Over the past few years there has been a trend in the running world toward minimalistic shoes. A minimalistic shoe is defined as a shoe that allows the foot to function as close to its natural state as possible. They are generally manufactured with less cushioning and support – overall much less material than standard running shoes.
There are two primary reasons for this trend. Firstly, the minimalistic shoe is lighter. The energy saved from this decreased weight can ideally be used towards running – not carrying a heavy shoe. Secondly, functioning with “less shoe” can theoretically promote increased strength, balance and overall biomechanics. The idea is to allow our feet to do most of the work and rely less on the shoe.
But with such a wide range in foot types, the minimalistic shoes may work against you as well. Some people require more support and/or cushioning in order to function at a pain free, injury free level. The purpose of this blog is to give an overview of general foot types and what to look for in a running shoe.
Best Running Shoes for Normal Arched Feet
With a “normal” arch, the foot functions in a neutral position. Normal biomechanics during our gait cycle result in the foot rolling outward (supinated) during heel strike and rolling inward (pronated) during mid-stance. This flexion of the arch is what provides our feet with shock absorption during walking or running.
Runners and walkers with a normal arch tend to do well with lightweight or cushioned shoes. People with this foot type may do well in the previously mentioned minimalistic shoes. A few examples of these are New Balance Minimus, Nike Free, Brooks Pure Drift, Merrell Run Bare Access 2 and Saucony Kinvara. All of these shoes provide a light- weight feel, but do so with minimal support and limited cushioning. For more shock absorption, a neutral foot type can also do well in a high cushion shoe.
Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet and Overpronators
With a flat feet or over pronation, the foot and ankle may have difficulty stabilizing the body and shock isn’t efficiently absorbed. This causes additional stress, which can lead stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, tendon injury, abnormal joint motion and many other problems.
When looking for an appropriate shoe for a flat foot, one should focus on support. More specifically, medial support or support to the inside of the foot. As the foot tends to roll inwards more, the support will help control this over-pronation. In many cases the support supplied by a shoe isn’t enough and orthotics may be necessary to control excessive pronation.
The shoe types that are helpful for a flatfoot are stability shoes or motion control shoes. These provide support to the inside of the foot much more than shoes with a focus on cushioning. Some of the more common stability shoes are Asics Kayano, Nike Zoom Structure, Brooks Adrenaline and Saucony Omni. These are just a few examples of the many that fall into the stability shoe category. A motion controlled shoe is even more supportive than stability shoes. Brooks Beast and New Balance 1540 are examples of motion controlled shoes.
Both stability and motion control shoes provide additional support to the inside arch and cushioning throughout. With over pronation being a main factor in many chronic foot problems, these shoes are extremely helpful in avoiding injury during running or other athletic activities.
Best Running Shoes for High Arched Feet and Underpronators
With a high arch the foot does not undergo the normal pronation required for adequate shock absorption. A high arch foot functions in a more rigid state and lacks flexion of the arch typically seen in a normal arch. Because of this, the focus in high arched feet is cushioning.
When the foot functions in a supinated (high arch) position the foot is a very poor shock absorber. Stress fractures, tendon injury and ankle sprains can be very common with this foot type. In cases of increased ankle instability or injury, ankle bracing or orthotics may be used to add additional support on the outside of the foot.
Cushion shoes that are commonly used in high arch foot types are the Asics Nimbus, Brooks Ghost, and Nike Air Pegasus. These all provide high cushioning which is very important in high arch feet.
It is important to remember that running shoes are constantly changing from year to year and one shoe is not necessarily best for everyone. To find the best shoe for you and your feet, a thorough biomechanical exam by a knowledgeable foot and ankle physician may be necessary. Selecting the appropriate shoe is a crucial step in accommodating different foot types and avoiding injuries.
If you have any questions regarding the right running shoe for you, we encourage you to call us at (877) 989-9110 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.
As an avid athlete, Dr. Morris developed a special interest in preventative medicine and treatment of sports related injuries. He also has extensive experience in foot and ankle trauma, reconstructive surgery and arthroscopy. In addition, Dr. Morris currently works as a consultant for several companies specializing in joint implants for feet and ankles.
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