10 Sneaky truths about sneakers

Today’s sneakers can be comfortable, casual shoes in which to run around, or they can be high-tech tools to increase athletic performance. Shoe companies now emphasize the latter and offer specialized shoe styles for all sizes and shapes of feet, as well as for nearly every sport or physical activity — and most of us have at least one pair in our closets. Here are 10 tips and interesting tidbits about sneakers.

Woman running in sneakers

1Sneakers weren’t always called “sneakers.”

The first rubber-soled shoes, called plimsolls, appeared in the 1800s.

2Sneakers are sneaky.

“Sneakers” originally got their name because their rubber soles were virtually silent, allowing wearers to sneak around unheard.

3One size does not fit all.

Pairs of sneakers originally didn’t even have left and right shoes. Things have come a long way since then. Sneakers now come in a variety of widths, and in models that cater to those with flat feet, high arches and everything in between.

4One design does not fit all.

They might look the same on the outside, but they’re structured differently on the inside. Running shoes are different from walking shoes, which, in turn, are different from court shoes or even cross trainers. Match the shoe to the activity, and your feet will thank you. (Shoes are commonly labeled for the activity for which they’re designed.)

5Choose carefully when buying sneakers for athletics.

“Consider what you will do with the shoe. Cross train, run, walk?” said Stephen Dunn, owner of Hit the Trails, a running and outdoor gear store in Riverview, Florida. Dunn, a veteran of 15 marathons and more than 100 races of all distances, has a lot of personal experience choosing the right shoe. He continues: “What type of foot do you have — a low arch or a high arch? How much do you weigh? Do you have any injuries? How many miles will you run or walk?”

6Your shoe size may change, even in adulthood.

Measure your feet, or at the very least, try on several sizes to see which feels best. A size 8 in one brand may fit perfectly but be too small in another. Choose carefully, because too small a shoe can cause problems such as hammer toe or ingrown toenails. If your shoes are too big, you may wind up with blisters.

7Replace your sneakers often.

That means every 300 to 400 miles, according to Dunn, or every 10 months. (Even if your sneakers have been gathering dust in your closet, their materials deteriorate over time.) “Your body will tell you with aches and pains when it’s time to replace your sneakers,” says Dunn.

8Take care of them, and they’ll last longer.

If your sneakers get wet, allow them to dry thoroughly, away from direct heat. Stuffing newspapers in them may help them dry a little faster. Sneaker cleaning is pretty simple, says Dunn: “Wash them in the sink, air dry, and Scotch Guard them before use.”

9The right shoe will help keep you injury free.

According to Dunn, “Running shoes should absorb shock and control pronation [the rolling inward of the foot]. Their design varies with foot type. The correct shoe will keep you from rolling inward or outward, pronating or supinating, based on your arch type.”

10Seek an expert fit.

For best selection and knowledgeable staff, find a store that specializes in athletic shoes. Take along your old shoes; wear patterns can help staff identify what type of shoe is best for you.

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