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The Importance of Proper Running Shoe Selection

How to Choose the Proper Running Shoe - Chester County Hospital; West Chester, PA

by Brendan Sullivan, PT, MSPT
Director; Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at Chester County Hospital

Selecting a running shoe based on your running style and foot type is very important to avoid unnecessary foot or leg pain in your legs while you walk or run. There are three basic types of running shoes (cushion, neutral and motion control), which are designed specifically for three basic types of feet: overpronator (flat arch), neutral (medium arch), or supinator (high arch). The general rule is that you want the shoe to complement your foot: stiff foot = flexible shoe; flexible foot = stiff(er) shoe.

One easy way to see what type of foot you have is to stand on a piece of cardboard or paper bag. Wet the bottom of your feet and stand evenly on both feet on the cardboard or paper bag. Step off and see the design of your foot. Generally, people have one of the following:

Running Shoe; Foot Arch Types - Chester County Hospital; West Chester, PA

Based on this, you should select the type of running shoe most appropriate for your foot type:

  • Neutral: Neutral
  • Flat Foot (Arch)/Overpronation: Motion Control
  • High Arch/Supination: Cushioned 

Of course, there are many nuanced considerations for the type of shoe you select.  Am I running on the road or trails? Is this for work or the gym? How often will I be wearing them? If I have orthotics, do I need to wear them with the shoes?

It is highly recommended that you research carefully your selection prior to purchase to assure your comfort and to prevent injury to your feet, legs and joints. Ideally, you want the opportunity to try on shoes and discuss options with a reputable salesperson at a reputable store (i.e. Chester County Running Store) or with your medical provider. At Chester County Hospital, our Physical Therapists can also provide recommendations for you, in addition to addressing any aches and pains you might have with your workout routine.  Ask your doctor if they feel Physical Therapy is right for you.


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Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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