Does buying sneakers make you cringe? So many choices! There are numerous types of shoes for every possible foot type and sport. Suppose you just want a pair of comfortable sneakers, just to jog a little or walk. Can buying the wrong shoe actually cause problems? The answer is yes.
Whether you are a committed runner or wear sneakers to coordinate with your jeans, it is important to match the sneaker/running shoe with your specific foot type. Of course, the more you wear the shoe for serious running, the more important the exact fit becomes. Because many people wear running shoes whether they run or not, here’s a quick lesson on picking the shoe that’s right for you.
First, determine your foot type. An easy way is to wet the bottom of both feet and stand on something, like a paper bag, that will show your footprints. A normal footprint shows all 5 toes and the ball of the foot. It then curves inward at the arch about half the width of the foot and widens out at the heel.
If you have flat feet, there won’t be much narrowing at the arch and your entire foot will be visible. With flat feet, you tend to wear out the inside part of the heels of shoes. The technical name for flat feet is “over pronator,” which means the foot excessively moves inward after your heel strikes the ground during walking or running. A runner who over pronates usually complains of knee and hip pain. If you have flat feet, you need a lot of stability in your shoe, so look for a sneaker that has a “straight last.” This refers to the shape of the bottom of the sneaker. Also look for a firm midsole, which provides more stability.
But if your wet footprint doesn’t show much contact at your arch and there is a big indentation at the mid-footprint, where your arch should appear, you have high arches. The technical name for this is “under pronator” and it requires a completely different type of sneaker/running shoe for maximal comfort and performance. The pattern of your shoes, if you have high arches, shows wear on the outside part. You need a very flexible shoe (as opposed to the stability needed for the flat-footed person).
An under pronator runner usually complains of shin splints or low back pain associated with running. A sneaker with a “semi-curved last” offers much more comfort for high arches. Also, a soft midsole cushions the foot and increases shock absorption, because someone with high arches has a more rigid foot and cannot absorb shock as well.
Just knowing if you are an under pronator (high arch) or and over pronator (flat feet) can help, because many stores categorize their shoes this way.
If you are a serious runner, it is ideal to have a running shoe evaluation by a health care professional who is both trained in foot biomechanics and familiar with shoe requirements, and uses video analysis in the evaluation. This expert can make a recommendation or write a sneaker prescription that you can take to running shoe stores to get the right fit for you.
So remember, since there are many options in sneakers, getting the right pair of shoes may take a little research, but it is well worth the time. The right pair of shoes costs the same as the wrong pair of shoes, but your body will know the difference.