Selecting the Proper Athletic Shoes Can Help Prevent Ankle Sprains and Fractures: Here's What You Ne

Some 10 percent of all bone fractures happen in the 52 bones of the feet, and many of these can be directly attributed to inadequate footwear. Whether you wear athletic shoes to get groceries or to run a 10K, having proper athletic shoes prevents instability, improves weight distribution and provides the exact support you need for your unique foot. Let's explore how to select proper athletic shoes to prevent common foot injuries like ankle sprains and fractures.

1. Know your cushion level

Many athletic shoes may look the same on the outside, but they have varying cushion thickness for various types of activities. Too much cushioning may slow you down in certain sports that include short bursts of sprinting like basketball or soccer. However, too little cushioning could lead to fractures when you're performing endurance activities like hiking or taking long walks. Other activities fall somewhere in the middle, and, for this reason, you'll find that there are varying degrees of thicknesses ranging from one for least cushion (e.g., barefoot-like toe shoes) to five for the most cushion (e.g., marathon running shoes). If you are diabetic, have foot neuropathy or you have bones that fracture easily, you should opt for a level four or five cushion insole for maximum comfort and protection.

2.  Consider your arch height

Shoes have varying arch heights to redistribute body weight, reduce pain and decrease the risk of sprains caused by instability. Arches come in three standard heights: low, medium and high.

People with very high arches typically don't flex much with each step. This can cause undue pressure on the outside of the foot, which may lead to “rolling of the ankle.” A high arch athletic shoe redistributes weight to the middle.

People with medium arches have flexible arches that often allow the foot to roll inward. This may put incredible pressure on the sesamoids, the small bones behind your big toe and the tendons on that side. A medium arch support again moves the weight to the center of your foot, so you're more balanced and less prone to injury.

People with flat arches have completely flat feet even when they're putting no pressure on them. You need an insole that is more rigid to hold your arch up slightly, but also very low. 

Wearing an arch height or rigidity that isn't designed for your foot may actually increase fracture and sprain risk, so it's important to consider what type of arch you have. 

3. Don't mistake fashion shoes for athletic shoes

Athletic shoes are flexible and breathable with good cushioning and the right arch support to reduce the risk of fractures and sprains. Sandals, house slippers, flat-sole shoes, etc. can't double as athletic shoes. In some cases, they may be designed to look athletic, but they don't provide proper support.

4. Measure your feet

You may be thinking, “But I've always been a size 8!” Many people have worn the same sized shoe since high school and haven't really considered if their feet have grown. It's true that by about age 14 for girls and 16 for boys, the feet are fully grown, but mechanically speaking, a foot may not take its semi-final shape until around 20. We say semi-final because restrictive footwear can deform the foot even after it has grown. Factors such as pregnancy, endurance sports, lifestyle or gaining excessive weight can change the size and shape of the foot. Ideally, you should always measure your foot before buying a new pair of athletic shoes. To get the best measurement, wear the pair of socks that you would normally wear with athletic shoes and always shop for shoes at the end of your day as feet swell during the day, and shoes should accommodate that.

5. Go custom

If you're struggling to find shoes that fit comfortably right out of the box, Dr. Frazier can take a series of measurements to custom design orthotic inserts that will give you the perfect support, balance and protection for your athletic shoes. Contact Frazier Foot and Ankle Center to schedule an appointment.

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