Sideline Slants

Eureka! I’ve found the perfect Mother’s Day gift. And not a minute too soon.

Just to show you the kind of guy I am, I’ll share it with you.

Admit it. You want to show your mother (or wife) how much you appreciate her. But you’d like to do something different, something a tad extravagant, yet tastefully practical. After years of buying corsages, perfume and candy, you’re ready to venture out and push the envelope a little.

If that describes you, do I have a deal for you. However, be careful not to go over the edge. Suffice it to say that buying your mom or wife the latest hunting and fishing equipment may be unique, but chances are they will not be warmly received. It’s just a hunch, but trust me on this one.

Being a sports fan, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the perfect Mother’s Day gift while reading an Associated Press story in the sports section of the Wichita Eagle.

Appropriately, the answer is in sports. The answer is shoes. Buy mom some much needed sports shoes. Do you know anyone who runs to and fro more than mom?

Lest you think I’ve suffered ink poisoning from writing too many columns, consider the following.

According to researcher Peter J. Cavanaugh of Penn State University, sports shoes are the most likely to be designed to conform to the anatomy of a woman’s foot. Doesn’t every woman want a comfortable pair of shoes? Finding comfortable shoes is not as easy as it sounds.

Cavanaugh and graduate student Roshna E. Wunderlich examined data on the anatomy of men’s and women’s feet. Their findings are reported in the April issue of the American College of Sports Medicine journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It’s the first journal article to publicly list sex differences in feet, Cavanaugh said.

It’s been known for some time that women have smaller feet than men. However, there are other differences. Women have thicker ankles and calves, higher arches and narrower heels.

Also, women’s ankles are about one-quarter inch closer to the ground and men’s big toes are a little thicker, Cavanaugh said.

Those differences in anatomy could throw off the fit even in a shoe that is the right size based on length, but a woman might not realize what the problem was.

The anatomical differences could be one reason for the epidemic of cramped, pinched feet that stalks women.

“In our society, women generally choose shoes that are not good for their feet to walk around in on a daily basis,” Cavanaugh said.

Of course, there are other factors accounting for the bad fit problem. One is style. Women’s shoes tend to be narrow in the forefoot, cramping the toes and causing bunions.

Women also complain that their shoes are too loose in the heel. So a shoe that fits in the back of the foot might be too tight in the front, Cavanaugh said.

The good news is that some sports shoe companies are making shoes that conform to the anatomy of a woman’s foot. The bad news is they aren’t telling other shoe companies. They figure they get paid for what they know, they get a competitive advantage from it, and they will keep it.

“We do believe it is part of our intellectual property,” said Mario Lafortune, director of the Nike sport research lab in Beaverton, Ore.

Which brings us back to Mother’s Day. Buy her sports shoes. You’ll do her aching feet a big favor. It’s a way you can express your love for her from head to toe.

But what if mom doesn’t fully appreciate such an expensive and creative gift? What if mom wonders whatever happened to the good common sense her husband and or children used to have?

In that case, try my failsafe Plan B. Give mom a corsage, some perfume and candy.

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