As a walker your most important item of gear is your footwear – boots, shoes or trainers depending on the type of walking you are undertaking. Everybody’s feet are different so don’t just buy shoes on the recommendation of a friend or an advertisement or because they look good. One design may not be suitable for everybody. Some walking shoes may be just fashion items so choose wisely. Go to a specialist sports shop where you will meet trained personnel and seek the advice of an expert. Our feet are our basic mode of mobility and transport and need to be cared for so do not skimp on proper footwear.
We all walk differently. Before buying shoes a basic understanding of our feet and how we walk may be helpful. When the foot touches the ground there is a natural inward roll to disperse shock. Pronation and supination – the foot rolling inwards and outwards is a normal part of walking gait. However some walkers may roll too far inwards, this is called over – pronation. Others roll too far outwards, this is called over –supination. Both of these walking gaits may cause pain and injury. This is why choosing the right walking footwear is so important. Proper footwear will correct your gait and help to avoid injury.
The arches of the feet help to support the weight of the body when standing erect with the least weight. We have either high arches, low arches or normal arches. The type of arches you have should be taken into consideration when buying footwear. To tell what kind of arches you have you can do this simple ‘wet footprint’ test. Place your foot in water and then place the wet foot on a smooth level surface – on smooth concrete, thin cardboard or heavy paper. You can then analyse your footprint.
If the ball of the foot and the heel are not joined or joined by a narrow band then you have a high arched foot. If the heel and the ball of the foot are joined by a wider band you have a normal foot. If they are joined by a really wide band and there is no blank space between the heel and the ball of the foot then you have low arches.
Before you go to buy shoes you need to know whether in your walking gait your foot rolls inwards or outwards. You can self diagnose whether you are an over-pronator or over- supinator or whether you are of neutral gait. To do this check the soles of your shoes for wear. If there is excessive wear on the inside, chances are that you are an over – pronator, you are rolling too far inwards when your feet hit the ground. If you put your shoe on a flat surface the shoe will tilt inwards.
If there is excessive wear on the outside of the shoe you are an over – supinator. You are rolling too far outwards. Supination may cause iliotibial band syndrome( injury to the upper thigh which causes knee pain as the foot hits the ground) or plantar fasciitis ( pain in the soft tissue under the heel or foot.). A neutral gait will produce wear which is not excessive on either side. Your shoe does not tilt to either side when placed on a flat surface
As over - pronation and over - supination can cause injury to muscles over time it is vital to wear shoes which take your particular foot peculiarities into account. Proper shoes will correct your gait and help to avoid injury.
With the above information on your feet you are now in an excellent position to visit a specialist sports shop and discuss your requirements with trained staff.
Enjoy your walking