Sunday, April 29, 2012

RUNNING SHOES AND PRONATION: Important, picking the right pair

 When you are trying to lead a healthy lifestyle and remain active, proper shoes can be your best friend and they go a long way toward helping you remain fit and healthy. However, buying the wrong category of shoes can lead to potentially severe damage, contributing to bone spurs, lower back pain, neck pain, hip pain, compressed discs, I.T band injuries etc.When you are running, your feet are the first to absorb the shock.

Many people are not aware that there are different "pronations", and that they require a certain category of running shoes. Picking the right shoes is key in preventing injury and potential back and joint pain; it goes so much further than picking a color or a brand.

Think back to the last time you were looking for running shoes. Did you pick based on brand, or maybe color? This is a mistake many people make which leads to injuries and unfortunately may reduce their activity, shorten their duration, reduce their enjoyment, and lead many people to give up. This is not limited to "serious" runners-- even if you only walk, having the proper shoe is extremely important. If you buy the wrong category, you could be exacerbating the problem, which leads to many uncomfortable injuries. Having the proper type of shoe make a world of difference.

I highly recommend you get your gait analyzed. The Running Room does it for free, because you need to know what category your foot falls into before you even consider buying shoes. It's unfortunate that so few store train their employees on this, and many are simply unaware of this at all. Most stores, with the exception of The Running Room, do not have their shoes organized by shoe category,nor do they know what type of shoe (other than brand) you are looking at.

Pronation is the natural way your foot rolls. Factors effecting this range from your arches, knees, if you have orthotics etc.

There are 3 main shoe categories for different "pronations": Neutral, Stability, and Motion Control. Besides getting your gait checked, there are a few quick ways you can narrow it down yourself.

Below I have outlined a brief synopsis of what to look for to ascertain your gait. I will also give you a few of my "top shoes picks" for each category.

Note that Saucony's, in general, tend to have a wider toe-box; Asics/Mizuno's tend to be narrower; Nike's tend to be wider.

Neutral (often a yellow symbol at shoe stores- see chart above^)
 Gait type= supinate/underpronate (feet and ankles rolls outward/along edge,
 or neutral heel-toe gait).


You tend to have high, rigid arches, and your shoes tend to wear along the outside of your shoe. Squat down a couple of times with your feel shoulder width apart. Watch your arches in the mirror (or get a friend/expert to watch)- your arches should not collapse, and remain high/rigid. These shoes are good for midfoot or forefoot strikers.
What to look for: Shoes with a curved last or low/moderate rear foot stability. Look for shoes that are cushioned and have a flexible forefoot and a soft/firm midsole. You need shoes with maximum midsole cushioning, and minimum medial support.

Click HERE for an excellent video detailing underpronation/supination.

Injuries common to supinators:
  1. Illiotibial band syndrome
  2. Plantar fasciitis
  3. Achilles tendonitis

* if you wear orthotics, you would normally use a neutral shoe, since your gait is corrected.

**please note that all of these shoes in all categories offer cushioning.Many people mistakenly assume that "neutral' shoes offer the most comfort, while the other categories are uncomfortable. This is not the case, and the "cushioning" refers to something other than comfort (shock absorption).

 Top "neutral" shoes:
Brooks Glycerin
Brooks Ghost
Asics Nimbus
Asics Cumulus
Saucony Powergrid Triumph
Adidas Adizero Boston 3 This is a good speed-work shoe.
Mizuno Wave Rider 15

Stability -Pronator (Blue Symbol)

These shoes offer moderate pronation control, heel support, and stability.
You have normal to flatter arches, land on the outside of your heel and then pronate (roll) toward the inside as you walk/run, and your arches collapse when you squat or put weight on them. Your knees also roll inward when bent/squatting, and your shoes tend to wear in the center, since you push off from there. You need medial support and are a STABILITY SHOE.

What to look for: Shoes with moderate control features such as motion control support and moderate heel counters and a multi-density midsole. The level of stability features can vary significantly within this category.

Top Stability shoe picks:
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12
Saucony Powergrid Hurricane 14
Asics Kayano 18
Asics DS Trainer 17
Asics 2170
Saucony Progrid Guide 5
Mizuno Wave Inspire 8

Motion Control- Excessive Pronation (Red Symbol)

Most people don't fall with in the "Excessive pronation, motion control" category (which is evident by the few shoes made especially for this category). However, there a some truly excellent shoes made specifically for this condition.

- You have completely flat and collapsed arches. Your feet and ankles pronate (roll inward) excessively, and your knees also roll inward when bending. You roll/push off along the inside of your foot and the midsoles of your shoes wear out and breakdown rapidly.


You need shoes that give strong motion-control or stability support with firm midsoles. These shoes should have a strong and rigid heel counter to keep the heel secure and reduce pronation. These shoes have maximum support on the medial side (arch side) of the foot..
What to look for: Look for shoes with a straight of semi-curved last that offer maximum rearfoot stability. You need motion control or strong stability shoes that provide firm midsoles, a wide landing base, and maximum control features such as, motion control, a strong/rigid heel counter to counteract excessive pronation and keep the heel secure.

These shoes are also good for big or heavy runners (weight can affect arches) who need support and durability.

Injuries common to overpronators (applies to Stability shoes as well, which is milder overpronation):
  1. Achilles tendonitis
  2. Arch pain
  3. Knee pain
  4. Rigid big toe
  5. Hip and lower back pain

Click HERE for a video on overpronation.

Top Motion Control shoe picks:
Brooks Beast
Brooks Ariel
Saucony Progrid Stabil CS 2
Mizuno Wave Alchemy 11
Asics Gel Foundation 10

Here is an excellent link for doing the "wet test" to determine your arch-type.
Do It Yourself:

  1. Pour a layer of water into a shallow pan.
  2. Wet the bottom of your foot.
  3. Step onto a paper towel or any surface that will leave an imprint of your foot.
  4. Look at the imprint and match it to one of the arch types below.


  1. Thank you so much for this! I'm printing this out & taking it shopping. I wish i had read your article years ago. I usually buy what the employees recommend & what is "cute". I took your advice & realized I'm a motion control overprinator! I'm SO excited to get the proper shoes! Thank you

  2. I never thought I am one of the people who are not aware of different pronations. It made me think for a while that I've been buying wrong running shoes for my feet. Let me thank you for this very useful information. I'll make a further research about this and what to consider in choosing a pronation shoes.