When you work out or play a sport, your shoes affect your performance — and your risk for injury. Key: Choose sport-specific footwear. Examples: Tennis shoes have side support and flexible soles for fast changes in direction… running shoes give maximum shock absorption… walking shoes need low heels that bevel inward so feet roll easily through the stride. Also…

Learn your foot type. Ask a podiatrist or athletic trainer… or visit a shoe store that offers computerized foot-type analysis. Wide feet: A too-narrow shoe leads to shin splints, so if even wide-size women’s shoes feel tight, try men’s shoes. High arches: Look for a shoe with a thick, shock-absorbent heel, such as a gel heel or air bladder. For feet that roll inward: You need a deep heel cup and wide mid-foot base. For feet that roll outward: Choose a somewhat rigid shoe.

Check a shoe’s flexibility by bending and twisting it. It’s too flexible (and thus can lead to ankle sprains) if it bends at mid-sole instead of the ball… flattens at the heel cup… or wraps like a towel when twisted. A shoe that’s hard to bend or twist is too rigid (except for cycling) and may cause shin splints.

Know when to purchase a new pair. Wear and tear affect a shoe’s ability to support and protect. Replace sports shoes after they’ve taken about 500 miles’ worth of steps. If you’re a walker or runner, that’s easy to calculate. Otherwise, replace shoes when treads and heels are visibly worn.

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