*Photo Credit: FootZone Bend Oregon
Finding the right shoe for running or walking can be an overwhelming endeavor. There are hundreds of options to choose from, and not every shoe is created equal. Neither is every foot. Your specific foot type and running style will determine the shoe that will keep your feet the happiest in the long run.
If you walk into your local running store, you’ll most likely be greeted by the great wall of shoes displaying various shoe brands in every kind of shape, style, and color you can imagine. While it may be our first instinct to grab a brand we’re most familiar with or a color that will complete our running ensemble, those shoes in reality may not be our foot’s best friend.
Before choosing a shoe, there is specific information you should know about your feet. This is where the professionals step in. A foot and shoe expert can help navigate you towards the correct shoe that will fit your foot type and be the perfect companion for the type of running, walking, and hiking activities you pursue. Many quality running stores have technology available in their stores that help assess the best shoe that will fit your type of foot. This technology typically records you walking or running on a treadmill and will analyze your foot for the best fit.
The three foot types –
Foot types are categorized into neutral arch, low arch, and high arch. Pronation is defined by how your foot rolls and your arch is what determines how your foot pronates.
Neutral arch typically causes the foot to roll to a healthy spot.
Low arch typically causes the foot to roll excessively inward, or overpronate.
High arch typically causes the foot to roll in only slightly at impact, or underpronate.
If you’re curious about your foot type, a good indicator is observing the wear pattern on the bottom of your shoes.
If you are a normal pronator, your shoes will wear even and you can assume that you have a neutral arch.
If you observe that your shoes wear heavily on the inner soles, you most likely have a low arch and are an overpronator.
If the opposite is happening on your shoes and you notice more wear on the outer soles, you can assume that your arch is on the higher side, making you an underpronator.
Knowing the difference between shoe types –
Choosing the correct shoe is crucial to avoiding pain when running, walking, or hiking. The following explanations will help you better understand the difference between stability shoes, motion control shoes, and neutral shoes.
- Stability Shoes: Stability shoes or pronation control shoes are designed for a runner, walker, or hiker who pronates past the point of neutral. This is known as overpronation, and these shoes are designed with supportive features in the midsole (specifically under the arch area). A pronation control shoe generally has a sole that’s a little stiffer on the inside to prevent you from rolling in and a little softer on the outside. Shoes have gone through a bit of an evolution. If you look at the inside of a shoe, you’ll see what is called “posting,” which are the different types of colored foam, EVAs, and plastics helping to decrease the risk of the foot or arch collapsing inward.
- Motion Control Shoes: Motion control shoes are designed for the runner or walker who severely overpronates (rolls drastically inward). These shoes have heavy-duty support features to correct overpronation by adjusting the foot into a neutral alignment – not just under the arch, but generally beginning in the heel of the shoe as well.
- Neutral shoes: This type of shoe is worn by those with an ideal running stride and are created to account for a typical amount of pronation. A neutral shoe can be lighter, since they are made without extra stabilizing structure. A runner will generally find these shoes to be more flexible and move with their feet without any stabilizing or guiding design.
Shoes for common foot and ankle conditions
Among the most common foot and ankle conditions are Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
The first line of defense in healing or preventing Achilles tendonitis is to first break the cycle of repetitive micro-injury and allow your body to heal. Reducing the amount of force placed on the Achilles will also help prevent injury. By stretching the calf muscles, hamstrings, and thighs, you will be alleviating the amount of pressure placed on your feet. What’s more important than the frequency of stretching is the quality of stretching. Stretching should be done slowly and gently for the best results.
Plantar fasciitis is pain experienced on the bottom of the heel. This condition can be improved and prevented by stretching and wearing the correct shoes made for this condition. Stretching for plantar fasciitis should be done first thing in the morning with focus on loosening the muscles in your calves, hamstrings, and feet.
Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis
Choosing the correct shoe wear can help alleviate or prevent Achilles tendonitis. Plenty of research can be done ahead of purchasing a shoe, but the best thing anyone can do for their feet is to go into a specialty shoe store to have their feet evaluated. What may fit and work well for one person’s Achilles may not work well for another. Shoes with a high drop or “lift” are typically better for people with Achilles issues. The difference in the shoe’s heel height to toe height is the amount of drop a shoe contains, so a shoe with a high drop is going to lessen the load placed on the Achilles. A high drop shoe alleviates the amount of pressure placed on the Achilles by elevating the heel slightly so that the Achilles doesn’t have to work so hard.
Shoes with very little to zero amount of drop are typically not the best choice for individuals with Achilles or plantar fascial issues.
Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
The characteristics to look for in a shoe or sandal to help alleviate pain and discomfort from plantar fasciitis should include cushioning, a soft heel, high comfort level, and a strong arch support. Walking around barefoot can be painful for anyone with this condition, so wearing a comfortable shoe with these qualities first thing in the morning will help dramatically. Maximal cushion shoes such as the popular brand, Hokas, provide not only great cushioning but a stable platform for those with plantar fasciitis. The stability and rocker sole in these types of shoes provide exceptional comfort for not only walkers and runners, but also for those who are standing on their feet all day, working on hard surfaces.
Reaching out to a foot specialist or shopping at a specialty footwear store will save you a lot of time and discomfort in the long run. Technology has come a long way to help you find the correct shoe for your feet so that you can prevent a condition from getting worse, or prevent new conditions from arising. If you have a painful foot or ankle condition that is keeping you from enjoying your typical daily activities, contact an orthopedic surgeon to be evaluated.