Besides buying gas, taking workshops to stay certified and purchasing duct tape to patch holes in those spandex shorts, shoes represent a significant expense for fitness instructors.

A few years ago, someone broke into my car and stole my shoes. I was at work, and I found out about the theft less than an hour before i had to teach a step class. All I had with me was a pair of wing-top loafers that pinched my toes because I was in the habit of buying the wrong sized shoes.

I have always been one who can think on my feet when it comes to matters of the feet. Between where I was and where I needed to be there is a large supermarket that sells sneakers for twenty bucks. I went there and bought a pair.

I could barely make it through ten minutes of the cardio before my feet showed the flexibility of a couple of anvils. I started to work my way through the bottoms of them as the anvils got heavier and heavier. After the class, I noticed that the sole around the heal had collapsed, I had to soak my feet in nearby Trout Lake to cool them off. (The next day I the Vancouver Sun reported a fish kill in Trout Lake.)

Readers of this blog will recall that I recently visited a podiatrist. I was having knee problems, and sure enough, just as I had suspected, the problems originated from my feet, and the fact that I always bought the wrong sized shoes. And my middle toes had become deformed as a result. I thought my deformity resulted from over 20 years of teaching fitness classes.


There were two remedies: Surgery to straighten out my toes, and orthotics. The doctor recommended orthotics, and I shelled out four hundred bucks for made-to-measure orthotic insoles.

I tried them out last week. I had no pain in my knees, and my participants noted how “frisky” my class was.

As frisky as I was, I noticed that the shoes are at or near the end of their life. I know that for a fact. I tend to hang on to them for too long. Never one to keep a secret, here is how fitness instructor s can tell that their shoes are shot:

1. They’re no longer sneaky.
Over time, the special synthetic material in the sole breaks down and your shoes can emit sound. Then sound can range from the simple clicking to the sound of someone scaling a building using toilet plungers. If your shoes overpower the sound system in your class, it’s time to splurge.

2. Uneven wear.
Check your soles – especially at the heel. If the thickness of is less on the outside than the inside, you are in danger of “going over” on your shoe. This is especially stressful on your ankles and knees because they force you to exercise in a bowlegged position. Participants often ask me whether they should take additives to cure their arthritic knees. They ask me while their standing on the sides of their shoes. “Get new shoes,” I tell them.

3. Cracks.
Examine the sides of the shoes. If you have cracks on the side of the soles, the structural integrity has deteriorated. Buy a new pair.

4. Talking about your shoes.
If you find yourself talking to other classmates about their shoes, it’s time to buy. Find out whether they found any deals, and tell me about it as well. If you find yourself writing a magazine article on the topic, it’s definitely time to buy.

Athletic shoes are expensive, but you don’t have to re-mortgage the house for a pair, but your days of scouring the used sneaker bins at Value Village are over. Keep an eye on the fliers, and try to find an expert retailer. They’re the one who will look at your old shoes, measure your feet, and fit you properly. Ask your instructors if they know good places to buy.

I have to heed my own advice. I just finished putting duct tape over a toe hole, and this morning I engineered a reef knot to reattach my laces. It’s time for me to spurge. I’m lucky though. As a registered fitness instructor, I can claim in on my income tax.

But it’s different now. I have $400 orthotics, and it looks like they’ll last forever. This week I used them in a pair of dress shoes at a business meeting, in my sneakers at 5 fitness classes, and in my work boots to tear down my bathroom wall.
I think I can get away with putting them into a pair of twenty dollar sneakers.

Mike Broderick WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he FOUND employment for people with physical disabilities.
He remains an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at or at 604-464-4105
If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates .
Apparently 22% of companies in the Greater Vancouver area will be hiring within the next month. Get your resumes ready.



  1. energywriter Says:

    Loved the line “fish kill at Trout Lake.”

    Great advice – now take it. No more $20 shoes!

    I get mine at the “official shoe store” for the College of William and Mary. My daughters have fits that I spend $100 for shoes, but my feet don’t hurt and that’s the test for me. And, by buying more expensive shoes I can wear $25 generic orthodics. Yay!

  2. julesrules Says:

    HaHa! I tend to wear my sneakers till they fall apart. I recently bought Vibram five-fingers. Gorilla Shoes. I love them! The only problem is they make your feet smell. Bad.

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