Do It Better: Choosing the right athletic shoe

Scott Van Kampen

By Scott Van Kampen, PT, Do It Better
As the sunny days begin to flourish a bit more, so does the call to run in the woods, or along the coast in the sand. The hobby of running may start suddenly, or as a moving outdoors from the drone of the treadmill that has been spinning all Winter long and into Spring. Yet if you are seasoned in your long stride or just beginning, here are a few things to consider. We will begin where the feet hit the ground, literally. From barefoot, minimalist, pronation control, stability, and on up the ladder to maximalist shoes, the foot and its’ protection is vital. If you wear socks, a few things to consider is do they slide around in your shoe? Are they absorbent enough? And, do they keep you from rubbing again and again from heel to toes end? If you have problems with blisters, callusing, or athletes foot you may wish to think about having some wool in the blend, or even go so far as using toe socks.

Next, on to the shoes that you will choose. As this could be a book in and of itself, I will suffice it to say that the best way to choose is how well what you wear engages the rest of the leg to the core (the kinetic chain of each joint up the ladder and how it is controlled.) Picking the right shoe for you is a matter of balance, strength, and range of motion.
So, from barefoot to maximalist, these 3 things are the foundation of your foundation. Tests like the depth of your squat, or even your single leg squat will show you which shoe allows you to go the deepest with the most control. Stepping it up by stepping down in all 3 planes of motion will also be helpful to challenge this further if you add a reach towards the front, side, back, and in rotation. Start this by standing on a box or step. Now reach one foot out and down towards the ground in each of the directions described, without getting all the way to the ground. Repeat this motion and return to the center each time without touching (if possible).

Click here to view this test for athletic shoe fit.

If you have not found the best pair of foundations (sneakers or less) yet, we can take it up one more level of testing. You may need to watch the video to understand this explanation. Stand on one foot and reach the other foot back and down, keeping it just above the ground, close to as far as you can. The arms will come into play here. You will swing the elbows forward and back in opposite directions, and alternate them while moving the same arm and leg in opposite directions as well. Now pull that leg forward, and up in front of you as you drive the knee out in front and up to the height of your belt line. As you repeat this motion forward and back, you can progress it by also adding diagonal motions of reaching front to back.
If you have gotten this far in testing out which shoes to pick up for your run, you are doing well. Yet, if you had trouble back at the second test in certain directions, adding orthotics, stretching and strengthening will be a good idea. The good thing is, all the tests will be the same for orthotics. And, these tests can also be made into exercises with some variations being made as needed.
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A new series from physical therapist Scott Van Kampen at Do It Better Physical Therapy. Scott will provide helpful articles and tips to help prevent injuries, advice on ways to move better and help our bodies be the best they can be – simply put, ways to “Do It Better.”
Do it Better Physical Therapy began full time in Tillamook in January 2019, located at 2101 5th St in downtown Tillamook, in the old TLC building. The treatment you receive at Do it Better is full body, and integrates all your past and current concerns into our time spent together. Many commercial, motor vehicle, and workers compensation insurances are accepted and billed for your care. Do it Better is the only independent physical therapy clinic in Tillamook county accepting new patients. We specialize in treating pain, limitations in activities, and function. Patients that are interested in returning to what they want or need to do, and are willing to follow a plan together are who we are looking to team up with.