A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Choose the right running shoes with this easy test

Woman wearing athletic shoes - How to choose a running shoe

Your running shoes should match your foot type. Cushioned or stability shoes work well for most runners.

Need new running shoes but not sure how to pick from the variety of brands, colors and styles?

“Buying running shoes is not as scientific as you might think,” said Dean Brix, a Marshfield Clinic physical therapist.

Only a few main types of running shoes are available, and it’s easy to figure out what you need once you know your foot type.

Try the paper test to learn your foot type

You can do a simple test at home to check your foot type.

Place a shallow pan of water on the floor next to a flattened paper grocery bag. Step in the pan, then on the paper. Look at your wet footprint once you step off the paper.

If the arch of your footprint is filled in, your foot probably rolls inward and flattens out excessively during weight-bearing activity. This is called overpronation, and it can put stress on your lower legs, knees, hips and even low back, Brix said.

A c-shaped footprint means you have high arches. You probably land on the outsides of your feet and don’t pronate enough. This is called underpronation or supination.

If you see about half of your arch filled in, your foot type is normal.

Match your running shoes to your foot type

Based on your foot type and how your foot strikes the ground when you run, choose from these four main running shoe types:

  • Cushioned/neutral shoes are comfortable and absorb shock for runners who have high arches or underpronate.
  • Stability shoes combine cushion and support features to correct mild overpronation or provide some support for runners with normal arches.
  • Motion control shoes provide support on the arch side of the foot for runners who have flat feet or overpronate.
  • Minimalist shoes are soft and flexible. Brix doesn’t recommend these “trendy” shoes because they don’t provide enough support for most runners.

Go with a softer shoe if you’re not sure of your foot type, Brix said. Choose cushioned over stability shoes and stability over motion control shoes if you’re between foot types and don’t know what kind of shoe you need. Most runners are comfortable in cushioned or stability shoes.

“The most important thing is that the shoes are comfortable when you’re running in them,” he said.

Break in new running shoes by walking in them for a few days before running.

Time for new kicks?

Most shoe companies recommend getting new running shoes at least every 500 miles.

Another way to know when it’s time for new shoes is to look at the outsoles. When the outsoles start to wear away, get a new pair of shoes.

Related Shine365 posts:

Shoe lacing tricks for pain-free running

Running daily: 5 tips to avoid injury

5 training tips for running a 5K

8 Comments
  1. Jul 23, 2016
    • Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor Jul 25, 2016
      • Jul 25, 2016
      • Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor Jul 26, 2016
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  3. Jul 14, 2016
    • Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor Jul 15, 2016

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