Shoe Types - The Big Picture

Finding the right shoe types is really all about asking the right questions and doing a bit of research.

This is not auto-pilot stuff. You need to do a little homework. The good news is that you usually only need to do it thoroughly the first time.

In case you hadn't noticed shoes are becoming much more specialized and sophisticated all the time. Changing technology. New knowledge. New materials. New understanding.

Unfortunately y they don't have a shoe section for just for us fogies and old farts yet.

You will still have a bit of a challenge picking just the right shoe type for you. That's a good thing though. Your feet will be better looked after than ever before. That's important at our age.

So grab your notepad and answer some of these questions, make some notes and look forward to really enjoyable walks.

Here goes!

Function - what shoe types are you looking for? What type of walking?

  • Spring & Summer Walking?
  • Fall & Winter Walking?
  • Nordic Walking?
  • Hiking & Backpacking?
  • Urban, Beach, Nature Trail or Wilderness Locales?
  • Wet or Dry Environments?

Upper - what material is used? Is it breathable? Waterproof?

Lining - is it designed to help keep your foot dry? Cool in summer? Warm in fall & winter?

Insole (or Foot Bed) - does it fit your foot contours? Is it removable? Is it adaptable?

Midsole - does it have an integrated arch and forefoot stabilization plate? Molded EVA material or equivalent?

Outsole - does it have the right type of traction for the surfaces you will be walking on? Does it have good shock absorption? Good heel contact? What materials are used - Rubber for non-slip or Polyurethane (PU) or Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) for good wear?

Other Features - does it have a stone bruising protection plate? Forefoot cushion? Washable? Salt water resistant?

OK. Hang onto your answers. You'll need that in a minute.

First, here's one other very important 'pre choosing shoes' question.

Do You Pronate, Supinate or 'No'-nate?

OK. OK. We made the last one up but it could be sorta catchy don't you think? ...

"Hi. I'm a No-nater. My feet don't 'nate'!"

Seriously though, this is the very first step in properly choosing the right shoes for you. You have to know if you need shoes to correct for pronation or supination or neutral shoes with no correction built in

You need to figure out what type of foot (or technically speaking - foot biomechanics) you have BEFORE you start shopping!

Here's how you do it!

The 'Wet' Test!

Here's a simple test you can do called 'Wet Test'. Just wet your foot (a tray of water, a really wet towel or the bathtub can work quite well). Then place your wet foot on a paper towel laying on the floor - the brown or a little darker color works well. Look at the shape of your wet footprint. Compare what you see with these examples below.

Normal Footprint - If your footprint looks like this then you have a normal sized arch. Your footprint has a flare and shows the heel and forefoot connected by a broad band. This is because a normal foot rolls slightly inward (pronates) when you walk. This is how your foot absorbs shock.

The right shoe type here means looking for a stability type of shoe. This gives you a good mix of cushioning and mid foot support (medial support if you want to get technical). Shoes can have a dual density type of midsole to help achieve this.

Pronator* or Flat Footprint - When your footprint looks like this you are an (over) pronator or have a flat foot. You can see almost the whole sole of the foot in your footprint. Yours is a foot that over pronates. Your foot strikes on the outside of the heel when it lands but then rolls inwardly too much. This can be the cause of various overuse injuries.

Finding the right shoe types here means looking for motion control (high stability) shoes that have firm midsoles and control features built in. These tend to be a bit heavier, more rigid and very durable shoes.

Supinator or Narrow Footprint - This footprint shows a very narrow band (sometimes there is no band at all) between the forefoot and the heel. In this case you are a supinator - or an under pronator. When you foot doesn't pronate enough it's not an effective shock absorber.

Your best bet for shoe types here is a well cushioned (or neutral) shoe that has plenty of flexibility. These tend to be the softest midsole with little added stability. You want to encourage foot motion or roll to get some of that shock absorption back. Stay away from motion control and stability shoes that reduce mobility.

Next Steps

Now it's time to put all that data you gathered earlier to good use. Head on over to Pick Your Right Shoe Type and continue your journey towards your best fitting shoes.

Not all shoes come in these different forms - pronation, supination or neutral - right 'off the shelf'. You may need to customize your shoes a bit. You may need additional third party foot orthotics (just a fancy word for insoles).

These can help you get them 'just right' for you. (One good reason why you look for removable insoles).

One line of shoes and their many shoe types we are quite familiar with (and use) - Vasque - does make specific pronation and supination shoes in some of their models. We can provide all the information you need to make an informed choice. Just get in touch. We'd love to help you out!


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