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How to Choose and When to Retire
Your Athletic Shoes
By Susan D. Player, DC, DABCI, DACBN

Q: Is there a way to tell when athletic shoes should be replaced?

A: Yes there is. And it isn’t necessarily after six months or when there is wear on the bottom, which are two very common myths.

Obviously if you experience pain or even discomfort when performing your sport, the shoes should be suspect. The ideal would be however, to know when they need to be replaced BEFORE they start causing troubles.

When shopping for new shoes, the first thing to do is ask the sales person to bring you three pair of the same shoe. They may look at you kind of funny, but so what, it’s your money! Find a nice flat counter (move some of the display shoes out of the way if necessary) and line up the shoes side-by-side. Stand behind the shoes and look at the alignment. Look closely - one shoe may be slightly higher than the other, or might tilt outward or inward slightly. When looking from the top one shoe can even be a full size longer than the other! Orthotics (shoe inserts) will not help this at all, and could actually make it worse.

Once you find a pair that appears equal (even if you have to take one shoe from two separate boxes) and they are comfortable for you bring them to the office.

An excellent way to know if you have a proper shoe is to have your shoes tested with muscle testing. The procedure involves checking the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet when the person is barefoot. After noting areas of weakness or strength, these same areas are re-tested, with the shoes on. If there was an initial problem, the correct shoes may even help the area. For sure though, you would not want to wear shoes that created more problems than were there in the first place. It is very important that this be done by someone trained and competent in muscle testing so you get accurate results. It is even possible to injure someone if the testing isn’t done correctly.

When it comes to kids who play sports, it is important to fit the shoes to their feet for that season. Don’t get larger shoes for them to ‘grow into’. Having them too large could cause foot and ankle pain or injury.

You can bring in any shoes you want tested to your next appointment. It usually takes just a few minutes to check each pair.