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What Is the Best Shoe for Your Foot Type?

This guide can help you discover the best running shoe for your foot type


Updated May 16, 2014

Runners feet
Ross Woodhall/Photodisc/Getty Images
What's the best running shoe for your foot type? Some experts estimate that 25 percent of runners benefit from a running shoe design that is matched to your foot type. If you have trouble picking the best running shoes, it may help to learn more about your foot type before you shop for your next pair. Feet come in all shapes and sizes, but their structure tends to get grouped into the following categories.

Common Foot Types

  • Flat Feet
    Your foot is flat if you have no visible arch and your footprint is completely visible with no inward curve between the big toe and heel. (Footprint #3)
  • High Arches
    High arches are easy to spot. There is a clear arch between the heel and the ball of the foot. If your footprint has a large curve with a skinny outer edge, or perhaps an actual gap between the ball and the heel, you have a high arch. (Footprint #0 and #1)
  • Neutral Foot Type
    A neutral foot type is neither flat-footed or high-arched. Your footprint will have a small inward curve of no more than an inch. (Footprint #2)
  • Overpronators
    Overpronators tend to roll inward from heel strike to take off during every stride. Those who pronate often need more stable running shoes.
  • Supinators
    Supinators tend to roll outward from heel strike to take off during every stride and need a flexible, cushioned shoe to absorb road shock while running.
  • Also see: Overview of the foot: foot structure and anatomy.

How to Determine Your Foot Type

To learn your foot type you can do the footprint test and look at the the outline of your foot shape. About.com's Running guide offers a great visual guide for determining your foot type with the footprint test. Other methods include:
  1. Visit a local running shoe store and talk with the experts. Many running stores offer foot type analysis where you run across a computerized surface or run on a treadmill while they video tape your foot motion during running.
  2. Inspect the soles of your current running shoes. The location of the wear can tell you if you land on the heels, roll in or out or have a neutral foot strike.
  3. Place your shoes on a flat surface and look at them from behind.
    • If the wear is on the inside of the heels, you likely need a more stable shoe to keep from pronating, or rolling inward as you run.
    • If the wear is on the outside of the heels, you may be a supinator, and roll to the outside. This is even more likely if you have high arches. In this case, you may benefit from shoes that have good cushioning and shock absorption.

Running Shoe Types

There are several different categories of running shoes marketed by the shoe manufacturers. What type you buy often depends upon your preference, history of injuries, foot type and training needs.

  1. Motion Control Shoes
    These are the most rigid, durable, control-oriented running shoes that limit overpronation. Buy these shoes if you overpronate, you wear orthotics and want a stable shoe, or you have flat feet.
  2. Trail Running Shoes
    These shoes offer the best traction, with stability and durability. Buy these shoes if you run off-road or in inclement weather and need extra traction, more durable uppers and a thicker soled shoe.
  3. Minimal and Barefoot Running Shoes
    Some experts believe that cushioned, over-built running shoes actually do more harm than good and recommend minimal shoes or barefoot running. If you want to try this method, start slowly or with a minimal running shoe.
  4. Stability Running Shoes
    A good blend of cushioning, support and durability. Buy these shoes if you are of average weight and don't have any severe pronation or supination, but do need support and good durability.
  5. Cushioned Shoes
    The most cushioned shoes with the least support. Buy these shoes if you underpronate, have a rigid foot (high arch) and don't need any extra support.
  6. Lightweight Training Shoes
    The lightest of the training shoes designed for fast-paced training or racing. Buy these shoes if you have no motion-control problems and are a fast, efficient runner.

When to Replace Running Shoes

Plan ahead and buy your next pair of shoes before your old pair wears out. Exercising in worn-out shoes can cause (or contribute to) injuries. Start shopping early or buy two pairs at a time, so you always have a spare.

It is recommended that you replace running shoes between 350 to 550 miles depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. Lighter runners can get closer to the upper end of the recommendation while heavier runners are harder on shoes and should consider replacement shoes closer to 350 miles.

Buy Two Pairs of Running Shoes

If possible, have two pairs of similar running shoes you're actively using. Alternating shoes every other workout gives your feet a break. In wet weather you will have a dry pair waiting. Also, try to use your running shoes only for your workouts. They will last much longer if you aren't wearing them all day.

Running Shoe Buying Tips

  • Shop late in the day -- your feet swell during the day.
  • Measure your foot while standing.
  • Try on both shoes with the socks you will wear.
  • Buy for your larger foot (feet are rarely the same exact size).
  • Allow a thumbnail's width between the shoe and your big toe.
  • Choose shoes that are comfortable immediately. If they hurt in the store, don't buy them.
  • Look for a moderately priced shoe. Price is not necessarily an indication of quality. Research has shown that moderately priced running shoes work just as well as expensive ones.
  • Make sure the shoe matches your foot type and running style.
  • Wear new shoes around the house before using them on short runs.
  • Don't do a long run in new shoes. Start out with a short run and stop if you have any hot spots, which are a warning sign that a blister is on the way.
  • Consider having an evaluation by a doctor, physical therapist, or podiatrist to learn your foot type.

MAJ Chad A. Asplund, MD; MAJ David L. Brown, MD. The Running Shoe Prescription. The Physician and Sports Medicine. Vol: 33, Issue: 1.

R. T. Clinghan, et al. Do you get value for money when you buy an expensive pair of running shoes?. British Journal of Sports Medicine October. 2007.

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