Running shoes are designed to match your foot type and your foot strike (how your foot hits the ground). There are three foot types.
- Pronation. You pronate if you have flat feet or your arch collapses when you run and your ankle turns in. Pronation can lead to ankle sprains, stress fractures, and shin splints. You probably pronate if the inner edge of your shoe is worn down.
- Supination. You supinate if you have stiff, high arches that don't flatten. Supinators absorb less shock on foot strike, which can lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains, and iliotibial band syndrome. You probably supinate if the outer edge of your shoe is worn down.
- Neutral position. This means that you have a neutral foot strike and your foot doesn't roll one way or the other very much. Your shoe will wear down in the middle of the back of the heel.
Pronators should wear shoes with firm mid-soles to support the arch and provide motion control (overly soft shoes without support won't work); supinators should wear shoes with lots of cushion to help absorb the shock (with less motion-control than pronators since too much control reduces shock absorption); and neutral foot strikers can wear pretty much any shoe that feels comfortable.
I also recommend purchasing a full-length insole to replace the paper-thin insole that comes with most running shoes. These will add cushion and support without changing your biomechanics (your natural running style). PowerFeet and Spenco are two companies that make these insoles.
Tips for trying on new shoes
Once you've determined your foot and shoe type, it's time to try them on. Here are some tips.
- Wear the socks you run in.
- Shop at the end of the day when your feet are swollen.
- Take the shoes out for a spin. A reputable running shoe store will let you run outside, or they may even have a treadmill.
- There should be wiggle room in the toe, and your heel should not rise more than ¼ of an inch.
- Be leery of too much break-in time. A certain amount of softening and conforming of the shoe to your foot should be expected, but shoes should feel reasonably comfortable from the start.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/12/2016
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