October 3, 2011

Smart Footwear for Senior Fitness

As a Senior Fitness Specialist/Trainer,  I have been asked countless times about what clients should wear for on their feet while they work out.  There are literally hundreds of sneakers and athletic shoes on the market.  Fitness shoes are sold in department stores, athletic shops and even regular shoe stores. Since there are as many different and varied sports and fitness classes as there are fitness shoes to choose from, the attempt to find the shoe that is the right one will often  leave many scratching their heads, getting overwhelmed and finally giving up and picking a fitness shoe which isn’t always the correct one for the job.  Also, cost can be an issue – athletic shoes can run from $20 to over $100 and can be quite a sizable investment for many seniors.   My hope is that the tips below will help guide a future or current fitness enthusiast in the search for the proper fitness shoe.  Good luck and happy hunting!

Cross trainers
For most people that want to have a good solid fitness shoe that will be used for either the gym and fitness classes or a combination of both that can also be used for other physical activities, my advice is to check out  Cross trainers.  Cross trainers can be used for various fitness activities and have the solidity and support to allow most sports and physical activities as well.  These shoes are the most common athletic shoe available on the market and can be purchased in most department stores or shoe stores.  Cross trainers come in a wide variety of sizes and colors to fit most budgets and fashion tastes.  You would select a pair that is of good quality that will last several months.

Walking shoes
Walking shoes are designed for the activity that they are named for – these shoes are made for walkin!  Walking shoes are usually softer than most Cross trainers but normally have less support than a standard fitness shoe.  This softness in the body of the shoe allows comfort  to the person using them to walk.   Normally these shoes have a flat bottom sole and have little or no treads on the bottom of the shoe.  Walking shoes  are good for cardio workouts (treadmills or walking) but aren’t as good to wear for other fitness classes, specifically exercises which involve using the foot as an anchor to hold fitness bands or tubing from sliding off the foot or even some lower leg fitness/strength machines  – for this reason,  walking shoes are normally not the best choice for most fitness class participation.

Boat shoes or soft canvas shoes
Boat and soft canvas shoes are really for maximum comfort versus being used as a fitness shoe.  These shoes are made of light canvas and usually have 4 or less grommets for the laces.  These shoes are usually very inexpensive compared to Cross Trainers or Walking Shoes, but they provide little support and no tread on the sole.  They usually offer little protection for hazards on the floor in a gym as well and can be slippery on certain surfaces found in gyms.   My advice, best save these shoes for fashion and or boating.

Tying up the shoe story
Now that you are outfitted with the proper shoes, we need to talk about laces.  For some seniors that suffer from arthritis of the hands or have problems tying shoes, many of the athletic shoes give more aggravation that it’s worth to wear them.  Tying the laces may not even be an option for some seniors.  If this is an issue, look for athletic shoes that have a Velcro closure instead of laces.  The Velcro closures make life easier to by allowing the wearer to fasten the shoe and get into the gym easily!  For further assistance in this ‘hard to lace” situation, many shoe stores sell various types of devices that will help seniors that have shoes with laces have an easier time fastening them.  These devices are “spring like” laces that stay opened once they are fastened to the shoe.  Asking a shoe salesperson to help find these is usually all that is needed.