When it comes to picking a great running shoe, the first rule of thumb should always be this: pick a shoe that feels good right away. But for serious runners, that guideline may not be enough. In fact, by picking sneakers designed for your specific foot type, you may just train better, run farther and experience less discomfort while you do it!

Let Activity Dictate Footwear Picking the right shoes can prevent a lot of problems

Regardless of your foot type, choosing a sport-specific shoe can help prevent injuries. Hitting the basketball court? Look for sneakers with lots of high ankle support. Is soccer your game? Cleats are crucial to prevent slipping or impact injuries, especially if you are playing on turf.

But, within sport-specific shoes, how can you tell if you’re wearing the wrong style for your feet? Thankfully, your body will give off plenty of warning signs.


What Wearing the Wrong Sneakers Looks Like

Worried that you’re not wearing the right shoes? Look for any of these symptoms:

  • Foot pain during activity, especially in your heel or arch
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Knee or ankle pain

Why are these symptoms of inadequate footwear? When your shoe doesn’t give you enough padding or arch support, your plantar fascia (the ligament that runs beneath the sole of your feet) can become irritated and inflamed. If this condition persists, you’ll likely experience heel pain (often, it will be at its worst when you first wake up.) Sometimes, the pain will also appear to come from your arch.

And what about knee pain? This symptom could indicate hat your sneakers are too firm. By looking for a sneaker with a more flexible sole (especially in the mid-foot) you can reduce the impact on your knees by allowing your foot wear to take more of a role in shock absorption.

And what about ingrown or bruised toenails? These symptoms suggest your shoes just don’t fit right. They may be too small (short) or too narrow, but either way, the squeezing and pressure ill-fitting shoes put on your feet can change the growth of your nails and lead to visible bruising or blackened toenails.


Finding the Right Shoe

Now you know how to spot the wrong pair of shoes, how can you pick the right ones? Determine your foot type by examining your old sneakers.

Do you see a lot of wear on the top outer edge of your shoe? That indicates your feet roll out when you walk (supination) and you need a shoe with plenty of cushioning and shock absorption.

Got even wear on your soles? You’re in luck—your foot is neutral! Find a shoe designed for your activity of choice, make sure it fits comfortably, and you’re good to go.

But if your shoes are worn on the top inner edge of the soles, you’re a pronator (your foot rolls in when you walk or run.) What do you need in a sneaker?  Lots of stability, especially in the midfoot, to keep your feet in place when you move.  

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, you’re not wrong. That’s why we recommend getting fitted in an athletic or running shoe store. Or you can always come in to the office and score a personalized foot wear recommendation from our Elmhurst running docs! 

Jordana White
Jordana Rothstein White
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