Things I’ve learned about running shoes

So many shoes and so many types of feet!  It’s confusing for the recreational runner.

The main brands (Nike, Asics, Brooks, Salomon, Mizuno, Adidas, New Balance, Saucony, Under Armour) tend to have models of shoes with one of these types of main feature:

  • Cushioning / Neutral (without built-in arch support).
  • Stability / Support (with built-in arch support).
  • Racing Flats (lightweight shoes for sprints and short races).

Shoe companies are always coming up with some new “feature” that makes their latest model sound good. But the above features are the main ones to be aware of over all brands.

You can also find these sorts of shoes (shoes can be a debatable topic!):

  • Minimalist (e.g. Vibram). Some call these “natural” running shoes, perhaps to try to get you converted to them. They have thin soles.
  • Maximalist (e.g. HOKA, Altra). These have highly cushioned soles. Some also say these are “foot-shaped” to try to convert you.

The main thing is to get a type of shoe that fits your specific foot traits.

You can have one or some of these foot traits:

  • Wide.
  • Narrow.
  • Flat feet (low or no arch).
  • High arch.
  • Under-pronation / excessive supination (rolling too far to the outside of your foot).
  • Over-pronation (rolling to the inside of your foot).

Over-pronation is not quite the same thing as having flat feet. You can have completely flat feet which therefore don’t over-pronate (roll). Your feet can over-pronate but not roll completely inwards or be flat.

The many brands of shoes each have different models aimed to assist people with the many permutations of traits. Not all brands offer all permutations.

My feet are weird, and most people’s are too.

Skip the next paragraph to avoid things that may not be relevant for your foot type. Read it if you want to learn how I came to learn the above information through muddling along with my unique foot problems.

I wear orthotics I had made by a podiatrist. My flat feet were operated on when I was 5 years old to shorten the tendons. I can’t walk flat, because it hurts the tendons. Before I got the orthotics I had to consciously arch my foot so it didn’t pull on the tendon. It hurt to run as my tendons pull all the way down the chain of my leg, when my feet over-pronate/roll. I got hip tendon pain when I started running and sore foot/ankle tendons. I’m pretty flexible, and my feet can make a high arch if I want. It’s too hard to control the arch movement when running, so I need the orthotics. The hard orthotics also mean I don’t have much foot balance or control when running on technical trails, so I’m best if I avoid that, but I’m fine on roads and paths. I was told by the podiatrist to wear support shoes. But wearing the orthotics with stability/support shoes for 2 years meant I had excessive supination which caused me pain in my glute/hamstring. I don’t wear stability/support shoes now. I’ve found cushioned/neutral shoes work very well with my orthotics. I wear the orthotics under the inner soles of the shoes. I was first in a sports store told to go up half a size in running shoe. I’ve had 7 black toenails and gone up four half-sizes before getting it right.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned:

  • Don’t wear stability/support shoes with your custom-made orthotics. This would mean wearing extra arch support on top of built-in arch support – overkill.
  • You need a bigger size running shoe than your normal shoes. Feet expand when running, from force and swelling. I wear US women’s size 10 regular shoes, and US women’s size 12 running shoes.
  • For your first pair of a brand of running shoes, you need to try them on. You can buy online if you know the brand/model and its sizing are right for you.

2 thoughts

  1. Hmm. If I went up two sizes, I would need to buy size 14 or 15, and that can be hard to get. Or at least hard to get a good variety.


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