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Choosing the right boots

by Greg Huang |

 Shoes can protect athletes against injury and make or break their game. With all the different options available, buying athletic shoes can be overwhelming, especially if you participate in multiple sports.

Cross-trainers often seem like a good solution, but athletes shouldn't make them do everything. Playing a sport two to three times a week justifies buying sport-specific shoes.

"Generally, you want to go with a sport-specific shoe if you are participating in a sport on a regular basis," said Dr. Jim Christina, director of scientific affairs for the American Podiatric Medical Association.

What's the difference? APMA experts offer insight into choosing a sport-specific shoe that will provide the best performance for your needs:

Basketball: Whether executing the perfect pass or making that high-flying dunk, the features of basketball shoes will help you prevent injury.

* A thick, stiff sole gives support when landing jumps or running.

* The high-top construction provides the strongest support of the shoe. It reinforces the ankle during quick changes in direction.

* Basketball shoes should be replaced every two to three months for five-day weeks of play or when the soles become smooth.

Racquetball and Tennis: Court shoes for tennis and racquetball may look like ordinary athletic sneakers, but they're designed specifically for the body movements made during these sports.

* A court shoe supports both sides of the foot for quick stops and starts and weight shifts during side-to-side movement.

* The flexible sole enables quick shifts in direction.

* The court shoe absorbs less shock than a running or basketball shoe.

* Court shoes help prevent ankle injuries by providing less traction than running shoes.

Running: The running shoe is the most personal and intricate of all athletic shoes. Choices abound because every runner has specific needs.

* The running shoe provides maximum shock absorption to prevent ailments like shin splints and knee pain.

* It should control the way your heel strikes the ground so that the rest of your foot falls correctly.

* Know your foot type - high, medium or low arch - so you get the shoe with the best support.

* Shoes should be flexible in the area around the ball of the foot.