It must have taken a lot of uncomfortable feet to realize that shoes are important in preventing sports injuries & enhancing athletic performance.  In 776 B.C. the Greek athletes competed barefoot in the first Olympic games and it wasn’t until centuries later that it was realized that closed footwear was necessary for better protection, comfort and functionality. The first official running shoe was designed in the 1920’s by Adolf Dassler. His idea for the running shoe was first incorporated by soccer players & track athletes. The shoe had three parallel straps that brought more stability to the shoe and foot. What began as a technical innovation also made the shoes very recognizable and thus the brand logo and brand name, Adidas, was created. Interestingly enough, Adolf’s brother who originally started as a business partner, created the company, Puma, after parting business with Adolf.


During the 1970’s, fashion in athletic footwear began to be a major factor and gave consumers many different options. It became noticeable however that the functional aspect of the shoes was just as important.  When it comes to foot comfort and functionality, sometimes fashion needs to take a back seat. Shoe selection should be chosen for maximum performance, quality, protection, fit, and comfort. This means that the shoe for a particular sport needs to have its own specific characteristics based on the needs of that sport. For example, a court shoe for basketball needs to have stability and support and the right kind of outsole for traction. A running shoe should be breathable, cushioned and lightweight for the pounding of running, yet have the torsional stability for motion control.


Not only should you select a shoe based on the particular needs of your sport, but the shoe should be shaped like your foot. Some shoes are made with wider toe boxes, some for high arch or low arched feet, yet others are made for narrow heels. Make sure there is a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe (which isn’t always the big toe) and the end of the shoe when standing in the shoe.  Don’t buy shoes that feel too tight and expect them to stretch to fit. Shoes should not ride up and down your heel when you walk.  The stability of the heel in the shoe is critically important for the function of the foot in the shoe.


Here are some other tips to keep in mind when searching shoes: The upper part of the shoes should be made of soft, flexible material. Leather shoes can reduce the possibility of skin irritations. Soles should provide solid footing and not be slippery. Thicker rubber soles will feel more cushioned, but will wear quicker.  Low-heeled shoes are usually more comfortable and safer.


Improperly fitting shoes are the source of many problems. Some problems in the feet respond to stretching and conditioning, choosing a different shoes, or simple modifications. However, complicated problems may require specific inserts that are specially designed for your foot. Severe flat foot, high arches, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, and turf toe are a few of these conditions.  These inserts can concentrate relief on a particular area while supporting other areas.


To obtain the best relief for any problems or if you have any questions see a doctor that specializes in the foot and ankle. Working with your doctor will ensure you get the right shoes and arch supports.