Sole Search: The Best Walking, Running, and Hiking Shoes
What Kind of Cushioning Do You Need?
Your days of trial-and-error sneaker shopping are over -- we've done the footwork for you. Just kick off your shoes (seriously!), step a wet foot onto a paper grocery bag, and take this quiz.If You Have...
- A missing-in-the-middle footprint (arch stays rigid)
- A steady landing with no overpronation (rolling inward of your foot) as you run
- Achy joints -- hips, knees and so on -- when your sneakers are worn out
"Your feet stay aligned with your body as you run, so they don't need much guidance," says Johanna Bjorken, footwear buyer for JackRabbit Sports in New York City. Avoid sneakers that tout extra stability. "Plus, you have rigid arches that don't collapse [flatten out] when you step, which means you need the extra cushioning. Whether it's marshmallowy soft or not is up to you," Bjorken says. "Go with what feels best."If You Have...
- A C-shaped footprint (arch collapses a little)
- Slight overpronation (rolling inward of the foot) as you run
- Occasional running-related injuries like shin splints (on the inside of your leg), plantar fasciitis (pain along the bottom of the foot) or IT band syndrome (pain along the outside of the knee and thigh)
"Shin splints and other aches are often telltale signs of overpronation, so don't assume that because something hurts you should opt for more cushioning," Bjorken says. "A sneaker with firmer support may better prevent your arch from collapsing, guiding your foot in the right direction." To spot a stability shoe, look for a medial post -- a harder, denser material (often gray-colored foam) -- just under the arch on the shoe's instep.If You Have...
- A relatively filled-in footprint (arch collapses a lot)
- Pronounced overpronation (rolling inward of the foot) as you run
- Regularly occurring running-related injuries, such as plantar fasciitis or IT band syndrome
"If you've tried a mild-stability shoe and it didn't stop your running pains, you might need to bump up the support to steady your foot strike," Bjorken says. But don't go overboard: Few people truly need a traditional "motion control" shoe -- many manufacturers are putting less emphasis on them now. Maximum-stability shoes should have straighter outsoles, stiffer midsoles and fewer grooves on their treads than mild-stability shoes to stop your superflexible arches from flattening out as you run.
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