Buying athletic shoes can be a very daunting task, especially with the never-ending options of shoes found at stores. However, there is a science to athletic shoes, so you can find a pair that are best for you and decrease the chances of injury to your feet with some fundamental knowledge.
Before buying an athletic shoe, you must know what type of foot you have. Of course, there are subtle differences in everyone’s feet, but in general, there are three main foot types and athletic shoes, subsequently, are made for each of these foot types.
1. Neutral foot: A neutral foot has a medium arch, which allows the pressure and force of running to be evenly distributed throughout the foot. Additionally a neutral foot has an adequate amount of pronation, a movement that occurs during weight bearing where the bottom aspect of the arch moves toward the floor. Therefore the arch gets lower and the foot is more flexible in a pronated state. Since a neutral foot has the necessary amount of pronation, this foot is flexible enough to absorb the pressure of running and walking and adjust to changing terrain. Also, a neutral foot has an adequate amount of supination. Supination is a movement of the foot where the arch of the foot rotates off of the floor creating a higher arch and a more rigid foot. With an adequate amount of supination, a neutral foot is rigid enough to push off the ground without causing injury. Recommended shoes for a neutral foot type are stability shoes.
2. Over Pronated/Flexible foot: This foot type has a very low or flat arch, which increases pressure on the inside of the foot and big toe during walking or running. This usually results in an increase of skin thickness on the inside of the big toe and ball of the foot. Also, this type of foot is more flexible than a neutral foot. In the pronated position the foot is not rigid enough to push off the ground. Since an over pronated is a more flexible foot, motion-control running shoes are recommended for this foot type.
3. Over Supinated/Rigid foot: An over supinated foot has a very high arch, which increases pressure throughout the heel, the outside of the foot and ball of the foot. Compared to an over pronated foot, an over supinated foot is rigid and is not able to absorb the forces applied to the foot than the other foot types. An over supinated foot/rigid foot type benefits more from a cushion running shoe.
1. Motion control shoes: This type of shoe is best for patients with excessive pronation or a flat arch. The back of the shoe that cups the heel is known as a heel counter. The heel counter in a motion control shoe is rigid to prevent excessive pronation that occurs in a flexible foot. Additionally, the outline and shape on the bottom of motion control shoe is straight and broad at the front of the foot. This shape is also designed to improve stability like have a wide wheelbase on a car.
To test a motion control shoe, grasp the heel counter with your hand and squeeze the heel counter. The heel counter should not deform with compression of your hand.
Another way to test for motion control is to grab the front of the shoe with one hand and the back of the shoe with the second hand and twist the shoe. The shoe should not deform with the twisting motion. The final test to determine the amount of motion in the shoe is to bend the front and back of the shoe together like a book. The bend of the shoe should be at the ball of the foot where the foot pushes off the ground during activity and should not bend in the middle of the shoe.
2. Cushion shoes: This type of shoe is best for patients with excessive supination or a high arched rigid foot. Cushioned shoes decrease pressure on the feet by absorbing forces transmitted from the ground while running. The outline and shape on the bottom of cushion shoes tend to curve at the front of the foot with extra padding at the front and middle of the shoe. Additionally, cushion shoes tend to have an hourglass shape when looking at the sole where the middle part of the sole is narrower than the front or back. Compared to motion control shoes, it is easier to twist a cushion shoe. Additionally, when bending the front and back of a cushion shoe together like a book, the bend is also at the ball of the foot, but the amount bend is greater and easier to perform than a motion control shoe.
3. Stability shoes: This type of shoe is recommended for a neutral foot type. This shoe has components of both a motion control shoe and a cushion shoe. The outline and shape on the bottom of stability shoe is semi-curved at the front of the foot. This type of shoe has cushion for absorbing forces from activity, but also like motion control shoes, has a firm heel counter, but is not as rigid as a motion control shoe.
General Shoe Fitting Rules:
1. Measure both feet standing
2. Try on shoes later in the day when feet are more swollen
3. Try on shoes half a size larger to compare fit
4. Leave one finger width from the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe
5. Wear the shoe indoors first for 10 minutes or more to make sure it is comfortable
6. Shoes should not need a break-in period they should be comfortable when you try them on.
7. Make sure nothing pinches you inside the shoe
8. Do not wear a shoe for the first time in a race.
Shoes should be replaced about every 300-500 miles of running or walking or 45-60 hours of a sport activity. If there is creasing around the shoe lining, new athletic shoes must be considered. Another test to determine when to replace shoes is by seeing whether or not the shoe is uneven when it is placed on a flat surface.