Whether you’re a lifelong runner or just starting out, a good pair of running shoes is non-negotiable. Just like you wouldn’t put the wrong size or type of tires on your car, it’s imperative that your running shoes fit both your feet and your needs perfectly.
It’s easy to get swayed by colorful designs, popular brands, and showy commercials. However, the shoes you wear depend on a lot more than how much you paid for them and what brand gets the most likes. Your feet are composed of over 25 bones and more than 30 joints. Each person’s foot shape, gait, and running style is different. Therefore, the shoes that work for your running partner may cause you nothing but pain.
Learning your arch type is easy. All you need is water and a colored piece of paper. Wet the bottom of your feet and step onto the paper with your full weight. The shape of your footprint will help you determine your arch type. There are three main types of arches: low (also referred to as ‘flat’), medium, and high.
- Flat/Low Arch (flexible) – If your footprint shows the entire shape of your foot with little to no empty space for the arch you have flat feet. This means that your feet are probably going to be more flexible than their higher-arched compatriots, but it also means that you’re going to be more prone to problems such as plantar fasciitis and arch pain. You might find it beneficial to add some extra support to your running shoes. Look for stability shoes when you shop.
- Medium Arch (neutral) – If your footprint shows your heel and the ball of your foot connected by a medium band, you have normal feet. You’re in the majority of the population. Having this type of arch means that while you’re not likely to need as much support as those with low or high arches, but you’re also going to be susceptible to heel pain. Make sure that your shoes have proper padding to help prevent that. Try on stability and neutral shoes to see which feels best.
- High Arch (rigid) – If your footprint shows only the heel and ball of your foot, or a very thin band connects them, you have a high or rigid arch. With a high arch, the middle portion of your foot really isn’t going to be touching the ground at all, meaning that the heels and balls of your feet are taking a lot of stress. It’s very important that you not only have good cushioning in these areas, but also arch support to help dispel the force of impact, especially while running. Search for well-cushioned shoes to help absorb shock.
Gait / Pronation
The way you balance on your feet is called pronation. You may have noticed that the outside or inside of your shoes wear out faster than the other parts. This is because of the way you pronate. Everyone walks (and runs) differently. Arch type can often reveal how your feet pronate. There are three major types of pronation:
- Supination or underpronation – Most commonly occurring with high arches, this gait puts the most pressure on the outside of your feet with your heel rolling barely rolling inward when your foot strikes the ground.
- Neutral – Usually found in those with medium arches, a neutral gait means your foot strikes the ground with almost perfect balance, rolling slightly inward to absorb shock.
Pronation or over-pronation – Flat feet tend to be more flexible and roll inward, challenging your ankle’s stability.
If you’re trying to figure out what gait type you have, just grab a pair of your old shoes, flip them over, and check out the wear pattern on the soles. If your shoes are more worn along the outside edges, you likely supinate when you walk. If they are worn on the inside, you generally pronate.
Different gaits require different types of shoes; if you have a neutral or underpronating gait, you can go for a neutral, cushioned shoe in lieu of a regular running shoe, but if you overpronate, you’re going to need to look for something with some more stabilizing benefits.
Just like you wouldn’t want to use a road bike on a mountain trail, you’re going to need different running shoes for different settings. If you enjoy running around town or on a treadmill, then you’re not going to need as traction or ankle support. However, if you prefer trail running, then you’re going to need a pair of shoes that not only offers you the traction that you need to keep your footing, but you’re also going to need much more ankle support.
Sprained ankles are not only painful, but they can be dangerous if you’re running out in a low-populated area, especially if you’re by yourself.
Just like with any other piece of equipment, the material that your shoes are made of is incredibly important. You’re going to want something that not only holds up to the abuse of regular running, but also breathes well, isn’t too heavy, and keeps your feet drying (running with standing water in your shoes is not only incredibly uncomfortable, but not exactly good for your feet, either).
When you’re out shopping for running shoes, look for materials such as man-made leather or nylon mesh on the upper portion of the shoe, good cushioning (often made of foam) in the midsole region, and the proper type of rubber on the sole. If you’re into trail running, look for shoes with carbon rubber, which tends to be more durable than its counterpart, blown rubber.
The fit of the shoe is arguably the most important part. For this part, we highly recommend that you go into a brick-and-mortar store and try them on in person, or otherwise order from a website with a good return policy.
- For shopping online: if you already know your shoe size for your intended brand, then you’re good to go. However, if you’re uncertain, grab yourself a sizing chart (which can vary by manufacturer) and a measuring tape (in a pinch, you can also use a ruler, but a flexible sewing measuring tape is going to be your best bet here). Make sure to measure both the length and width of your feet, and, if possible, check the reviews to see what other buyers say regarding the fit. You might have to size up or size down accordingly.
- For shopping in-store: remember when you were a child and your mom would always push on the toe and sides of the shoes you were trying on and ask if you could feel it? The principle behind this is simple: if your toes are hitting or crammed up against the toe and/or sides of the shoe, then they’re too small. If there’s too much space, then you need to go down at least half a size. Remember, you don’t want blisters from your feet rubbing up against your shoes while you run, but if they’re too loose, then your feet aren’t properly supported and you risk getting an ankle injury.
When you shop for new running shoes, it’s important to remember your foot type, and know how shoes should fit. Visit a specialty athletic store and ask for help if you’re unsure of the shoe style or fit. Additionally, use these tips to help you find the proper running shoes for your feet.
- Shop late in the day when your feet are at their largest. (Feet swell throughout the day.)
- Allow the space of a thumbnail (or a half-inch) between your biggest toe and the end of your shoe.
- Make sure the heel doesn’t slip up and down when you walk, (a recipe for blisters).
- Remember your foot type, and ask the salesperson to help you find the right level of support.
- Don’t guess your size. Have both feet measured while standing.
- Run around. If you can’t run, at least walk around in the store to see how the shoes move with your feet.
- Consider your terrain. Running on a hiking trail is considerable different than asphalt running or cross training with different surfaces.
- Ask for help. A second opinion can be valuable when choosing your new shoes.
Running puts a significant amount of pressure on your feet. Skimping on the right support can lead to foot pain, joint problems, and even problems with your posture. If you are seeking a new pair of running shoes, visit us at Omega Sports.com today.
If you need help figuring out what shoe you need, stop by one of our stores and our experts can help get you into the perfect fit.