Running shoes buying guide

How to pick the best pair of running shoes for your foot type
 
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  • Updated:10 Mar 2008
 

05.One shape doesn't fit all

DIY foot check

As Melinda’s experience shows, the most suitable pair of running shoes has more to do with a person’s foot type than the latest technology or the brand name.

Foot print shapesWhile a running specialist can help identify your running style, it’s also well worth understanding your personal biomechanics, so you can filter through marketing jargon and find the right features yourself.

To do this, you have to find out whether you’re a neutral runner, an overpronator or an underpronator. This will determine what category of shoes you need.

For a bit of DIY foot assessment, you can check your wet footprints to discover your foot type. This image shows, from left to right: neutral foot, flat foot, high arch.

You can also get an idea by looking at the wear pattern on your current pair of running shoes (see descriptions below).

Overpronation

About 75% of the population fits in this category. In running terms, feet that rotate inward too much are said to overpronate. Down the track, this can lead to several running-related overuse injuries, including strain on ankles, knees and hips.

A likely sign of overpronation is excessive wear on the inside edge of the soles of your shoes. Your wet footprints may also tend towards the flat type, showing a print of the whole sole of the foot.

Depending on the degree to which you overpronate, you’ll need either 'stability' or 'motion-control' shoes. Stability shoes are good for mild overpronators. They have a small medial post and generally a curved last.

Motion-control shoes are designed to correct more severe overpronation. They’re typically heavier and have a hard post on the inside rear section of the shoe. This prevents the inner part of the shoe from collapsing in and slows the rate of overpronation.

If you’re an overpronator but wear shoes designed for a neutral runner, excessive wear is likely to be a problem, as well as the risk of injury.

Underpronation

If your feet don’t roll inwards enough, less shock is dispersed on heel strike and it can increase the amount of force through the legs. People who underpronate tend to show excessive wear on the outside edge of the soles of their shoes. Thier wet footprints may also tend towards the high-arched type. They need neutral shoes with ample cushioning, to compensate for reduced shock absorption.

Neutral

If you’ve got a normal footprint, 'neutral' or 'stability' shoes are probably best for you. Avoid motion-control shoes designed to control severe overpronation, as there’s an added risk of injury.
Over or underpronation diagram
Graphic by Cynthia Nge

 

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