How to Choose Running Shoes Based on Your Foot Arch

A simple guide to choosing a running shoe that best suits your foot type


It’s hard to stay focused on your fitness goals when injuries or pain keep getting in the way.

Unfortunately, for many runners it’s their shoes that are the source of such issues. It’s not always the case, but sometimes, taking the time to choose a shoe that’s really right for you can help you avoid running-related injuries.

There are many different factors that go into finding and choosing a running shoe that’s ideal for your foot type and the characteristics of your running gait, but one of the post fundamental factors is the arch of your foot.

Related: How to Choose the Right Running Shoes

Here’s how, according to experts at ACE Fitness, you can determine what running shoe might be best for you based on your foot arch.

If You Have Flat Arches
Flat-arched feet tend to cause over-pronation (an inward roll of your ankle) and this can sometimes lead to knee pain. A shoe with motion-control and extra stability may be able to help prevent excessive pronation by providing some extra support.

If You Have High Arches
People with high arches tend to under-pronate. This can be problematic because we need some pronation to help absorb the impact endured when our feet hit the ground as we run. If you have a high arch, that impact is absorbed by a smaller area of your foot, which can potentially lead to pain and/or injuries. A shoe with extra cushioning in the midsole can provide added protection.

If You Have Normal Arches
People with normal arches typically have an ideal amount of pronation. In this case a shoe with moderate cushioning and stability will work best for most runners.

How to Determine Your Arch Type
Figuring out where your arch lands on the high-to-low spectrum is simple. Just use the “wet test.”

You’ll need a small pan of water to dip your foot in and a flat paper surface, like a paper bag, to imprint your foot on.

Place your pan and the paper bag on the ground next to each other so that you can easily step from the pan to the bag. Fill the pan with just enough water to evenly cover the surface. Dip your foot into the water in the pan (making sure to immerse the entire bottom of your foot) and then step on the shopping bag with the same foot.

After few seconds, step off the bag and then analyze the shape of your foot.

If you can see about half your arch, you have a normal arch (the most common foot type according to Runner’s World). If you see most of or the entire bottom of your foot, you have a flat arch. If you see your heel, the ball of your foot and a very thin line near the outside, you have a high arch (the least common foot type according to Runner’s World).

While this test is a good starting point that can help give you a general idea of what type of shoe might be best  for you, the experts at ACE Fitness did make a point to note that a recent U.S. Army study actually questioned the value of the wet test when it comes to preventing injuries.

“Prior to basic combat training, approximately 1,500 male and female recruits selected motion control, stability, or cushioned running shoes based on the wet test. A control group of the same size all received stability shoes. During training, there was no significant difference in injury risk between the two groups, even after controlling for known risk factors such as age and fitness level.”

This doesn’t mean that using your arch type to determine what type of shoe might work best for you is entirely useless, just that it’s not a perfect science and that you should take all factors of your running routine into consideration when it comes to preventing injury and staying healthy.

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