Running is like eating pickles: you either love to do it, or avoid it at absolutely all costs. And whether you’re a marathon addict or an occasional treadmill user, finding the right trainers for your foot shape and running style is absolutely essential. Our handy guide breaks down what things like “overpronation” mean, and how to effectively analyze your foot shape using the Wet Test. Ready, set…GO.
Under vs. Over Pronation
Pronation is the natural way your foot makes an inward rolling motion when you walk or run. If you tend to overpronate, it means your foot rolls in too much when it strikes the ground. If you underpronate, it means your foot doesn’t roll in enough and that other parts of your feet and legs end up absorbing more shock than they should. It’s also possible to have neutral pronation, which means that your foot strikes a natural balance when in motion.
- Underpronation: Runners who underpronate tend to be susceptible to shock-related injuries like stress factors, and require a shoe with a lot of cushioning and support.
- Overpronation: Runners who overpronate need shoes with structured cushioning support that helps the feet distribute impact more effectively.
- Neutral Pronation: Neutral pronators can wear a variety of shoe types, but should prioritise cushioning and support to eliminate chance of injury.
The height of your arch dictates the kind of support you need out of a trainer, and is often an indicator of whether or not you will tend towards over or underpronation. Besides intuitive guesswork, the best way to identify your arch height is via the Wet Test, which analyses your foot shape based on your footprint (made by wetting your foot and pressing it on a bare floor or piece of paper).
- Normal Foot: The print your foot makes shows a curve where your arch is, but the top of your foot and the heel are still connected by a broad band. Normal feet are able to better absorb shock naturally, since they strike with the heel and roll in slightly to absorb impact. Therefore, you don’t need a shoe with much motion control, and should instead prioritise stability.
- Flat Foot: The print your foot makes looks like the entire sole, and doesn’t have much of a curve where the arch is. Flat feet tend to overpronate, because they roll inward excessively to absorb shock since the arch isn’t high enough to prevent it. Shoes with motion control support or high stability are the best option for flat feet; look for a pair with firm midsoles and control features that will reduce pronation.
- High-Arched Foot: The print your foot makes shows a very narrow band (or no band at all) connecting the top part of the foot to the heel. Feet with high arches tend to underpronate, since there isn’t enough surface area to roll inwards and absorb the shock. The best shoes for high-arched feet are those with some cushioning and plenty of flexibility; you need a pair that will encourage more motion, rather than resist it.
Size and Style
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but hear us out: the size of your running shoe very well may be slightly bigger than what you wear normally. This is because the harder and longer you run, the more your feet will swell and spread — and your shoes should have room to accommodate them. You shouldn’t feel like you’re swimming in them, of course, but your toe tips shouldn’t hit the fronts when you walk, and their width shouldn’t feel restrictive. Running for miles in ill-fitted shoes isn’t just uncomfortable; it can be dangerous to the rest of your body as well.
Additionally, know what kind of running you plan to do. Someone who is running long distances on uneven terrain is going to need a much different shoe than someone running in short, fast bursts on an indoor track (or a treadmill). Similarly, if you’re also looking for a shoe that will hold up to cross training routines and other forms of exercise, you might want other support features than just running stability/cushioning.
More Resources: Runner’s World has some great tips on choosing the right running shoe, as does WebMD. And once you’ve found a good match, be sure to check out our shoes voucher codes to make sure you’re getting the best deal.