What features do you need in an athletic shoe?
Three things should be checked in all shoes before they are tried on: heel counter, torsional stability, and "shoe break." The heel counter is the portion of the shoe surrounding the heel and should be firm and reinforced for extra stability. Torsional stability (the amount of twist in a shoe) is determined by grabbing the back and front of the shoe and attempting to twist as if one was wringing out a towel. Very little twisting motion should occur. The final feature to establish is where does the shoe "break" or fold sometimes referred to as the "flex point" Attempts to fold the shoe in half should allow folding out near the toes at the most distant quarter of the shoe. Shoes that fold in the middle or near the heel may cause discomfort or even an injury.
The ideal athletic/walking shoe should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned and should enable you to walk smoothly. Many running shoes fit all of these criteria and for most people are acceptable for a walking program. However there are shoes specially designed for walking and for running. If you are a serious walker or runner, professional athlete or involved in competitive sports then look to specific footgear designed for such activities.
Most important, whether you are wearing a walking or running shoe, is that it must feel stable to you. Either type of shoe is acceptable if it works well with your foot mechanics, providing cushioning and stability. Shoes should always feel comfortable and fit well in the store. Visit the shoe store late in the afternoon to allow for swelling. Wear the same socks to the store that you will wear while engaging in the activity.
When the shoes are on your feet, the heel should be snug. If it slides in the store, it will slide while you are walking. You should be able to wiggle your toes in the shoe, and there should be one half to a full thumbs width between the end of the longest toe on your longer foot and the end of the shoe's toe box. Make sure your ankles don't roll in the shoes.
The shoes you try on should feel good immediately; you should never have to 'break in' a pair of athletic shoes. (For that matter, you should never have to 'break in' a pair of dress shoes either!). If you have foot problems, prescription orthotics or other special considerations, consult your podiatrist about the best shoe for you.
What features to look for in a hiking shoe?
Appropriate footwear for day hiking can be lightweight, cut low or above the ankle, with relatively flexible soles and without need for a an aggressive thick outer sole with deep treads. However if you are hiking on terrain that changes in type and/or elevation, rocky or wet you need to wear more supportive footwear, such as types that are appropriate for longer hikes.
If you are backpacking overnight or on longer trips ( trekking) your footwear should be more supportive in both the foot and ankle areas and have a stiffer shank (the part of the sole under the mid-foot area that connects the heel and the forefoot) so that flex is more limited and the feet are more protected from uneven trails and the increased pressure from the weight of a heavier pack. Sandals and minimalist footwear are now becoming popular for hiking. If chosen, they should be designed to protect your toes and the soles of your feet and provide adequate ankle support. Never hike in flip flops or open-heel footwear which can lead to overexposure of the foot to outdoor hazards and is especially dangerous in mountainous terrain where tripping and falling can be a potentially life-threatening.
Shoes should be chosen that provide comfort, support, stability and protection and most importantly fit you foot.
Whether you're traveling on a long distance flight or just finished an intensive workout, compression socks can provide relief for muscle aches, inflammation and foot and leg pain. They can work to reduce swelling and help with lymphatic drainage in the muscles and improve stagnant blood flow. For post- surgical patients and people with certain health conditions they can help control edema and reduce the risk of developing blood clots.
Designed to help prevent and control serious medical conditions, today compression socks are becoming the sock du jour for anyone looking for better comfort of the legs and feet with attractive colors and designs that make them a medical fashion statement. But are compression socks for everyone?
First of all what are compression socks? Once known as compression hose or compression stockings, they are specially made, snug-fitting, stretchy socks that gently squeeze your leg. Graduated compression or pressure stockings are tighter around the ankle and get looser as they move up your leg. Compression sleeves are just the tube part, without the foot. When buying compression socks, you'll need to measure your calf and ankle circumference, not your shoe size. It is recommended that you consult with a physician about what pressure rating is best for you. Compression socks should fit tightly but not too tight that they become painful, cut off circulation or impede mobility.
Some athletes wear compression socks and sleeves on their legs and arms believing the support will help prevent tissue damage and help their muscles recover quicker. There are mixed reviews on whether this is so. The majority of the research has not found any statistically significant difference in improved sports performance in athletes wearing compression socks although some athletes are convinced it works for them. However others evidence that compression socks/sleeves may offer a good recovery aid for some athletes under the right circumstances.
Ventilated panels, breathable anti-bacterial fabrics, extra cushioning and attractive patterns and colors make today's compression socks a far cry from your grandparent's Jobst stockings for varicose veins. High end companies like Comrad market them as your go to dress sock that can be worn "from the office, to a wedding, to post workout".
If you are using compression hose on the advice of a health care professional be sure to contact your provider if swelling persists or to discuss other options if you are having trouble wearing the stockings. Although the application of compression stockings can appear simple, inappropriately worn stockings have the potential to cause significant problems. If something doesn't look or feel right, discontinue wearing and seek professional advice.
The pressure in compression socks is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
A mild pressure rating would be 10-20mmHg or 15-20mmHg.
A firmer pressure rating would be 20-30mmHg.
Medically grade custom-fit compression hose prescribed by a physician would go up in numbers, such as 20 to 30 or 30 to 40.