How Your Foot Stride Might Affect Your Choice in Shoes

This is your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.

If you’re a runner—or even if you’ve ever visited a running store—you’ve likely heard the term pronation.

The word refers to how much your feet roll inward when they strike the ground, and for decades it was thought to determine your risk of injury. Accordingly, shoe manufacturers designed and classified running shoes based on the amount of “stability” (i.e., overpronation support) they provided. Today, we know that thinking is probably flawed.

Everyone pronates at least a little. It’s a critical part of shock absorption (by rolling inward, your feet increase their ground contact area and better distribute the force of impact). About 15 percent is optimal. Any more than that (common in people with flatter feet) is considered “overpronation,” and any less is considered “underpronation” or “supination” (common in people with high arches or tight Achilles tendons).

The former can increase your risk of runner’s knee, the latter makes you more prone to sprains and stress fractures, and both can lead to plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. But here’s the thing that scientists and running shoe companies are beginning to realize: Choosing your kicks based solely on what your feet do when they strike the ground likely won’t reduce your risk of injury. But there’s another shoe selection strategy that can.

Your move: Choose your shoes based on which ones feel the most comfortable when you take a couple of laps around the store (read: not while standing in front of a mirror admiring them). Research shows that, in so doing, you’re more likely to intuitively pick the shoes that minimize your risk of injury.

Also, give your lower legs a bit more love when you train. Regularly performing stretching and strengthening exercises for your calves and ankles can go a long way toward keeping overponation and supination in check.

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