MOUNT SINAI HEALTH TIP: SHOES MATTER
April 28, 2017
Welcome to the Mount Sinai Health Beat, a feature with the official medical provider of USTA Eastern, USTA, and the US Open. This month, Ettore Vulcano, MD, Assistant Professor at the Leni and Peter W. May Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explains what you need to know about buying the right tennis shoes.
When it comes to buying new tennis shoes, there’s an old cliché that holds true: If the shoe fits, wear it. Yet you would be surprised how many sports enthusiasts ignore this simple rule.
With the onset of warmer weather, many players are preparing for the return of the outdoor tennis season, always a good time to think about your equipment. Picking the right shoes can make a big difference, and they don’t need to be the most expensive ones on the market.ADVERTISEMENT
These days, tennis shoes are gaining more notice, mostly for the neon colors the pros are wearing, or the names and insignias they display. Nick Kyrgios, the flamboyant young Australian star, raised eyebrows recently when he changed out of his tennis shoes on the court the minute his match ended, donning a pair of basketball shoes.
Buying new tennis shoes is serious business. My suggestion: Don’t buy a shoe just because it looks good or your favorite player wears that model. Much more important, look for cushioning, shock absorption, ankle stabilization, and whether the shoe fits your foot.
That’s not always so easy.
Not everyone’s foot is the same. Some have high arches, some low arches. Some need more ankle support because they have a history of sprains. Some have a wider foot, others some specific issues. For example, if you have foot or ankle arthritis that causes discomfort, you may want a shoe with a harder sole that doesn’t bend so easily.
If you get a shoe without the proper support, you increase the risk of rolling your ankle, the most common foot problem I see among tennis players. In addition, minor injuries can more quickly escalate into a more major problem, such as tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, or a stress fracture, particularly when shoes with little cushioning are used.
So how do you know which shoe is right for you? Go to a store that offers high-quality shoes, expert advice, and a multitude of brands. You can normally find a good pair for $60 to $80. In fact, you don’t necessarily need a tennis shoe. I have found there are many solid running shoes or gym shoes that will work just fine on the tennis court. Many sneakers today have far more support and cushioning than they did when tennis shoes were always white and made of canvas. At the same time, there are plenty of tennis shoes that provide little or no support or cushioning, but do look pretty cool and aren’t cheap. So be careful. One recent trend are shoes that take a “minimalist” approach, which cuts down on the thickness of the sole and the weight of the shoe. These shoes transfer a tremendous amount of stress on the joints and bones.
Some of my patients have asked me about buying orthotic shoe inserts at the store.
My advice: Ask your doctor if you need custom-made orthotics or get advice on which off-the-shelf model is best for your type of foot. Most times just some “arch support” is not enough. There are other specific things that an orthotic should include based on the patient’s specific foot shape.
Finally, consider changing your shoes at least once a year. Top players may find they need to buy new shoes much more frequently as the soles wear down and holes can appear. But even for casual players, the cushioning and support of your shoes will begin to wear out over time, and you will feel the difference a new pair of shoes will make on the court.