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.
- Sit in a chair and cross your right leg over your left thigh so that you can see the sole of your right foot.
- 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.
- 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.
- Determine the difference between the length of your foot when you are seated and standing.
- A flexible foot will be at least 1/4" longer when standing
- A neutral foot will be about 1/8" longer when standing
- A rigid foot will be the same size when standing
- Repeat steps 1-5 for your left foot.
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:
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.
- Sit down with your right foot on a piece of paper which is on the floor.
- Lift your toes slightly and trace the shape of your foot.
- 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
- Next, fold the heel back down so you can see the outline of the heel and the outline of your toes
- In the pictures below, the straight line is the folded part of your paper.
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.
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.
2) The Anatomy of a Workout Shoe
- Heel Counter - This is a plastic or composite material to hold the heel stable. The heel counter should be snug & not tight. A good heel counter prevents overpronation or under pronation & adds motion control.
- If your workout is mostly running your workout shoe should be a thick cushioned running shoe.
- If your workout is mostly walking your workout shoe should have a low heel. You don't need a really thick cushioned running shoe.
- For walking, the heel shouldn't be more than 1" higher than the ball of foot cushion.
- For walking, the heel should be beveled or rounded to assist with the roll of the heel.
- The midsole is the cushion between the treads (outsole) and shoe liner.
- Midsoles contribute to cushioning, support, and flexibility.
- EVA is a lighter weight softer material, but with reduced cushioning.
- Compression molded EVA is a denser type of EVA which has better cushioning.
- Polyurethane is a heavier, firmer and more durable material.
- Dual-density midsoles have both types of material.
- Air filled or gel filled is another option for a midsole.
- The Toe Box - Make sure you have 1/2 " (about one thumb's width) between your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
- You need to be able to wiggle your toes (ie play the piano) but your foot shouldn't slide around.
- There should be enough room for your toes to flex up during heel plant and spread out during toe-off.
- Your workout shoe should be flexible. Flex grooves cut across the fore foot on the outside (bottom) of the shoe help make the shoe more flexible. If there are no flex grooves, make sure the shoe is flexible. Check this out by trying to bend the shoe by grasping the heel and pushing up at the toe. The shoe should flex at the ball of the foot, not under the arch.
- The insole is inside the shoe. If it's removable, you can take out the insole and wash it.
- The insole should contour to your foot.
- The outsole is the bottom of the shoe including the treads.
- Outsoles can be either carbon rubber or blown rubber. Blown rubber offers more cushioning but wears out quicker than carbon rubber.
- Most outsoles are a combination of the two materials.
- The last forms the shape of the shoe.
- The last determines the width, curvature and size of your shoe.
- The shape of the lasts can be straight, semi curved or curved.
- Make sure that the last matches your foot shape.
- Lasts can be Stroebel-lasted, board-lasted, slip-lasted or combo-lasted.
- Stroebel-lasted shoes have an additional liner running the entire footbed. These shoes give some flexibility and some stability
- Board-lasted shoes have an additional board in the footbed. These are the most rigid & stable.
- Slip-lasted shoes have no additional material on the footbed. They are more flexible and very light weight
- Combo-lasted shoes are slip-lasted in the toe box area and board lasted at the heel. These shoes give stability at the heel and flexibility in the toe area.
- Workout shoes should be lightweight, breathable & supportive.
- Workout shoes should not pinch or bind across the arch.
- You should replace workout shoes every 500 miles or 6 months due to the breakdown of the cushioning.
3) Purchasing Workout Shoes
- When shopping for shoes, take the drawing of your foot and make sure the shoe fits.
- Place your drawing of your foot on the sole of the shoe.
- The shoe needs to be right for both the curve and the size of your foot.
- Using a pencil, press down on the shoe at the heel. The toe of the shoe should raise.
- Using a pencil, press down on the shoe at the toe. The heel of the shoe should raise.
- Bend the shoe by grasping the heel and pushing up at the toe. The shoe should flex at the ball of the foot, not under the arch.
- Grab the heel and the toe of the shoe and twist the shoe. The shoe should have a modest amount of flexibility to complement the inward roll of the foot.
- Go to a "technical" shoe store. The salesperson will fit you with the best shoe for your feet and gait.
- Shop at the end of the day because your feet swell as the day goes on.
- Try on both shoes with your workout socks.
- Take your time. Wear the shoes in the store and walk around.
- It they feel too tight don't buy them because they won't break in.
- Wear your new shoes in the house for a couple of days to see if they really fit.
|Trouble... ie "This shoe doesn't fit right"
||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