What is the best shoe for you? Well, it may come down to your foot type.
Here’s the thing: when it comes to issues of discovering the best shoes for foot pain, it’s tempting to look for a one-size-fits-all solution. There must be good shoes and bad shoes... so it’s just a matter of finding the good ones, right?
Well, sort of. But here’s the issue: the best shoe for you might actually not help somebody else. In fact, the same shoe that helps you might end up making their foot problems worse.
Why? Because the way your foot carries you through a step, (your gait,) has a huge impact on your overall foot health. And determining what foot type you have is crucial for how a shoe will impact your health.
So we decided to put together a guide for determining what type of foot you have, what it means, and what type of shoe fits that foot type best.
And the most crucial factor? Your gait.
Foot Type #1: The Efficient Foot
When we’re talking about foot types, we’re talking about gait.
Your gait, to put it simply, is all about the way your foot moves through a complete step- from the moment your heel strikes the ground through to the point when you push off with your toes. The way your foot moves throughout this process determines your foot type.
What is the Efficient Foot?
The first foot type we’ll look at is the efficient foot.
The efficient foot exhibits common form… the gait as it ought to be, more or less:
- First, the foot has a good, well-balanced heel strike.
- Then, the foot moves into the midstance with some slight pronation (rolling inward) as they move through the gait.
- The foot toes off evenly, with proper weight distribution.
Throughout the entire gait, the efficient foot shows proper levels of flexibility and strength.
What’s the best shoe for the Efficient Foot?
If you have an efficient foot, you are in luck. The footwear world is your oyster. For the most part.
Usually, folks with an efficient gait tend to not run into pain issues based on their footwear. Unless, of course, you consistently wear shoes that force your foot to behave in ways that undermine your naturally efficient stride. (Like cleats or high heels.)
If you have an efficient gait and are experiencing discomfort or pain related to your footwear, the issue may lie in behavioral or environmental issues that have little to do with your gait itself. Once you discover the underlying cause, consider modifying your habits or choosing a more supportive shoe/insole to help correct the problem.
Foot Type #2: The Overpronating Foot
The next foot type we’ll examine is one with an excessive amount of pronation during the gait.
What is the Overpronating Foot?
If you look at the form of the overpronating foot, you’ll see a stark difference from the efficient form we just discussed.
In an overpronating gait:
- The heel strike is usually fairly well balanced, as in an efficient gait.
- However, as the foot moves into the midstance, there is an excessive amount of pronation. The foot bottoms out and flattens in the midstance, causing the whole foot to roll inward.
- Because of this, the foot toes off with unequal weight distribution, with most of the weight on the inner part of the forefoot by the big toe.
What is the best shoe for the Overpronating Foot?
When someone with too much pronation in their gate is looking for footwear, the most important factor to consider is arch support.
The overpronating foot wants to roll inward and flatten out in the area around the medial arch, so providing a firm support to post the arch with help keep the foot in a more efficient position. So be sure to choose a shoe with a high, supportive contour in the midsole to support the arch. (Or, if your shoe doesn’t have that, be sure to add a supportive insole that does provide good arch support.)
Another factor to consider- choosing a shoe with a wide, supportive outsole. A wider base makes it easier to balance, and harder to roll inward as you stride.
If the foot is held in proper alignment by the right footwear, it becomes easier to have an efficient gait… even if your foot isn’t naturally that efficient.
Foot Type #3: The Supenating Foot
The opposite of overpronation is underpronation… or supenation.
What is the Supenating Foot?
Simply put, it’s the mirror image of the overpronating gait:
- When the heel strikes the ground, weight is put on the back, outside edge of the heel.
- As the gait moves into the midstance, the arch has very little give. The efficient amount of pronation that’s expected in an efficient gain doesn’t occur.
- The foot toes off on the outside edge of the forefoot by the pinky toe.
Because the foot tends to roll out in this gait, and provide generally poor weight distribution, it puts undue pressure on the outside of the foot that can, eventually, lead to problems in the metatarsal region, and even stress fractures. (Especially in the forefoot.)
What is the best shoe for the Supenating Foot?
With excessive supenation, picking a good shoe is all about managing weight distribution.
Shoes and insoles with a high, rigid arch might help train the gait to rely on that arch for support. Picking a shoe with enhanced flexibility can also help avoid putting too much pressure and force on areas of the foot that shouldn’t be acted on throughout the gait.
Using an insole like Orange Insoles, with a heel cup and metatarsal pad, can help take pressure off of the heel and forefoot to help with those weight distribution issues.
With supenation, it’s also very important to make sure that your shoe fits well. A poor fit can exacerbate the issues we described above and increase the risk of injury and stress fracture.
Other Factors To Consider
If you are experiencing pain related to your footwear, be sure that you’re considering your foot type. However, also make sure you’re keeping the following factors in mind:
- Your build
- Your personal biometrics
- Your habits, and what surfaces you stand on
- Your activity level
All of these factors should influence your choice of footwear.