Athletic Shoes 101

It’s important to have proper fitting footwear to protect your feet, legs, ankles, and most importantly, your back from discomfort or even injury. Chronic activity with ill fitting, or inappropriate shoes can break down joints and tissue, making it more prone to injury. 

First, it is important to choose the right shoe for the sport to protect your feet from the stresses of that sport.   Walking into a shoe store to buy athletic shoes can be confusing when it comes to buying the right shoe for your feet and your sport of interest.   Second, if you are running, it is of the utmost importance that the shoe be appropriate for your arch height (pronated, average, high arch-underpronate), body type (heavy weight, lean), and also how your foot strikes the ground. 

Here are some tips on observations you can make to help you know what to look for in your next pair of shoes: 

Know your foot

Feet come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Your shoes should match the shape of your foot and the way your feet strike the ground.  Look at your last pair of shoes.  Notice where they show the most amount of wear.

1. Overpronation: If your shoe shows the most wear on the inside edge, it means that you have low arches or flat feet and have a tendency toward overpronation, meaning your feet roll inward.  This causes extra wear on the outside heel and inside forefoot.  Choose a shoe with high support, and possibly motion-control, depending on how overpronated you are.

2. Underpronation: If your shoes wear out mostly on the outside edge, then this means you have high arches and tend to underpronate, which means your feet roll outward.  This causes wear on the outer edge of the heel and the little toe.  Choose a cushioned shoe with a soft midsole or neural arch depending upon how underpronated you are. 

3. Neutral:  If your shoes wear out evenly on both sides, then you have a neutral arch.  You are in the majority!  Look for a neutral arch shoe or mild stability (if a little pronation) shoe, which has the right combination of cushioning and support. 

Shop around and get expert advice.  Shoe stores offer many kinds of shoes for active people.  Visit one or more stores you trust.  Try on various styles and brands.  Often, private athletic shoes stores in your area (not chain stores usually) have employees that will watch you walk with your shoes off to get an indication of what your personal needs are in a good fit and function. They can also help you choose the shoe best suited for the kind of activity you do. 

Shop toward the end of the day or after working outYour feet swell at the end of the day or after exercising.  Try on shoes when your feet are at their largest.  Be sure to have your foot measured every time you shop for shoes.  Foot size often changes with age so choose shoes that fit, not by the size that you’ve worn in the past.  

Shop with your socksTry shoes on with the kind of socks you normally wear when exercising.  If you wear orthotics, be sure the shoes fit with them inside.  The salespeople will let you replace the insole of the shoe with your orthotic if you ask so you will know how the shoe really fits you as you will wear it. This is key, particularly if you already have injuries or want to prevent any.

No need to break in!  Athletic/running shoes should be comfortable right away. Try them on and walk around. They should NOT need to “stretch out” later.  There should be one thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.  The heel should NOT pinch or slip around when you walk, and they should bend easily at the ball of your feet (just behind your toes). Run around the store if you need to make sure. 

Choose the right shoe for your sportEach sport has shoes designed for specific demands made on the feet and ankles.  Look for these features when buying a shoe for your sport:

Note* Athletic shoes should not bend anywhere other than the ball of the foot. If the shoe bends in multiple places, it is likely too flimsy for even a neutral runner and demonstrates poor quality. You would be surprised at how many “fashionable” shoes are flimsy and don’t adequately support the activity.  

 1. Running - Choose a shoe that is light, has a thick, cushioned sole, and supports the foot while moving forward.  You'll need slightly different shoes depending on whether you'll be on the road or on trails. The outsoles of road shoes have just a few grooves in a mostly flat surface. The bottoms of trail shoes have a deeper tread for better traction on dirt or mud. Trail shoes' uppers are often waterproof.  

2. Walking - Choose a shoe that allows your foot to roll and push off naturally while walking.  A walking shoe usually has a fairly rigid arch, a well-cushioned sole, and a stiff heal support for stability. 

3. Aerobics – An aerobic shoe should provide sufficient cushioning and shock absorption and should have good side-to-side stability to withstand forceful impact.  Shoes need an arch support that will compensate for these forces.  It should also have strap support to provide stability to the front of your foot and to prevent slippage.  The upper part of the shoe should be high enough to prevent irritation to your toes and nails.

 4.Cycling – The key to cycling shoes is that they have a hard, completely inflexible bottom. There should be no ability to bend the shoe. Many of the new indoor cycling shoes are very flexible. These are not ideal, particularly for outdoor cycling. The bottom of the shoe should be firm in order to prevent injury to the foot, ankle and even knee and back joints. The upper part of a cycling shoe is the most important part of the fit.  The shoe should fit tightly but not so tight that is can restrict blood flow to the feet.  

5. Cross-Training – Cross-training shoes meet the comfort, cushioning, stability and requirements of many sports and activities.  The bottom soles of cross-training shoes are wide and stable to provide side-to-side support and stability that is needed for a variety of sports.  They are the most economical choice since they allow you to buy a single pair of athletic shoes for a variety of uses.  Cross-trainers, however, are not recommended for those who are on a regular running program. They do not offer enough cushioning and flexibility for runners and are heavier than typical running shoes. 

Consider fit and comfort before priceYou don’t have to buy the most expensive shoe on the market to get the best athletic shoe.  If you want a fashionable shoe or one backed by a celebrity, you’ll probably pay more and it likely won’t be the one you need. Fashionable shoes are usually designed with a neutral foot in mind to fit the majority.  On the other hand, you don’t want an inexpensive pair of shoes that could fail you and cause injury.  Choose a high-quality shoe that fits your foot the best and make sure they are comfortable. 

Know when to replace themAccording to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, the average pair of running shoes should be replaced after about 350 to 550 miles.  This means that you should probably replace your shoes before they show any signs of major wear.  The shoe will gradually lose its absorption capacity and stability before it shows signs of wear. If it is not a running shoe you are actually running in (average miles or replace every 6 months), a good rule of thumb is to replace your athletic shoes once per year regardless of whether they still “look good”. Sometimes the wear that could create injury is not evident to the eye.

 

Overweight & Obesity Stigma: Shaming Helps No One

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Fat shaming is a form of public humiliation aimed at evoking a change in the name of “health”. It occurs every day to people of all ages, races, sizes, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. It happens at home, school, and work. At its most detrimental level, it’s precipitated by those whom we trust the most: our family members and health care providers. Often, these shameful thoughts and generalizations are internalized and eventually we become our own bullies.

The stigma associated with being overweight and obese often manifests into discrimination-which can be just as damaging as other forms of discrimination. The consequences bear devastating mental and physical health outcomes. In the past decade, the prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66% and is still climbing. This issue is something we can no longer avoid as a society.

The Impact of the Media

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Fat shaming can be seen just about everywhere you look. Take for example a recent Scooby-Doo movie that “cursed” Daphne with being overweight, emphasizing to children that being overweight is something to be ashamed of…a “curse”.

The “fitspo” aka “fitness inspiration” community has no doubt reinforced this message. With mantras like “if you just run 5 miles a day or do this specific workout…you will look like this” [insert picture of extremely lean and toned, shirtless guy/girl in spandex],

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the focus is often skewed toward appearance rather than health. What the fitspo community fails to mention is that the model in the picture doesn’t do that particular workout at all. Everyone’s body is different and will respond to a workout in its own unique way.

The idea that reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is a matter of trying hard enough is apparent in almost any infomercial and/or print media for an exercise routine, diet, or supplement. Advertisements emphasize the idea that weight loss and being healthy is a matter of calories in and out, using the right products, or engaging in the right exercise routine (which you too can partake in for the right price) and that people must be lazy if they are overweight. The diet and fitness industry capitalize off the belief that being overweight is a character flaw, evoking a demand for their product by those in need of gaining back lost virtue.

A 2008 study revealed the tendency of the media to selectively report on scientific article findings and to frame weight and health related news stories in a way that dramatizes the content and fosters individual blame. However, recent research has shown that this is not a good strategy to evoke positive public health change. For example, studies have shown that fat shaming actually has the potential to lead individuals already struggling with weight management to gain more weight in some cases, thus, the original intention of the shaming backfires. As it should- bullying, shaming and discrimination overall, have never been shown to be beneficial to anyone.

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So much of what we see in the news and in product advertisements conveys that body weight is a direct indicator of health. Although we agree that weight is an important factor in assessing health, it’s much more complicated than that and additional factors must be considered for a complete picture. Recent research indicates thin people too, can be “fat”. This is a direct message to not judge a book by its cover. Research has more than established at this point that thin does not necessarily equal healthy, and overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy. What we see on the surface is only a small representation of what going on below the surface.

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Missing the Mark

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Take for example, the 2012 Strong4Life ad campaign which is part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Hospital’s five-year, $25 million initiative designed to curb childhood obesity in Georgia. The campaign features pictures of seemingly overweight children with a “warning” that states “it’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not” and “fat prevention begins at home…And the buffet line”. Their newest video demonstrates how a fat child, enabled by “bad” parenting, is led to have a heart attack through a series of lifelong bad habits.

It’s hard to understand why people say and do the things they do in relation to overweight people. A concerned parent of an obese child may think they are helping their child by saying something like “a minute of the lips, forever on the hips”. But in reality, these types of comments are embarrassing and will not encourage the child to make healthier choices. Instead, a more likely outcome is they’ll learn to eat alone and in shame during their next meal.

By the same token, health care providers are often uncomfortable approaching the subject and may not realize that simply telling someone to eat less and exercise more will not always help. In a recent interview, Dr. Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale, spoke about the issue of weight related bias in the health care system. “Women with obesity report that doctors are one of the most common sources of weight bias in their lives – 69% of women reported these experiences with doctors. Negative weight related attitudes and stereotypes toward patients with obesity have been documented among physicians, nurses, medical students, dietitians, psychologists, and even health professionals who specialize in obesity. Stereotypes include assumptions that patients with obesity are non-compliant with treatment, lazy, and lack willpower and motivation to improve their health.” said Puhl. This brings to light the complexity of the issue. Oftentimes health care providers may think they are helping a patient lose weight by “encouraging” them, but in all actuality, that’s not what happens. Simply put: you can’t shame people into being “healthier”.

Adverse effects

People that are exposed to more weight based discrimination are more likely to experience shame, gain weight, stop seeking medical treatment, and avoid exercise. Depression, emotional eating, and low self-esteem also play a role. Research has shown that overweight people who reported discrimination based on weight were more than twice as likely to be obese four years later than people who didn't experience such discrimination. As research has more than established, making someone feel bad about themselves does not encourage healthy behavior change.

The Need for a Shift

It’s time for a shift in the conversation- from body size, numbers, and shaming to a positive focus on individual health behavior change. As a community, we need to encourage and enable everyone to make healthier lifestyle choices. Shame does not have a place in health promotion and is not an effective motivator of change.

 

Image Sources: Daphne; Glacier; Strong4life;

Physical Activity vs. Physical Fitness

As a Soldier, it is important to be physically active as well as physically fit to be prepared for combat. The terms physical activity and physical fitness are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference in these terms.

The Differences

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Physical activity involves day-to-day actions that keep the body moving and blood flowing, whereas physical fitness consists of workouts that elevate heart rate and perspiration.  Both physical activity and physical fitness are equally important to a healthy lifestyle. 

For those looking to increase their daily physical activity amount, it may be helpful to insert small bouts of activity spread throughout the entire day. 

For example:

  • Take the stairs as often as possible
  • Park as far away from the door as possible
  • Go for a family walk after dinner (don’t forget the dog!)
  • If sedentary at work, take small “walking-breaks” at least once per hour         

FITT

Whether for personal fitness goals or in preparation for the APFT, service members are often searching for new ways to increase their physical fitness.  When creating a new workout, it is important to remember the FITT formula. The factors in this formula can determine the success of a fitness plan. Consider a few recommended guidelines regarding the FITT formula:

Frequency: 3-5 times/week

Intensity: target heart rate range

Time: 20-30 minutes

Type: varied  

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Bottom Line: Although both are essential for a healthy lifestyle, there is a difference between physical activity and physical fitness.

Army H.E.A.L.T.H. and the Performance Triad

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As introduced in a previous Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog post, the fundamental components of the Performance Triad are nutrition, activity, and sleep. Emphasis has been placed on these three elements due to their ability to impact mental and physical performance. Interested Soldiers and their family members can utilize the tools on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. website/mobile app to aide in the practical application of these three essential elements to their lifestyle.

How? Army H.E.A.L.T.H. works in conjunction with the Triad to offer custom nutrition and fitness plans in addition to sleep material specifically designed for military personnel. Whether looking for a new exciting fitness routine, or ideas for healthy, energizing meals, Army H.E.A.L.T.H. is the bridge that connects the Performance Triad to Soldiers and their family members.

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Eating a healthy diet is imperative for maintaining peak physical and mental performance. Soldiers face their own unique set of environmental factors that may either help or discourage healthy eating practices. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers make the right dietary choices. The custom meal planner provides a detailed list of foods tailored for an individual’s specific requirements. For those with specific food preferences or needs, foods can easily be removed or modified.

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Most Soldiers share the common goal of maintaining a high level of physical fitness. However, no two Soldiers have the exact same fitness needs, routines, equipment, etc. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers achieve their fitness goals by providing a custom made fitness plan according to each person’s individual goals. The fitness plan provides a detailed exercise routine that is made specifically for each individual. Exercises are easily removed or modified to accommodate for injury or lack of equipment. The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Fitness planner even takes each Soldier’s next scheduled APFT into consideration when creating a new plan.

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Most service members know that it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night…a recommendation that is often easier said than done. In the Army, lack of sleep often results from operational requirements or high-operations tempo training. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. provides information regarding how to improve sleep quality and quantity under the most difficult, military specific situations. Resources are also provided for working with commanders and peers to ensure that Soldiers are enabled to get enough sleep and, therefore, function optimally.

What is the Army Performance Triad?

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The Performance Triad is a comprehensive plan that encourages Soldiers to make healthy choices regarding their physical activity, nutrition, and sleep habits. The Triad focuses primarily on activity, nutrition, and sleep because these components all interact to influence performance and health.

Nutrition

Whether training to be a Soldier Athlete or striving for a higher level of personal fitness, it is important for Soldiers to stay hydrated and fuel their body with the right food for the right job. It is especially imperative to build an eating strategy that will complement the requirements of each individual mission. Focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole wheat carbohydrates is fundamental to building a healthy plate.

Activity

Practicing a safe and effective fitness routine is essential to prevent injury and overtraining, maintain physical readiness, and improve overall health. But, physical activity encompasses more than just PT or exercise at the gym. Moving more (at least 10,000 steps/day) throughout the entire day has been linked with improved health outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, improved glucose levels, and maintenance of a healthy weight.

Sleep

The adverse effects of chronic sleep loss include poor mental and physical performance, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of obesity, to name a few. Barriers such as noise, light, and dietary choices may interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Add the diverse, demanding lifestyle of a Soldier in the mix, and things only get more complicated. Practicing healthy sleep habits can be the key to ensure clear thinking and optimal performance. Sleep 8 to be great!