How to Choose the Right Shoe
Over the past several year one question that is constantly asked is how to choose the right shoe. Whether you are preparing for the Boston Marathon, Salt Lake Marathon, or just a casual neighborhood run your choice of shoes will make a big difference.
In determining how to choose a shoe, your choice of shoes can make the difference between having a good or bad experience, functioning in comfort or pain, and, most importantly, whether you stay healthy or get injured.
Every foot is different, so the first step in buying a good running shoe is to examine your foot to determine what characteristics you want in a running shoe. You need to determine your degree of pronation. If you tend to over pronate, your foot turns in, you will have flat arches and the soles of your shoes will show more wear on the inside edge. If you under-pronate, your foot turns toward the outside, you will have high arches and the soles of your shoes will show more wear on the outside edge. If you do not either under or over pronate you will have normal arches and the soles of your shoes will show equal wear on both the inside and outside edge. An easy way to determine your degree of pronation and your arch type is to take the “wet foot test”.
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 footreduces 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
Determine Your Foot Type
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 footand 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 middle to slightly outward part 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.
Once you have determined the unique characteristics of your foot, you will know what features to look for in a running shoe. Three main features to examine are the amount of cushioning, the degree of stability and the amount of motion control. If you have a high arch (you over-pronate) you will want to look for a shoe with more cushioning. If you have a moderately flat arch, you will want to look for a shoe with more stability. If you have severely flat arches (meaning you are severely over-pronating, then you want to look for a shoe with good motion control. If you have normal arches, you will want to look at shoes in terms of the amount of cushioning and/or stability. See the buying guides in the resources listed below to get more guidance on examining a potential shoe for these features.
Choose the Right Running Shoe for You
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.
Make sure you are buying a properly fitting shoe. There should be a thumb’s-width of space between the end of your toe and the tip of the shoe. There should be enough room in the toe box to wiggle your toes. Buy good, moisture wicking socks, and be sure that you are wearing the socks you will normally wear when you try on your shoes. Walk around the store a bit to make sure the shoes are comfortable. If you need help determining your proper size or a proper fit, go to a store that still has trained shoe-salesmen that wait on you and size your foot. These are not as common as they once were, and you may have to go to a store that specializes in foot orthotics to find this type of service. They will of course want to sell you their most expensive prodouct, which is a custom orthotic, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy them! These stores also sell upper-end shoes as well.
Ensure Your New Running Shoes Fit Properly
A proper fit is THE most important step in finding the right running shoe. A shoe that fits will be snug but not tight. A common mistake that’s a killer is to buy shoes that are too small.
Use the following guidelines to ensure a proper running shoe fit.
- Check for adequate room at the toebox by pressing your thumb into the shoe just above your longest toe. Your thumb should fit between the end of your toe and the top of the shoe.
- Check for adequate room at the widest part of your foot. The shoe shouldn’t be tight, but your foot shouldn’t slide around, either.
- The heel of your foot should fit snugly against the back of the shoe without sliding up or down as you walk or run.
- The upper (part of shoe that wraps around and over the top of the foot) should fit snugly and securely without irritating or pressing too tightly on any area of the foot.
- Once you’ve found running shoes that feel right, walk/jog/run in them as much as you can. Some stores have a treadmill, others allow a run around the parking lot and some don’t let you do anything other than bounce up and down. You need to feel the shoes in action.
Consider buying two pairs of shoes and rotating then to avoid undue wear or irritation. Replace them when the soles start to look worn.
Top Recommended Online Running Shoe Merchant
Once you’ve found a running shoe that works for you, stick with it. New models are tempting but the right running shoes will help you avoid injury.
If you know which running shoes are right for you and are ready to shop online, take a look at the following running shoe merchant.
Listed below is my Top Recommendation: