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Arch Identification: The Most Important Part of Successful Running Shoe Selection

Whether you’re an experienced runner seeking to impress at yet another national marathon, a recreational runner or actual joggler, the happiness of the body’s feet have a great impact on success as an anaerobic athlete. For feet to reach optimum performance levels out on the open trail, nothing is more important than choosing the right running shoe. Marahon_shoes

However, with running shoes coming in so many different sizes, styles and even colors, it can be difficult to find the perfect shoe for your foot. Before investing in your next pair of running shoes, be certain to educate yourself as to the ins and outs of decent running footwear. That way, no mistakes are made and your feet can properly handle the pounding of an ever-increasing run cadence.

Pay Attention to Foot Type

As is almost always the case with most big purchases — be it a new home or vehicle — the buyer will spend an increased amount of time shopping around to ensure that expectations are met. Likewise, running shoe satisfaction comes through understanding your specific foot type and making a smart buying decision. Generally speaking, runners’ feet fall into one of three distinct foot categories:

• Flat Feet

– Produce fallen arches due to their innate flexibility

– Overpronate, thus producing an inward rolling motion while active

• Neutral Arches

– Biomechanically sound

– Ideal for runners and athletes

• High Arches

– Defined, rigid arches which often lead to supination

– While in use, feet are prone to placing excess weight on outside edges

As a result of the varied foot types which runners most frequently have, shoe companies have produced a wide variety of models to help runners of all strides perfect their physically strenuous craft. During the choosing process, be sure to work with a professional in order to determine each foot’s arch pattern. In fact, if considering the purchase of a shoe online, take a few minutes to swing by your local running shop to receive the help of an in-house shoe expert. He or she will be more than willing to help you identify an adequate shoe type through a bit of on-site Gait analysis.

With each arch type, come different footwear needs. For runners with flat feet, a higher stability shoe will be required to help with overproning tendencies. For those blessed enough to have neutral arches, just about any shoe model will work. Simply put, comfort is king. That being said, most neutral runners opt for a moderate stability shoe. Lastly, runners with high arches do best with midsole padding and sole flexibility.

Once you’ve identified the appropriate shoe category, don’t settle on the first shoe that feels moderately pleasant. Try on several pairs. Additionally, keep in mind that you’ll probably need a larger shoe than you’re accustomed to wearing to school or work.

Says of the sizing process, “Most runners need to go up a half size from their street shoes, allowing for one-fourth to a half inch of wiggle room in the toe box. While you want to be able to move your toes around, be sure your heel is snug and secure, avoiding any unnecessary slippage.”

Shop accordingly. Run happily.

Plenty of Options

The athletic shoe industry is a booming one, to say the least; however, the success that the field of footwear production has seen didn’t simply come about over night. The typical running shoe has come a long way in the past century or so, providing you with ample options when looking to replace an old, worn-out pair. The following infographic, produced by Mettis, provides further information as to how running shoes have evolved over the years:


Though the shoe selection process may appear somewhat complex, the end result — a more comfortable, enjoyable running experience — will most assuredly be well worth your trouble.

Lucas Miller is a runner and juggler from Provo, Utah. He highly suggest that you attempt both activities at the same time for some great fun. When not writing or running, he’s working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the “World’s Greatest Pompadour.” Find him on Google+.

* Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. This is a fine summary of the traditional thinking about running shoes, and the thinking that most of the major running shoe manufacturers would like you to adopt. Unfortunately there appears to be almost exactly zero science behind any of this. See, for example, this summary of the research literature:
    If you know of any really good evidence supporting the running industry’s claims, I’d love to see it. But until then, I’m inclined to ignore it all as marketing hype.
    On a personal level, I am (or used to be) a severe over-pronator with very flat arches. I ran for years in the industry-recommended “high stability motion control shoes” and was reasonably happy with them, despite the occasional joint pain. Then I switched (carefully, gradually) to running in Vibram FiveFingers, which are just about exactly the opposite. And you know what? After around 5000 km and several full marathons (including my two fastest), my running has never been better. Plus, my arches have come back and I don’t pronate as much as I used to. This is anecdote, not science, and the science on “barefoot” style running isn’t particularly good yet either, but I can say that barefoot works for me — despite claims that it’s exactly the wrong thing for me to do.

    1. Thanks Greg. I too am a bit skeptical of the claims about the importance of shoe choice based on my own anecdotal experience. I can run in pretty much any shoe and put on 700 miles plus without any injury. I would love to see more science based evidence about the topic.

  2. I generally replace my shoes after running 400-500 miles in them, but that can vary widely depending upon how much care I took of the shoes, what type of running I did in them, and mostly upon the brand and model of the shoes.

    I wouldn’t keep your shoes more than three or four years at the most no matter how little you run. The shoes that I use tend to last about a year right now, but I rotate between (currently) 5 pairs of shoes. I am about ready to retire 3 pairs of my running shoes that were bought late last summer/early autumn.

    When I only rotated between 2 pairs in college, I was going through 5 or 6 pairs of shoes during the school year. I was also running 85 to 95 miles per week most weeks, though, and I was basically waiting too long to get rid of them since I couldn’t afford new shoes as often as I really needed them.

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