Your shoes are one of your greatest assets. You wear them for hours on end, for days, weeks, and months. Knowing the pair for you is important, but narrowing them down based on your specific foot type can be challenging. To help educate you on the differences, we break down the three most common types of footwear.
Before we get into that, it’s important to learn the structure of your feet, specifically your arch, as it provides some hints as to what the best shoe might be for you.
A simple test, called the wet test, exists to help determine your arch type. Essentially, the wet test involves dipping the soles of your feet into water and to next stand on a piece of paper. When you step off, you should see an imprint of your foot which will make evident your arch type.
Seeing half of your arch (the middle portion of your foot) indicates a normal arch while seeing the majority of your arch on the paper indicates you have flat feet (or a low arch). Conversely, seeing minimal arch indicates a high arch. See below for a visual.
You can learn more about the wet test and the specifics of your arch height at this link.
Typically, those with flat feet can benefit from motion control footwear while those with normal and high arches are better suited for stability and neutral footwear, with stability being just a bit more ‘shoe’ in terms of support, depending on your preference. But above all, and studies support this, choose shoes that are most comfortable and that work for you.
Motion control footwear is the most supportive, and corrective, forms of shoes. To help with overpronation (when your foot rolls too far inward), motion control footwear have medial support built into the midsole to help limit the damage and wear to the inner portion of your shoe. By having medial support, the shoe is designed to essentially stop the inward rolling of your gait, and in theory, can help lessen the chance at injury if the fit is right. Motion control shoes can also feature a stiff heel, firmer cushioning, and overall less flexibility through the midsole.
It’s important to note that the amount of cushioning is not necessarily an indicator of the type of shoe, but rather it’s a combination of medial features, stiff plastic, and other factors. Cushioning can also be stiff or soft depending on the denseness and type of foam.
Mild pronators, or heavier-set runners, should consider stability footwear as the shoe doesn’t have as much support as a motion control shoe, but more than neutral footwear. Stability footwear often features extra support (called a medial post) on the inner side of the shoe side to prevent arch collapse, but not as rigid as motion control footwear.
Stability and motion control shoes serve the same purpose: to prevent excessive lateral movement for your foot. The main difference is that stability shoes are a dumbed-down version of motion control shoes and are a nice medium between having support under your arch and being too supportive (and heavy). Stability aims to correct mild overpronation while motion control shoes are designed to lessen the impact of extreme overpronation.
As the name implies, neutral cushioned shoes do not have medial support or features within the midsole. With neutral shoes, there is simply cushioning, and no wedges or stiff plastic support along the arch to prevent any sort of under or overcompensation when walking or running. Overall, the structure of the shoe is relatively symmetrical.
Regular pronators and supinators (when your foot fails to roll inwards and applies pressure to your outer foot) should consider using neutral shoes because any stability features would be moot. Common examples of neutral shoes are the Saucony Kinvara, Asics Cumulus, and Saucony Ride.
Ultimately, and as the Mayo Clinic notes, “there is no one best shoe or a particular foot type, and comfort and proper fit should be the main criteria you use when selecting new athletic shoes.”
For more in-person assistance, to have your gait analyzed, feet properly measured or to see if custom orthotics are right for you, check out Toronto’s Feet First Clinic on Bloor Street West. You can contact us at 416-769-3338(FEET).