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Shoe choice is extremely important as it can play a significant role in not only performance during activity, but also reduces the risk of injury whilst performing.
The most common thing heard is that a shoe is simply a shoe. The Dunlop Volley is just as good as the expensive athletic shoe – this quite frankly just isn’t true. All shoes are “specific” to activities. Neither should players play tennis in running shoes nor do they run in tennis shoes. The shoe itself must be sports-specific. The day of the “cross trainer” is simply over if in fact it ever had its day in the first place!
How To Choose Tennis Shoes?
What sport do I need the shoe for?
Possibly the single most important question you need to answer when buying a shoe. The force which goes through your lower limb when playing different activities changes – in saying this it is only logical that the shoe translating that force to the ground should also change. For example, RUNNING is a “sagittal” plane sport. This means you generally run straight ahead with very little sideways or “transverse” plane movement. When you run there can be easily 3-5 times your body weight distributed via your feet in a sagittal plane. The shoe must assist with translating this force (which could easily be upwards of a few hundred kilograms) successfully to the ground to allow movement.
In stark contrast, TENNIS is a predominant side-to-side or “transverse” plane dominant sport, which incorporates faster or more sudden movements as well as lunges, jumping, and twisting. The forces during tennis differ greatly in their translation to the ground than those during running – hence so the shoes themselves specific to each activity should differ.
Keep it simple – playing tennis? Get a court shoe. Playing football? get a football boot. Running a half marathon? You get the idea right, but in any sports category, there will be thousands of shoes. For example, your local shoe store will have over 150+ shoes just for running. So how to know which shoe is right for playing tennis?
Here are some general pieces of advice or rules you may follow if you have no injuries or ortho mechanical problems. If you need to be specific about footwear or you are injured/trying to prevent any tennis injury, it is always recommended to seek professional advice from your local Podiatrist before attempting to purchase your new tennis shoes. This can prevent injury, wasted money, frustration, and unnecessary travel to and from the shoe store. However, there are some general pieces of advice or rules you may follow if you have no problems.
Here we will give you 7 SIMPLE TIPS you need to take into consideration when choosing a shoe:
1) Ensure the shoe has a firm heel counter. This is the bit at the back of the shoe where your heel sits. The top of it can be cushioned and soft but the part that connects to the shoe should be firm enough that you can't push it or bend it. It should be made of firm plastic.
2) If you are running/walking only ensure the shoe bends at the toe level of the shoe. To do this pick the shoe up and bend it in your hands. It should bend where your toes bend. Also, try to bend the shoe in the middle – walking/running shoes should not bend through the midsection, if you can fold a shoe-in half – don’t purchase it! The only exception to this rule is tennis/court shoes. They can have some more flex through the midsection of the shoe and are generally stiffer at the toe section and heel section. This is to accommodate the specific mechanics of your foot during those sports and it is acceptable in these circumstances.
3) Twist the shoe – shoes should have minimal torsion through them – they should feel stable and solid when moving them around in your hands. Don’t be afraid to use some force when testing them – you won’t break them – keep in mind they have to take 3-5 times your body weight so they should be very strong!
4) Heel lift – it's always best to ensure the shoe has a slightly higher heel than at the front of the shoe (also called camber or "drop"). In most shoes a 10-12mm increase is normal. There is some data emerging about lower heel or segment heights and some companies have reduced their heel heights to 6mm. Individuals vary and depending on the person, different heights may or may not have advantages/disadvantages.
5) Shoes should always have some form of fastening device – laces or velcro doesn’t make any difference. This holds the shoe firmly to the foot preventing slip and abnormal movement. Elastic laces are suitable in some cases – for example, for triathletes who use them to improve speed during transitions, however, for the general athletic population, these are not recommended.
6) Get fitted properly - by someone at a shoe store who understands how shoes work.
7) Replace shoes every 800kms or so. Much like tires, shoes have a limited lifespan of use. You cannot tell by looking at the shoe, it's how stable it is when force is applied to it. Measure your steps/kilometres. Track your shoe use. Change MORE regularly than less to avoid injury.
Remember - Shoes and models of footwear change yearly. These changes also can influence the size, shape, and performance of the shoe. The shoe you purchased last year for running, may not be the same shoe next year!
Remember, always seek advice from a professional such as a Podiatrist prior to buying footwear if you have any concerns.
Author – Dr. Paul Bowles Podiatrist
Author – Paul Bowls Podiatrist Footspot
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