Pain Free Feet

Whitby Family Footcare Clinic: 905.668.8233
Peterborough Family Foot Care & Orthotics: 705.740.8247

How to determine the right running shoe for you?

There are number of factors to consider when trying to determine the right running shoe for you.  When you look for advice in running magazines they usually discuss foot type classification.

Listed below are some more important questions you should answer.

Body Mass

What is your body mass? Body mass is probably more important than any foot type classification in terms of footwear requirements for exercise.

For example a 220-pound individual will require an extremely firm, stable shoe whether he or she has a stable foot or not.

A 110-pound female elite runner may not require motion control features in a shoe even if she is a “pronator.”

Training regimen

What is your training regime? This will dictate whether multiple shoes are necessary for long road runs and speed work on a track.

Running surface

What running surface do you typically use to run?  Many people prefer running on trails or grass, which would alter the normal cushioning requirements that would be needed on asphalt.

Age, Fitness level and competitive level

What is your age, fitness and competitive level. These factors can significantly alter your shoe recommendation. An older runner who “plods” at a 12- minute per mile pace will have different requirements than a 20-year-old elite “toe runner” who blazes along at a six minute per mile pace.

What is your injury history?

Do you have an injury history due to excessive joint motion or due impact shock? Your injury history should be considered. You may require footwear characteristics that help you prevent injury.

For example the following types of injuries will dictate certain shoe characteristics:

  • Stress fractures in your forefoot will require cushioning characteristics
  • Achilles tendinopathy will require footwear with firm midsoles and ample heel elevation.
  • Hallux rigidus (arthritis in the big toe joint) will require a shoe with a stiff sole.
  • Plantar heel pain syndrome will require a shoe with torsion stability.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (pain underneath the kneecap) is usually associated with excessive pronation although multiple other factors are also involved. Pronation control features in a running shoe include firm heel counters and medial posting of the midsole.

In many cases, you can correlate a flaw in your current running shoe that may have contributed to your current injury or condition.

The 3 essential criteria for evaluating stability in a running shoe are : heel counter rigidity, forefoot flexion stability and torsional rigidity. 

The fit of your running shoe is important!

  • You should be aware that both of your feet are not perfect matches.
  • One foot is always a little bigger than the other.
  • This can be due the presence of bunions or hammertoe deformities which require a wider shoe fit.
  • The shoe should be fit to the larger foot.
  • You can usually find a running shoe brand that will accommodate the width or volume of your foot.

Heel to Toe vs Heel to Ball Measurement and Width

We use a Brannock foot measuring device that can measure the heel-to-toe and heel-to ball of the foot measurements.

Why are these important measurements?

  • There is sometimes a disparity in heel-to toe versus heel-to-ball of the foot length.
  • This will result in the ball of the foot joints across the forefoot to out of alignment with the flex joints of the shoe.
  • If you have long toes (short heel-to-ball length), the ball of the foot joints called the metatarsophalangeal joints (MPJs) of the foot will be behind the flex joints of the shoe.  Excessive bending of the toes may occur.
  • If you have short toes (long heel-to-ball length), the MPJs will be forward to the flex joints of the shoe. In this case you may have a locking of your big toe joint during heel lift and may put stress on your plantar fascia.
  • In both of these situations there is a mismatch between the widest part of the shoe and the widest part of the foot.

Foot Volume

Unfortunately, the Brannock device does not measure some other critical dimensions such as:

  • heel width,
  • instep height and girth,
  • waist girth and
  • forefoot girth.

However, visual evaluation can detect a “high volume foot,” which has its own unique fitting requirements.

Matching the girth and volume requirements of a shoe your foot will fall under the responsibility of good shoe fitter at a speciality running shoe store.

Space between longest toe and the end of the shoe

  • Generally, we recommend a 1/2-inch space between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • This will often correspond to the width of your index finger.
  • Your index finger measuring stick will become a permanent future reference for shoe fit when you purchase athletic footwear.
  • Another helpful technique is the evaluation of the toe imprint pattern on the removable insoles of a pair of your old athletic shoes.
  • The distance from the toe prints to the end of the insole shows the true functional spacing that has occurred in the shoe during exercise.

Removing insole from running shoe and matching your foot to insole

  • One of the techniques I recommend is to take out the removable insole in the running shoe and put it on the ground and put your foot on top of the insole.
  • Does the widest part of your foot match up well with widest part of the insole?
  • You can also see if the longest toe is ½ inch form the end of the insole.
  • Comparing right to left feet will provide shoe fit information that you can use to achieve a better shoe fit.

The importance of a recommended running shoe list

In past, the running shoe companies used 4 main categories to classify their shoes.

  • Cushioning,
  • Mild stability,
  • Moderate stability
  • Motion control.

Lately, the each of running shoe companies have decided to come up with their own categories which has made it more difficult choose a running shoe.

Shoe companies  now  offer a comprehensive range of styles of running shoes in multiple categories such as:

  • Motion control,
  • Maximum,
  • Control,
  • Support,
  • Control stability,
  • Stability,
  • Cushion/neutral,
  • Guidance,
  • Structured/cushioned,
  • Cushioned trainers,
  • Competition,
  • Lightweight,
  • Minimal,
  • Barefoot like ride,
  • Neutral ride
  • Racing flats.

It is impossible to stay informed of all the current styles and technologies even for a chiropodist/podatrist.

The other problem is the companies constantly change styles and introduce new models.

It is becomming more important to access a credible source for a shoe list from running magazines such as Runners World and Running Times.

They regularly publish shoe evaluations and rate shoes in all categories.

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) publishes a manufacturer shoe list by category.

Category of shoe is the best place to start for a running shoe recommendation

Even though there are now more  shoe categories, our office will write a running shoe prescription by what category of running shoe that best addresses your:

  • Body mass
  • Training regime
  • Running surface
  • Age, fitness/competition level,
  • Specific injury history
  • Measured shoe fitting.
  • Running mechanics

Generally our shoe prescription is broad , generic and simple

The prescription will include the shoe category and fitting requirements such as:

  •  wide toe box
  • narrow heel seat
  • deep toe box
  • high instep
  • orthotic friendly.

You will be also given a shoe list. The shoe list serves as a “library” of available brands and models that you can try in the category we have chosen via our shoe prescription.

The most critical part of the running shoe recommendation is making sure your comfort and fit is the final determinants for selection.

The shoe fitter in the running shoe store is very important in this regard.

If a recommended shoe does not fit properly, the retailer must be able to recommend another model in the same category that may fit better.