Choosing The Right Running Shoe
In determining how to choose a running shoe, your choice of running shoes can make the difference between having a good or bad experience, running in comfort or pain, and, most importantly, whether you stay healthy or get injured.
Choosing a running shoe can be an overwhelming task given all the high-tech shoes available today and all the special features each running shoe claims to have.
Pronation is the rolling of the foot from heel to toe through the foot strike. A proper or neutral pronation is hitting the outside of the heel and up to ball of your foot evenly across the front. This is how your foot reduces the stress of impact.
Underpronation is not enough evening out so the outside of your foot takes most of the shock instead of finishing in the neutral position.
Overpronation is too much roll across from the outside to the inside of your foot.
To determine your level of pronation, look at your shoes you walk or run in. Most everyone will begin on the outside of the heel, the real indicator would be the wear on the forefoot.
If most of the shoe wear is:
- On the medial (inside) side then you Overpronate and probably need to choose Motion-Control Running Shoes
- On the lateral (outside) side then you Underpronate and most likely need to choose Cushioned Running Shoes
- Uniform across the forefoot then you have a Neutral Stride and are best suited for choosing Stability Running Shoes
Another method of determining pronation and, ultimately, foot type is by checking your arch height. The easiest way to figure out your arch height is by using the Wet Test. To take the test, wet the bottom of each foot and stand normally on a paper bag. After a minute or so, step off and observe the imprint left by your foot. (Trace the outline with a pencil if you want to look at it later.)
You have a normal arch (neutral pronation) if:
There's a distinct curve along the inside of your foot with a band a little less than half the width of your foot connecting the heel and toe. (Choose Stability Running Shoes)
You have a low arch (flat feet/overpronator) if:
There's not much of a curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows almost the entire foot. People with low arches are more likely to overpronate (roll too far inward), which can lead to overuse injuries. (Choose Motion-Control Running Shoes)
You have a high arch (underpronator) if:
There's a very sharp curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows a very thin band between your heel and toe. People with high arches typically don't pronate enough. (Choose Cushioned Running Shoes)
Select Your Gait Type:
Severe Overpronation: The outside of the heel strikes the ground first and the foot rolls inward excessively which means the foot and ankle cannot properly stabilize the body. The best running shoes for moderate to severe Overpronators are Stability shoes or Motion Control shoes depending on the severity of overpronation.
Mild Overpronation: The outside of the heel strikes the ground first and the foot rolls inward slightly absorbing the shock more effectively which allows the foot and ankle to properly support the body. This is the most common foot type. The best running shoes for Mild Overpronators are Stability shoes.
Neutral: The outside of the heel strikes the ground first and the foot rolls inward slightly absorbing the shock more effectively which allows the foot and ankle to properly support the body. The best running shoes for Neutral runners are Neutral Cushioning shoes for feet that are more rigid.
Supination: The outside of the heel strikes the ground first but the foot does not roll inward during the gait cycle. Instead it stays on the outside causing the impact to be concentrated on a smaller portion on the lateral side of the foot. The best running shoes for Supinators are more flexible Neutral Cushioning shoes.
Now that you've determined your foot type and degree of pronation, one other important characteristic you'll need to look for is shoe shape. You can see the shape most clearly by looking at the bottom of the shoe.
Typically, running shoes come in three shapes (straight, semi-curved and curved) which correspond to the three types of prints revealed by the wet test. Most experts believe that:
- Overpronators should choose a running shoe with a Straight shape.
- Underpronators should choose a running shoe with a Curved shape.
- Normal/Neutral pronators should choose a running shoe with a Semi-Curved shape.
If you have flat feet and overpronate, choose a Motion-Control running shoe. Motion control shoes prevent your foot from rolling in too far, have a straight shape that gives maximum support to your foot and are the most rigid, control-oriented running shoes.
If you have high-arched feet and underpronate, you should choose a Cushioned running shoe. Cushioned shoes allow your feet to roll inward (absorbing shock), have a curved shape to encourage foot motion and have the softest midsole with the least medial support.
If you have normal arches and pronate normally, choose a Stability running shoe. Stability shoes offer a good blend of cushioning, medial support and durability. They often have a semi-curved shape and don't control foot motion as strictly as motion-control shoes.