If the shoe fits—Part 1: Wear patterns

There are so many different kinds of running shoes out there, it’s hard to know which ones you should be wearing. Although there are many factors that affect injury risk, choosing the correct shoes might help prevent running injuries.

The military once recommended buying shoes simply based on your arch height: flat, normal, or high. And some exchanges still use the arch-height system to categorize their shoes. Arch height can influence your foot strike, but it doesn’t always accurately indicate running style.

You can ask the pros at any specialty running store to help you choose the correct shoes. But there are other ways to figure out what “kind” of runner you are and which kinds of shoes are best. However, if you’re already wearing shoes that have been fitted for your running style—and you’re not experiencing any serious injuries—then keep running! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Find your wear pattern: Use the chart below to compare your wear pattern (on the sole of your shoe) with what you’re already wearing. Look at the inner side of your shoe (sides facing each other). Motion-control and stability shoes typically have gray (or different color) foam near the midsole to heel: The foam should feel harder than what’s on the outsole. Shoes with harder foam covering a larger area—highlighted in yellow on the chart below—provide more stability and/or motion control. 

Your wear pattern compared to the kind of shoe you’re wearing:  Neutral shoe/Normal wear pattern: Congrats! You’re in the correct shoe. Neutral shoe/Over-pronation*: If the wear pattern on your forefoot is concentrated on the inside, look for a Moderate Stability or Motion Control shoe. If it’s slightly more dispersed, look for a Light Stability shoe. Neutral shoe/Under-pronation (supination)*: Supination is rare. If you aren’t getting injured a lot, keep doing what you’re doing. Otherwise talk to your doctor or physical therapist.  Light Stability shoe/Normal wear pattern: Congrats! You’re in the correct shoe. Light Stability shoe/Over-pronation*: You might want to look for a shoe with a little more stability. Try a shoe with Moderate Stability. Light Stability shoe/Under-pronation (supination)*: Try switching to a Neutral shoe that’s flexible and allows your foot to roll inward.  Moderate Stability shoe/Normal wear pattern: Congrats! You’re in the correct shoe. Moderate Stability shoe/Over-pronation*: You might want to look for a shoe with a little more stability and moderate motion-control. Try a Motion Control shoe. Moderate Stability shoe/Under-pronation (supination)*: This shoe might be causing you to under-pronate. Try switching to a Neutral or Light Stability shoe.  Motion Control shoe/Normal wear pattern: Congrats! You’re in the correct shoe. Motion Control shoe/Over-pronation*: You might need a maximum-motion control shoe. The sole will look very flat, so you won’t see much of an arch. You can also try exercises to strengthen your feet, especially your arches. Motion Control shoe/Under-pronation (supination)*: This shoe may be causing you to under-pronate. Try switching to a Neutral or Light Stability shoe.  *”Over-pronation” occurs when your foot rolls inward too much. “Under-pronation” (or supination) occurs when your foot doesn’t roll inward enough.

Tip: Wear your running shoes for running only! Wearing them for other activities can change the wear patterns and cause them to wear out faster.

This is the first in a series of HPRC articles with guidelines to help you choose the best running shoe. Part 2 provides tips and tricks to help you get the perfect fit.


CHAMP wants to know:

Did this information help change your opinion or perspective?

References

Knapik, J. J., Feltwell, D., Canham-Chervak, M., Arnold, S., Hauret, K. G., Renderio, D., . . . Rohde, C. (2002). Reduction in injury rates associated with a foot evaluation and running shoe recommendation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(5), S157. doi:10.1097/00005768-200205001-00878