To get the most out of your run, you need a pair of shoes to help your body operate as efficiently as possible (while remaining comfortable). The first step to choosing the right pair of running shoes is understanding how your feet work.
The Science Of Your Stride
With every step, you generate force that must be absorbed and distributed across your foot and through your entire body. To safely do this, your foot becomes flexible upon impact, expanding and rolling slightly inward (this action is also referred to as pronation). As you move through your stride towards toe-off, your foot then becomes more rigid as the muscles and ligaments in your legs prepare to launch you forward into your next step. This entire process (known as your gait cycle) happens in less than a second.
With so many moving parts, it’s no surprise that achieving a smooth, natural stride is easier said than done. The mechanics of running are unique to every person, but it’s important to remember that everybody pronates. It’s the foot’s natural motion. So when deciding on the best type of shoe for your feet, it’s best not to ask, “Do my feet pronate?” but rather, “How much do my feet pronate?” Some feet roll in too far (overpronation) while others don’t become flexible enough (supination). And without the right shoes, both can cause discomfort or leave you vulnerable to injury.
So, what’s the best way to find out how your foot operates? That’s easy. All you need is a piece of paper and a little water.
The Footprint Test
- Wet the bottom of your foot.
- Step onto the piece of paper.
Just like that, you have all the information you need to choose the right pair of running shoes. Let’s look at your footprint:
Can you see the full outline of your foot? Then that means you have low arches (commonly known as flat feet). Flat feet tend to flex more than other arch types and are more likely to overpronate. Since your feet don’t have as much natural arch support, you’ll need to find shoes to provide that support for you during the gait cycle. Look for stability shoes with tech features to help stabilize your feet and prevent injury.
If your footprint shows the ball and heel of your foot connected by a wide band, you have medium arches and plenty of options for shoes that will work with your foot type. Try neutral shoes or, for a little extra support, stability shoes.
If your footprint shows a very narrow band (or perhaps no band) between the heel and ball of your foot, you have high arches. Feet with high arches pronate less than other arch types and can tend towards supination (the outward rolling of the heel upon impact). This makes it difficult for your body to safely absorb the force you create with each step. The best shoe type for you is a neutral running shoe with plenty of cushioning.
The Shoe Types
Stability running shoes are key if you have flat or medium arches.
Flat feet have the tendency to overpronate (roll too far inward). Without the right pair of shoes to help stabilize your feet, overpronation can put extra stress on your joints and muscles. Some stability shoes are made specifically for flat feet and are described as “motion control.” These usually feature posts or wedges in the midsole to support flat arches and reduce excessive rolling.
But even if you’re in the pronation “sweet spot” with medium arches, a little extra support never hurts, especially since feet are more likely to overpronate as your body tires. So, if you’re a long-distance runner with medium arches, a stability shoe is a great choice for fighting fatigue.
Stability shoes pair light, responsive foams with firmer midsole materials, combining cushioning and support to keep you running strong and injury free.
If you’re a high-arched runner with a tendency to supinate, it’s best to find a shoe to enhance your natural running mechanics.
Neutral running shoes are lightweight and comfortably cushioned. They’re all about a smooth ride and allowing your foot to move naturally, so they feature soft, responsive midsoles that return energy with every step.