Have you ever walked out of your home wearing a sweater in summer or flip flops when it was freezing cold? You probably haven’t and you never would. But have you ever trained wearing running shoes or ran wearing your training shoes? Chances are that you have.
We often get carried away when shoe shopping and end up buying a shoe more for its appearance than function. Additionally, unlike clothes, it’s harder to know if a pair of shoes are working for you unless you use it for a couple of days. Even after you realise something isn’t working, you are likely to go back to using the same shoes just because you have spent money on it.
You walk on your feet every day, and sometimes work out or perform extreme sports, forcing your feet to support your whole body weight. Repeated stress on your feet results in damage over time and wearing the wrong type of shoes further worsens this damage. By finding the right shoes, you can avoid the aches and pains, and protect your feet.
So, how do you find the right shoes?
While there is no single shoe that’s perfect for everyone, having a good understanding of a few factors will help you find the shoe that’s perfect for you. Whether you need comfort for your half-marathon or traction for trail running, this blog will help you understand the different foot types and ways to find a shoe that fits your feet’s needs.
To find the right shoe, start by determining your foot anatomy
When looking to buy a pair of shoes, you have to have a good idea about your foot anatomy. Because to get a good fit, you need to know your foot shape, length, width, arch type, and pronation.
Begin by figuring your foot shape
- Roman – People with Roman shaped feet have the first three toes of similar length, while the rest two toes are shorter. The rough roundish or squarish forefoot demands more room at the front of the shoes.
- Square – The square foot shape, as the name suggests, give your feet a square shape with all toes standing at the same length.
- Greek – Less common than Roman and Egyptian shape, the Greek foot shape features a second toe that’s longer than the big toe, and the remaining toes are arranged in a stair-step format. People with this foot shape should buy a shoe that’s one size bigger than their actual size
- Egyptian – The most common foot shape, the big toe is the longest, and the other toes slant downwards in decreasing length. The long big toe makes individuals with this foot shape the most vulnerable to bunions—a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe, that occurs when some of the bones in the front part of your foot move out of place.
- Germanic – The Germanic foot shape is characterized by straight toes with the same length, except the big toe which is slightly longer. Like in the case of Greek foot shape, people with Germanic foot shape should buy a shoe that’s one size bigger than their actual size.
Now, measure your foot length & width
Foot sizes are generally measured in length and width. When measuring your feet, follow these tips to get the most accurate results.
- Your feet are usually at their largest at the end of the day due to all the walking around. So the best time to measure your feet is at the later half of the day.
- When measuring your feet on your own, sit on a chair instead of standing. On the other hand, if someone is measuring you stand rather than sit.
- If the shoes you plan to purchase require wearing socks, wear your regular socks while measuring.
- Human feet are highly individual—your right and left foot aren’t identical. So, measure both your foot and buy a shoe based on the larger foot size.
There’s another factor you should consider—your arch type
The arch is the middle section of your foot and one of the most noticeable factors that differentiate one person’s feet from another person’s feet. There are three arches in the foot, as listed below.
- The medial longitudinal arch runs through the centre of your foot from the end of your heel to the ball of your foot.
- The lateral longitudinal arch that lies along the outside edge of your foot.
- The anterior transverse arch runs from side to side, behind the ball of your foot.
The three arches work together to help your feet adapt to the different terrains as you walk or run and absorb the shock.
Furthermore, the arches are also classified into three types based on their height –
- Normal Arch
- High Arch
- Low/ Flat Arch
Here are two easy methods that will help you determine your arch type.
#1 – The Wet Foot Test
Wet your foot on a piece of dry cloth or ink and place it on a piece of paper or cardboard. If the footprint formed shows the whole bottom of your foot, you might have low/ flat arches. If only half of the middle section of your arch is visible on the paper, your arch type may be medium or normal. On the other hand, if the imprints demonstrate just your toes, heel, and the ball of your foot, you likely have high arches.
#2 – The Old Shoe Test
This method involves observing the heels of your old shoes, especially your sports shoes to analyse the wear pattern. Figure out which part of the shoes has worn out the most—it will help you determine which part of your feet endures the most pressure. Then use the chart below to find out your arch type.
Lastly, check your pronation
Pronation refers to the side-to-side motions or the inward roll of your foot as you move—a mechanism that absorbs the shock. To get a clear idea about pronation, look at your foot while you take a step forward. You’ll find your ankle dipping towards the inside arch right after your heel strikes the ground.
A certain amount of pronation is considered neutral or normal. However, in some cases, your arch shape can affect your foot’s ability to roll and cause under or overpronation. And depending on your pronation, the right shoe for you can vary.
The three types of pronation are as listed below.
- Under Pronation – Also known as supination, under pronation is common in people who have high arches. If you have a high arch, opt for shoes with a lot of cushioning to prevent injuries.
- Neutral Pronation – Normal arch results in neutral pronation which is compatible with most shoes.
- Over Pronation – It usually goes along with a low arch. If you have overpronation, choose shoes that are well structured and offer maximum support.
Now that you know how to choose the right shoe based on your foot anatomy, it’s time you know the difference between two major categories of shoes.
Running Shoes & Training Shoes – they aren’t the same?
Running shoes as the names suggest are for running. They help with forward movement and protect your feet as it pounds against the pavement over and again. Running shoes offer more support and cushioning, which translated to a higher heel drop and more comfort during long-distance runs when a lot of shock absorption is required.
On the other hand, training shoes support a wide range of movement, such as cutting, stopping, breaking, jumping, and quickly changing direction. Hence, training shoes can be considered versatile and perfect for different types of workouts—from weightlifting to high-intensity gym classes, strength training, and more.
When looking for training shoes, look for shoes that are wider in the toe area. Such shoes will offer enough surface area that will help your feet withstand the pressures of a training session.
If you use a shoe that’s narrow at the toe area for training, the foot increases abnormal forces through the metatarsals, thereby increasing your chances of injuries.
While running and training shoes look similar, there are a few key differences you should be mindful about.
- Sole Flexibility – Running shoes offer heel-to-toe movement, whereas training shoes are the right fit for multi-direction movement, especially side-to-side or lateral. The sole of training shoes is made flexible to allow a wide range of movements.
- Heel Drop – You will be able to identify a training shoe by its much flatter look, which is technically termed the ‘heel drop’. Heel drop refers to the distance between the heel height and the toe height. Running shoes feature a higher heel drop to provide cushioning and added support.
Here’s how you can find a pair of running shoes based on your arch type and pronation
|Cushioned Running Shoes||Neutral Running Shoes||Stability Running Shoes|
But, how do you know when it’s time to replace your shoes?
Some shoes will last longer while others wear out quickly. Apart from usage, your foot shape determines which part of the shoes will wear out and how soon they wears out.
As a rule of thumb, shoes should be replaced every 8-12 months.
When it comes to running shoes, you should ideally start looking for a new shoe when you hit the 300-500 miles mark.
Looking for these five easy indicators will help you know when it is time to replace your shoes
- The sole: The sole tread pattern is worn down. Most of the shoes these days are purposefully made of a different colour, so once the sole is worn the colour shoes through.
- The heel: The heel on one side is worn down more than the other. In cases where the one side is excessively worn down, the shoe leans to one side.
- The support: The shoe has lost its pop—the cushions have become compressed to the point that it no longer offers enough support.
- Visible breakage: The uppers are broken down around the ankle.
- Wrinkles: Wrinkles appear on either the side or the bottom of the sole from where the breakdown of the cushioning and support starts occurring.
- Foot pain: You are experiencing frequent foot pain that you didn’t previously experience in your workout.
- Tiredness: You feel more tired than usual after a workout or get new aches and pains.
Here are 5 tips to keep in mind before you head out to buy shoes
Shoes that are comfortable and well-fitted help you steer clear from a lot of foot problems. So, rather than going for looks, keep the tips listed below in mind when trying shoes next time.
- The toe test: Make sure your toe isn’t squishing against the shoe and there is a small gap between the shoe and your thumb. Also, your toe should rest flat and not crunched by the sides of the shoe.
- The ankle test: Next, ensure your ankle isn’t experiencing friction from behind. The shoe should fit snugly around the heel and your heel shouldn’t slip or come out of the shoe as you walk. It should also not be too tight as to cause blisters.
- Walk the walk: Walk around the store and see if the shoe bites or punches into your feet. If it does, it will continue to do so even after you leave the store. Contrary to what the shopkeeper usually says, your shoes aren’t going to break-in or open-up with use. A good-quality shoe will never de-shape.
- Materials: If you want your shoe to be comfortable and long-lasting, check the quality of material used. For instance, bad quality shoes use cheap upper materials like plastic, thin suede, low-grade leathers, etc.
- Lace test: Laces breaking off are a common problem that happens after wearing a shoe for a few days. When buying shoes, tie the laces like you normally would, and look for any signs of withering. Typically, eyelets with pointy edges eat away the thread leading to the laces breaking off. So, check to make sure the eyelets are smooth or buy extra laces for emergencies.
Still using the wrong shoes? We smell danger
Wearing the wrong type of shoes leads to various problems such as discomfort, lowered performance, and injuries.
Wearing the wrong type of shoe causes discomfort in various ways. You might suffer from aches and pains, blisters, or soreness because your shoes don’t fit right. The best shoes never get in your way but let you do your workout without noticing their presence.
The wrong type of shoe keeps you from performing your best. When you are trying your best to get better, your shoes holding you back would be the last thing you need. Wearing running shoes while performing plyometric keeps you from pivoting quickly. What’s more, it won’t offer the right amount of grip, traction, or flexibility of the sole the same way as a training shoe. On the other hand, running without a running shoe will make it harder to run faster due to the lack of support and cushioning.
Running and training shoes offer certain types of support to protect your feet from injuries. Using running shoes in place of training shoes, or vice versa will result in ankle sprains, knee or ankle injuries, stress fractures, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, etc.
Whether you are marching in protests, playing football, waiting tables, or doing house chores, your feet is what supports and propels you throughout the day. Hence, it is important you offer your feet the right care by finding them the right pair of shoes. You must pay attention to your foot shape, arch type, and pronation to find the shoe that’s ideal for you.
Lastly, remember, in case you buy a shoe and notice something unusual like persistent pain in your feet, knees, or hips, consult a physician at the earliest.
Credits – Deepak Patil