Choosing the right running shoes can prevent a lifetime of injuries. Wearing shoes that are not designed for your foot type may not provide the necessary support or contain enough cushioning to prevent foot trauma. This can lead to common sport-related problems like plantar fasciitis, shin splints, stress fractures, tendontitis and ankle sprains. Long term wear of improper shoes allows foot problems to be chronic and more difficult to treat.
WHAT TYPE OF RUNNER ARE YOU?
There are 3 foot types that relate to the biomechanical function of the feet. From the time the heel strikes the ground to the moment of toeing-off during gait, the foot can either pronate (roll inward), supinate (roll outward), or stay neutral. Running shoes are designed to control the need of a runner’s foot based on these foot functions.
Pronation is a normal motion of the foot that helps the body to absorb shock from the impact of running and walking. The inward motion that occurs during pronation allows the joints in the feet to remain loose in order to accommodate the ground surface. When this motion is done excessively by the feet, there is not enough stability in the foot structure. The arches tend to appear low or flattened. It is not just how the foot looks, but the timing on when it tends to roll inward during gait.
Pronators should look for shoes that provide extra support and stability. The heel of the shoes should have a stiffer counter. The shape (last) of the shoe should be straight in length.
Supination is a normal outward motion that allows the foot to go from a mobile to a rigid stucture. This allows the foot to convert from being flexible on the ground into a more rigid structure that can push off the ground. When the foot allows too much of this stiffening motion to occur, there is not enough flexibility in the foot structure. The arches tend to appear high.
Supinators (or Underpronators) should look for shoes that provide extra cushioning and flexibility. The shape of the shoe should look more curved in length.
A proper (neutral) motion of the feet is when the heel hits the ground on the outside border of the heel, and then the motion moves evenly toward the inside border of the foot at the ball.
A neutral runner can generally wear most types of running shoes but should select the type that addresses any control needs of their feet.
DETERMINE YOUR FOOT TYPE
There are a few ways to help determine your foot type in order to select the right running shoe.
1. Try the Wet Test. Wet the bottoms of your feet and stand on a paper bag. Step off the bag and then look at the footprints made.
- If the footprints show little of the arch area, then the feet are pronated/low-flat arch.
- If the footprints show much of the arch (or only the ball and heel) area, then the feet are supinated/high arch.
- If the footprints show an even amount of the arch, then the feet are neutral/normal arch.
2. Check the wear pattern on your shoes. Wearing on the outside edge of the heel area is common in most people. A better indicator of your foot type is checking wear patterns in the ball and front part of the shoe.
- If the wear patterns show more wear on the inside of the ball area, then the feet tend to pronate.
- If the wear patterns show more wear on the outside of the ball area, then the feet tend to supinate.
- If the wear patterns show an even wear in the ball area, then the feet tend to stay neutral.
3. Exam the structure of old shoes and insoles. Your old shoes and inserts can tell you what your feet are doing during activity. The area undergoing more pressure and stress will show more breakdown in the material. You may see more of this type of wear in dress and fashion shoes that are not designed to support the feet.
- If there is more breakdown on the inside part of the shoe, the feet tend to pronate more.
- If there is more breakdown on the outside part of the shoe, the feet tend to supinate more.
- If there is breakdown on both sides (evenly) of the shoe, the feet tend to stay neutral.
Understanding your foot type can prevent serious injury. For example, if a high arched runner knows to wear more cushioning instead of firm stability, this can prevent a potential lateral ankle sprain.
For runners with flat feet or who tend to pronate, a good over-the-counter arch support can be helpful. In certain instances where there is persistent pain, a more custom device called an orthotic may be necessary. Repetitive stress on the feet that flatten the arches can lead to loosening of ligaments and tendon dysfunction which can result in foot deformities.
Podiatrists can have custom foot orthotics made from a cast mold of your feet. They can evaluate your feet and movement to determine which type of running shoe is right for you. If you need a podiatrist in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, bring in your old running shoes and discuss your needs with Dr. Rosemarie Caillier. We are happy to help you run in the right shoes so you can stay running in the right direction.