CHOOSING THE RIGHT RUNNING SHOE - 3 TYPES OF RUNNING SHOE EXPLAINED

Clifton Bradeley, specialist musculoskeletal sports podiatrist and advisor to the ASICS Running Clinics, gives us his advice for choosing the right running shoe.

"Trying to find the right running shoe for your needs can make you feel bewildered and confused, especially when you see so many different types. Buying the wrong running shoes can leave you unprotected, increase the risk of injury and lead to wasted money, too.

That’s why I have decided to take the mystery out of choosing the right running shoes by explaining what some of the terminology you’re likely to encounter means."

Choosing the Right Running Shoe - 3 Types of Running Shoe Explained
Choosing the Right Running Shoe - 3 Types of Running Shoe Explained

MAXIMUM SUPPORT RUNNING SHOES

This category of running shoe is the most supportive and controlling and is designed to slow down excessive pronation. Maximum support running shoes include features like medial posts (ASICS DUOMAX™), which are higher density materials on the inner side of the midsole to stop it from collapsing as the heel everts onto it. Maximum support running shoes also tend to have a carbon rubber outer sole for durability and are built on a straight last (mould), which offers maximum ground contact and stability.

STRUCTURED CUSHIONING / STABILITY SHOES

Structured cushioning running shoes offer a good blend of motion control and cushioning. They are not as heavy and controlling as maximum support running shoes but still offer good support. This is the most popular category of training shoes and they are generally built on straight or semi-curved lasts to provide greater ground contact stability.

CUSHIONING / NEUTRAL SHOES

Cushioned shoes generally have no motion control features and are lighter. They are built on a curved or semi-curved last to encourage faster movement and feel softer underfoot. This shoe is great for neutral foot types who are less than 13 stone in weight and orthotic wearers. If you have a neutral foot type but are over 13 stone in weight, consider structured cushioning shoes, which offer a little more support.

HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT RUNNING SHOE FOR YOUR FOOT

Understanding the different shoe types is not the only thing you need to consider when choosing the right running shoes for you. You should also think about your foot type. There are three different foot or arch types:

  • Low arch
  • Normal arch 
  • High arch

The easiest way to determine which type of arch you have is by doing something called the ‘wet test’. To do this, wet the underside of both feet and stand on a piece of heavy paper for 10 seconds. Then step off the paper and look at the imprint your feet have made.

  • If the imprint shows most of your foot without much of a curve, you have a low arch. Typically, podiatrists would recommend shoes that have more stability, such as internal edges that build up the side arch, dual-density midsoles or supportive ‘posts’.
      
  • If there is a distinct curve along the inside of your foot with a band a little less than half the width of your foot connecting the heel and your toes, you have a normal arch. Most runners with this arch type can wear just about any shoe.
       
  • If there’s a very noticeable curve along the inside of your foot and a very thin band connecting your heel and toes, you have a high arch. In this case, you’re likely to be best served by a well-cushioned shoe with little or no arch support or stability features.  

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT RUNNING SHOE FOR YOUR GAIT

Now you know your arch height, you can use this information to determine your gait, which very simply, is the way your feet behave when you run. This is another important step in choosing the right running shoes, as each shoe type best accommodates different gaits.  

There are three different types of gait:

When someone overpronates, their heel strikes the ground first and rolls inward excessively because their ankle does not have the ability to stabilise properly. This is typically associated with someone with a flat foot or a very low arch. The right running shoes for overpronators tend to be motion control shoes that provide lots of stability.

In someone with a neutral gait, the middle or slightly outward part of the heel will strike the ground first and the foot will roll inward slightly to absorb the shock. This is typical of runners with a medium arch. Neutral cushioning shoes tend to be the best choice for this type of gait. 

Underpronators strike the ground with the outside of their heel first and stay on the outside of their foot through the entire footstrike. This is typical of someone with a high arch. Underpronators are best served with a neutral cushioning shoe.

Still not sure how to choose the right running shoe? Then take a look at our guide to understanding pronation or read about how to choose your first pair of running shoes.