How to Choose the Perfect Athletic Shoes

roessingh-runner

Walking is my favorite form of exercise. It doesn’t require a certain skill, you can do it almost anywhere, and all you need are a good pair of comfortable shoes. Yeah, about that… I’ve discovered over the years that finding suitable athletic shoes that are stylish, fit well, and don’t cost an arm and a leg isn’t always easy. For example, I’ll see a style I like but unfortunately it’s made for running instead of walking. Or, I’ll love the way the shoes feel on my feet, but they look like those ugly orthopedic clodhoppers my great aunt wore!

I know some of you can relate to my dilemma. I mean, there are so many brands and types of footwear to choose from nowadays, where do you begin? It’s a bit overwhelming to say the least.

My objective today is to cut through all the confusion and help women like me find athletic shoes that fit their needs, lifestyle, and budget.

Athletic shoes are usually grouped into three main categories: Running (or Jogging), Walking, and Cross-Training.  Here’s a little info on each, plus recommended brands/styles in various price ranges (to make it simple, I’m sending you to Amazon.com).

Running/Jogging 
You’ll want extra cushioning, maximum shock absorption, and good heel support, as well as decent traction for optimum performance on pavement or dirt. Visit Runner’s World for advice on buying the right running shoes.

Good Picks:
Asics Women’s Gel-Nimbus              $$$$
Nike Women’s Air Zoom Pegasus    $$$$
Saucony Women’s Cohesion                  $$

acics-gel-nimbus-thenextpair

The Asics Gel-Nimbus Running Shoe is a big contender in this category!

 

Walking
The soles on walking shoes are slightly rounded and flexible so the foot can roll easily from heel to toe. The best ones are lightweight and breathable, and also have some shock absorption in the heel. Go to verywell.com for help picking the perfect walking shoes.

Good Picks:
Asics Women’s GEL-Tech Neo
        $$$
New Balance Women’s WW1065     $$
Ryka Women’s Devotion                     $$

ryka-womens-devotion-amazon

This cool-looking Ryka Walking Shoe is a winner in every way!

 

Cross-Training
Cross-trainers are great for people who do a variety of workouts, like weight lifting, yoga, kickboxing, and aerobics. You can also use them for light jogging on the treadmill or hiking. Look for ones with a firm heel, ample support, and some flexibility to accommodate a range of activities. Go to crosstrainingshoe.net for tips on selecting quality cross-trainers.

Good Picks
Nike Women’s Flex Supreme TR 3
        $$$
Asics Women’s GEL-Blur33 TR                   $$
New Balance Women’s WX608V3               $

nike-flex-trainer

Women are raving about this Nike Flex Trainer!

 

NOTE:  If you participate in a particular activity on a regular basis (e.g., you’re an avid golfer, tennis player, runner, or cyclist), you’re better off going with shoes that are designed specifically for that sport.

Some things to consider when shopping for athletic shoes:

  • Go to a specialty store where the staff can offer expert advice and assistance. Nothing’s worse than shopping at a department store and having someone who is completely clueless wait on you!
  • Have your feet measured at the store – don’t just go by size as it can vary by brand and style.
  • Try them on at the end of the day or after a workout when your feet are larger.
  • Wear socks you usually wear when working out.
  • Walk around, jump up and down, and run in place to make sure there’s enough wiggle room in the toe area and also that your heels don’t slip out of the shoes.
  • Make sure they fit and feel comfortable right away. You shouldn’t have to break them in.
  • Bring an old pair of shoes with you so the salesperson can check the wear and determine your gait.
  • Don’t go by looks alone. Focus on fit, comfort, and performance first.
  • Mention if you have high arches, flat feet, bunions, weak ankles, or conditions like plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendonitis as these things will determine the types of shoes you can wear. In some cases, you may need to get special insoles.

Once you settle on a brand, style, and size that’s right for you, see if you can get those shoes online for less! Check out these online specialty stores:
Sportshoes.com
Footlocker.com
Finishline.com

Finally, if you want your nice new athletic shoes to last longer, try to use them solely for exercising or a specific sport. In other words, don’t wear them for knocking around. Have a pair or two of fun sneakers on hand for shopping, running errands, and other everyday activities.

happy-feet

Happy Feet, Warner Bros. Pictures

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. finally got a decent pair of walking shoes after wearing the wrong ones for years, and her feet are very happy she did!

 

6 Reasons Why E-Readers Are Awesome

E-Book
I’m a binge reader. I’ve been known to stay up until 3:00 a.m. to find out whodunit in a mystery novel! That’s why I’m so glad I have an e-reader. My husband gave me a Kindle Fire two years ago and I’m addicted to it! Now instead of borrowing books from the library or buying them at the bookstore, I just download the titles I like to my Kindle and start reading right away.

I know some of you are thinking “why would I want an e-reader when I can download books and much more on my tablet?” Although I see your point, I can give you at least six great reasons why you may want one anyway.

1. You can download and store zillions of books at a time. I find titles I like on BookBub, a free service that allows you to pick from thousands of titles and download your selections to your e-reader. They send me daily emails featuring e-books I can get for free or next to nothing in my favorite genres (I prefer historical romances, crime fiction, thrillers, and suspense novels). And, get this – you can organize titles so they’re easier to find and delete any from your library after you’re done reading it! Sure beats all those hardcover books and paperbacks taking up space in your house!

blonde three years old baby shirt and shorts, sitting comfortably in sofa inside home at night reading and watching digital tablet, face illuminated by the light of the screen

Download TV shows, movies, and videos and view them on your e-reader anytime, anywhere!

2. You can entertain yourself on the go. My e-reader is actually a tablet so I can  download movies, TV shows, videos, and games and enjoy them in the car, on the bus or plane, at the airport or in my hotel room. I also prefer to use the Kindle instead of my smartphone to shop online and chat with friends on Facebook – the screen is bigger.

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My Kindle fits perfectly on my treadmill so I can read or watch something on Neflix while I exercise!

3. You can read and exercise at the same time. My 7″ Kindle is just the right size for the little shelf on my treadmill. I just turn on my device and it automatically goes to the last page I visited. And because you swipe instead of turn the pages on an e-book, I can read while I walk without losing my place or my pace!  I’m also able to make the type larger so it’s more legible. (Can’t do that with a regular book or magazine!) Sometimes I get so engrossed in a story, I lose track of the time and pretty soon I’m walking for 50 minutes or an hour! I just started watching TV shows and movies on the treadmill too. So I guess you could say my e-reader motivates me to exercise longer.

4. You can use it at night without disturbing others. My Kindle has a backlight so I don’t have to turn on a lamp and bother my husband while I’m reading, checking emails, or browsing the Internet. It’s a lifesaver when I’m suffering from insomnia! Note: the light is softer on an e-reader than the LCD display on a tablet, so there’s less strain on your eyes.

Letture al mare con l'e-book

This portable device is perfect for reading on the beach, at the park, or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

5. You can carry it in your handbag, backpack, or tote. E-readers are so compact and lightweight that you can take them practically anywhere!

6. You can get one for under $100. The price for e-readers continues to go down, so these days you can pick up a basic one for around $50. Find the best e-readers for under $100 at ereaderguide.org.

I may be partial to the Kindle, but there are other good e-readers out there like the Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony PRS, Ectaco JetBook, and Kobo Glo. Instead of giving you a rundown on the various makes and models of e-readers available today, I’ll just direct you to these sites for more info.

Topreviews.net – reviews and compares the top e-readers for 2016.

PCMag.com – gives you their picks for the best e-readers on the market today.

Consumerreports.org – provides an e-readers buying guide and a rundown of brands and models, what they offer, and what they cost.

My advice is to compare different e-readers on your own and find one that meets your needs, taste, and budget.

Still not convinced? Check out this article on gizmodo.com that covers the benefits of e-readers versus tablets.

As for e-books, go to slodive.com for a list of top websites to download free e-books.

Happy reading!

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. can’t walk on the treadmill without her Kindle anymore. If she forgets to charge it, she’ll just skip her workout. 

Which Wearable Works Best for You?

fitbit

Fitbits, FuelBands, Jawbones: We’ve all heard of them, but do you really know how to use them? Or even what they are?

All of the above are just a few examples of different types of wearables, or technology pieces that serve a variety of functions, ranging from monitoring heart rate to playing music. In this case, these are all activity trackers, which are watches that track, well, your activity.

This can be useful for monitoring how many calories you burn, steps you take, and  what your heart rate is. They are especially useful if you’re trying to get in better shape, because you get information on your progress right there on your wrist! You can even wear some of them to sleep and wake up with a little report on what your night was like – how often you were restless, when you were in deep sleep, when exactly you woke up.

Basically, activity trackers are simply a great way to give you feedback on your own body.  Sounds good, right? If you need some help deciding which of the main fitness wearables is best for you, have no fear: here is a roundup of the top performers and why they might be the watch for you!

Fitbit:

fitbit

Probably the most popular of the activity trackers, there are 8 different models to choose from in a range of prices and functions.

Actually, their website has a test you can take to see which one matches your needs most. I have the Charge HR, which is primarily different from some of the others because it monitors your heart rate (hence the HR part), and I absolutely love it.

While I don’t always remember to charge it and sometimes forget to put it on in the morning, whenever I do wear it I love looking at the data. With just a quick push of a button, I’m reminded that I’ve only taken 2,000 steps today – a full 8,000 under the recommended 10,000 to take a day. When I’m exercising, it’s a great motivator to be able to look down and see how many calories you’re burning.

Though some spring for the pricey Fitbit Blaze ($250), for people on a tighter budget, the Charge is just as good and definitely less costly. Plus, it now comes in pink – a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Price: $59.95 – $249.95

Tip: This applies to all activity trackers, not just the Fitbit, but the prices vary significantly from store to store. Definitely shop around before purchasing one!

FuelBand:

fuelband

This sleek device, just like a Fitbit, is worn on your wrist and tracks your activity. How it differs: Whereas the Fitbit is great for even the most sedentary of people, the Nike+ FuelBand really kicks it up a notch.

First you determine your daily goal for what you want to accomplish that day, and then the FuelBand tracks your progress – whether it’s running, playing basketball, or walking – and changes colors from red to green throughout the day, giving you an idea of what your progress has been.

From what I’ve heard from people who have them, one of the biggest draws to the FuelBand is this very visual reminder of your activity levels. Because of the way the Nike+ Fuel app is set up, every day seems like a competition with yourself – but in the most positive way possible! Just note that you will need a smartphone in order to most effectively use a Fuelband, as it works in tandem with an app.

Price: $149.99

Jawbone:

up2

The fitness tracker Jawbone Up has 4 different options, of which the most acclaimed is the Jawbone UP2. Though it first came out awhile ago, this activity wearable is still very popular.

Why? Because at just under $100, it’s cheaper than some of the others on the market, but without losing any of the quality. It tracks both sleep and steps, as well as monitoring calories burned. It’s also unobtrusive and easy to use; it doesn’t have any buttons or a screen, so you switch between active or sleep mode with just a tap.

Although it doesn’t monitor heart rate, one advantage it does have is a “smart” alarm. This can be set before you go to bed so that the Jawbone UP2 wakes you up during a lighter stage of your rest in the morning, which is helpful for waking up feeling refreshed rather than restless.

Like with all of these fitness trackers, it’s unfortunately not waterproof, but it is considered water resistant: a definite plus for those of us (I’m not pointing fingers!) who may sweat a lot.

Price: $49.99 – $199.99

There are plenty of other options out there on the market, but these are the basics of the major three activity trackers. If you’re interested in others, this article is a really useful tool to help you decide.

Whichever one you choose, know that you’re one step closer to reaching your 10,000 step goal. And if you need any advice on how to take all of those steps, hope this helps!

Blogger Katie U., a SmartPerks employee, all too often forgets to charge her Charge HR. Don’t let it happen to you!