Finding the Right Shoe for You
Whether you are running, jogging, walking, or hiking, choosing the right shoe is one of the most important things you can do. The wrong shoe can lead to serious issues, such as knee pain, achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, heel pain, hip issues, and even back pain. Fortunately, finding the right shoe is not as hard as you may think.
In order to determine what type of shoe works for you, you must first analyize your foot-strike. Foot-strike refers to how your foot strikes the ground and moves throughout your stride. Everyone's footstrike is different, and while most variations are minor some can lead to serious issues if not addressed with the correct shoe.
There are five primary variations that most people experience: pronation, supination, heel-striking, midfoot-striking, and forefoot-striking.
Pronation occurs when the foot rolls outward as you make contract with the ground, placing most of the force over the arch of your foot. Some pronation is normal and healthy, especially in people with normal arches. However, overpronation is a common issue many runners experience and if left unaddressed can lead to a number of problems, including plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, medial knee pain, hip pain, shin splints, and more. Overpronation occurs when the outside of the heel makes contact with the ground first, then the foot rolls outward placing the majority of the force along the inside of the foot.
If you overpronate you should look for a shoe with stability or motion-control features along the medial (inside) edge of the shoe. Since overpronating is such a common issue, many running shoes are designed to address this issue.
Supination occurs when the foot rolls inward as you make contract with the ground, placing most of the force along the outside of your foot. Supination occurs most often in people with high arches. Oversupination can lead to IT Band problems, severe stress on the outer toes/bones of the foot, knee pain, and low back pain.
If you oversupinate you should look for a shoe with extra cushioning along the outside to absorb the blow and help your foot roll into neutral allignment.
Most people have been taught to run "heel-to-toe," meaning they first make contact with the ground on their heel, then roll through to their toe as they leave the ground. Heel striking, however, is not the most efficient nor the most comfortable way to run and can contribute to knee, shin, and hip pain over time.
If you find yourself heel-striking predominately, you have two main options: you can purchase a shoe with extra cushioning in the heel to help absorb the force, or you can start training yourself to midfoot strike - which will be discussed next.
Midfoot striking refers to a footstrike where your foot gets flat on the ground as fast as possible, allowing your arch to absorb the maximum amount of force with each stride. Midfoot striking is often considered the most comfortable and preferred method of running. If you are a heel striker, you are generally encouraged to adopt a midfoot style of running to increase your comfort and efficiency and decrease your risk of injury.
If you find yourself midfoot-striking predominately, you should look for a shoe with a moderate "drop" (drop refers to the difference in thickness between the heel and toe of the shoe) with moderate cushioning.
Forefoot striking refers to a footstrike where you land on your toes or the balls of your feet. This is often considered a "barefoot" running style. Forefoot striking is thought to provide the maximum amount of cushioning and "bounce" with each step, as your arch and ankle work together to gently absorb each stride. While it may provide maximal cushioning, forefoot running is very difficult to get used to and not advised for everyone. If you are currently a heel or midfoot striker and are interested in forefoot striking, it is suggested that you gradually work into it.
If you find yourself forefoot-striking predominately, you should look for a shoe with a moderate to minimal drop. Many shoes are specifically designed for forefoot or barefoot running.