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If the shoe helps, wear it

Relieving pain in your knees, hips and back may begin with your feet.

If you’re looking to update your athletic shoes before going for a walk or run in the warmer weather, you may be tempted to try out some high-tech machines in specialty shoe stores that boast a better fit.

Do they really work?

“Yes, but technology is only as valuable as the person interpreting the data,” says David Nolan, a physical therapist with the Orthopaedics Sports Performance Center Running Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

The right support in your shoes can stave off foot problems that lead to knee, hip and back problems and raise the risk of falls and fractures. New high-tech machines in shoe stores can point out where you need that support.

The machines fall into two categories: foot scanners and gait analyzers. Scanners are usually computerized mats you stand on that map the pressure points on the soles of your feet. This map can help determine your arch type and whether you need special arch supports called orthotics. Gait analyzers record the characteristics and support needs of your feet in motion. The machines range from computerized mats to treadmills with video cameras. It takes a trained salesperson “with an understanding of shoe construction and the mechanics of mobility to get the fit right,” Nolan says.

Better walking or running shoes can help you reach the recommended weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity – such as brisk walking – without foot pain or the risk of foot problems.

– Harvard Health Letters