There is one simple key that should determine the best fit for your next pair of shoes. That key is comfort. Forcing your foot in to a stability shoe because you feel you need “more support” shows to be less than ideal. Especially if you are pairing it with a rigid orthotic. You should base your selection on what feels best and most natural for you. The best way to find this type of shoe is to pay your local running store a visit. With their expert advice they can help guide you in to a comfortable shoe.
Wear pattern. The shoe on the left shows a significant amount of wear on the outside. You should be pushing off your big toe and there are no signs this runner is doing so. The shoe on the right still favors supination, however, does show wear to the inside of the foot as well.
Photo Credit: Justin Craig
This is coming from a runner who was shoved in to one of the most aggressive stability shoes on the market + custom orthotic for nearly 5 years. I was always injured in high school and over pronation was deemed the cause of my injuries. Once I started learning more about biomechanics and running more in my early 20’s I realized that I was always standing, landing, and running on the outside of my feet. This was confirmed by checking the wear pattern of my shoes. The wear pattern was nearly all on the outside all the way from my heel to my toes.
Over pronation at the hip.
Despite what you may or may not hear, pronation is necessary for walking and running. The accepted percentage for average pronation is 6% at your ankle. When you run you need to “load” the leg that you are planting on, to do this you need to pronate. This absorbs shock throughout the leg and then allows for supination to occur. This process of pronation and supination allows all the appropriate muscles to fire in the order they are designed to. Some people pronate too much, meaning they pronate to a greater degree and spend more time in pronation then they should. Usually when this happens you see someone’s ankle collapse excessively, their knees go in, or their hip drops. This can lead to injury due to the excessive stress and stretch on certain muscles.
Stability Shoe + Orthotic Photo Credit: Justin Craig
The opposite can also occur, which is called under-pronation or supination. This happens when you plant and your body does not do a good job of loading your leg. Here shock is not easily absorbed throughout your body and can lead to just as many injuries as over pronation. In the running world, over pronation is more commonly addressed the under pronation. This is apparent through the slews of orthotics, stability shoes, motion control shoes, and braces that were designed to decrease pronation.
If you do over pronate you can get support for the problem one of two ways. You can 1. develop a program of myofascial release, stretching, and exercise that is effective
at correcting your muscle imbalances to decrease the pronation or 2. you can use orthotics and stability shoes. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you would probably guess that I prefer option 1. If a runner over pronates a “corrective” shoe can cause problems simply due to the discomfort, let alone the result in under pronation.
We all perceive things differently. A mattress that may feel soft to me, may feel firm to the next person. I might feel that a firm mattress is comfortable to sleep on while someone else would be very uncomfortable. The same is true for running shoes. We all have unique body types with different shaped feet. Even where we carry weight through our feet may all be different. Therefore our feet may move very differently from runner to runner. So what works for you may is likely going to feel different to someone else.
Nigg BM, et al (2014) concluded ” studies assessing the comfort of shoe/insert conditions have shown that:
1. Different subjects select different shoe conditions as most comfortable. There are different functional groups of athletes that need different construction features to feel comfortable in a shoe (eg some subjects like a medial support, some like no medial support).
2. Shoe conditions that are more comfortable are associated with a lower movement-related injury frequency than shoe conditions that are less comfortable.
3. Shoe conditions that are comfortable are associated with less oxygen consumption than shoe conditions that are less comfortable. “
So not only can finding a pair of comfortable shoes make you feel better it can also make you perform better. Like most things in the realm of health and fitness you should never take a cookie cutter approach. Things should be tailored to the individual and selecting a running shoe is no different.
I am fortunate that my local running store, RUNdetroit, follows a unique fit process. Their process in guiding a runner to find a shoe that is most forgettable allows the runner to find a shoe based on comfort. You shouldn’t buy a brand new shoe and feel like you have to “break it in” for a few weeks for it to feel tolerable.
Stability shoes that have broken down on the outside. Wearing these could lead to excessive supination. Photo Credit: Justin Craig
One of the many things I have learned from RUNdetroit is that when you are wearing a stability shoe and it starts to break down, the foam on the outside breaks down faster than the foam on the inside. So this means that it could be pushing you out even further to the outside of your foot, or increasing supination even more. So if you are a runner that wears stability shoes it’s important to keep your eye on this and check your shoes often.
A common misconception is that if you have flat feet you will next “extra support”. But then there is also an argument that if you have a high arch you will need “extra support”. How can one argue the same for two completely different foot structures? Try not to pigeon hole yourself in to thinking you need stability shoes just because your arches are flatter or higher than someone else. To the right we have a picture of someone that would be labeled as having flat feet. Below is the same person in neutral shoes. Here you can see how her ankle is holding nice alignment despite not having “extra support.” This is another example of why you should visit your local
Runner with flat feet that demonstrates appropriate alignment in neutral shoes.
Photo Credit: Justin Craig
running store. It is unlikely that you would know that your ankle is in good alignment here. Experts at the running store can give you feedback and guidance in selecting the appropriate shoe.
When shoe shopping it is important to go in with an open mind and to not discriminate across brands. One brand does not make a “better shoe” than another. It would be nearly impossible to find a comfortable shoe if you are shopping online. How would you get expert advice, try them on, or compare across shoes? So pay your local running store a visit and if the shoe fits, buy it! Your body will thank you later.
Nigg B.M., Baltich J., Hoerzer S, et al. Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: “preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’. Br J Sports Med. 2015;0:1-6