Whether you’re a recreational weekend runner, trying to break 4:00:00 in the marathon, or racing competitively every weekend, picking the perfect pair of running shoes is an absolutely essential skill. My coach always told me that the foot and ankle were the foundation to the entire body, and without proper stability you were destined for collapse. You see, every part of the human body is connected in one way or another. (the feet to the ankles, the ankles to the legs, the legs to the hips, etc.) So if the foundation of your body is unsupported, than so is the rest of your body. You wouldn’t build a house on a foundation that didn’t perfectly suit the house’s needs (whether it be the distribution of weight or the contours of the ground) so why would you pick a pair of shoes without doing the same research.
The biggest problem is that most people don’t know what goes into picking the perfect shoe. They don’t know what pronation is, they don’t know what gait type means, and they don’t know who to ask who DOES know this information. Well, luckily for you, we have taken the guess work out of it. In this article we are going to show you exactly how to pick the perfect running shoe in 6 simple steps. Enjoy.
Step 1. Find Out What Kind of Pronator You Are
Pronation refers to how the body distributes weight and energy through the gait. More simply put, it explains how the heel rolls to the toe when your foot strikes the ground. While you might think that’s a straight forward and uniform process, it’s actually not. In fact, every person in the world has their own unique variation, and needs to be dealt with differently.
Knowing your Pronation type is the most vital thing you need to know for picking the right running shoe type for your feet. If you pick the wrong running shoe type, you could injure your foot and even end up with a very painful injury such as Plantar Fasciitis.
However, since these differences are so minute there are three main categories that every runner will fall into.
If your foot rolls more than 15 percent inward when the outside of the heel makes contact with the ground, you are an overpronator. This means that the ankle and foot will have problems effectively stabilizing the body, and won’t absorb shock well. This is most common with runners who have a low arch to their feet. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that you need to make the appropriate changes.
If your foot rolls a perfect 15 perfect inward when the heel makes contact with the ground, you are a normal (or neutral) pronator. This angle allows your body to perfectly distribute the force of impact from the heel to the toe and stabilize your body without any trouble. This allows you to push off evenly with the front of the foot, giving you that natural looking stride you see in many professional runners.
If your foot rolls at less than 15 percent inward when your heel makes contact with the ground, you are an underpronator. This can be dangerous because impact forces are distributed to a smaller area of the foot (the outside) which isn’t designed to deal with high impact force. If you were a neutral pronator you would roll off all your toes evenly, (making for an even distribution of energy) an underpronator only rolls off his/her smaller toes which can lead to injury. Keep in mind that underpronators usually have a high arch.
So now that you know the difference between over and underpronation, it’s important to figure out what kind of pronator you are. There are a few ways to go about this, the best being videotaping yourself on a treadmill and watching yourself, however a simple method is to look at the bottom of your old running shoes.
If you are an overpronator than you will see that the bulk of the wear is on the inside of the foot. If you are a neutral pronator than the wear will be evenly distributed, and if you are an underpronator the bulk of the wear will be on the outside of the foot. This information is crucial to know because you could see serious injury if you buy an opposing shoe type.
Step 2. Find What Kind of Arch Your Feet Have
Before we get started i wanted to quickly drill this into your mind:
- Low Arch = Overpronator
- Normal Arch = Neutral or Normal Pronator
- High Arch = Underpronator
This goes hand and hand with pronation, and is just as important to your pick. To figure out what kind of arch you have, you can do the wet foot or ink (i highly don’t recommend using ink) test. Basically, you get a piece of white paper and wet your feet. Stand on the paper for about a minute and look at the shape that your foot leaves behind.
If you have a low arch than there wont appear to be much curvature in the figure. To see what i’m talking about see the picture below. If you have a neutral arch than there is a distinct, but natural looking curve along the figure. If you have a high arch than there is a very sharp curve, (unnatural looking) and there is a very thin line between the heel and toe.
Step. 3 Find a Running Shoe That’s Perfect For Your Feet
In the previous steps we discussed how to determine what kind of pronation/arch you have. And that is very crucial information, but the reason we’re here is to figure out what kind of shoe will fit you best (no pun intended). So lets take a look.
To understand what kind of shoe you need, you’re going to need to know a little bit about the running industry. Running companies break their shoes down into three different types: Neutral cushioned, Stability based, and Motion control.
A neutral cushioned shoe is usually known for being lightweight, having soft midsoles, and are extremely stable. This type of shoe puts more of the cushioning and support on the outsides of the shoe to help decrease underpronation. Anyone with a high arch will do well with a neutral cushioned shoe.
A motion controlled shoe is designed to limit extreme inward rolling of the foot or ankle. These shoes generally have a lot of cushioning on the inner edge of the foot to stop overpronation. These shoes are also usually heavy, (because of the all the added cushioning) but also extremely durable.
A stability based shoe has a good blend of cushioning, durability, and support to evenly stabilize your foot. If you have a neutral arch you are going to want to seek out a good pair of stability based running shoes.
So again, lets drill this into your head:
- Neutral cushioned = High Arch = Underpronation
- Motion controlled = Low Arch = Overpronation
- Stability based = Neutral Arch = Normal Pronation
So now that we know what type of shoe you need to get, lets go to the next step.
Step 4. Make Sure The Shoe Fits
You are almost done, you’ve done your homework, you’ve made it to the running shop (optional), and you have 3 perfect different models to choose from now. The last step is to finally make sure that the model you’re trying on fits. If your shoes are to loose than you’re going to get painful blisters. If your shoes are too tight than you’re going to lose circulation in your feet while running. Here are some quick tips to make sure that your shoe fits. (The person fitting you will know this, but YOU are the one who makes the final decision)
- Make sure there is enough room in the “toebox” by pushing your thumb in the space just above your big toe. If you have about a thumb’s space, then the shoe is a perfect fit.
- Make sure the width of the shoe is right. All shoes are made slightly differently, some tend to be more wide and some more narrow. Everyone’s foot is also slightly different. The shoe should fit snug on your foot but not tight.
- Make sure your heel doesn’t slide around the back of your shoe. It should firmly be in place.
- Once you’ve found a shoe that meets all the criteria, take it for a test run. Most shops have a treadmill that you can test the shoes on, but i like to go outside. You’re not going to know what the shoe feels like on different terrain if you don’t test it on different terrain.
Lastly, make sure the shoe feels “right”. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll know when you’ve found the right pair of shoes. If they feel good, there in your price range, and they meet all the proper criteria, its a wrap.