Picking The Right Pair of Shoes

It seems fairly simple, go to the store, pick out a cool pair of shoes and hit the road.  Unless you are a neutral runner, nothing could be further from the truth.  The right pair of shoes makes all the difference in the world.

Lets start by explaining the difference between the three main types of foot bio mechanics.

1) Under Pronation or Supination.  This condition is characterized by the ankles rolling towards the lateral side (away from the center line of the body) of the foot.

2) Neutral.  This condition is when the foot, the ankle and the leg line up perpendicular to the ground.

3) Over Pronation.  This condition is characterized by the ankles rolling inward towards the medial side (towards the center line of the body) of the foot.


Remember, these are the basic conditions and there are more and less severe variations of over and under pronation further defined by other factors such as arch height and the direction that your feet point at rest.

All running shoe manufacturers offer shoes for each foot characteristic.  For over pronation, you would need a stability shoe characterized by a different material on the medial side of the shoes.  See the example below.


The material is usually a harder rubber than the rest of the outsole and that helps to keep the ankle from rolling inward.  Wearing a shoe that does not offer the proper support can cause pain in the feet as well as pain on the inside of the knee joint due to grinding because the leg bones are out of alignment.  Left untreated, this condition can manifest itself as pain further up the body i.e. the hips, the back and the shoulders.


Other types of alignment problems can be corrected with shoes that offer motion control and guidance.  If you are not sure, visit your local running store and they will have the tools to help you diagnose your condition and help you select the proper shoe.

Neutral shoes offer no additional support to help your feet roll to the medial or lateral side.  Most lightweight shoes are made for neutral runners but there are brands such as Brooks and Altra that offer lightweight shoes that also have built in stability components.

For under pronation, you want a shoe that offers more cushioning.  No manufacturer makes a shoe that has a support feature that would intentionally roll your foot to the medial side and you don’t want to put anything under your arch that would force your foot to roll further to the lateral side.

Purchasing shoes that are less expensive generally have less cushioning than their more expensive counterparts and if you are planning on working up to long distances greater than 5 or 6 miles, that extra cushioning comes in handy.  A more expensive shoe also has a more durable outsole that will help you get more mileage out of a shoe.  Typically, a less expensive shoe will start to lose its ability to support and cushion your feet at about 250 miles whereas a shoe with a more durable outsole can last you closer to 500 miles.  I know this for a fact as my current shoes are nearing the 450 mile mark and they still feel comfortable at the end of a long run.

When you go to buy your new running shoes, be sure to try on as many different brands as you can.  You will know when you have the right shoe because it will feel like it is a part of your foot.  Each manufacturer uses what is called a last which is the form used to determine the shape of the inside of the shoe.  Each manufacturer constructs their last based on their research and what they are trying to bring to the market.  That is the main reason you need to try on as many different brands as possible.

Buying a shoe just because you like the way it looks or because it matches your eyes or outfit or not picking the proper shoe because you don’t like the color is a recipe for disaster.  Once you start to experience pain, it makes it that much harder to keep going.  Also, finding a comfortable shoe will make running more enjoyable and help to keep you interested in getting out there more often.

About Thomas Perkins

Running enthusiast and motivator.