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Published on June 01, 2018

couple tying shoes for workout

Finding the Perfect Summer Shoes

Maybe now that a long winter has concluded, the fairer weather will lead you – like many others – to get moving.

Before you start logging miles on hiking trails or sidewalks around your neighborhood, consider your shoes.

There’s a million choices, and it sure would be nice to have shoes that could “do it all” – but finding a starting point can be tricky.

That’s why Jonathan Buchanan, MD, Avera Orthopedics, said that spending a little time shopping in-person, trying on pair after pair, is a critical first step. You want to be comfortable, sure, but you want to be injury-free more than anything.

Make The Effort

Buchanan said that finding the right fit, no matter what activity gets you moving, starts with shopping. While that’s a dream for some folks, for many, it’s a task. But good things come from a little work.

“There’s a fallacy that all shoes require some breaking-in time, and that just isn’t true,” Buchanan said. “That’s why trying on many pairs is important. It can be a chore, but it’s worth it. If your shoes are not comfortable right away, you’re not changing the shoe as you wear it. The shoes actually are changing your foot.”

“Feet are like faces – there are so many individual differences, from width to arch height to toe length, so it makes sense that finding the right fit will take some experimentation and a little time,” he said.

Start before you head to the store – by walking around barefoot. Doing so can give you a great sense of how your feet “feel” and help guide your purchase of a shoe.

“You can hurt yourself with the wrong fit, and fine-tuning your feet by going barefoot can be a good way to understand how they respond to your own balance and feeling. Your feet are the key to stability, regardless of what you wear,” Buchanan said. “Even if you just walk down the driveway bare-footed – in about three steps you’ll begin to notice how your unique step pattern unfolds. This is information you can use in getting the right footwear.”

The Unusual Ankle

The ankle’s unique joint structure separates it from all the others. The bone, with its larger back side and more-narrow front, is a good place to start when learning about foot stability and the shoes you can use all summer long.

“One of the reasons we see injury is due to the talus, which is the connection between the foot and ankle, when it is higher due to a taller heel, it is less stable,” said Buchanan. “When that bone is raised, stability goes out the window. That’s why many people prefer zero-drop shoes because they offer amazing stability for the right user.”

Zero-drop shoes keep the foot in a near-neutral position, so the foot lands on the ground with each step in a more natural fashion, not unlike when you’re barefooted. They still offer some cushion, along with significant stability boost.

“They are not as good for folks with fallen arches, but they do show the range of possible fit considerations,” Buchanan said. “Toe-box size is another important factor. If you look at most shoes for adults, they are wide in the heel and narrow in the toes. That can be a considerably less comfortable fit for most people.”

To find good examples of shoe shapes that can be more comfy and give you the support you need, look at shoes designed for infants or toddlers.

Since there are dozens of brands and hundreds of styles, shop in-person, try on many pairs, and find shoes that feel good right away. Then get moving.

“Remember your feet are unique. Even if you loved Brand A for years, your feet change with age, activity and weight, so it might be time to book an afternoon of trying some on until you find comfort and support,” he said. “There’s probably no perfect pair for everything you want to do this summer. But you can maximize the comfort and stability in the pairs you do wear and avoid injury and get more active, in part, thanks to your shoes.”

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