Time to highlight your game and reel in serious Ws this fall. But before you get in motion, gear up for action in the right [and left] shoe. Flick through the following expert advice from American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine podiatrists, and get a sneak peek at the best sport-specific kicks we're nominating this season.
Performance-driven shoes are key for every athlete. For the pitch, you need a cleat that offers solid traction and gives you control of how your feet can start, stop and pivot around your opponents. AAPSM member Dr. Rob Conenello lays out factors to consider when buying shoes for soccer.
Fit: A snug or "neat" fit helps you get a better feel for the ball. When trying on cleats, Conenello suggests wearing your game socks to ensure a true fit. A proper-fitting boot should extend a thumbnail's width beyond your largest toe, and the width of your foot should not spread further than the base of the shoe.
Material: High-end boots boast Kangaroo leather [K-leather], a soft material that makes the cleat feel lighter and more formfitting. A less expensive option is full-grain leather; it's durable and won't break down quickly from moisture and wear.
Lacing system: An asymmetric lacing system provides more foot-to-ball contact so you can strike with better accuracy.
Controlled movement is important on the gridiron, too. Unlike soccer boots, which bend at the midfoot, the shanks on football cleats are stiff for torsional control, explains AAPSM member Dr. Jamie Yakel. Furthermore, football cleats are position-specific. Deeper cleats are purposed for running or moving shorter distances, while shallower, more dispersed cleats are best for cutting and running, Yakel says. Aside from cleat type, Yakel and Dr. Bruce Williams, an American Podiatric Medical Association member and president of the AAPSM, note these essential elements:
Fit: Pay attention to your forefoot. If it's wide, your foot will bulge over the side if the cleat is not the appropriate width. Williams suggest choosing a wider cleat or wearing a larger size.
Lockdown system: Williams says laces lock the foot in better than other options. Some cleats are designed with an overlay of Velcro, which adds extra stability depending on where it's placed.
On the links, the key is for your shoes to provide support. Williams prefers shoes that flex at the ball of the foot, not in the middle. He also suggests testing the heel counter by squeezing it for firmness. The heel counter can add extra support and control to the foot.
Cross training and running shoes are designed for different and specific movements. Cross trainers are for multidirectional activity [e.g., jumping, lateral motion]. You can wear them for a variety of activities, from hitting the weights to light running—but not for pounding the pavement over a long duration.
APMA member Dr. Cary Zinkin recommends that runners avoid cross trainers and instead gear up in a running-specific shoe, since runners need kicks built for forward, not lateral, motion. Features Zinkin considers include:
Fit: The shoe should fit snugly, but not too snugly. "Having some movement of your toes is fine, but slipping and sliding is not advisable or safe," Zinkin says.
Support: Running shoes are built with a wider platform than other sport shoes to provide stability and support as you move forward over a long distance. "You need the most protection and support possible," Zinkin says. The type of support system depends on your foot's arch: high, neutral or low.
Weight: A lightweight shoe allows you to better feel the terrain, Zinkin notes.
Taking your game inside? Lightweight also plays a role when you're hitting the court. "Volleyball is a sport that requires fast and short forward, backward and lateral motions," Conenello says. To get the job done, you need a responsive shoe. Aim for one with more play in the torque, which allows for lateral movements like cutting and jumping. Conenello adds, "The shoe should fit snugly, but without any rubbing."
When selecting a shoe size, there should be enough room in the toe box so that your toes can move freely, and the midfoot of the shoe should be sturdy.
|Nike Trainer 1, $90, nike.com
Top features: A revamped version of the original Air Trainer 1, the Trainer 1 features DiamondFLX on the outsole to support multidirectional movement. The shoe runs slightly small, so order a half-size larger.
||Under Armour Fierce, $90, underarmour.com
Top features: The power ankle strap provides added security while the new independent cleat suspension reduces cleat pressure and offers comfort in the fourth quarter.
|Nike Air LT 2.1 D, $90, nikefootball.com
Top features: Designed with input from LaDainian Tomlinson, this mid cleat features an ankle strap for added stability and mesh panels for increased breathability.
|Reebok NFL Workhorse D3, $95, reebok.com
Top features: Not only is this the highest cut cleat available, it also provides the support that linemen need in the trenches.
|adidas Team Signature Reggie III Mid Superfly, $100, adidas.com
Top features: The three-zone lacing system features a lace-in spat support that keeps your foot locked in when cutting up opponents. The mid cleat is also one of the lightest available, weighing in at 13.2 ounces.
|Mizuno Wave-Lightning 5, $95, mizunousa.com
Top features: This hardcourt kick is equipped with Wave Technology that disperses shock throughout the sole, keeping the shoe comfortable and responsive.
|asics GEL-Sensei3, $120, asicsamerica.com
Top features: Engineered with asics' Impact Guidance System, this shoe is designed to facilitate the jumping and landing movements unique to volleyball. It also tips the scale at a featherweight 11 ounces.
|Puma Tipper, $170, golf.puma.com
Top features: An innovative outsole anchors the cleat to the course. Black and white styling gives it a modern, yet classic look.
|Nike Air Zoom TW 2009, $270, nikegolf.com
Top features: Designed for Tiger Woods, this shoe is made with premium full-grain leather. It includes low profile heel Zoom cushioning and Watershield Plus technology [along with a two-year waterproof warranty] to keep you dry.
|adidas F50.9 TUNIT, $195, adidas.com
Top features: A synthetic upper and changeable sock liner and stud set make this cleat adaptable to all weather conditions and on all field types.
|Puma v1.08 I FG, $200, pumafootball.com
Top features: This cleat has a thin upper
and two-piece outsole to provide great feel
and flexible support.
|Under Armour Create Pro MD, $160, underarmour.com
Top features: Built with an exoskeletal FootFrame for support and a perforated upper for increased airflow and moisture management, this cleat is the top end of Under Armour's soccer footwear offerings.
|Reebok TTZ Trainer, $85, reebok.com
Top features: Designed with an antifriction lining to control moisture and heat, and to reduce blisters and calluses, the shoe offers anti-microbial protection that eliminates 99 percent of bacteria. It's also built with HexRide cushioning technology for solid traction.
|Pony Jet Set Approach, $70, pony.com
Top features: This collapsible trainer is perfect for travel. It's made with a Velcro closure system and designed with a form-fitting bootie.
|asics GT-2140, $90, asicsamerica.com
Top features: Perfect for the flat-footed, this shoe provides stability by keeping the foot from turning in
|Nike Air LunarTrainer, $100, nikerunning.com
Top features: A cushioned distance trainer for a neutral foot, the Trainer features an OrthoLite sockliner to provide a custom fit. The LunarLite cushioning system allows for shock absorption.
|adidas Supernova Sequence 2, $100, adidas.com
Top features: Built for neutral runners, this shoe features a wider forefoot for more stability and provides arch support to prevent the foot from rolling in
A few other items worth reeling in
|Xenith X1 football helmet, $350, xenith.com
Top features: Offering the latest technology in concussion
protection, Xenith gradually releases air upon impact.
|Under Armour MPZ girdle, $75, underarmour.com
Top features: These compression shorts feature built-in lightweight pads and provide impact protection and breathability.
|Cutters The Gamer glove, $60, cuttersgloves.com
Top features: The padding and protection of a lineman glove with the flexibility, grip and feel of a receiver glove. The Gamer is made with C TACK grip and meets NFHS and NCAA specifications.
|Shock Doctor Ultra STC Mouth Guard, $25, shockdoctor.com
Top features: The new profile directs impact away from the front teeth to the stronger molars, and the spring-effect jaw pads offer a solid fit and improved comfort.
|Active Ankle T2, $40, activeankle.com
Top features: Made with closed cell EVA foam, the brace repels moisture while providing support.
|Puma King XL Ball, $50, pumafootball.com
Top features: The 32-panel hand-stitched ball is designed to minimize seam stress and maintain a perfectly round shape. Its multi-layered backing makes the ball water resistant
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock