Footwear technology has come a long way over the past fifty or so years, yet many athletes and weekend warriors still get injured.
There can be many reasons for this, but a common one we see at Heal Focus Podiatry is a lack of understanding on what makes one shoe better than another and not knowing when a shoe has passed its used by date and should be replaced.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Many patients with common foot injuries will tell us they decided to start exercising again for fitness or to lose weight, so instead of purchasing a new pair of shoes they will drag out an old pair from the garage.
Just because your footwear is clean and still looks good, doesn’t mean that they are functioning and supporting your feet the way they once did. Also, some footwear materials breakdown over time when not used.
In simple terms, an athletic shoe is broken into three parts. The upper, the midsole (cushioning) and the hard outsole.
Focusing on the Midsole
Higher-priced footwear manufacturers like to use cool terms to describe their footwear features, such as ‘Air’, ‘Gel’, Energy Return Systems, MoGo and Stability Bars, yet most athletic shoes share a common denominator, which is a rubber-type material called EVA, which is used in the mid-sole of the shoe.
EVA is made in varying densities and use a numbering system to indicate its softness or firmness. For example, EVA 120 is quite soft, whereas EVA 350 is quite firm. So, when purchasing shoes, it’s a good idea to ask about the density of the EVA used in the shoe.
What Makes A Shoe Cheap?
Less-technical, and cheaper footwear tend to use one density of EVA throughout the mid-sole of the shoe, whereas better quality and more expensive footwear will tend to use a combination of EVA densities in the same mid-sole.
Warning, some very cheap athletic shoes do not use any EVA and instead use hollowed out hard rubber. The reason they use rubber is because it’s extremely cheap and they hollow it out because it’s quite a heavy material so hollowing it out reduces the weight.
The problem is it looks like EVA but has as much function as an ashtray on a motorbike.
The hardness of the EVA and where it is placed in the shoe design will be determined by the purpose of the shoe. Some shoes are designed to you more foot control, whereas others may be designed with more cushioning for the foot.
Most shoe uppers will look good if they are cleaned on a regular basis and the outsole of the shoe will wear depending on the surface it was used upon.
Shoes used to run on the road will normally show significant outsole wear after a period of time, or number of kilometers, whereas shoes used to complete an aerobics class, comprising of happy clapping and grapevines, may show little outsole wear due to the carpeted surface, but the EVA may be completely buggered.
Therefore, a good looking upper and minimal outsole wear can give you a false sense of security, making you think the shoe is still in good working order.
It is important when purchasing your shoes to let the sales person know what you’re going to use the shoe for and there’s nothing wrong with asking them when they think the shoe should be replaced but remember whatever the tell you will be a guideline.
If you’re not sure whether it’s time to change your footwear, I suggest trying on a new pair, in a similar style and possibly the same brand, and you will probably feel the difference immediately.
Where Here to Help!
At Heal Focus Podiatry we’ve been treating runners, casual athletes and weekend warriors for years, so when it comes to understanding footwear, the good, the bad and the ugly, we have a better understanding than most.
We are here to help you however we can and when you make your next appointment, please make sure you bring your athletic shoes with you.
We can quickly tell you if the shoe is still in good working order and if it is the right shoe for your foot.