Whether you're hitting the road, track or trail, prevent foot pain by lacing up a well-fitting pair of kicks. For advice on determining your arch type and tips for selecting your next pair of shoes, we turned to Dr. Cary Zinkin, spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
"Your weight is supported in different places on your foot throughout the whole walking or running cycle, which is called the gait cycle," Zinkin says. "If you wear a shoe that doesn't have enough arch support, then [your weight won't properly transfer] during the gait cycle." Meaning, if your foot's not properly supported, it can result in inefficient form, which can lead to injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints and knee pain.
One step toward alleviating the amount of stress placed upon certain areas of the foot is to wear a shoe that supports your arch. Below is a breakdown of different arch types.
High arch: The heel and midfoot bear the brunt of pressure on your foot as you run. You may under-pronate, meaning your foot rolls outward when it strikes the ground.
"People with a high arch often have very tight Achilles tendons," Zinkin says. "Therefore, more weight is targeted in the heel and on the metatarsal heads, which may cause heel pain, arch pain and metatarsal injury."
Neutral arch: You run even keel from toe to heel. Pressure is equally distributed across your midfoot, outer arch and heel.
Low arch: Your foot rolls inward, meaning you over-pronate, so more pressure is placed on your arch.
"If you pronate too much," Zinkin says, "pressure is put on some of the soft tissues in a way that's not anatomically correct, thereby causing injuries."
The Wet Test
You can use this test to determine your arch type. However, for a more accurate assessment, Zinkin suggests hitting up a running specialty store.
Fill a shallow pan with water.
Step in barefoot, then place your foot onto a paper grocery bag.
Take your foot off the bag, and analyze your footprint.
Shoe buying tips
Try on shoes at the end of the day
After you've been on your feet all day, Zinkin says, that's when you'll see any swelling.
Don't purchase a larger shoe size
Zinkin thinks that's a big mistake. "If you buy a shoe that's a half-size or more larger, that will cause movement of your foot in the shoe, which can make your toes rub and result in blisters," he says. "Always buy a proper fitting shoe. If the shoe feels too tight in the store, do not buy it. It will not 'stretch' to become comfortable."
Retire running shoes every three months or after 300 to 400 miles
A shoe's materials can take only so much pressure before it starts to lose some of its give, Zinkin says. He suggests keeping two pairs of shoes handy to compare fit and feel of the old and new.
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