Whether you walk, run, or participate in another fitness activity, having the right shoes helps prevent injury.

Summer Gear Guide: How to Choose the Right Sports Shoes

Exercise is important, and having fun while you do it is just as important. But an essential – and often-overlooked – part of the picture is wearing the right shoes. Here are some tips from health experts on how to choose the right shoes for your feet.

Know Your Foot Type

Look at the soles of one of your favorite, well-worn flats to determine where you’re putting the most pressure when you walk. This is one way to tell if you’re a pronator, supinator, or have a neutral foot position, and is important information about your gait, which you can share with the salesperson when shopping.

Don’t Shop Small

Did you know that your feet are larger at the end of the day? That’s why experts suggest waiting until later in the day to pick out a new pair of shoes. Then look for shoes that are snug in the heel, with wiggle room for your toes — at least a 1/2-inch gap between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. It’s also important to bring the socks you’ll wear during physical activity. If you use, orthotics, bring those too, as they need to fit inside easily.

Get Fitted

Salespeople in sports and running stores are trained to help fit shoes correctly, measuring your foot and watching you walk or run to assess your gait. While it’s tempting to buy online or at discount stores, this type of service will ensure that you get the right shoe for your feet. If you’re a serious runner, this expert guide provides more in-depth tips on choosing running shoes.

Be Alert for Injuries

Unfortunately, the first sign that your shoes don’t fit properly is often when you experience pain or develop an injury. Whether it’s a twinge, ache, or burning sensation, pay attention and get the problem looked at. And check your shoes for fit problems! More serious walking and running injuries include plantar fascitis, black toenail, and achilles tendonitis.

Sports Shoes for Sports Only

If your sports shoes are comfortable, it’s tempting to grab them whenever you’re going to be walking some distance. But a good pair of running or walking shoes is an investment, and you want them to last. Wear pattern is also important – they’ll support your feet better if they’re dedicated to exercise time. Some experts even suggest that if you run as well as walk, you should keep separate shoes for each activity.

Replace Regularly

Check your shoes frequently for wear and tear. The average pair of shoes needs replacement after 350-500 miles of use, but most people wear them longer than that, when they no longer provide needed support. Keep an eye on the tread, cushioning, and outer material. If your soles are losing tread, you don’t feel the support you once had, or worn spots are giving you blisters, it’s time to retire this pair.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.