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[Running with Sole] Choosing Your Sole's Mate — an article on the Smart Living Network
February 15, 2013 at 2:09 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Choosing Your Sole's Mate

From the Running with Sole Blog Series

Despite the barefoot running movement, many will continue to train in running shoes.  Not everyone will be comfortable feeling asphalt under their toes.  And how could I blame them?  Is a tedious transition away from shoes impractical worth the added risk of injury that barefoot running could incur?  Most runners may even doubt the credibility of barefoot running altogether.  Running shoes are a necessary option for the sport.

But how do I choose the right pair?

Looking down an aisle full of the latest and greatest shoes, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed.  What’s the difference between all the different shapes and fancy names for cushioning? I know I have been lured to pick a pair based more on how they’ll look.  But hold fast!  Don’t be tempted to shell out your hard earned dollars before you get to know what’s best for your feet.

Finding your foot type

When in the market for a new pair of running shoes, consider finding your foot type before you go out to buy.  You can do this in a few minutes with the “paper bag test.”  Simply get your feet wet, then stand comfortably on a paper bag for a couple minutes.  Now step away and look at the shape of your footprint and find your type:

Example footprints

  1. Overpronator (Low arch): footprint shows almost the entire outline of the foot.
    • Find shoes that offer stability or motion control,  and a straight shape.
  2. Neutral (Normal arch): footprint shows a distinct indent at the arch.
    • Opt for shoes with cushioning or stability and a semi-curved shape.
  3. Underpronator (High arch): footprint has a sharp indentation at the arch.
    • Seek shoes with cushioning and a curved shape.

The main idea behind finding your foot type is to give your feet the best support for a smooth running experience.  When you try on shoes, hopefully, you’ll be better prepared to know how your feet will react over time to a pair.

Trying on the shoes

Before you rush out to Dick’s Sporting Goods, make sure you’re prepared.  Bring your running socks and orthotics (if you use them) with you; the difference in fit with these on could “make or break” a shoe.  Also, it may help to try on shoes later in the day.  Just as they swell over the course of a day, feet swell as much as half of a size during a long run.  

Now try those shoes on!  Remember, comfort is important.  Don’t pay too much attention to brand names.  Different brands work better for different people, and no brand makes every shoe the same – personally, Nike running shoes have never been quite right, but I know people who wear them exclusively.  Avoid any shoe that gives you discomfort, and pay attention to size.  A shoe that is too short can cause discomfort or pinching and lead to injury, while a shoe that is too long will slide and cause blisters.  Don’t be afraid to take a few strides down the aisles, you’re preventing injury here!  

Still don’t know what pair to try out?  A salesperson can be a great resource, so ask them!  Bringing an old pair of shoes with you will allow you to show them how your stride wears down the tread on the bottom, and they might have a few ideas.  

On the run

Hopefully, after doing your homework,  you have found yourself a solid pair of running shoes.  Pay attention to how they feel when you take them on a few runs.  For those of you that don’t know how they should feel, the ideal feeling is one with energy, maybe even a slight bounce.  This isn’t to say that you should bounce up and down with each step, but simply push freely from one stride into the next.  When wearing a good pair of shoes, ground contact will feel natural to your stride and the world will come into balance.  If a shoe isn’t working, you can try insoles or re-lacing, but it may be better to cut your losses and find another pair in order to avoid injury in the end if things don’t improve.  At the risk of losing money, picking the right pair the first time is important.

So, get out there and find your running zen!


Glover, Bob.The Competitive Runner's Handbook: The Bestselling Guide to Running 5Ks through Marathons. New York: Penguin, 1999.Google Books. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. 

Larson, Peter. "5 Ways to Tell If a Running Shoe Is a Good Match for You."Runblogger. N.p., 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.

Ray, Jeff. "How to Choose A Running Shoe."The Running The, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

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