RaceThread.com: Choosing the Right Running Sneaker

Choosing the Right Running Sneaker

December 21st, 2016

The right sneaker can be the difference between finishing a race with your personal record or hobbling to the finish line with severe shin pain. This situation has likely occurred to many athletes, and is often the impetus to purchase the proper footwear. Knowing what to purchase with the terms overpronator, neutral, stability, instep, and motion control thrown at us can make choosing the right sneaker that much more difficult. The three foot types are pronator, neutral, and supinator.


This is the most common foot type in the United States, with an estimated 70% of the population dealing with flat feet. The common characteristics these people share are:

  • Ankle rolling inwards
  • Knock-knees
  • Abnormally high wear pattern on the inside (medial) border of the sneaker
  • Shin Splints
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Ililitibial Band (ITB) Tightness
  • Inner (Medial) knee pain
  • Heel strike on the middle or inner part of the foot
  • Pushoff on inner part of the foot

If you suffer or have experienced any of these symptoms in the past, chances are you are an overpronator. Factors such as obesity, previous knee injuries, weak ankle/hip musculature, multiple ankle sprains and a sedentary/inactive lifestyle can all contribute to this foot type. When you get out of a pool and your footmark is all 5 toes, your entire midfoot, and your heel, you are a pronator.


This foot type tends to occur in about 10-20% of the population, and is characterized by:

  • Normal arch
  • Heel strike on the outside (lateral) border of the foot
  • Pushoff on the middle/inner part of the foot
  • Ankle rolls inward/outward minimally

If you stand on one foot and your ankle does not roll in or out, you likely have a neutral foot type. This means your foot is biomechanically efficient- your heel strike the ground properly and you pushoff without losing much momentum. This requires less force, reduces overall energy expenditure, and minimizes strain and shock on the knee, hip, and back.


If you have a high arch and feel like you are walking on the outside of your feet, chances are you're a supinator. The common characteristics among supinators are:

  • Hard heel strike, usually on the outside (lateral) border of the foot
  • Callouses under the 4th and 5th metatarsals (long bones of the foot)
  • Fibular/Metatarsal stress fractures
  • Unusually high wear pattern on the outside of sneakers
  • Bow-legged
  • Low grade hip and back pain

This is least common, with only 5-10% of the population in the United States predisposed with this foot type. These people tend to hit the ground hard, with shock absorbed primarily through the knees and low back, thus causing low grade aches. If you walk barefoot and are unable to sneak up on someone because of a loud thump, you're a supinator.

Selecting the Proper Sneaker

The cheapest and most effective change any athlete can make is wearing the correct sneaker. Many times custom orthotics, costing upwards of $500-600 are recommended, as areover the counter (OTC) inserts and ankle braces. These devices will do nothing to assist your foot structure unless you're in the correct sneaker. Forget looking at the colors, let's dive into the materials and mechanics of a sneaker to find the correct one. There are a few simple tricks to make your selection simple and quick. This is a general rule of thumb:

  • Pronators have flat/flexible feet and require stiffness/rigidity
  • Supinators have high arches/stiff feet and require soft/cushioned sneakers
  • Neutral feet fall right in the middle.

Start off by holding the sneaker by the toe box (front of the sneaker) and the heel, and try twisting it back and forth. If it's stiff and moves very little, this will work well for a pronator. If it bends significantly and looses its shape easily, this works for a supinator. Right in the middle is for the neutral foot. Pronators should also look for sneakers which have a thicker wedge, or increased density on the inner (medial) part of the heel to counteract the heel from rolling inward, such as the Asics Gel Kayano and Brooks Adrenaline . Supinators should avoid this - look for increased cushioning throughout the length of the sneaker, especially the medial heel, to minimize shock and other forces radiating up the leg to the knees or back, like the Nike Air Zoom Vomero and Mizuno Wave Rider. For a neutral foot type, the Asics GT-1000 and Brooks Ghost provide an even blend of cushioning and stability. These are some general rules to follow when selecting the correct sneaker. Of course there are other factors such as running biomechanics, congenital defects, and previous surgeries you may have to consider when picking the proper sneaker. But overall, if you follow some of these simple rules and techniques, you should be well on your way to injury free training and racing.

Keywords: Right Running Sneaker