Beating the New Cleat Blues

Break in those cleats before you hit the field

SATURDAY, Sept. 29, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Whether you're an aspiring Mia Hamm playing your first season of youth soccer, or a Marshall Faulk wanna-be trying to crack your high school football team's starting lineup, remember this:

Break in a new pair of cleats before you take to the field. Otherwise those cleats could chew up your feet as well as the turf.

"If you go out to practice with a brand new shoe, chances are you're going to end up with blisters and other sore areas," says Dr. Howard Palamarchuk, director of sports medicine and an assistant professor in podiatric orthopedics at Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine in Philadelphia.

Cleats tend to be tight and unforgiving when new, making a proper break-in essential. Cheating on that break-in period may hurt your performance as well as your feet.

"The worst thing to do is to take a brand new pair of cleats out of the box and go ahead in a full practice or a game," agrees Atlanta-based podiatrist Dr. Perry Julien, president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine and team podiatrist for the Atlanta Beat professional women's soccer team.

Palamarchuk suggests you need at least a week of low-intensity activity in your new cleats. Start by simply wearing the cleats while walking around the yard. Each day, increase the amount of time you wear them. By the end of the week you can start doing some drills on the field.

He and Julien say it's essential to have a proper fitting when buying the cleats.

"The best way to do that is to bring with you the socks you normally wear in that cleated shoe," Julien says.

"I even tell people if they wear shinguards, for example, for soccer, where a wrap comes around the ankle, then you really want to try on the cleats with that shinguard and sock, both of which could affect the fit of the cleat," he adds.

Also, take your time when buying cleats. Julien suggests, if possible, that you wear them and walk around the store for 30 minutes to an hour.

"Oftentimes a pair of shoes will feel OK the first five minutes or so when you're in the store, but after 20 minutes of wearing them they may not feel as good," he says.

Palamarchuk advises that you go to a store that specializes in sporting goods with knowledgeable staffers who will take the time to find your exact fit.

"If you go buy cleats at, say, a discount store, chances are you're not going to get a good shoe and a good fit," he says.

You may even consider visiting a sports medicine specialist, who can examine your feet and note any features that may affect shoe fit. You can give that information to the shoe seller.

"It's almost like a prescription," Palamarchuk says.

What to Do: For more information, here's a site about soccer cleats, and here's one that covers all the bases about sports and your children's feet.

SOURCES: Interviews with Howard Palamarchuk, D.P.M., director of sports medicine and assistant professor, department of podiatric orthopedics, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, Philadelphia; Perry Julien, D.P.M., Atlanta, president, American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine
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