Check the shoe for stability.
1. Grab the shoe at the ball and heel of the foot. Bend the shoe from front to back. The shoe should bend right near the ball of the foot, because that's the pivot point of your foot. If the shoe doesn't bend in the right place, is too soft or too stiff, it flunked test number one! (The only exception to this rule is if you’ve been prescribed more stiff-toed shoes to help with certain painful toe conditions, particularly arthritis at the big toe joint.)
2. Holding the shoe in the same place, try to wring the shoe like a towel. You should see some movement, but if the shoe twists too easily, you won't have much support for lateral and twisting movements. This is particularly important in sports activities like basketball, tennis or aerobics.
3. At the heel of the shoe, find the "heel counter". This is a stiff cup sewn into the back of the shoe to promote heel stability. Try to squeeze this cup into the shoe. It should be very stiff and not bend over.
Match the shoe to your foot shape.
Everyone's foot has a different shape. Athletic shoes are made with straight, semi-curved and curved soles or "lasts". A last is the design shape used to make the sole of a shoe. Putting a straight foot in a curved lasted shoe can cause excessive wear and a decrease in the control and support provided by the shoe.
What is your foot shape? Step on a paper towel when your foot is wet and take a look at the imprint. You'll probably see something like this:
Flat feet usually are associated with overpronation (excessive rolling inward) and can benefit from a "motion control" or "stability" shoe that is built on a straight-last. High arch feet can often be more rigid and benefit from a curved-lasted shoe with maximum cushioning and flexibility. High arch feet also usually benefit from athletic shoes with a little bit higher heel - not absolutely flat. Normal feet have a wide selection of shoes that will work for them.
Take a look at the soles of several athletic shoes and observe how each has a slightly different amount of curvature. The last shape should match your foot shape, regardless of whether you have a high, medium or low arch. A sportsmedicine specialist or podiatrist can recommend models, inserts or orthotics to fit your particular foot, especially when you fall outside the normal range. The American Association of Podiatric Sports Medicine maintains an updated list of recommended shoes for various foot types. This can be found at www.aapsm.org.
Tips for Trying on Shoes