Published 3/10/2021

Avoid injuries this spring with the right athletic shoe

Orthopaedic surgeons offer footwear tips to consider when getting active this spring

ROSEMONT, Ill. (March 10, 2021)–Warmer weather and longer days increase outdoor activities. If you are participating in a single activity more than two times a week, consider purchasing a shoe designed for that activity. Running, hiking, and leisurely evening strolls around the neighborhood all require specific shoes to prevent injury and keep you active.

“When selecting a pair of athletic shoes, wait until the end of the day to try on shoes,” states orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Lew C. Schon, MD, FAAOS. “This is helpful because your feet swell throughout the day. This will ensure you better gage the right fit. Also, try on both the left and right shoe and tie the laces to ensure they both fit correctly.”

According to a 2018 study by the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, only 28 to 37% of people are wearing proper fitting shoes of the right length and width[1]. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) suggests the following when selecting new footwear:

  • When possible, shop at a store that caters to the sport in which you participate. If this is not possible, do some research before shopping to find out what type of shoe is most appropriate for your favorite sport.
  • To ensure a proper fit, wear the same type of sock that you typically wear when you are participating in the sport for which you are buying the shoes.
  • Make sure the heel counter — the back of the shoe that holds the heel in place — adequately grips your heel to ensure stability.
  • The toe box — the front area of the shoe — should have ample room so that you can wiggle your toes. There should be at least a one-half inch space between your longest toe and the tip of your shoes.
  • When you try on shoes, walk around the store on different surfaces (carpet and tile, for example) to ensure that they are comfortable.
  • Make sure that the shoes have not been sitting on the shelf for an extended period. While the materials of an athletic shoe are designed to accommodate a lot of stress, the cushioning may become less effective over time, even without use.

“When it comes to athletic shoes, there’s more than meets the eye,” adds Dr. Schon. “Running shoes, court shoes, cleats and hiking shoes all have different features. If you plan on being active pursuing many different exercises throughout the week, a cross-training shoe may be the best choice.” When selecting a shoe for a specific sport, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Running shoes are grouped into three categories -- cushioned or neutral, for runners with high arches; stability, for runners with arches that may collapse while running but need to be maintained; motion control, this shoe provides the most stability for runners who may have flat feet or a higher body weight. The best way to determine your arch is to have a professional evaluate your foot.
  • Trail shoes are designed for those who prefer to run off road. This shoe offers more stability than a normal running shoe.
  • Cross trainers easily take you from sport to sport no matter the impact or terrain. This shoe is not appropriate for someone who plans on running more than four to five miles a day.
  • Walking shoes provide stability through the arch, good shock absorption, and a smooth tread. Walking involves a heel-toe gait pattern, so you want to make sure that the shoe, and particularly the counter, is stable.
  • Court shoes include those designed for basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Court shoes have a solid tread and typically are made of soft leathers. They are designed to provide stability in all directions.
  • Cleats are designed with multiple protrusions or spikes made of steel or hard plastic that provide additional traction on grass or soft turf. These shoes are required for sports such as soccer, lacrosse, football and baseball.
  • Hiking shoes offer stability as you walk across uneven surfaces, as well as comfort and cushion in the insole to absorb the shock from various impacts. Hiking shoes also should have a good tread on the sole to keep your foot firmly planted on the surfaces that you encounter.

For more information on finding the right athletic shoe, visit

To schedule an interview with an AAOS expert about common musculoskeletal injuries, email


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About the AAOS
With more than 39,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is the world’s largest medical association of musculoskeletal specialists. The AAOS is the trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal health. It provides the highest quality, most comprehensive education to help orthopaedic surgeons and allied health professionals at every career level to best treat patients in their daily practices. The AAOS is the source for information on bone and joint conditions, treatments and related musculoskeletal health care issues and it leads the health care discussion on advancing quality.

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Lauren Riley