How-To: Choose the Right Running Shoe

Know your feet—and your arches—before you buy

Finding a comfortable and responsive running shoe among the various options can be challenging. Just about all manufacturers tout features and designs that claim to improve form, increase speed and, above all else, provide a comfortable fit. But determining your foot type can make the process simpler, pinpointing models that support your individual needs. Here's how to do it:

High-Arched, Low-Arched, or Neutral?
Foot types can be broken down into three simple classifications: high-arched, low-arched or neutral footed. High arches result in a hollow space between the midfoot and surface during push-off and landing while walking or running barefoot, and can sometimes result in metatarsal (foot) compression and pain if improper footwear is worn. Low arches are indicated by the opposite condition—in bare feet the entire foot lays flat throughout push-off and landing, improperly balancing the forces placed on the foot, ankle, and leg. Low-arched runners place greater stress on their Achilles tendon, calf muscles and knees as the leg offloads additional pressure onto these structures. Neutral (or normal) arches are by far the most common classification, defined as a foot which falls anywhere in the middle of the two extremes. People with neutral arches will experience some flattening of the foot, but the arch will still retain a hollow space between the midfoot and striking surface.

How to Determine Your Arch Type with the Wet Feet Test
The wet feet test is a simple method of assessing foot arch by creating an impression of your foot on a dry surface. Begin by pouring a thin layer of water into a pan, preferably enough to only coat the bottom of the foot. Next, wet the sole of your foot and then step onto a piece of construction paper or a flattened paper bag.  The pattern left by your foot indicates your arch type. A near-complete footprint shows flat-footedness.  If only the heel and ball of the foot are visible, you have high arches. If only half of your arch is visible, you have a normal (neutral) arch.

What Arch Type Means
Which arch type you have has a lot to do with the way your feet land, absorb impact, and push off from the ground. Flat-footed runners tend to overpronate, with their arches collapsing too far inward milliseconds after the foot makes contact with the ground. Overpronation leads to excess foot movement and can lead to injury. Conversely, high-arched runners tend to underpronate (also known as supination); the arch does not collapse enough to absorb the shock of push-off and landing. Normal-arched runners are not as likely to experience these problems.

Picking the Right Shoe for Your Arch Type
Knowing whether or not you over/underpronate will help you pick the proper shoe. Runners who have flat feet may look to seek stability shoes, which include dual-density midsoles, and medial posts for additional support (click here for six top shoes for flat-footed runners). High-arched underpronators should seek neutral cushioned shoes for their softer midsoles, which will help encourage pronation. Underpronators should stay away from stability and motion-control shoes, or any models with corrective features as these will exacerbate the problems associated with underpronation.

A version of this story originally appeared at

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