Decisions, decisions…I am in my closet trying to decide what shoes I should wear for the activities that I will be doing today.  My footwear collection looks vastly different than it did as a child.  Like most other children growing up in the 1950’s, I owned only two pair.  One pair was for school and the other for church.  The shoes were purchased in September and had to last until Easter.  By summer, it was flip-flops or bare feet, except for that pair of patent leather, Sunday ones, which were beginning to get tight on my growing feet. 

It’s funny how history repeats itself.   Flip-flops have reinvented themselves and returned in an array of colors and styles and have once again found their way into my closet.  Only this time, they are on sassy platforms.  As I continue to survey the situation I notice that I have a certain proclivity for high heels. I feel a little guilty that a fitness specialist would treat her feet so badly, but I quickly ease the Eve syndrome by turning my attention toward my sneakers.  I justify the urge to purchase a new pair or two of sneakers by telling myself that “I exercise a lot”.  It’s time for some (as my friend Amy says), RETAIL THERAPY!

The problem is that it is getting harder and harder to find just the right sneakers for a specific activity.  Yup, I said for a specific activity.  Do you remember when Keds and P.F. Flyers were the only choices?  Well, things are different now.  Gym shoes are now called athletic shoes and the styles and selections can be mind boggling for the novice shopper.  If one doesn’t know a little bit about what they are shopping for, they might make a wrong choice and end up with aching feet and throbbing knees. 

Most athletic shoes are sport specific.  This means that if you are a runner, you need to buy running shoes that are designed specifically for flexion of the ankle.  To participate in an aerobic dance or step class wearing running shoes could do some serious damage to your knees.  To safely participate in those activities you would need to buy a studio shoe or a cross trainer, which are made for both lateral and forward/backward movements.  However, if you were playing basketball, volleyball, tennis or any other court sport, you would want to purchase a shoe to maximize speed and agility.  On another hand, take these same shoes to the soccer or baseball field and you could be in for a major fall.  And, can you imagine wearing those clunky aerobic shoes to go for a spin on your bike?  The handlebars are better left on the front of the bike as opposed to wrapped around your head!

When buying athletic shoes don’t be shy about asking the salesperson what type of shoe it is.  In sporting goods stores, most sales people are knowledgeable about the shoes the store sells.  The shoes should feel great on your feet the minute you get them laced up.  You should never have to break in a new pair of shoes before you actually wear them for the activity.  The exception to the rule is that you wouldn’t want to wear a brand new pair of shoes to run a marathon or another endurance activity or the result could be blisters.

Something else to consider is the brand name.  Just because a shoe is endorsed by a major league star doesn’t mean that it is the right one for your foot.  Try on different brands and see which one feels best to you.  A sneaker shouldn’t be quite so roomy as a dress shoe, because you don’t want your foot to slide around in it as you move through your workout or activity, putting you at risk for injury.

Orthopedic issues are a concern as well.  Some people have high arches, others flat feet.  Some are pigeon toed, others knock-kneed, while some are supinators or pronators.  Selecting a shoe that fits well and wears well is a great investment!  It pays to spend a little more for a shoe that performs.  Generally, a shoe will endure about 3-4 months of regular exercise.  I find that by rotating among two to three pairs of sneakers extends the life of each.  An athletic shoe will lose cushioning and support long before it looks worn.  If your knees begin to hurt check your shoes first and if that doesn’t remedy the problem, see a physician.

If you will excuse me, I think I will put on my high heels and go shopping for some snazzy new flip-flops.  I will probably grab a new pair of aerobic shoes while I’m at it.  See you at the mall!

Pam Archer is an accomplished public speaker, and a frequent radio and television guest.  She is an avid blogger and a newspaper columnist.

In addition to her event planning business, Pam has twenty years experience in the fitness industry.  Archer Fitness Consultants, Inc. umbrellas her videos, speaking appearances, personal training, and everything else she does in the fitness industry. She is also a contributing editor to WE Magazine for Women. To learn more about Pam visit and