When you first walk into a sports shoe store to purchase your new pair of trainers, it can be a little overwhelming. Which pair do I try on first, with so many choices of colours, and styles? It is equally as hard to determine the right pair of sports shoe for your foot type if you are unsure what foot type you actually have.
This is why a lot of people fail to choose the “right” or “best” shoe for them, as most people are not even aware that different sports shoes are made for different foot types and styles of gait, and need to be chosen accordingly.
Choosing the RIGHT pair of sports shoe for your foot type is so important, as it helps to minimise impact and reduce overuse injuries in the feet and lower limbs. Choosing the WRONG pair of trainers for your foot type can actually increase your risk of injury, due to increased stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments.
Runners and high performance athletes must ensure they choose the right pair of footwear and fit for their foot type category, as their risk of injury is greater.
So exactly HOW DO YOU choose the right pair of sports shoe for your foot type or style of gait…?
Step 1: Identity What Foot Type and Walking Pattern You Have
There are three main foot types, and each foot type will generally follow a very similar walking pattern. The three main foot types are:
Normal (normal arch)
• Supinated (high arch)
• Pronated (low arch)
People may present with varying degrees of the following three foot types and display each of them at different stages of their walking cycle. This is why shoe companies have a wide range of footwear options in each of the three foot type categories to accommodate for this.
So lets look into each foot type a little further to help you choose the right sports shoe!
The NORMAL Foot:
This foot type has a symmetrical ankle joint, with neither a high or low arch seen on weight bearing. The normal foot type strikes the ground just off center, on the outside of the heel bone during heel strike.
The foot then begins to roll in (pronate) into midstance, to assist the body in absorbing the shock from the ground. Once the ground forces have been absorbed the foot begins to roll out (re-supinate) to become more rigid, as the body moves over the ball of the foot and onto the big toe in preparation for the toe-off phase of gait.
Wear patterns on the sole of the shoe are fairly even, with minimal wear on the center or outside aspect of the heel and under the big toe.
Category of shoe: Stability shoe with support and cushioning.
The SUPINATED (High Arch) Foot:
This foot type has a noticeably high arch on weight bearing assessment. The rigid nature of this foot type makes it inefficient at absorbing shock naturally. This is why a high arched foot will make quite a loud noise when walking barefoot on hard surfaces with shock attenuation visibly going through the calf muscle.
The supinated foot type strikes the ground on the outside of the heel with insufficient rolling in (pronation) of the foot to help the body absorb shock. The body then moves over the foot and the weight is transferred through the middle of the foot or outward under the 4th and 5th toes during toe off phase.
Wear patters are on the outside sole of the shoe with signs of compression through the midsole over time, as the shoe compresses more under a rigid foot.
After time this foot type can cause reduce range of motion in the joints of the ankle and foot. Severe cases will have a pronounced rolling out of the feet during standing and walking.
History of lateral ankle sprains, (non-contact related) are common in this foot type.
People with this foot type are at risk of impact-related injuries and foot conditions such as:
• Plantar Fasciitis and Heel pain
• Shin Splints
• Calf Tightness and Achilles Injury
• Stress Fractures
• Joint Injuries
Category of shoe: Neutral shoe with more cushioning, gel or air pockets throughout the shoe, a flexible midsole and increased sole thickness.
The PRONATED (Low Arch) Foot:
This foot type has a lowered or flattened arch on weight bearing assessment. The foot may strike the ground just off center on the outside of the heel with rapid rolling in (pronation) of the foot into and throughout midstance.
In severe cases the foot may strike the ground on the inside of the heel during heel strike and continue to roll in (pronate) during midstance, with little to no rolling out (resupination) evident.
In severe cases the wear on the sole of the shoe will be on the inside.
This foot type is very unstable with increase movement and wear and tear of the joints. Stretching and over working of the muscles, tendons and ligaments on the inside part of the ankle and foot are prone to fatigue, overuse injuries and foot pathology, such as:
Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain
• Post Tibial Injury
• Shin Splints
• Achilles Injury
• Medial and Anterior Knee Pain, Lower Back and Hip Pain
Category of shoe: Control shoe with more support, medial posting and a stiffer heel counter and midsole.
Step 2: Decide what activities you will be preforming?
Once you have established your foot type or had a foot assessment conducted by a podiatrist, you should then consider the activities you will be doing and your goals. If you want to do a range of activities then a cross trainer may be a good option. However this concept becomes more important if you do the same activity 3 or more times a week in which you may then require a sport-specific shoe.
You should also decide what your goals are? Are you wanting to just improve your fitness and partake in a charity fun run? Or do you want to compete and have a podium with your name on it? This will allow you to decide if you are after a mid-range shoe or a high performance shoe in your foot type category.
Step 3: Make Sure It’s the Right FIT!
The final step once you have determine your foot type, activities and goals, is making sure the shoe designed to match your foot type is the right size and fit, allowing maximum comfort.
If you are suffering from foot pain or pathology it is strongly advised to see a podiatrist before you purchase new trainers as your shoe choice may come down to a recommendation to complement your orthotic prescription, with the overall factors of comfort and fit being paramount.
Please note that brand styles, colours and names are changed approximately every 6 months. It is strongly advised to visit a footwear store, where staff are trained in professionally sizing and fitting for your foot type.
For further information, on store specifications speak to your treating podiatrist.
Now for Some Handy Fitting Tips;
- Go shoe shopping around 2pm, this is when your feet are at their largest fluid volume and can be fitted accordingly.
- Take the type of socks you will be wearing with the shoes.
- Have your foot sized using a bannocks device and always fit for your bigger foot.
- Remove the insole in the shoe and barefoot step on the insole; if you are hanging over the edge, the shoe is too narrow.
- Most shoe types will come in two or three different widths. If you are female with a wider foot it may be best to be fitted for a men’s size, as they are generally wider.
- Walk around the store for 20 minutes with the shoe on both feet, checking for any discomfort or irritation.
- If you have orthoticstake them with you when fitting, removing any existing insoles before placing your orthotics in the shoes.
- Never rely on “breaking in the shoe”, always get the fit right from the beginning.
I hope this has helped you in your search for the right pair of trainers… if this has confused you as much as all the different choices of colour and style of shoes, then it may be best to come in for an assessment and chat at Well Heeled Podiatry, 362 Hampton Street, Hampton VIC 3188.