What Not to Wear – Part I: The Shoe

What Not to Wear – Part I: The Shoe


We all do it… we look at others in the store, the workplace, at ski resorts and the gym and think “what are they wearing?!” or “I wish I looked that good working out.”  Having a reasonable concern for what we wear is actually very important during exercise. Wearing the correct gym attire should be high in your priorities, and it doesn’t mean you can’t wear your LuLuLemon outfit or Nike track suit.

Poor footwear can lead to a number of different injuries; the wrong sports bra can contribute to neck and back pain. Conversely, the right shirts and shorts can help with heat dissipation, especially in hot, humid environments. For this post I will discuss the feet, one of the most important body parts in exercise.

Socks: Although socks may not seem important, they aren’t just to help guard against stinky feet (which is a valid reason to wear socks – don’t scare away your neighbors!), socks have other important factors. The right sock can wick (draw) moisture away from your feet and prevent blisters and athletes foot. The fabric is also important. It’s best to stay away from cotton because it can actually hold in moisture that could lead to infections, fungus, and blisters. Look for moisture-wicking socks that are hydrophobic (literally, scaring away water). Also, make sure to find the right sock height to prevent blisters on your heel.

Shoes: The single most important part of your athletic wear is the shoe! Ill-fitting shoes are one of the top causes of sports injuries. Not wearing the proper shoe can cause low back pain, improper alignment of the spine, and pronation (rolling in) or supination (rolling out) of the foot. This can lead to further injuries such as shin splints, sprains, strains, and falls.

Your arch and pronation type can help you determine the right shoe to guard against injuries and pain.

  • If you have a normal arch:  it’s best to look for a stability shoe with moderate arch support, however you can probably get away with just about any shoe.
  • If you have a high arch: look for a more cushioned shoe and one that does not have pronation control. Look for a shoe that has a soft mid-sole and is not motion and stability controlled.
  • If you have flat feet: look for shoes that are motion controlled, to reduce over pronating. A motion and stability shoe would work best for you.

To help you find a shoe that’s right for you, try this at-home test to find out what type of arch you have.

The wet test will help you determine what foot type you are, and thus, what shoe type may be best. Because no test is always accurate, use this as a guide and speak to a running shoe specialist or a podiatrist if you have more complicated foot problems.

  1. Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan (i.e. a cookie sheet)
  2. Wet the sole of your foot
  3. Step on a heavy piece of blank paper
  4. Step off and look down
  5. Match your foot shape to one of the three:

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