Step 1 in the process of finding the best running shoes involves finding out what kind of running mechanics that you have. Before we dive into that, here is a rundown of how running shoes are designed.
Running shoes are designed to support 3 basic types of running mechanics. The names of the 3 types of shoe designs slightly differ between shoe companies, but the most common names are:
1) Neutral (also called Cushioned)
3) Motion Control
If you already know what kind of shoe design you need, jump right to our recommendations, read reviews, and find price comparisons of shoes in these categories:
Best Neutral Running Shoes
Best Stability Running Shoes
Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet
Those 3 basic types of running shoe designs correspond to 3 of the most common types of running mechanics. Your running mechanics are caused by a lot of things that are best explained in the medical profession with your doctor, however, there are a few basics that we can figure out on our own. Your running mechanics can be defined by the combination of two things. The height of your foot arch, and what your foot does when you are running as it hits the ground and absorbs shock.
The 3 most common types of running mechanics are:
High Arch and Under-pronation foot mechanics
Medium Arch and normal pronation foot mechanics
Low Arch and Over-pronation foot mechanics
Let me explain these and tell you how you can figure out which one you are.
Let’s start with explaining what your foot arch is. When talking about your foot arch, people are talking about your foot arch HEIGHT. If you’ve played any other sports in the past where you’ve had foot problems, or you’ve been into a specialty running shoe store to be fitted for a shoe, you might already know what your arch height is: low, medium, or high. If you want to figure this out for yourself, you can do what is called a wet test. Here is a sample video of how to do a wet test.
You also have to realize that a wet test can be inaccurate in some cases, because it doesn’t really exactly tell you how high of an arch you have. But for something easy to do to figure it out, its not a bad test.
Next, what does having a particular foot arch height mean?
As I mentioned before, your foot mechanics are what happens to your foot as you land on it and absorb shock. You may have heard of pronation before, but don’t be mistaken, pronation is not a BAD thing. It’s not a disease or anything. Pronation is part of your foot’s natural design to absorb the shock of the impact of running by rotating slightly inward as you impact the ground and propel forward. However, runners can fall into a case of over-pronation (foot rolls excessively inward) or under-pronation (foot doesn’t roll inward enough, or possibly even outward a little).
If you are a runner with a low arch height, you typically fall into the category of being an over-pronator, which means that your foot rolls excessively to the inside. Here is a video to explain over-pronation.
If you fall into this category, running shoes in the Motion Control category is where you should look. See our article on the Best Running Shoes for Flat Feet.
If you are a runner with a medium arch height, you typically fall into the category of a straight/normal foot stride, which really means that your foot rolls mildly to the inside. Here is a video to explain normal pronation.
If you fall into this category, running shoes in the Stability category is where you should look. See our article on the Best Stability Running Shoes.
If you are a runner with a high arch height, you typically fall into the category of an under-pronator foot stride, which really means that your foot rolls slightly to the inside or even to the outside. Here is a video to explain under pronation.
If you fall into this category, running shoes in the Neutral category is where you should look. See our article on the Best Neutral Running Shoes.
Using an old pair of running shoes to figure out what kind of foot mechanics you have is a great idea. If you look at the wear pattern on the bottom of the shoe, it might be able to hint to you where you are hitting the ground first, and then figure out which type of foot mechanics you fit into.
Realize that there aren’t any foot mechanics that are BAD, they are all just different, which is why there are various different shoe designs from different shoe companies that help compensate for the extra stresses and strains on your muscles that the various foot mechanics cause on your body.
Now I know my foot mechanics, how does that help?
Now that your foot mechanics are known, we can match you to a particular shoe design. If you have low arches and are an over-pronator, a motion control shoe is for you. If you have medium arches and have straight to mild pronation, a stability shoe is for you. If you have high arches and are an under-pronator, a neutral/cushioned shoe is for you.
So now that you know what kind of running mechanics you have, the next step is to find out what are the best running shoes designed to work with your foot mechanics. This can be quite a task, but to save you time, we have put together a tool for you to enter your running mechanics so that you can be matched to specific pairs of shoes that is appropriate for your specific style. We have also reviewed these shoes so that you can make an educated decision of what the best running shoes are for you.