One of the, if not the, most important pieces of workout gear are your shoes. If something’s wrong with your feet you struggle to exercise at all. Issues as unthreatening and minor as a bunion, corn, blister, or ingrown toenail can have you trying to avoid stepping on the sore part of your foot—and, just like that, you’ve altered your gait.

Years ago it seemed that a single pair of basic sneakers worked for practically any activity—whatever you were doing, the sneaker fit. More and more it seems to be quite the opposite: The workout determines the type of shoe needed. Running, walking, cycling, tennis, soccer—shoes today are highly specialized.

Shopping for the appropriate shoe can be overwhelming for someone attempting a new sport or activity, but Coastal Sole, and owner Todd Whisnant, can help. With 30 years of experience in the industry, he can easily help fit any customer with the proper performance shoes. 

For Running

Two important considerations should be made when choosing running shoes: Your gait and how much shock absorption you need. Your gait is how you run, which dictates how your foot hits the ground. A pronator runs on the inside of his feet. A supinator runs on the outside of her feet.  If your foot fall is neither of the these you’re a neutral. Coastal Sole will help you identify your gait and help you choose the shoe that’s right for you.

Heavier and high-mileage runners will need a cushioning shoe designed to absorb impact. Every step you take sends a shock load through your foot and up your leg which can result in injury. Minimizing these forces can help reduce issues like sore shins and knee pain. You should also remember that running shoes begin to lose their supporting and shock absorbing abilities as they age and should be replaced approximately every 500 miles.

For Cycling

While you can ride a bike wearing almost any kind of shoe, proper cycling shoes offer many advantages. Firstly, they are very stiff which helps save you energy. If you pedal in squashy running shoes, some of your downward effort is absorbed in the sole of the shoe, which means energy is wasted. Also, cycling shoes are designed to be used with toe clips or clipless pedals—meaning you don’t just push down on your pedals; you also push forward, pull backward and pull up. This makes for a much more efficient pedal stroke.

For Hiking

Hiking footwear should offer a combination of support and cushioning. If you’ll be out in the great outdoors facing a variety of weather conditions, it helps if your shoes are waterproof since having wet feet can get uncomfortable fast.

Walking shoes do not offer the needed ankle support or protection; boots are a better option. Boots offer ankle support and are more likely to keep your feet dry, especially if made of oiled leather, or if they boast Gortex or a similar waterproof, but breathable, lining.

For Court Sports

Basketball, squash, badminton, tennis, and volleyball players face specific demands which means that a simple pair of running shoes is not the best choice of footwear. Court sports involve explosive lateral or side-to-side movements which means a relatively thick-soled running shoe would be unstable and lead to injury. Additionally, the soles of running shoes are not designed for side-to-side movements and too much lateral movement could cause the sole to detach from the body of the shoe.

For Field Sports

Field sports such as soccer, football, and rugby are typically played on grass or artificial turf so grip and support are of paramount performance. That means that field sports shoes usually have studs or cleats, with the exact design and configuration depending on the regulations of the sport in question and the surface on which you’re playing.

Contact is not uncommon in field sport, so the studs/cleats must be free of sharp edges to minimize the risk of injury.

Overall Rules for Selecting the Proper Shoe

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends you follow these suggestions when purchasing a new pair of athletic shoes:

If possible, purchase athletic shoes from a specialty store. The staff will provide valuable input on the type of shoe needed for your sport as well as help with proper fitting.

Try on athletic shoes after a workout or run and at the end of the day. Your feet will be at their largest.

Wear the same type of sock you’ll wear for that sport.

When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle all your toes.

The shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. There is no “break-in period.”

Walk or run a few steps in your shoes. They should be comfortable.

Always re-lace the shoes you’re trying on. You should begin at the farthest eyelets and apply even pressure as you create a crisscross lacing pattern to the top of the shoe.

There should be a firm grip of the shoe to your heel. Your heel should not slip as you walk or run.

If you participate in a sport three or more times a week, you need a sport-specific shoe.


Don’t Forget the Socks

Socks, which are often overlooked and forgotten, are also an important decision when it comes to a variety of sports. Nothing so small can cause as much discomfort as a blister. They can be painful, annoying, and, if not handled properly, can “bench” you.

Blisters are typically caused by moisture, heat, and rubbing. New technologies address these issues and can make a huge difference in your performance.

What to consider:

A moisture-wicking fiber is crucial. Wicking away the sweat and water helps prevent blisters by keeping your feet dry and cool. Set aside those white cotton socks and look for synthetic and natural fiber (like wool) blends.

Pay attention to things like seams and fit that may cause irritation through rubbing. Fit, just like with shoes, is as important as anything else. You don’t want extra fabric getting in the way.

Socks come in a variety of thickness levels. Test out thicker and thinner options to find the sock that works best for you.

Added arch compression can improve circulation if swelling is an issue. 


Coastal Sole is located at 2122 Trent Boulevard, New Bern, NC and is open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Sunday 12:00-7:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.coastalsolenc.com or call (252) 631-5187. E-mail any questions you may have to coastalsolenc@gmail.com.

(Sources: American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society; American College of Cardiology; The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center; Health and Style; SparkPeople, Inc.; Stephanie Lee; and Rock Creek Runner.)