How to Buy the Right Shoes for Your Feet

June 7, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Considering how much time you spend wearing shoes, how much time have you spent understanding what’s unique about your feet?

Unless you’re an avid runner or maybe work at a shoe store, you probably don’t know how to buy shoes that compliment your feet and the way you use them. It can be hard enough to find a shoe that looks good, fits on your foot and feels comfortable, but it takes even more to find a pair that fits your arch and the angle of your ankles. But there is a way.

Even if you don’t run, you can still benefit from buying the right running (or walking) shoes — especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet at work or at play.

For example, the only “running” I do is running errands, but I often wear running shoes because they’re comfortable and lightweight. With the right shoes, there is less stress on your feet, ankles, knees and hips.

When you walk, the heel of your foot will touch the ground first and as you roll your foot forward, your weight will be transferred to the front of your foot. Depending on the angle of your foot, you may be putting more weight on the inside or outside of your foot. Doing that hundreds or thousands of times a day can lead to pain and discomfort in your feet and other parts of your body.

If your hips, knees or ankles produce external rotation, you will be more likely to angle your feet as you walk (known as pronation of the foot). Your shoes can compensate for natural irregularities or make them worse and that’s why it’s important to get the right shoes.

Good shoe stores will help determine your arch type and level of pronation. Once you know your arch type and pronation, there are different shoes that will suit you. A local running shop is a good place to start, they’re generally the most knowledgeable retailers of shoes. Some websites with good fitting advice are: Road Runner Sports, Zappos, Dick’s and New Balance.

One way to determine your arch type is by standing (to put weight on your feet), then sliding your index finger under your arch. If you get your finger up to 1/2 an inch under your foot then you’ve got a low arch. 1/2 inch to 1 inch is a medium arch. More than an inch is a high arch.

The other way to determine arch type is the paper bag test. You wet your feet and stand on a paper bag. Looking at your wet footprint and the size of the gap left by your arch, you can tell if you have a low, medium or high arch. This way is pretty common, but it’s a bit more subjective than the index finger method.

To determine your pronation (ankle roll), you’ll need the help of a friend. They will stand behind you to see how your ankles behave as you walk. If your ankles stay very straight, then you have neutral pronation. If they roll slightly inward or outward then you’re considered an under-pronator. If they roll inward excessively, then you’re an over-pronator.

Another way to determine pronation is to put a used pair of your running shoes on a flat surface and see if the shoes tilt inward towards each other, or tilt outward, away from each other.

Shoes are divided into three categories for different feet type: stability, motion control and neutral. Stability shoes are for under-pronators. Motion control shoes are for severe over-pronators and perhaps obviously, neutral shoes are for neutral pronation.

Most online retailers categorize shoes into these groups. A good shoe store will be able to tell you which shoes are your type as well.

The other approach to running footwear is: barefoot. There is a popular book on running called Born to Run which suggests that we are literally born to run in our bare feet and the best runners in the world come from tribes of barefoot runners who run well into old age without injury.

For now, I think I’ll stick with my runners.

Thanks to Kristen for suggesting this secret!

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Wikipedia (Foot type), New Balance (Running Gait), Zappos, Dick’s

Photo: Jason Alley (cc)

Entry filed under: Be Efficient, Demystified, Health and Beauty, ProTips. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charyl  |  June 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Very interesting, am sure some of us could have avoided a lot of pain and discomfort if we had discovered this earlier in our lives.

    Reply
  • 2. Erin  |  June 7, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I work at a shoe store and it can be really difficult to find the right shoe for people with ‘problem’ feet. High arches, high insteps, pronating, supinating (when your ankles roll outward), bunions (from wearing shoes that are too tight/narrow or pointy) and all the other many foot issues there are.

    The best advice I would give is try on several pairs in a few different brands. Don’t be afraid of trying a different size than you’re used to. A lot of brands are not sized the same so just because you usually wear an 8 doesn’t mean you’re an 8 in every brand or style of shoe. Wearing an 8 1/2 or a 9 doesn’t mean anything other than you have a shoe that won’t cause you more problems. Make use of the sales staff – they are there to help! Please be nice – just because we work in retail doesn’t make us lowly people.

    Reply

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