Below is the most recent article in our exclusive series of health-related features from Dr. Kenneth Ransom. Enjoy.
THE BASKETBALL SHOE, “where the rubber meets the road.”
Basketball shoes have come a long way since the Converse All-Star high cut, in black or white only, one-style-fits-all model. Today’s athletic shoes are high-tech in design and materials not to mention a noticeable fashion accessory. The game of basketball places significant forces on the feet, ankles and legs of players. Instant acceleration / deceleration, lateral movements and jumping produce great stresses on the player’s footwear (where the rubber meets the road). Basketball shoes must be constructed to provide support, cushioning, flexibility and stability to not only maximize performance but also to protect the player from injury. Shoes have more impact on both the health and performance of a basketball player than any other piece of equipment.
There are four basic components of an athletic shoe: the upper portion or cut, the insole, the midsole and the outsole. The upper portion of the high cut shoe keeps the foot secure and protects the ankle from extreme rolling. Lower cut shoes to not give this same stability. An insole is the inner bottom lining of the shoe, with or without an insert, which provides arch support and heal cushioning. The outsole is the bottom part of the shoe that makes contact with the floor. It is usually flat to provide maximum surface area for traction. Finally, the midsole is between the insole and the outsole. This can be made from any number of high-tech materials that make it stiffer for more explosive take-off or softer for better cushioning.
The physical build and individual playing style will determine the preferred qualities of the shoe to be worn. Frontcourt players, the BIGS, need a shoe with good ankle support as well as cushioning for protection when landing after jumps. This shoe would likely have a high-cut upper portion with a softer midsole. Often these big players can benefit from a good arch support, heal cushioning insole insert as well. Smaller backcourt players usually prefer a lighter, low-cut shoe with a stiffer midsole for quicker lateral movements and acceleration. For the in-between wing player that is large but also needs agility and quickness, a mid-cut upper portion shoe with a stiffer midsole may provide the most versatility. Additional ankle support can be accomplished with taping and more cushioning with a insole insert.
Shoes should always be laced-up snug and tied. When loosely laced or not tied the foot is allowed to move too freely placing the player at a much greater risk for injury. The same principles apply to wearing shoes that are too old. The canvas becomes stretched out and loose, the cushions collapse and the outsoles wear down to become slippery. An active basketball player may have to replace his shoes about every six months depending on the quality. It is prudent to get familiar with the specs of a shoe when shopping, the price and appearance doesn’t necessarily correlate with the quality.
By Dr. Kenneth Ransom