Your shoes matter. I run into people who buy their shoes off the internet blindly because they like the color or description or take advice from friends who like their shoes. If you know what shoe works for you and you see a good deal somewhere, take advantage of it. If you have never had a gait analysis, however, blindly buying shoes may result in inefficient running, aches and all-out injuries. If you pronate (feet turn inwards) and wear a shoe made for a neutral runner, you could experience knee pain, for example. Most running stores perform gait analysis for free and make recommendations for you. They also have return policies so if they sell you a shoe and it doesn’t work for you, they take it back. The shoe that your friend wears may be excellent, for his foot – not necessarily for yours. Your keds from 1995 aren’t a good choice for any activity either.
Shoes also have a life of 300 to 500 miles. Old shoes start to lose cushion and support – resulting in injury. I recently ran on old shoes and noticed knee pain that I don’t usually experience. That’s what I get for not following my own advice. Shoes also have a shelf-life. If you bought a pair of running shoes 2 years ago, but barely wore them – save them for walking around town. The material used to make the shoe breaks down over time, making them less than desirable for activity.
Save your running shoes for – running. If you take a lot of classes or play sports that require you to move laterally, your running shoes may trip you up and even do you harm. Running shoes are made for front to back movement – not side to side. Keep trail shoes for the trail – the treads on them can trip you up on level ground and especially on the treadmill. Cross trainers are best for group fitness classes and sport-specific shoes for sports. Whatever you do, don’t run 10 miles in your basketball or soccer shoes.
If you are an avid indoor cyclist, I also recommend investing in a pair of cycling shoes. They don’t have to be top of the line, but their stiff sole will prevent foot pain. It also makes you more efficient in your pedal stroke so you can focus on working, not preventing slippage out of the pedal cages.
One final word: you don’t wear shoes in yoga. I tried to tell this to a newbie yesterday who proceeded to ignore me. You want your feet to grip the mat and experience strengthening. I have mixed feelings about barefoot shoes in yoga, but am willing to accept it. Full-on sneakers, however, are a no-no unless you have a true injury of some sort. No one is looking at your feet, no one cares about your pedicure – at least they shouldn’t.