How to Choose a Supportive Shoe
When we were younger we would often choose shoes based on some arbitrary criteria such as color, appearance or brand name. Sometimes we would choose them based on what sport we played. Basketball players often wore Nike, runners often wore Asics and soccer players often wore Adidas. As we age or as we develop some foot pain, we often need more supportive shoes. Most people don’t know what makes a shoe supportive or how to evaluate the support in a shoe. This article will discuss three simple stability tests that can be used to evaluate shoe support. After reading this article you will be able to walk into any shoe store and be sure that you are purchasing a supportive shoe.
The first stability test is to assess the medial/lateral stability of the shoe. This stability test assesses the shoe’s ability to stabilize your foot with side to side movements. This test is performed by holding the shoe by the sole with both hands and trying to rotate the shoe as though you were wringing out a wet towel. Most shoes will have a small amount of rotation but, if you are able to significantly rotate the shoe with your hands they may not be as supportive when your full body weight is transferred through them. This test is especially important if you have history of chronic ankle sprains or tendonitis within ankle stabilizing musculature.
The second stability test is to assess the shoe’s front to back stability. This test is performed by placing one hand near the front of the shoe on the sole and the other hand at the back of the shoe also by the sole and then trying to roll the shoe up with the laces on the inside. It is important to note that all shoes will bend to allow the toes to extend. However, the shoe should not bow very much from the ball of the foot to the heel. If you are able to roll the shoe up into a ball, it is not very supportive. This test is important if you have Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis.
The final stability test is to assess the straightness of the sole. This test is performed by turning the shoe over and placing a lid of a shoebox in the middle of the heel. Then look at the front of the shoe and see how much difference there is from one side of the box to the other. In other words are there more toes on one side of the line then the other? Most shoes will have a small difference from side to side. What is not desired is a significant difference from one side to the other. In these cases, the sole of the shoe will nearly look like a letter “C”.
These tests help to assess the available support in a shoe. If the shoe performs well through these tests, the shoe is likely supportive. However, if the shoe fails all of these tests or passes only one test, the shoe likely offers little to no support with wear. If you have questions regarding how much support you need or have any other questions please reach out to your Weil Foot & Ankle Institute podiatrist or physical therapist for further guidance.