Many people think that the type of running shoe they wear isn’t that important, or like many others think the hype is just a scam to get you to buy a more expensive running shoe (or like me, just want the coolest shoe possible in a specific color). But as a health professional, I can confirm- your shoes are important!
Getting a pair of shoes that is right for your particular foot type and gait, can help support proper joint mechanics, and control the foot strike in most cases- preventing injuries. If you don’t already know your foot type, I would highly recommend going to a specialty shoe store where they will assess your foot, and fit you in shoes that are just right for you!
But before you hit the mall, the guide below should help prepare you with what you need to know about different types of shoes, so that you can make the most educated decision when you’re at the shop!
What type of runner are you?
No matter what brand, running shoes fall into three categories set to address the specific needs of runners with differing biomechanics.
Runner Type #1: Overpronator
Overpronation is a fancy way of saying at foot strike, the feet rotate too far inward. This motion puts pressure on the bones and muscles, and leaves overpronators susceptible to many injuries including: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and achilles tendonitis. If you're an overpronator you will generally find excessive wear on the inner side of your running shoes, and is often characterized by flat arches.
To correct for overpronation, professionals will recommend a Motion Control shoe. Motion Control shoes are rigid, and have medial arch support that prevents excessive inward rotation. Wearing these shoes, overpronators will experience less pain and strain on the feet, and less injuries long term.
Runner Type #2: Neutral Pronator
While too much pronation can lead to injuries, some pronation is important for proper biomechanics. Neutral pronators experience just the right amount of that inward rotation of the foot to make a healthy foot strike. Neutral pronator's will usually see an 'S-shaped' pattern of wear on their running shoes, from the outer heel to the big toe, and are generally seen in those with normal arches.
Neutral pronators should wear a Stability shoe. Stability shoes will provide some rigidity for support, as well as some cushioning to absorb shock. While neutral pronators may not need biomechanical correction like an overpronator or a supinator, they will benefit from wearing a shoe that is built for running, over say a basketball or tennis shoe.
Runner Type #3: Supinator
Supination is when the feet rotate too far outward. This motion puts pressure on the small toes, which bear the brunt of foot lift off- and cause a big shock on the joints, which can result in shin splints, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, and stress fractures of the tibia, calcaneus, and metatarsals. Supination is generally characterized by wear on the outer edge of the running shoes, and is common among those with high arches.
Supinators are recommended to wear Cushion shoes. Cushion shoes are what they sound like- they have more cushion to absorb for the shock. They have no mid-sole rigidity like other shoes, and are flexible to allow pronation to occur. With these shoes, supinators will experience less injuries long term.
What type of running/activity do you plan to do?
Once you’ve determined what type of runner you are, narrow your choice once again by deciding what type of activity you’ll be doing. There are various types of shoes based on which type of surface you’ll be using most, and are available for each runner type.
Road running shoes are designed for pavement, and slight irregularities that will commonly be experienced on the road. They are built with the proper cushion and stability for repetitive strides on hard, uneven surfaces.
Trail Running shoes are made with rocks, mud, and other obstacles in mind. The design includes more traction, and fortified stability and support for uneven surfaces.
Cross training shoes are made for any activity where closer contact to the ground is preferred to the thicker sole of a running shoe. This type of shoe is not recommended for the repetitive motions of running, but can be okay for weight training, circuit training, or cross fit activities.
Hopefully, you feel more prepared to make the best choice next time you go shopping! Also, if you’d like my suggestion on specialty shoe shops, and more tips and tricks for fitting running shoes please check out my blog It’s All in the Feet.
PK Fitness Program Coordinator