Are You Wearing the Correct Shoes?
There are a lot of different types of shoes available on the market. A trip to your nearest sports superstore will show you a wall with more choices than you want. But which ones are right for you? The answer is essentially “some of them”.
This post is looking at workout shoes rather than specialized shoes. Basketball shoes, cycling clips, trail runners etc are not covered in this post. Just basic workout shoes that can be used for running, cardio workouts and anything that involves some form of impact. Cross-training and Aerobic shoes do this but are enhanced for more lateral movement. We are looking for the pair of shoes that is comfortable, enhances performance and helps with injury prevention.
Basically there are three types of shoes. Cushioning shoes, Stability shoes and Motion Control shoes. Which one you should choose is largely based on how your foot pronates during exercise. Pronation, most pronounced when you are running, is how your foot rolls inward and flattens out after striking the ground. After pronation your foot supinates (rotates outward) and your weight transfers to the ball of your foot. It then becomes rigid in preparation to propel you in the appropriate direction. Overpronation is fairly common, oversupination is far less common. The perfect stride is rare but many people are close enough that they can stick to the basic cushioning shoes.
If you go to a store where the staff is trained in shoe selection they can help you choose the right shoe. Many can do it after watching you walk barefoot and doing one or two deep knee bends. If you pronate a lot your feet lean inwards and your knees are over the inside of your feet when you bend. If you supinate it is the opposite. Someone who pronates usually has low arches, a supinator usually has high arches.
So how do you know if the store has trained staff? Well you don’t until you ask but a good indicator is to look at how the shoes are displayed on the wall. Shoes displayed with the instep facing outwards are a good indicator as this is where you will visually find all the information about the shoe. Shoes facing outwards are showing the prettier side.
Another excellent way to tell what kind of shoes you need is to look at your current workout shoes provided you have been using them for a while and usually them mostly for workouts.
- Look at the upper part of the shoe from the back (at eye level). The imaginary centerline should be perpendicular to the ground. If it leans inward you pronate, outward you supinate.
- Look at the midsole from the inside (remove the insole) and see if one side is more compressed
A final way to determine your correct shoe is to look at your footprint. The easiest way to do this is to step on a piece of paper with wet feet.
1. With this footprint you have a low arch and pronate.
2. This footprint shows no pronation or supination
3. This high arch footprint has a lot of supination.
If you pronate or supinate somewhat you need Stability shoes. Stability shoes have extra cushioning and multidensity midsole material. For most shoes this is a light grey section within the white of the sole, easiest seen on the instep. If you pronate or supinate significantly you need Motion Control shoes. These shoes have considerable support in the sole and maximum rear-foot stability to hold your heel in place better. If you have no pronation or supination then Cushioning shoes are good for you. These shoes provide comfort and stability but do not have any specialized components.
Other than choosing a store with a knowledgeable staff and knowing about pronation you should also consider:
- Shop in the afternoon to get the best fit.
- Try on both shoes
- Keep them on for at least 5 minutes
- Your biggest toe should not be pressing against the end of the shoe.
- The heel should be snug, no slipping.
- They should be comfortable on day one. Don’t expect a break-in period to change a shoe that doesn’t feel right.
- What works for your friend doesn’t necessarily work for you. Feet are different.
- If you find a good shoe for you stick with it but keep in mind manufactures sometimes change the specs of a particular shoe.
While it is tempting to look at shoes in terms of brands the reality is that all of the major brands are producing good shoes. You need to find the one that suits you. Next time you need a new pair of shoes try to keep this information in mind.
Most of this information comes from an excellent book, Running: The Complete Guide to Building Your Running Program by John Stanton (isbn 9780143176091) and from the websites of many of the shoe manufacturers.