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Definitive Running Shoe Guide by Gait Type


Whether training for your first sprint or going for a new Ironman PR, you owe it to yourself to find the correct type of running shoe with the perfect fit. Your days of browsing through malls and department stores and choosing based on looks and fashion are over! 

Running shoe fit is just as important as bike and goggle fit. They add tremendously to the satisfaction, comfort and progress of your training.  Proper shoe fit is also a very individual thing.  Poor fit or incorrect type can lead to early fatigue, aches and pains, and even injury.  Although running shoes can be expensive, there are occasionally running shoe sales and deals.

Save yourself some agony and your friends some drama by spending 30 minutes to find the right running shoe.

We will cover the three gait types and the types of running shoes made to accommodate those gait types. 

Neutral Shoe for Under-Pronator and Supinator 

Neutral: Notice the medial mid-sole single density EVA – no stability.

neutral gait (under pronator) is used to describe a foot strike that begins at the outer heel, which is where we all begin. Then transitions through to the toe push-off with no crashing or motion in the arch area. 

Very few athletes are in this category of gait type, probably 10% or less.  You may notice at your next race that smaller framed athletes are more likely to have a neutral gait than larger framed athletes.  All major running shoe manufacturers make several models to accommodate this gait type. 

Your running shop will refer to this shoe as a neutral or cushioned shoe (although all running shoes are cushioned).  If you have a very stiff or motionless gait, you will likely find a neutral running to be the most comfortable and natural feeling.  The neutral shoe type is also the most appropriate for those who supinate or roll to the outside.  Very few individuals actually supinate. So please have an experienced running specialty store staff member analyze your gait before you assume that you belong in this category.

Stability Shoe for Normal Pronator

Stability:  Notice the medial mid-sole dual density providing moderate stability.

Next is the most common gait type; the mild to moderate pronator

This gait type is characterized by a slight to moderate, but natural, flexing of the arch and ankle area.  This is your body’s way of absorbing shock and is typically a genetic trait passed down from generations of hunters and gatherers to you, the swimmer, cyclist and runner. 

Close to 75 – 80% of runners and triathletes are in this category.  All major running shoe companies are constantly perfecting this category of shoe.  You’ll likely hear them referred to as stability shoes which are identified by the posting or higher density substance at the medial or inside part of the shoe. 

Motion Control Shoe for Over-Pronator

Motion control:  Notice the medial mid-sole triple density providing maximum stability.

The over-pronator is the last gait type we’ll talk about here.  These athletes have a lot of motion in their arch/ankle area during each foot strike or stride. 

Watching a over-pronator walk or run bare-footed, you will notice a severe collapsing of the arch immediately after heel strike.  Again, this the body’s natural means of absorbing shock.  Shoe manufacturers really beef up the stability to meet the needs of this population. The end result is commonly called a motion control shoe. 

This is a shoe that literally steers the foot from the heel strike to the toe push-off . This ensures that the rate and degree of pronation are kept in check.  When worn by under-pronators or even mild pronators, motion control shoes would feel stiff and would seem like too much shoe.

Other Considerations for Running Shoes

Once you find the proper category of shoe (neutral, stability, motion control) based on your foot type, with or without the help of a running shop, you will next need to consider other characteristics such as the shape of the upper, the placement and prominence of the arch and even the location of the panel stitches within the shoe. 

As stated above, every manufacturer makes each of the three categories of trainers.  What you have to do next is give each one a try and understand the differences to find the perfect fit for you. 

Ask questions and don’t be worried about trying several pairs.  You’ll find that most specialty running shops staff eager, helpful, and experienced runners to sell their specialty products.  You’ll find several models within each brand name that may work for you; hopefully one will feel perfect! 

Also, any self-respecting running shop will suggest that you try the shoes once or twice on a treadmill and allow for an exchange if the shoes do not work for you during that trial.

Run like an antelope!

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