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sneaker myths

Picking out the right pair of sneakers, whether it's for running or for basketball, should be a quick and easy process. But with so many footwear brands throwing so many technical terms your way, it's more confusing than anything. Throughout the course of time, athletes have been fed senseless misconceptions about things like what makes for a perfect shoe, or when you should replace your beat up pair for a new one.

Well, forget what you know, or think you know, about performance footwear, because it's all wrong. We're here to set the record straight with the following list of The Most Common Performance Footwear Myths, Debunked.

Gurvinder Singh Gandu is a New York City-based writer and wear-tester for Sneaker Report, and contributor to Complex Media. Follow him @GurvinderSG for the latest in performance footwear and gear.

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You need to break in your sneakers

This may have been true at one point in time, but today, performance footwear—whether it’s running sneakers or basketball shoes—is ready for action straight out of the box. Sure, you’ll need to get a feel for the shoes, and the only way to do that is to lace 'em up. But there's absolutely no need to take extraordinary measures like beating them with a 2x4 or zapping them in the microwave.

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You should replace your sneakers every 6 months

The shelf life of performance footwear really depends on amount of use. Minimalist or barefoot shoes, which feature less cushioning and are constructed using less material than traditional shoes, aren’t going to last as long as ones with some bulk to them. Take Brooks Running’s PureProject collection for example. It features a series of lightweight models designed for “natural running.” The shoes feature a minimal design, and just have less substance underfoot. Therefore, Brooks suggests about 250-300 miles of usage before hanging up your sneaks. For traditional cushioned trainers, you may be able to squeeze out a few extra miles.

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The higher the price, the better the shoe

This is just not true. Yes, shoes at the top of the price range tend to be loaded with more “innovative” features that are supposed to work magic and make you a better athlete. But the biggest reason why you’ll willing to shell out $200 for a pair of basketball shoes, or $500 for a pair of running shoes (yes, that’s a thing), is because of the marketing pull. Not to say that all shoes are created equal, because they’re not. But price doesn’t determine performance necessarily. Whether it’s an $80 pair of running shoes, or $150, if you’re fast, it’s going to show on the racetrack.

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Lighter is always better

With each passing year, footwear brands come up with new, innovative ways to shed some weight of your favorite shoes. But is lighter always better? As consumers, we like to think that we'll run faster or move quicker on the court with less substance holding us down. But generally speaking, the lighter a shoe is, the less cushioning and support it offers. This means more stress on your feet from impact, as well as a potential increase in other risk of injury. In addition, lightweight shoes tend to be less durable than traditional ones, so you get less use out of them.

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All performance shoes are created equal

All performance shoes are not created equal. If you consider yourself a serious athletes, you wouldn't hit the basketball court in a pair or running shoes, just as you won't hit the football field in track spikes (at least we hope not). Apart from the obvious differences in shoes across different sports, having the right shoe comes down to foot type, as well as personal preference. A shoe that's perfect for one athletes, may not be so great for another.

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Alternating between shoes will ruin my feet

Contrary to popular belief, switching back and forth between different shoes won't do a whole lot of damage to your feet. In fact, having more footwear options is a positive thing as it prolongs the life of each model. Besides, sometimes you just want to switch it up. There's nothing wrong with that.

Image via Gurvinder Singh Gandu

I’m stuck with the insoles that came with the shoes

There's a reason a majority of performance footwear today comes with replaceable insoles. Standard insoles, the ones that come with your shoes, are generally constructed from traditional foam and are not designed to offer a custom fit. That's precisely why there are performance brands out there that specialize in creating replaceable insoles that will compliment your particularly foot type. If your running shoes lack some cushioning and impact protection, switching out your standard insoles for a bulkier pair can make up the difference.

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I should pick up a new pair of shoes for this weekend’s race.

Don't do it! We've already determined that performance footwear, particularly in the running category, doesn't need a break-in period nowadays. But you almost always want to avoid running a race in a new pair of sneakers that you're not familiar with. Why? Well for one, you don't know how those shoes will feel on your feet a few miles into the race. You can develop discomfort due to fit issues, along with things like chafing and blisters. Ideally, if you want to cop a new pair of running shoes, do it a couple of weeks before the big race. That way, you know what you're working with, and come race day, you can focus solely on being the first to cross the finish tape.