What Do I Put On My Feet?

ThedaCare Orthopedic Care Kicks off Fox Cities Marathon Preparation Blogs

Whether you are a novice or veteran runner, buying shoes can be very overwhelming. The style of shoe constantly changes as well as the latest trends in running. The biggest mistake runners can make when looking for shoes is “bargain hunting.” This can lead to shoes that truly aren’t designed for your foot structure, leading to injury, miserable runs, and lack of motivation towards training. There are a few simple steps that can be taken when purchasing shoes to ensure a quality running shoe that is appropriate for you.

Understanding Pronation vs Supination

Pronation occurs when the heel hits the ground and rolls through the toe during foot strike. This is how your foot reduces the stress of impact with running. Excessive pronation is when there is too much roll from the outside to the inside of the foot, causing the arch of the foot to collapse to the ground. Excessive supination is when the outside aspect of the foot takes all the shock and the foot is unable to maintain neutral position and absorb forces evenly.

Assessing Foot Posture

To determine what foot type you have, stand in front of a mirror barefoot. You should see an arch on the middle aspect of the foot. A neutral foot is when there is approx a ½ inch of space between the foot and the ground. A pronated foot is when there is minimal to no space between the arch and the ground. A supinated foot is when there is greater than 1 inch of space between the foot and the ground. You can further assess your foot type with a dynamic motion by squatting down and watching what happens to your arch and foot position.

Choosing the Right Shoe

Excessive pronators should choose a shoe with a straight shape. Motion control shoes would be the most appropriate for this foot type as they help prevent the foot from rolling in too far and are the most rigid and controlling shoe.

Excessive supinators should choose a shoe with a curved shape. Cushioned shoes allow for more shock absorption and encourage increased foot motion with less medial support. Neutral/normal arches should look for a semi-curved shape. Stability shoes are the most appropriate as they provide an excellent blend of cushioning, medial support, and durability. There are also high-performance shoes which are generally designed for race day. These shoes are lighter, have less cushioning, are lower to the ground, and have a lower heel to toe ramp. Because these shoes lack normal stability and cushioning than the other mentioned shoes, these are designed for “serious” or elite runners vs. the novice runner.

Properly Preparing before Shopping

By now you should have an idea on what type of shoe is best for your foot shape. Shopping at a specialty running store will help with having a second set of eyes to look at your feet. The sales reps working at running stores have specialized training in properly assessing every runner for the perfect shoe, a must-have for novice runners. You may have to ask the sales rep to show you the “motion control” (for example) shoes if you decided this is the shoe type for your foot, as they are not always labeled. 

A few key things to check off the list when heading to the store:

  • Shop in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest
  • Bring your old shoes for comparison if able
  • Wear/buy the socks you plan to run in
  • Bring orthotics/insoles you plan to wear in the shoes
  • Make sure both feet are measured for size, because one foot is always larger than the other

Ensuring the Proper Fit

When trying on shoes, check to make sure there is adequate room at the toe box by pressing your thumb between the end of your longest toe and the top of the shoe. Make sure there is enough width in the shoe but not enough to allow your foot to slide around when running. Your heel should snugly fit against the back of the shoe without sliding forward or up and down when running. When the shoe is securely tied, make sure the laces aren’t pressing too tightly on the top of the foot. Last but not least, MAKE SURE you have the chance to run in the shoes, whether it is on a treadmill or outside. It is the only way you will truly know if they are the shoes for you.

Now, you should have your pair picked out and ready to go. Time to log some miles!!

Becky Czechanski PT, DPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care.