You might love your favorite pair of running shoes, but if you've had them for years, it's time to throw them out. "If your sneakers are old and worn out, they could be shifting your weight abnormally, which can lead to injuries not only to your feet, but also to your entire skeleton," says podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a Vionic Innovation Lab member. Conventional wisdom says to change up your sneakers every 300 to 500 miles, but there are visual clues of wear and tear that you may notice well before that. Place your sneakers on a table top and look at them at eye level, making sure to also flip them upside down and examine the soles. If a portion of the outside soles is smooth, uneven, and worn, you're ready for a new pair. Here are the most common foot problems and podiatrists' solutions.
istock/Ales_UtovkoThey don't suit your workout
You shouldn't be wearing running shoes to Zumba or basketball sneakers for hiking. "There is so much technology that goes into sneakers, especially for workouts," says Dr. Sutera. Wearing shoes that are inappropriate for your specific workout could cause injury." For example, running and walking sneakers are made for forward motion and have the maximum amount of cushioning and shock absorption, according to Dr. Sutera. Sports like basketball and tennis require shoes that provide lateral or side-to-side support. Cross-training shoes can be used for lower impact exercises like weight lifting, rowing, elliptical, and Zumba. (These exercise moves, in any fitness shoes, can work against you.)
istock/valentinrussanovYou wear them every day
Exercise shoes are comfy, so it's tempting to wear them around to grocery shop or run errands. But if you're wearing your sneakers as an everyday shoe and then working out in them later, you could be interfering with their effectiveness for exercise. "You should have a separate pair of sneakers that are dedicated solely to your workouts," says Dr. Sutera. "Wearing the same sneakers for daily use and exercise is not a good idea because you put different wear patterns on the shoes during different activities. This can result in premature aging of your sneakers and also injury." Don't miss these signs of disease your feet can reveal.
istock/Geber86They're the wrong size
"Wearing sneakers that do not fit properly is a sure way to hurt yourself," says Dr. Sutera. Ill-fitting shoes can cause pain and damage by worsening bunions and hammertoes, injuring or damaging your nails, and even causing you to develop heel pain, tendonitis, and stress fractures. It's important to actually try on the shoe and not get attached to the specific number, as some companies run larger and some run smaller. "It's best to go shoe shopping in the later part of the day because your feet are more swollen than when you first wake up in the morning," adds Dr. Sutera. "Make sure you accommodate a wider forefoot if you have bunions or hammertoes."
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istock/iprogressmanThey lack support
In addition to finding your perfect size and fit, you need to make sure your sneakers offer adequate arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption. "These are the three basic features that you want to always look for in your shoes," says Sutera. "Shoes that do not have enough arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption may not adequately protect your feet during higher impact activity." If you hit the gym hard, use these home remedies to soothe sore muscles afterward.
istock/zoranmYou're lacing them up wrong
So you've got the perfect shoe—great. Now you have to make sure to lace them up properly. When laces are tied too loosely, it allows your foot to slide around, which can throw off your alignment, according to Men's Health. This can also eventually lead to shin or ankle pain, which could end up affecting your knees and hips as well. Look at your shoe, and if too much of the tongue is popping out, it's probably not tight enough.
istock/StudioThreeDotsThey're too tight
Just as you don't want to tie up your shoes too loosely, you also don't want to make them too tight. Your shoes should feel snug, but tying them too tight can actually lead to tendonitis, according to Duke Chiropractic. A too-tight shoe will essentially "choke" the tendons, which creates friction and causes strain to the muscle.