If you’re a forefoot striker, a heel striker, a underpronater, wear orthotics, or have very wide or very narrow feet, you’re in the minority.
Here’s the type of shoe you should wear:
What shoe should you wear...
You… land and push off from your toes when you run, rather than following the normal pattern of landing on the outside edge of your heel and rolling through to push off from your toes.
You need shoes that… have excellent forefoot cushioning, flexibility and stability. However, you need to have an expert assess precisely why you’re a forefoot striker. If it’s because you have a high arch and a rigid ankle, you need a neutral, relatively curved shoe to encourage foot motion, with a flexible forefoot and a high arch support.
If you’re a forefoot striker simply because you have tight calves, you should address this problem with stretching and/or physiotherapy rather than trying to compensate via your shoes.
Finally, some runners favour the forefoot simply because they run quickly; they need light, responsive shoes, with an emphasis on forefoot cushioning and stability.
You… prematurely destroy the outsole rubber (and probably the cushioning) on the outside heel of your shoes. This is usually because you land in an exaggerated way; though if you’re heavy, that could also contribute.
You need shoes that… have thick, durable outsoles and resilient midsole foam. Because the composition of the outsole compound is at least as important as its thickness, you need to know about a shoe’s reputation before you buy. Ask your local specialist retailer, or check out Runner’s World for regular shoe tests and expert opinion on the latest ranges.
Your… feet and ankles don’t roll inwards enough when you run, a movement that would normally help to absorb shock every time your feet strike the ground. This is a rare condition, and certainly less common than excessive roll (overpronation) but there are shoes to help overcome the problem.
You need shoes that… encourage the inward movement of the foot (pronation). Look for a soft midsole, and a curved ‘last’ (the shape around which the shoe is built).
Avoid shoes with added stability features, such as medial posts. These are firm sections on the arch side of the midsole, designed to limit lateral movement for those runners who overpronate.
You… have custom-made insoles designed to correct biomechanical imbalances. They are usually – but not always – built to provide additional stability.
You need shoes that… fit your orthoses, and work with them in the way that your podiatrist intended. Usually, if your orthoses provide all the correction you need, your podiatrist is likely to recommend using them in a neutral but supportive shoe. Extreme overpronators may be recommended a motion-control shoe, especially as (in the view of many leading podiatrists) the chance of having too much stability is slim.
In either case, look for shoes that are roomy enough to accommodate orthoses comfortably. Look particularly for a deep heel counter, as built-up orthoses can compromise stability and comfort in shallow-fitting shoes.
You… are not alone. As more runners get specialist advice and gait analysis, so more manufacturers now offer a growing range of shoes to cater for the specific needs of those with wide feet.
You need shoes that… keep pressure off the sides of your feet, and allow the recommended thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
Beware, though. Finding the right shoe isn’t simply a matter of reaching for the nearest available option in a wide fit. It actually depends on why your feet are wide relative to their length (it also has to meet your stability and cushioning needs). If you have short toes, you’ll need a shoe that flexes further forward than normal because relatively speaking, that’s what your feet do. You retailer will look for the position of the flex grooves on the underside of the shoe to help you avoid a retail blunder here.
You… need to do more than just lace up normal shoes tightly.
You need shoes that… don’t allow your feet to slip inside. Not only will over-wide shoes feel less responsive, you’ll also be more at risk of blisters in the areas where your feet do touch the shoe, because you’ll be sliding around. As with the wider fits, most manufacturers have woken up to the fact that not everyone has standard-sized or -shaped feet, and they now offer narrow options.
It may be coincidence, but you could turn out to be really fast, because often the best narrow-fit running shoes fall into the performance category…