Your Feet... Finding a Shoe That Fits

One of the most important pieces of equipment you need in order to engage in a cardio workout is a pair of shoes. It is crucial that your workout shoes fit your feet. Most people just go to a big box store and buy what's on sale, what looks good, or what doesn't hurt their feet "too much". That's not the best way to take care of your feet. In this handout, we'll look at three things: 1) how to determine your foot type 2) understanding the anatomy of a workout shoe and 3) how to be a more informed consumer when purchasing workout shoes.

1) Determining Your Foot Type

To find the right shoe, you need to know some things about your feet. You have to determine your A) foot type (flexible, neutral or rigid) ; B) foot curvature (curved, semi-curved or straight); C) arch height (high, medium or low); and D) degree of pronation (over-pronate, neutral or supinate)

Let's start with A) Foot Type - flexible, neutral or rigid. Foot type describes how much the length of your foot changes as you go from non-weight bearing (seated) to weight bearing (standing). One method of determining your foot type is listed below.

  1. Sit in a chair and cross your right leg over your left thigh so that you can see the sole of your right foot.
  2. Use a rigid ruler to measure your right foot from the end of your longest toe to your heel. Don't push on the ruler as this might flatten out your foot.
  3. Put the ruler on the floor with the "0" end closest to you. Stand on the ruler and measure the same foot again by putting your heel on the "0" mark and measuring to the end of your longest toe.
  4. Determine the difference between the length of your foot when you are seated and standing.
  5. Repeat steps 1-5 for your left foot.
  Right Left
Foot Measurement - Sitting:    
Foot Measurement - Standing    
Difference    
My feet are: Flexible
Neutral
Rigid
Flexible
Neutral
Rigid

The Prevention.com website (see link off the class homepage) describes the "Wet Test" to determine your foot type. According to the "Wet Test" from the Prevention Handout, what Foot Type do you have?

According to the "Wet Foot Test" my feet are:
Flexible
Neutral
Rigid

 

 

Next determine your B) Foot Curvature - curved, semi-curved or straight. Foot curvature is incredibly important. Shoes are built on a "last" which is straight, semi-curved or curved. Putting a curved foot into a shoe built on a straight last is a recipe for disaster.

  1. Sit down with your right foot on a piece of paper which is on the floor.
  2. Lift your toes slightly and trace the shape of your foot.
  3. Pick up the paper and fold it in half so that the outline of your heel is folded over the top of the outline of your toes
  4. Next, fold the heel back down so you can see the outline of the heel and the outline of your toes
  5. In the pictures below, the straight line is the folded part of your paper.

 

Straight foot Semi-curved foot Curved Foot
straight foot semi-curved foot curved foot
The heel portion of your foot overlaps on the outside Your heel portion is in between the toe portion of your tracing with just a slight gap There is a wide gap on one side of your heel tracing
My feet are:
       Straight
          
Semi-curved
         
Curved

 

Next take your shoes off and look at your C) Arch Height. Workout shoes are made with different amounts of volume. Volume is the height of the shoe at the midsole. A person with a high arch shouldn't stuff their feet into a low volume shoe.

My arches are
High
Medium
Low

 

Decide your D) Degree of Pronation - over pronation - neutral - supination. Pronation describes how much your foot rolls in/out when your run or walk. Get an old pair of shoes. Look at them from the back and see how you wore them out. If the sole is worn out on the inside, you over-pronate. If they are worn out evenly across teh shoe, you have neutral feet. If you've worn them out on the outside, you supinate. A small amount of supination is normal as your foot naturally rolls from the outside of your heel to your toe when you run.

My old shoes show
Over-pronation
neutral feet
supination

 

2) The Anatomy of a Workout Shoe

Heel

Midsole

Toe Area

Insole

Outsole

Last

Overall

3) Purchasing Workout Shoes

Trouble... ie "This shoe doesn't fit right"
Symptom Problem with the Shoe & a Possible Solution
Big toe is squished The shoe is too straight & the big toe of your curved foot is running into the shoe. Choose a shoe built on a curved last.
Baby toe is squished The shoe is too curved & the baby toe of your straight foot is running into the shoe. Choose a shoe built on a straight last.
Shoe is too tight at the ball of foot

The shoe is too small. Try the next larger size.

Laces are too close together The shoe has too much volume (height of the shoe at midsole.) Buy a shoe with less volume.
Can't close laces The shoe doesn't have enough volume. Buy a shoe with more volume.
Your knees roll in as you walk The shoe might not have enough support at the arch. Your feet could be starting the roll in, so be careful. If you get too much support on the arch side of your shoe, you could cause problems with the outside of your foot. Consider a shoe with support on the inside of the arch
Your heel slips out of the shoe just a bit The heel is too wide for your foot. Try loop-lacing lock as shown in the Runner's World article.

Interested in more information? Check out these websites:

"A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult
than all the medicine and psychology in the world."
Paul Dudley White