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!

 

Olympeculiarities: The Weirder Fare on Tap at Brazil 2016

Gold Medal 2016 Athlete Standing Sugarloaf Mountain

Ah, the Summer Olympics. That rare exhibition of the world’s proudest athletics. I’m a sports fan, so the Summer Olympics should be like Christmas in July (scratch that, August), but I grow bored of the standard swimming, gymnastics, and track events that make up 95% of what they show on prime-time TV. Instead, I like to dig into the weird stuff, the stuff I never see anywhere else, the stuff I can’t believe made it into the lineup of the world’s marquee athletic competition. Let’s run down my top 3 wackiest Olympic events for the American viewer, followed by the best ways to watch these marvels of sport. Join me, won’t you?

Dressage

Steffen Peters

Steffen Peters on Ravel competes during the FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle Final at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Saturday, April 18, 2009. Peters won the final. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

We’re starting out with a bang. The International Equestrian Federation defines dressage as “the highest expression of horse training” where “horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.” They call it this because it would be too ridiculous to call it “horse dancing,” which is exactly what it is. If you’ve never seen a steed doing soft-shoe, you’re in for a treat.

Equestrian Highlights – Hiroshi Hoketsu – London 2012 Olympics

Fencing

Women's Team Epee - London 2012

Photo Credit: S. Timacheff of fencingphotos.com

Most Americans know what fencing is, but few have ever actually seen it happen. It’s quite the spectacle. Two competitors, clad in what looks like what you’d get if you mixed “ninja,” “spaceman,” and “roll of aluminum foil,” get their Luke Skywalker on up on a catwalk like it’s Fashion Week in Paris. The rules can be a little much to follow, but that’s what the judges are for.

Fencing Highlights – London 2012 Olympics

Handball

Ivan_Nikčević

Ivan Nikcevic of the Serbian national handball team.

This last sport is one I wish were big in America all the time. Handball is like if a bunch of European guys weren’t good enough at soccer, so they shrunk the ball and picked it up with their hands. What results is this funky blend of soccer and basketball, in which attempts on goal frequently take the form of high-flying, acrobatic whips toward the corner of the net. Seriously, please tell your friends about handball. Maybe we can get LeBron to switch.

Check it out. Men’s Handball Final – Sweden vs. France, London 2012 Olympics

How to watch the Rio Games

NBC Sports Network will show some fencing, but we’re going to have to dig a little if we want to get off the beaten path. Fortunately, NBC makes it very easy to live-stream literally any event you could want to watch, legally and safely, without any extra signup or payment (and I say this as somebody who uses this service to watch probably 200+ English soccer matches over the course of a year). Go to NBC’s Live Extra site and you will see featured events and menus to navigate to whatever you’re looking for. Before you can begin the stream, they will ask you to log in with your cable subscriber information (this is what makes it legal, thumbs up!). One subscriber account can be used to log in multiple devices, so you and your family (or roommates) can all have your pick, or watch away from home at the same time.

NBC has put together this handy calendar for us, making it easy to see what’s happening when. But fear not, even if you miss an event live, NBC Sports Live Extra archives many events for days or even weeks, so you can get caught up or pick up where you left off. For those watching on a smartphone or tablet, the NBC Sports Live Extra app is free and provides the same great service.

That’s all I’ve got! Take my advice and explore outside the spotlight this Summer Olympics…and maybe check out Canoeing, Racewalking (just Google it), and Table Tennis while you’re at it. If you need me, I’ll be parked in front of my laptop, wearing a Mikkel Hansen Danish handball jersey.

 

Smart Perks blogger Grant Abrams can’t stop thinking about the foreign, the fantastical, and the futuristic…also chocolate chip cookies.