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Which Running Shoe Is For You?

Is it as simple as that?

Running injuries are common in recreational populations.  Injuries can vary depending on definition and the runners assessed.  It is expected that 30% of runners will spend time away from the sport due to injury (Walter et’al 1989).

Over the past few decades running shoes have become increasingly stratified and companies often use subjective methods to determine the right shoe for the right foot Table 1illustrates an adaptation of the methods used to provide guidance when selecting a running shoe.

Running Shoe Models

Running shoes are available in a variety of models. Here is an overview, with some advice on the foot types they are best suited for:

  • Motion Control (Maximum control): These shoes are typically the most rigid and heavy shoes available. They have more support and cushioning than other running shoes and are recommended for people who over pronate (foot rolls inward significantly when you're running).
    • Foot Type: Flat foot or a heavy gait
  • Stability (Blend of control and cushioning): Stability shoes have a mixture of control and cushioning features and are recommended for people who over pronate (foot rolls inward slightly when you're running.
    • Foot Type: Flat foot
  • Cushioned/Neutral (No motion control): neutral shoes are designed for people with a neutral gait or highly arched and require a little bit of cushioning and a little lighter too.
    • Foot Type: Neutral or highly arched foot
  • Minimalist/Barefoot shoes: These shoes offer next to no cushioning or support. They're meant to mimic barefoot running as closely as possible while providing the required protection needed.
    • Foot Type: The foot that needs minimal cushioning

A study by Michael Ryan et ‘ al found that current methods for prescribing in shoe pronation control is over simplistic and this can cause injury.  The results of this study found the provision of motion control shoes carries a significant risk of pain (or injury) to neutral or pronated foot types.

Let’s have a look why?

I think it would be useful to consider what are the other factors which may need to be considered and some of the things you can test which may help you find the solution.

Medical History: It’s important to understand your general health status and information about previous injuries.

Training Programmes: What are your aims and goals?  This might be a first attempt at a 10K or your 10th marathon.  What terrain will you be running on?  Also do you have a fitness trainer or physiotherapist who is supporting you if required.

Foot Mechanics: The foot posture index is important to classify your foot type, but it is also important to determine the resistance levels in the foot (suppination resistance).  This provides some understanding of potential forces that will be going through the muscles during running which may increase the risk of injury.  Consult a podiatrist who will be able to assess you in non-weight-bearing, weight-bearing and during movement (walking and running).

Orthotics: Do you currently wear orthotics?  If so why were they prescribed and what were the outcomes following supply?

Previous Running Shoes: What shoes have you previously used?  Did they work for you and do you have any hunches why?  Are there any additional features:

  • Stack: Width of the sole (what’s between you and the ground)
  • Drop: The difference in height between your heel and the front of the shoe this can range between 0-6mm
  • Lacing for different foot types: There are lots of different ways to lace your shoes for specific foot conditions. Watch video on lacing techniques

See Appendix I for some useful tips on finding the right shoe when fitting.

In Summary

In summary running performance can be influenced by a number of factors.  There are lots of variables which may improve performance or increase your risk of injury.  The steps above are important for any runner to consider and re-visit as you progress through your sport.  Seek advice from the appropriate professionals to support you achieving your aims.

For more information contact


Ryan, Michael; Valiant, G; McDonald, K; Taunton, J; The effect of three different levels of footwear stability on pain outcomes in women runners: a randomised control trial; BMJ, Nov 22, 2017.

Walter, SD; Hart, LE; McIntosh JM; The Ontario cohort study of running related injuries; Arch Interim Med, 1989, 149, 2561-4.

Appendix I

Some Tips For Finding the Right Shoe

  • When possible, shop at a store that caters to the sport in which you participate. If you are a runner, go to a running store; if you are a tennis player, purchase your shoes at a tennis shop. If this is not possible, do some research before shopping to find out what type of shoe is most appropriate for your favourite sport.
  • Because your feet swell throughout the day, try on shoes at the end of the day or after a workout.
  • To ensure a proper fit, wear the same type of sock that you typically wear when you are participating in the sport for which you are buying the shoes.
  • Make sure the heel counter — the back of the shoe that holds the heel in place — adequately grips your heel to ensure stability.
  • There should be at least a 1/2 inch space between your longest toe and the tip of your shoes.
  • The toe box — the front area of the shoe — should have ample room so that you can wiggle your toes. Your toes should never feel cramped in an athletic shoe.
  • When you try on shoes, walk around the store on different surfaces (carpet and tile, for example) to ensure that they are comfortable.
  • Always tighten the laces of the shoes that you are trying on so that your feet are secure in the shoe. There are many different types of lacing patterns that can be applied to the shoe to adapt for, or minimize, foot pain or structural anomalies.
  • Try on both the right and the left shoes to make sure that they fit. Also, inspect the shoes on a level surface to ensure that they are straight, even, and without defects.
  • Make sure that the shoes have not been sitting on the shelf for an extended period of time. While the materials of an athletic shoe are designed to accommodate a lot of stress, the cushioning may become less effective over time, even without use.

Adapted from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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