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Why can it feel so overwhelming when shopping for a shoe?

When looking for a new everyday shoe or a shoe to exercise in, the thought of shopping can be daunting! This is because there are so many options due to the industry over complicating what can be a simple decision based on your foot type. But why is it so important to buy the right shoe for you?

Wearing the wrong shoe can cause pain and increase risk of injury not only to the feet, but ankles, knees, hips, and spine! When wearing an incorrect shoe, it can minimize shock absorption and decrease arch support. It can also cause the pelvis to tilt too far in one direction, increasing back pressure. If the height of the heel support in a shoe is too short or too tall, it will cause spinal imbalances and joint pain up the entire leg. Below are examples of the 3 most common foot types and how to choose the best shoe for your own two feet!

This image shows the different types of feet; it is viewing the back of someone’s right leg.

Different Types of Feet

  • Flat foot/low arch: A flat foot means that your foot is more likely to “collapse” or accept more weight on the inside/medial portion when weight bearing. This can also be referred to as over pronation (see image above). Typically in people with flat feet, there will be more wear and tear on the inside of their shoes.

  • Medium arch: With a neutral or medium arched foot, your heel cord will be straight, which can decrease joint pain and risk of injury. When your foot is in neutral, it means that your joints are in the appropriate place to allow your body to safely bear weight. It is common for someone with a neutral foot to have slight pronation or supination, depending on if they are weight bearing or not. This is a normal part of the biomechanics of the foot and helps to maximize push off and stability during activity and walking.

  • High arch: A high arch means that you typically bear more weight on the outside of the foot, causing it to be stiff and rigid. This can also be referred to as over supination (see image above). Typically people with a high arch have more wear and tear on the outside of their shoes.

Shoe Education

  • In general, no matter what your foot type is, it is best to have a supportive midsole or arch. But the appropriate amount of stiffness, width, and heel height can vary based on your type of feet.
  • If you do have back or leg pain, it is best to avoid shoes that are completely flat (flip-flops, ballet shoes, house slippers) and shoes with no shock absorption (thin-soled shoes that are not soft or supportive).
  • If you are still feeling overwhelmed or lost when try to make a decision, it is best to turn to a health care provider, like a physical therapist, to formally evaluate your foot type and make specific recommendations for you!

Flat Feet

People with flat feet should choose a wider shoe that has a thick and supportive midsole. You want the shoe to have stability and traction and not be squishy or collapse when you bear weight. Examples of brands with these qualities include, but are not limited to, Brooks, Asics, and Saucony.

Neutral Arch

Since this arch type is considered “normal,” there is much more flexibility in the type of shoe you can wear. Typically, shoes with moderate stability and arch support are still your best choice to maximize comfort and decrease pain. Avoid shoes that have additional support or very thick midsoles. Although every brand has neutral shoe options, some popular ones include Brooks and HOKA.

High Arch

People with a high arch benefit from a more flexible shoe that absorbs shock when weight bearing. The midsole should be supportive, but also soft, to increase shock absorption. It is also recommended to have a larger heel-toe drop, or height of shoe. Some brands that offer good options in this category can include Skechers, Adidas, and Nike.

Muscle of the Month

Muscle name:
Tibialis Posterior

This is the deepest muscle in the back of your leg. The tendon runs down to the bottom and inside of the foot.

Turns your ankle inward and down.

This is the most important muscle to stabilize and support the arch of your foot! You can think of it as an internal arch support.


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