Finding the right running shoes for your unique feet is an important decision. When it comes to running shoes, one size does not fit all.
Basics of Running Shoes
To find the right shoe, you need to know what your feet need. Some factors to consider are the arch of your feet, the width of your feet, and the level of support your feet need.
Arch refers to the height of the inside of your midfoot area. Some people have high arches, others have flat arches.
Different Arch Types
High Arch Foot
According to The Cleveland Clinic, people with high arch feet may experience problems, which can range from occasional discomfort to permanent skeletal issues. This condition is medically known as cavus foot deformity.
With high arches, look for running shoes with cushioning to compensate for your foot’s lack of natural shock absorption. A curved sole also may help.
Normal Arch Foot
A normal arch is raised slightly off of the ground when a person is standing. Your arch naturally supports your body weight and pronates, or rolls in, under an average load.
Look for running shoes with firm midsoles and straight-to-semi-curved soles for moderate rear-foot stability.
Flat Arch Foot
Flat feet are a condition where one or both feet have little to no arch. When you stand, the pads of the feet press into the ground. Typically, you can’t see an arch in the foot, though sometimes the arch appears when you lift the foot.
WebMD says, if flat feet cause you pain, you can use over-the-counter arch supports for your shoes or find shoes with built-in supports. These are often fit for your feet, supporting your arches and reducing your pain and symptoms.
With flat feet, you may benefit from a running shoe with a straight sole and motion control to help stabilize your feet.
How to Know Your Foot Arch Type
There’s a simple way to find out which type of arch you have. It’s called the wet towel test. You don’t need a fancy tool or specialist to figure out your foot arch type. All you need is some water and a towel, and your feet.
- Dip your foot in some water so that it covers at least the bottom of your foot.
- Step on a towel. Step naturally like you would if you were standing or walking.
- Look at your footprint, specifically the area between your heel and your toes. This area is the sole of your foot.
What Your Footprint Means
According to WebMD, here’s what your footprint means.
Half-filled. If the sole of your footprint is half-filled, you have a normal arch. Theoretically, your normal arch should adequately support your weight.
Filled. If you see your entire footprint, you have a flat arch. Flat arches are common, and any pain experienced from them is easy to treat.
Empty. If you only see the heel and ball of your footprint (or a little of the sole between), your feet have high arches. Like flat arches, high arches can lead to muscle and bone stress.
Levels of Pronation
The amount of support, or cushion, you need is determined by your foot and how it strikes the ground when running. Pronation is the natural way your foot rolls inward when it hits the ground and then moves you forward. There are three basic types of pronation that your feet fall into.
When your foot strikes the ground and rolls inward a normal amount, is known as neutral pronation. This helps your body absorb impact and relieve stress on the knees and joints.
Overpronation is when your foot hits the ground and rolls inward excessively. Overpronators may want a more stable shoe to help correct overpronation. Shoe companies use different terminology so look for motion-control shoes or stability when shopping for the right running shoes. To determine pronation, look at the bottom of your shoes for wear patterns near your big toe and the inside sole at the ball of your feet.
Supination or underpronation is the exact opposite of overpronation. Instead of rolling inward, the supinator’s feet roll outward. Very few runners actually supinate, but if you are one of these running unicorns, look for shoes with more cushion and flexibility. To diagnose supination, look for signs of wear along the outside edge of your shoe.
Neutral Pronation Shoes
Shop for neutral stability, and lightweight shoes.
Look for stability, and motion control shoes with structured support.
Consider neutral shoes, or minimal support depending upon your preference.
With an understanding of your pronation level and the arch of your feet, you can start looking at the different levels of support and cushion available in running shoes.
Levels of Cushion
The cushioning level in your shoes can range from running on marshmallow clouds of cotton candy to bare feet on the pavement. Each level is based on your foot anatomy, your running style, and your personal preference.
Running shoes with thick padding in the midsoles have a soft, plush feel. You may prefer the comfort of softer foam underfoot when running long distances or training for a marathon. But marshmallowy-soft cushioning isn’t for everyone. Some runners want to feel more connected to the running surfaces and don’t like the squishiness feel.
Moderate Support Cushion
Running shoes with moderate support is right in the middle of squishy-cloud comfort and a flip-flop. You’ll find a variety of shoes in this middle-of-the-road category.
Shoes with minimal cushioning in the midsoles are popular with purist runners who want to “feel” the connection with the ground.
Types of Running Shoes
There are two basic types of running shoes and they are based on the terrain, either road or trail.
Road Running Shoes
You’ll need a good-quality road shoe when running on asphalt, concrete, or other hard surfaces.
Trail Running Shoes
Terrain can range from rock or dirt trails to wooded trails when trail running. Some people like to run through water, like streams or rivers. If this is you, you’ll also need to look for a waterproof trail shoe.
The right trail shoe is based on your unique foot and body composition. Trail shoes range from stable to supportive, from minimal cushioning to maximum support. The bottom of the trail shoe is typically made of solid rubber cleats for greater traction on rocky and technical trails.