that he wore. These were fashioned in such a way that they improved his metabolic efficiency by 4 percent, which enabled him to keep a constant pace with his dedicated pacemakers’ team and set a record well within his projected time of completion. Recognised as the first man to break the 2-hour time, the record is not listed due to the fact that his record was not done on a ‘record eligible course’ and he did not adhere to the standard competition pace and fluid intake rules.
Having said that, despite the technological advancement and competition rules, Kipchoge’s legs still did the running and completed the marathon course in 1:59:40.
In a gym environment, looking for footwear that is going to suit your type of workout is going to benefit not only your feet but your performance as well. You will find a lot of people that lift heavy go for a shoe that has little or no heel lift or sole. This kind of shoe doesn’t bode well for those that have pronation of the foot; it throws out their body alignment, which can lead to injuries further down the track. A shoe that provides support and stability would be more beneficial.
According to researchers, athletes that do a variety of movements – for example a HIIT class or a weight workout followed by cardio – should look at a cross trainer shoe that enables them to transition from one activity to another with relative ease, comfort and support. But don’t just take my word for it, ask for professional advice – like an orthopedic specialist – on the best shoe for your foot type and preferred exercise.
In conclusion, we all like to look great in what we wear, don’t we? And the latest trainer is going to do just that, regardless of whether they suit our feet. Your biggest challenge might be choosing between what’s best for your feet, and what’s most on-trend!
Get set………. Go!!’
Te Rangimaria Ngarimu Biography
He aha te mea nui – He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
Te Rangimaria Ngarimu is the National Graduation Manager for Fit Futures Academy. She is from a family of three brothers and one sister, plus heaps of nieces, nephews, great nephews and nieces. Te was born, bred and educated here in Aotearoa. Although she holds Diplomas in Music and Maori, she describes herself as ‘a Jack of all trades and master of none’. Te has experienced life through travel, people and places. She enjoys anything to do with the beach whether it be swimming, walking, sailing or surfing (very badly)!
Disclaimer: The exercises and information provided by Fit Futures Learning Institute (T/A Fit Futures Academy) (www.fitfutures.co.nz) are for educational and entertainment purposes only, and are not to be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, product or course of action. Read the full content disclaimer.