Most runners are already familiar with the repetitive stress injuries that threaten their time on the track: plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and even runner’s knee. If you’re experiencing pain when you run, or better yet, aren’t and don’t want to start, look no further than your own feet. The running shoe type you select is a huge factor in providing support where you need it, directing your foot strikes, and keeping you on the field and out of the doctor’s office.
To determine your foot type, perform a simple test: fill a shallow pan with water, and place a blank sheet of paper—a brown paper bag works best—next to it. Wet the sole of your foot, and then step gently onto the paper. Then, compare the shape of your footprint with those in the photo below.
Once you’ve determined which foot type is yours, read on to discover which running shoe type is best for you.
If you can see most of your arch in your footprint, it is likely you have flat feet. While flat feet aren’t all bad, because they provide some shock absorption, they can also cause stress to be placed on the feet and knees, putting you at high risk for knee injuries. If you have flat feet, you are most likely an overpronator, meaning that your feet roll inward when you run. To prevent this, look for a high-stability shoe which will provide support and structure. Internal wedges that build up your arches and dense, substantial midsoles are also factors to look for. Orthotics, or custom-build shoe inserts, may also help prevent injuries, and wearing a foot compression sleeve can provide support and protection.
Also called “neutral” or “medium” arches, normal arches are the most common type of arch. These arches are neither flat nor high, and are able to support your bodyweight and help your foot pronate normally under pressure. Runners with this foot type can comfortably wear any kind of shoe, and do not need either stability or motion control to help them. We recommend going with a moderate stability shoe, which will provide moderate comfort and support.
In the footprint test, those with high arches will only be able to see their toes and heels, either connected by a very thin arch or with no arch at all. This foot type is very susceptible to running injuries because the arches are rigid and cannot absorb much shock. Those with high arches usually underpronate, or roll their feet outwards as they run. In order to prevent this, look for well-cushioned, flexible shoes with soft, shock-absorbing midsoles. If you have high arches, a compression foot sleeve is an excellent investment in your foot and knee health, because the compression can provide support that prevents injuries.
Of course, other variables besides your arch type affect whether a running shoe is right for you. You may have different needs and requirements depending on your weight, biomechanics, preferred terrain, and running experience. In order to receive the best guidance when making your choice, visit a specialty running store and ask a fit specialist to walk you through the types of models available. This route is extremely preferable to visiting one of those kiosks in the mall, which tend to focus on the logo stitched to the side of the shoe more than the support.
Whichever running shoe you choose, it should feel snug on the heel, roomy on the toes, and comfortable all around. That way, you can prevent injuries whether you’re running for just fun, or training for a big race. For more information on technologies that can help you stay safe while you run, click here to view our products.