Choosing Running Shoes

If you're a runner, the right running shoe matters! It's NOT about the look or the brand. It's about the type of foot you have and how they fit.

Wearing properly fitting running shoes that are designed for your foot type can help to prevent and alleviate many overuse conditions that are seen in runners and active populations. These include:

Blurred image of shoe store with variety of running shoes with different colorsChoosing Running Shoes

2 Jobs for the Feet with Running

When running, the foot has 2 jobs.

  1.  To absorb the force of the body as the foot contacts the ground
  2.  To provide forward propulsion just before the foot leaves the ground pushing the runner forward

Your foot’s structure determines how well it can do both things. Different foot types require different types of shoes.

3 Types of Feet with Running

Most people’s feet can be classified into one of 3 major groups. 

  1. Feet with High Arches, or Pes Cavus Feet - This is a less flexible foot that is good at propulsion. However, this foot type is not as good at absorbing force at contact. Runners with this foot type are often prone to stress fractures of the foot and shin or to developing patellar tendonitis.
  2. Feet with Flat Arches or, Pes Planus Feet - This type absorbs force well. However this foot type tends to over-pronate at push off and does not propel the body forward as well. This over pronation occurs when weight shifts to the inside of the foot while pushing off. Runners with this foot type are more like to develop iliotibial band syndrome or runner’s knee. 
  3. Feet with Normal Arches - This falls somewhere in between a pes cavus or pes planus foot.

Arch type and fot alignment diagram showing normal arch, high arch, and flat foot arch

3 Types of Running Shoes

Shoe construction also falls into three major categories which match up to the three foot types. 

  1. Cushioned Running Shoes have the softest foot-bed and midsole, and the least amount of support across the inside portion of the shoe. This type of shoe is most appropriate for those with medium to high arches or pes cavus feet.
  2. Motion Control Running shoes offer less cushioning but more support along the inside of the shoe to prevent the foot from overpronating or rolling inwards. These shoes are most appropriate for those with low arches and whose feet roll in towards the midline of the body when walking or running. 
  3. Stability or Neutral Running Shoes have a mix of cushioning and support and try to optimize mechanics for those with normal arches.

Click to learn about Barefoot Running Shoes.

Things to Avoid When Buying Running Shoes

Don't choose running shoes based on:

  • Color
  • Brand
  • Price
  • Celebrity Endorsement

Choosing running shoes based on these factors can lead to being unsatisfied with the purchase and injury.

Should You put Orthotics in your Running Shoes?

Orthotics can be used in running shoes if needed. Most of the time, orthotic inserts are use with pes planus or flat feet.  The orthotics can help support the foot and limit the extra motion with running. 

Custom orthotics are typically better off the shelf orthotics because they can be designed for the runner's specific needs. 

Other considerations for orthotics may include metatarsal pads with running to help with metatarsalgia.

omage of a blue right foot Custom orthotic to prevent excessive foot pronation from flat feet or pes planusJOI custom foot orthotics

Choosing the Right Running Shoe for You

When choosing your next pair of shoes, before you consider color, brand, or price--consider the shoe type. In order to prevent injury and to get the most out of your shoes, make sure that your foot type matches up with the type of shoes that you buy. 

For specifics on what type of construction a particular model of shoe is can be found at a reputable shoe retailer or from resources from the manufacturer. 

Your physical therapist will also be able to direct you to the appropriate shoe choice based on your foot type and/or injury.

Related Articles: Best Shoes for Hip Pain and Best Shoes for Back Pain.

If you have an injury or need to figure our the correct running shoe for you, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. JOI is Northeast Florida's largest and most respected sports medicine provider. To see a JOI Sports Medicine or Orthopedic Doctor, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To see a JOI Rehab Physical Therapist in 1 of our 12 locations, call (904)858-7045.

By: Andrew Heideman, MPT, ATC, PES

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