In its latest tests of athletic shoes, the August issue of Consumer Reports rated the Asics GEL 150TR as the top-performing shoe for both men and women. Both models topped the charts for excellence in cushioning and fit and rated “Very Good” for stability.
Athletic shoes are designed for a range of activities such as aerobics, weight training, light running and court games. Consumer Reports enlisted a group of 12 panelists to test a total of 20 pairs –10 men’s and 10 women’s - for cushioning, stability, fit, flexibility, breathability and weight. Testing took place over three months and panelists tested the shoes in a variety of activities from jogging and aerobics to weight lifting and kickboxing.
Consumer Reports identified the men’s Champion Amp 2 from Payless ($45) as a Consumer Reports Best Buy. Although technically a running shoe, it’s appropriate for many uses.
For women, Consumer Reports recommends the Ryka Core Strength XT ($70), which earned a “Very Good” Rating across all categories, and the Avia A104W ($45), which scored well in every category except breathability, so it’s a good choice if ventilation isn’t a priority.
There were two models of shoes that caused problems for the Consumer Reports testers despite their catchy designs. The SmoothFit Mobile II Trainer, by Reebok ($70), has a tongue design that caused bunching for some panelists, which, combined with the lacing design, made it difficult to get a tight fit. And the women’s Champion C9 Rocksie (Target, $28) had elastic banding secured with Velcro instead of lacing, making it hard to secure it snugly on the foot. It also lacked effective cushioning.
“Don’t fall for flashy redesigns, even though they may look enticing on the rack,” said Gayle Williams, deputy health editor, Consumer Reports. Williams emphasized the importance of fit when purchasing an athletic shoe. “Buying the right shoe is really an individual decision,” Williams said. “You have to pay attention to how the shoe fits your foot, no matter what you’re going to be doing.”
Tips for choosing the best-fitting athletic shoe:
• Get expert advice. Consumers will probably pay more at an athletic footwear store than they would at a discount store, but they’re more likely to find a seasoned salesperson who can help them get the best shoe for their needs.
• Shop with the right socks. Consumers should bring along the type of socks they expect to wear with the shoes; socks vary in thickness, which can affect the fit of the shoes they’re trying on.
• Always try on both shoes. No two feet are exactly the same size. So just because one shoe feels good, that doesn’t mean the other will.
• Test the shoe. Buying shoes without trying them out is like buying a car without test-driving it. People should ask if they can buy the shoes and return them if they don’t feel right. Do a test…lunge. Aerobics enthusiasts should practice a lunge or squat in the store while wearing the athletic shoes they’re considering. If a consumer plans to use the shoe for jumping rope, they should practice a few bounces.