Running 101 – How to Determine Your Foot Type? (& What Does it Mean)

When it comes to foot type biomechanics, runners are divided into three broad categories: the neutral-footed, the flat-footed (the overpronator runner), and the high-arched (the supinator runner).

Therefore, if you are a serious runner looking to boost training volume but still hunting for the ideal running pair, then you need to learn more about your foot type.

According to conventional wisdom in the running world, your pronation type is also a contributing factor in selecting and choosing the right running shoe. Not only that, some experts also claim that having an understanding of pronation and how it affects the rest of your body can help you determine the type of a shoe most appropriate for you.

Therefore, today, dear reader, I will share with you all you need to know about your foot type, what does that mean, and what type of shoe works the best for a particular foot type.

Foot Type And Running Performance

Substantial amounts of research and technology go into designing running shoes that best suit these three most common types of foot arches.

Determining your foot type can help you make the most suitable choices when looking for new running shoes. This can help improve running efficiency, understand the way you run, reduce pain, and prevent injuries, such as heel pain or plantar fasciitis.

So are you excited? Then here we go.

How to Determine Your Foot Type? (& What Does it Mean)

The Wet Test

If you have no idea what arch type you have or are not sure, you can perform the Wet Test.

Here is how to Do It

Simply wet the sole of your foot, then step onto a blank piece of paper or a shopping bag.

Last up, step off and examine the shape of the footprint and compare it with the following diagrams.

The result can help you determine if you’re a neutral runner, an overpronator, or a supinator/underpronator.

Please keep in mind that this test is not the most accurate in the world. The Wet Test is simple, but the results might not be conclusive. Lest you have a very low or high arch, it might be hard to interpret the results properly.

So it’s not the end of all your running shoe prayers. Other factors must be accounted for. Check this article for more.

The Wear & Tear Patterns

The “Wear Test” is another straightforward assessment you can do to determine your arch type.

All you have to do is to check out the wear pattern on one of your used and abused pairs of running shoe.

How?

Just flip over the shoe and assess the rubber tread on the outsole.

In case you couldn’t see a clear and consistent wear & tear pattern by looking at the outsole of your running shoes, then simply place them on a flat surface, a table for instance, for instance.

The Pro Option

For the most accurate assessment, go see a professional physician or a sports podiatrist.

While using high-tech tools, these experts can evaluate your feet in both a static and dynamic position. This can help you determine whether you pronate or not and if you do, how much you pronate, etc.—all of which is essential for finding the most suitable shoe for you.

The Degrees of Pronation—Understanding Pronation

The feet rotate naturally while running. But, the degree of rotation, what’s known as pronation, varies from one runner to the next, depending, mainly, on the foot unique anatomical structure.

Pronation, simply put, is the natural inward roll of the foot as the outside part of the heel comes in contact with the ground.

Pronation is 100 percent normal. The proper amount of pronation is part and parcel of the natural movement of the human body. In fact, it is the process by which your feet absorb the impact forces of running—about two to three times your body weight.

This inward rolling acts as a shock absorber for the legs and the rest of the body, ideally dispersing the forces of the impact of the heel striking the ground.

In other words, your foot NEEDS and MUST pronate to keep your lower limbs safe and injury free.

The Problem with Too much (or too little) Pronation

During a typical gait cycle, the feet alternate between pronation, which is the inward roll motion, and supination, the outward motion.

Overpronation occurs when the feet roll inward too much. Supination, or commonly known as underpronation, happens when the feet don’t roll inward enough.

If you overpronate, then your feet will roll inward too much. Research shows that this might risk overuse injuries, mostly to the knees.

On the other hand, if your feet roll outward too much, what’s known as underpronator, then you might risk overuse injuries, mainly in the feet.

Figuring out your foot type and gait mechanics can help match you with the correct shoe type, with the main purpose of compensating over- or under-pronation. This might help cut the risks of injury while improving your running economy and efficiency.

The 3 Main Foot Types

1. Normal (medium) Arch

This is the most common type of runners, and people in general.

The medium foot type is often called normal because of most people—roughly 60 percent—have a medium arch. So, that does not mean there is something inherently wrong with having high or low arches.

These are also normal, but not just as widespread.

The Process

The Neutral type is identified by a slight pronation

While running, the foot lands on the outside of the heel then rolls inward to support body weight and reduce the shock impact of the foot strike.

The Wet Test

If, after assessing your footprint, it doesn’t look high arched or flat footed, then your chances you have a normal or neutral foot.

In general, the footprint will show a plain curve inward, but not by more than ¾ of an inch.

The Wear Patterns

Neutral pronation manifests as a wear pattern focused on the ball of the foot region and a small portion of the heel.

The Trouble

A runner with neutral feet has a normal arch with centralized balance. The impact stresses generated by running are well distributed in the center of the foot, which cuts the risks of pain and/or injury in the tendons, bones, and the muscles of the lower body.

But having neutral feet does not mean that you’ve hit The Happy Feet Jackpot.

The fact is, as a runner, you are always prone to injury due to bad form, ill-fitting shoes, overuse, or repetitive stress injuries.

Best Shoes

Runners with “normal feet” can wear just about any type of shoe, but they are still prone to injuries, especially if they are overtraining, or not taking good care of their bodies.

2. The Flat Foot

Overpronation is the second most common type, accounting for over 20 percent of all runners.

Flat-footed runners tend to overpronate, meaning that their feet roll inward too much during a foot strike.

This can be a source of problems and often requires proper support and weight redistribution.

The Process

The outer side of your heel strikes the ground first at an increased angle with little or no normal pronation, resulting in a massive transmission of stress and shock through the lower limbs.

The arch is designed to absorb a specific amount of shock, but when it collapses too much following impact, the resulting stress forces travel up and down the legs, leading to pain, even injury to the shins, hips, or knees.

The Wet Test

You have flat feet when there is no is no clear inward curve from the big toe to the heel while looking at your foot.  Typically, the imprint shows a filled-in arch.

The Wear Patterns

Soles mostly worn on the inside (typically along the inside edge of the shoe) mean that you’re most likely an overpronator.

Troubles

As previously stated, pronation is a good thing. But too much of it can put a lot of undue stress and shock on your feet and knees, increasing the risks of pain and injury.

Flat footed runners are often biomechanically imbalanced, which can make them more prone to common foot issues such as arch pain, heel pain, and plantar fasciitis.

Other injuries include plantar fasciitis, shin splints, heel spurs, and bunions.

Follow proactive measures to reduce your risks of such ailments. See my post here.

Best Shoes

According to conventional wisdom, if you overpronate, then you might need shoes that help maintain your stability during a foot strike.

Look for terms like “stability” and “motion control” while selecting a new running pair.

Stability shoes can help stabilize your stride and provide better support for your feet. This type of shoes might reduce the risks of common issues and injuries like heel pain, arch pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.

Just keep in mind that the current scientific research reveals no conclusive evidence that supports this theory.

In cases of severe overpronation, you might need to wear orthotics. These are custom made shoe inserts that may correct foot issues in some individuals.

3. The High-Arched Foot

The third type is the least common, accounting for less than 20 percent of the population.

In general, underpronators have high, rigid arches that do not sufficiently collapse. Therefore, they do not absorb shock as efficiently as the other two foot types.

Supination is characterized by an outward rolling of the foot following a foot strike, which results in inadequate impact reduction and distribution.

The Wet Test

If the foot imprint shows little—or no—contact along the outside edge of the feet, mainly seeing only the heel and ball, then you have a high arch.

The Wear Patterns

Supination is marked by wear and tear on the outside of the heel area, especially along the outer edge of the shoe.

Troubles

Research shows that high arched people are more prone to foot conditions such as ball-of-foot pain, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.

Why might you ask?

As already stated, the supination cycle can result in insufficient shock absorption upon impact.

Having high arches means less surface for absorbing impact. This can place undue pressure on the rearfoot and forefoot areas.

Next, the impact forces can travel unhindered through the legs, knees, and hips to the back and the rest of the body, resulting in pain, musculoskeletal injuries, and even stress fracture in weight-bearing bones.

The best Shoes

Experts recommend well-cushioned, flexible shoes with good arch support and a soft midsole to take some of the stress off the lower limbs and ward off injury, especially to the feet.

In some serious cases, you can use the right orthotics. Thee can help can help fill in your arch cavity to help improve shock absorption, and provide alignment and cushioning needed to ward off pain and injury.

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David Dack

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