Know Your Feet

How a simple wet footprint could determine the kind of shoe you need

Posted: 18 June 2002

Determining your foot type will ensure that you buy a shoe that broadly matches your biomechanical needs. It’s a simple step – your foot will fit into one of three general categories, and your wet footprint will reveal which one.
The Normal Foot

Normal feet have a normal-sized arch and will leave a wet footprint that has a flare, but shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. A normal foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards slightly to absorb shock. It’s the foot of a runner who is biomechanically efficient and therefore doesn’t need a motion control shoe.
Best last: Semi-curved
Best shoes: Stability shoes with moderate control features

The Flat Foot

This has a low arch and leaves a print which looks like the whole sole of the foot. It usually indicates an overpronated foot – one that strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards (pronates) excessively. Over time, this can cause many different types of overuse injuries.
Best last: Straight or semi-curved
Best shoes: Motion control shoes, or stability shoes with firm midsoles and control features that reduce the degree of pronation. Stay away from highly cushioned, highly curved shoes, which lack stability features.

The High-Arched Foot

This leaves a print showing a very narrow band or no band at all between the forefoot and the heel. A curved, highly arched foot is generally supinated or underpronated. Because it doesn’t pronate enough, it’s not usually an effective shock absorber.
Best last: Curved
Best shoes: Cushioned shoes with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion. Stay away from motion control or stability shoes, which reduce foot mobility.

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Has anyone details of the problems that can occur over time by wearing motion control or stability shoes on "normal" non over pronating feet.


Posted: 27/10/2002 at 21:39

I wouldn't have thought there would be any problems as the whole point of the shoe is to try to keep the foot as neutral as possible. If you have a neutral foot to start with, then the shoe's job is redundant, so to speak. Anyway, why are you wearing motion control/stability shoes when you are a neutral foot? Poor advice? In the sale? What?
Posted: 30/10/2002 at 08:45

Roz,i was told i had one foot neatral,and one needed support so was prescribed support shoes.I have developed ITBS and am heading to the physio on monday.I feel that when i run the shoes are rolling my feet outwards.
Anyway hopefully tomorrows session should give me some help with the ITBS and some shoe advice.

Posted: 03/11/2002 at 11:39

Hi David, I would suggest seeing a podiatrist too. I wear neutral shoes and put in my orthotics and my problems are gradually disappearing.
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 09:09

David, did you have problems which led you to wear stability shoes in the first place?
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 10:03

I have a problem with my feet particularly when I run six miles or over. I have very high arches and wear cushion shoes which are great except that I get extreme pain in the arch of my foot. This happens after I have run and particularly in the mornings when I get up. I have put an orthotic insole in but it doesn't help that much. Any suggestions?
Posted: 17/11/2002 at 18:54

I am 'normal' prescription needing stability shoes, but because of one 'runners knee', I have found my knee fine with full motion control shoes. The downside I have experienced is classic shinsplints & soreness in top of ankles, and general soreness in back of calf muscles. Other downside is more likelihood of blistering on inside of arch due to too much support, requiring pre-plastering. A 2mm noene insert magically cured the shinslpints, but only for 2 months. But this is certainly worth trying. Any one else got magic cures for shinslpints?
Posted: 01/12/2002 at 19:21

Can anyone tell me why my feet burn after approx 6 miles. have been running for almost a year, running approx 15 miles a week when I can.
Wearing Nike at the moment just about to purchase a new pair of running shoes, wonder whether I need cushioned ones.
Posted: 02/12/2002 at 01:34

I found that my feet used to burn after about 20 minutes and put it down to my feet moving too much in my shoes, creating friction. I wore thicker socks and tied my laces differently until I bought a new pair of shoes and got measured properly.
Posted: 02/12/2002 at 08:22

I was checked out by Addidas at London one year on a mat which took an imprint of my foot striking the ground told me I overpronated so i bought Nike air structure
had a re test last year by Brooks at their stand and told me I had a neutral strike
so what do u read into this
either the Structure corrected my gait
or I did not have a problem to start with
either way the Structure never caused me a problem running just a bit of an heavy shoe
so I suggest if you are going to see some one find a recommended specialist
Posted: 02/12/2002 at 19:47

david - yes, I had a problem when a running shop prescribed Asics 2060's (as they then were) on the (incorrect) assumption that I was an over-pronator. they gave me considerable pain from the mid-post jabbing into my instep, which resulted in changes to my gait and then foot injuries.

is it unfair, or do shops tend to recommend stability/motion control shoes over neutral ones even when not absolutely necssary, because they are more expensive? maybe I'm just a cynic. ;-)
Posted: 02/12/2002 at 19:58

I'm curious: how can those footscan thingies work? doesn't your gait change throughout your run, particularly as you tire? So the footscan may say you've a neutral stride, but it doesn't know that you may be a serious overpronator after a few miles. Is this true, and if so, how do we decide what shoes to buy? Aaagghh, I'm confused!!!

Posted: 02/12/2002 at 22:53

Yes, could someone that has had a footscan fill us in? I'm interested in whether they get you to run at a decent speed (say 10k race).
Posted: 02/12/2002 at 23:04

Dear all

My 10 pence worth again.

Just about every single scientific study ever done has shown zero relationship between the height (low/high) of your foot arches and whether one pronates or not. Therefore anything that shows some kind of foot print like the mat scanners is unable to tell you of you over-pronate or not.

If you over pronate when you tire something needs strengthening to prevent this.

Posted: 02/12/2002 at 23:36

As an aside

the test of checking your wet footprint is equally invalid

Posted: 02/12/2002 at 23:38

Cheers for that LB.

So if specialist running shops, footprints AND footscans are all dodgy, how do we find the right shoes without wasting loads off cash and picking up injuries as we test the wrong ones? Who/what do we trust?
Posted: 03/12/2002 at 02:55

Can anyone help me? I'm a new runner and already have been experiencing some problems. I overpronate but more severly on my rightside. I get pains in my hip when running and feel like I am jarring my right leg when I land. Watching my foot movement when at the gym, my left foot lands straight but my right foot points out. I have bought a pair of Brooks Addiction 5 which were recommended at a running specialist and they also recommended I see a Podiatrist (more expense) - does anyone have any advise for me who may have experienced the same kind of problems. Please don't tell me to give up running, not now that I have just got into it.
Posted: 03/12/2002 at 08:51


I know seeing a podiatrist can be expensive in monetary terms but if you have a biomechanical problem that isn't put right, then you will pay by having health and injury problems galore! I have spent a fortune in orthotics, physio and the like, but it is well worth the money to run without pain and to enjoy running again. It sounds to me that your right foot is pointing out due to muscle imbalance, either you have weak muscles allowing it to be pulled over or and overdeveloped muscles doing the pulling! I'm no expert but do strongly suggest a podiatrist as soon as possible.
Posted: 03/12/2002 at 09:06

A podiatrist will (almost) inevitably recommend orthotics and for that reason I wouldn't make one my first port of call.

It would be better to experiment with changing your running style or trying to find out if you have some kind of imbalance or weakness that you could correct with stretching and strengthening. Some other professional such as a chiropracter or physio might be good for this.

In the final analysis you may need to see a podiatrist but try something else first. Changing my running style worked for me. If you are jarring your right leg try and run with more of a claw back as you land (almost pulling yourself along) which will reduce jarring.

Also injuries can just be short term adjustment of your body to running rather than some biomechanical problem requiring correction. Then again some people do find orthotics to be the answer - but if you can get away without them its got to be better.

Posted: 03/12/2002 at 16:43

Hi Roz and Popsider

Thank you so much for replying. I think you are both right about the muscle imbalance as I have always had a tightness in my right hip for some years now and Chiropractors etc. are always working on it if ever I have to pay a visit. I also have extremely tight calf and achillies which are probably not helping.

I want to join a running club where I know instructors will be on hand for advise and guidance. I'm reading lots of running books which I am finding very useful but I think the human element is much better.

My shoes are new and I'm yet to see if they are helping with ovepronating but I will persevere. I'll give the claw back ago but I may need orthotics in the end.

Thank you so much guys for your replies. I will keep you informed of my progress.

Posted: 04/12/2002 at 08:33

This 'What kind of shoes are best for me?' discussion just goes round and round.
I'm not the village idiot but this whole subject taxes my intelligence.I like running,always have done,but the whole stability, motion control,pronation lark gets me down.I run in Nike Pegasus (neutral I think)still suffer injuries but have given up looking for 'Nirvana' producing footwear.
Just wondering if Zola Budd was 'biomechanically Efficient'?
Posted: 11/01/2003 at 10:51

Hi Mike,
Bear with it - it can really make such a big difference to your running as nobody wants to keep taking timeout due to injury.
My first port of call once I knew I had problems was a running specialist shop who very kindly did a biomechanic's assessment for free. I learnt so much about myself within the space of a few minutes I was amazed. Just by asking me to walk bare foot up and down the shop they were able to assess so much. I also spoke to a sports massage/therapist who told me to rest the injury as the damage has been done using the old and wrong shoes. I have now started running again (gently does it) with my new and correct shoes and already I can feel a difference. I'm not totally out of the woods, as our muscles also have a part to play - A visit to my Dr. helped too who's sensible advice spoke volumns and made complete sense. You cannot reach the top of a mountain in a single leap - you have to take it in stages. As I am new to running my muscle groups have to adjust - in time the injuries I have experienced will diminish. There are the few who have no problems at all and have a neutral gait but I think they are a minority. Find a good running specialist and have an assessment done - trust me it will be worth it. You may even find that your shoes are fine and that the problems lie in other areas. Do you run with a running club? They have experts on hand who can advise with injury prevention. Who knows - maybe even Paula had problems in the beginning. As for Nirvana producing footwear - mind blowing!!! Good luck. Let us know how you get on.
Posted: 13/01/2003 at 08:23

I now run exclusively in racing shoes, these are very basic shoes with a flat sole with no very little cushioning, no medial support posts, no pronation control features. I've been running in them for 5 months and I haven't been injured - this is longest time I have gone without injury.

I came to the conclusion that high-tech running shoes were rubbish when I found that I ached less running on the road in my Walsh fell shoes than I was in my proper road shoes.

I'm not the only one either, there is quite a community of runners on the rec.running newsgroup that have all ditched typical road shoes for racers and in one case leather mocasins !
Posted: 13/01/2003 at 08:31

This is going into one of those circular arguments again!

Johnny - the idea is that your weight is not really the issue. Your 13st 7lber probably has beefier calves and quads which mean that he/she can use those muscles to absorb and cushion their landing more effectively than the air cushion in shoes. however this does require changing your running style so you don't land with a heavy straight-legged heel strike.

I'm somewhere in between. I'd like to believe what I have just said above and people like Tom and Andrew W are proof that there is something in the theory. The US triathlon team now employ a coach who advocates this sort of thing as well so it's not just some bogus idea. However I know I got on v.well with a pair of Nike Air Structure Triax for my first marathon so they work as well.
Posted: 13/01/2003 at 10:52

Hi,I have been running for 8 months.
I have just been tested on an Adidas foot strike pad, I only had about an 8 to 9 foot run up from a standing start, and trying to adjust your stride to land on your left or right foot on the pad within 8 to 9 foot is not easy.
I was told I overpronated on my left and neutral on my right, I was sold Adidas supernova control, after 3 runs I have started shin and ankle aches for the first time since I first started running.
I have been running in Nike Span Triax with no problems, it could be my feet and legs getting used to the new shoes I dont know, maybe I should have stayed with the Nikes.

Posted: 13/01/2003 at 12:19

Mike Owen,
What a mind-field!!!! But there's one thing for sure, no two people are the same and just because some people run o.k. with one type of shoe with no problems doesn't mean that they will suit you. Talk to a running specialist and see what they say. You could have any kind of problem that may not even be related to your feet. Muscle imbalance for instance. Get yourself checked and whatever you do don't run when you're injured, you'll only aggravate the problem.
Posted: 13/01/2003 at 13:24

My only comment is that I really do not see how any shop can comment on running style by looking at you standing still - or even running across a shop.

I mean I have changed from heel to forefoot striking in the last 6 months - presumably my feet and ankles are still the same shape - yet the pattern of wear on my shoes is totally different.

My advice to anyone would be to take any advice with a pinch of salt - you are only going to come to a conclusion on what suits you after a period of experimentation.

Posted: 13/01/2003 at 15:25

Hi again

In my last post on this subject I was really confused about the whole shoe thing so I decided to go and do a bit of 'research' to see if I could enlighten the situation.

Basically, the knowledgeable shoe specialist will ask to look at your feet and ankles. Ankles that are more prominent on the medial (inner) side indicate a tendency towards pronation, whereas ankles more prominent on the lateral side indicate a supinator. They will then ask you to lift one leg to see which way your ankle naturally lean when you balance; again, ankles that wobble inwards point to pronation and those wobbling outwards point to supination. Doing this with both legs helps to give an idea of the differences in gait you may have in each foot. They ask you to relax whilst they try to lift your big toe off the ground. If it is hard to do so, it is usually due to the fact that more weight is bearing down through the medial side of the foot, indicating that pronation will occur during strides. Lastly, the footscan is to confirm the specialist's own opinion more than anything. After several attempts at using one, I got several dodgy looking footprints. However, they all showed that I have a very slight pronation, as the specialist told me beforehand.

In summary, I think poeple like popsider have a good point - the right shoes come through experimentation. The role of the running specialist is to provide you with the information you require to do so and to try and get as close as possible to your ideal shoe. Ultimately, we all have different strides, so one pronator may need a completely different shoe from the next. We also each have different muscle structures, bone densities, training regimes, runnning surfaces and expectations, all of which contribute to injuries; shoes are just part of the picture.

Having struggled for a while with shinsplint injuries, I thought it must be because of my shoes, which is why I posted here. However, since starting from scratcth with the training in November, I am ultra careful about noting weekly mileage, the sessions I do, icing and stretching. I also try not to have more than one session per week on treadmill/concrete; the rest of my time is on grass/trails in the local parks. I aslo began taking a calcium supplement, supecting my bones were difficient and thus weakened. My shinsplints seem to be recovering and my running (touch wood!!) is feeling better than in over a year, yet my shoes are still the same type. It is aslo worth noting that shoes should be changed every 500-600M, or at least every 9-12 months dor lower mileage runners because the cushioning in shoes deteriorates naturally with time even when the shoes are not in use.

So I guess I want to say that there are just so many things to consider when discussing running that you should always try to think of things as one piece of the big jigsaw, which will have a different picture for each and every runner. And let's face it, being unique is what makes running and runners special, right?

Fellow Running Forumite (and champion waffler!),

Posted: 14/01/2003 at 13:56

I read your reply with great interest. There are so many problems that can occur with running, especially in the early stages. I still feel that feet have a major part to play and that the right or wrong shoes will ever help or hinder. If you do not land properly due to an unnatural gait then this must have an effect on the rest of the body.

I'm joining a running club tonight, training for my first race (Bognor 10k) and the coach/trainers are there for advise etc. I'll let you know what they say regarding injury prevention.

Here's to lots of injury free running.

Kimbers (not a nad waffler myself).
Posted: 15/01/2003 at 08:34


I had a year off with iliotibial band syndrome (or so-called) and nearly went mad with trying to get diagnoses and/or help. In the end I diagnosed my own problem via the Net. However, nothing improved until I bought a new pair of running shoes and then, Hey Presto, no more injury! I then realised that the reason I had got pain in the first place was because I had been advised to buy motion control shoes from a running shop. I now have New Balance 830s, which are very neutral and light, and, touch wood, no probs. I am even going to buy some racing shoes, simply to race in. I don't run a huge mileage per week but have regularly done 10 or 12 miles in the 830s with no ill effects. Food for thought. I've been running consistently now for nearly 20 years and only got a problem a couple of years ago. I put it down to increasing age but it was really new technology which caused the problems!
Posted: 15/01/2003 at 13:39

I think shoe manufacturers underestimate the ability of the foot to cope with most problems and simply over-engineer shoes.

I'd love to see the published science behind modern shoes design - I doubt whether it would stand up to much scrutiny outside of manufacturers marketing departments.

Posted: 15/01/2003 at 14:58

Gaz - take your shoes back to the shop if you don't think they are right. Sweatshop exchanged some for me after I'd done about 30 miles in them, because they didn't suit.
Posted: 16/01/2003 at 16:19

I spent 15 ignorant months running in nike, pegasus (neutral) no injury, no pain.
I had never heard of over pronation or supination. I went to a specialist running shop and asked for neutral shoes. I was sold new balance 854's, 10 months later lots of pain and a big physio bill later i find out that these shoes are for mild to severe over-pronators! So much for expert advice, and if anyone tells you that the wrong shoes won't do you any damage, get it in writing!!!!!!
Posted: 18/01/2003 at 20:48

I ran in new balance 854s for 7 weeks, I was in agony, shin splints from hell, the worst shoes I have ever run in, switched to Nike Span Triax, no problem, I was told 854s are too severe, might as well strap a house brick on each foot.......
Posted: 18/01/2003 at 23:37

Hello all, just to say I have enjoyed reading this thread it just goes to show as has been said that no 2 feet are the same, that is why shoes should be bought from specialist running shops and not the high street sports/fashion stores.

I am currently running in Asics Cumulus IV's, after trying out different shoes these are the ones for me. I now just order a new pair when the old ones are done, 500 - 600 miles in, and carry on.

I started running in a pair of Adidas Galaxy's and suffered severe foot pain in my arches and ankles, I bought my first pair of Cumulus and after resting it was fine. The only serious injury so far was ITBS but that was my own fault in doing too uch too soon, 11 miles one day then 2 days later 12 miles, this took a few months to clear up like Corrine mostly thanks to the internet.

Only once have I strayed from this shoe type to Asics Nimbus, still a cushioning shoe but with a much firmer "ride" and again had problems with my feet.

Find a shoe and stick with it if it works for you, never mind the latest "fashions".

Posted: 19/01/2003 at 13:10

I agree with you Sarcy - High Street so-called Sports Shops are exactly not what they are called. They are purely Fashion Accessory Shops and their staff have no more training in advising runners or any other sport than I have.

Infact I spent more on a pair of so called running shoes in a High St Shop than I did at a running specialist.

Food for thought!!!
Posted: 20/01/2003 at 11:51

My brother is shopping for a pair of shoes for his first foray into running - the WIlmslow half. On the phone the other day he'd been into a sports shop and was considering a pair of Airtec running shoes (what!!!) - he says he knew he was in the running section because the shoes had air cushioned shoes and cost about £100 per pair!
Posted: 20/01/2003 at 12:13

popsider - hold the last post - can you explain a bit more about the claw back technique you mentioned eons ago earlier in this thread? I couldn't quitew visualise it. (NB- explain what popsider means? I'm 'lucky', my real name is already silly)
Posted: 22/01/2003 at 19:33

hi there
i manage a specialist running shop, so would like to add my two pennith worth.
To be truthfully honest, most running injuries are caused by how we train, when we train, what spped we train, lack of rest days, etc etc. When a runner comes in and says im injured, it must be the shoes, it normally isn't. After a bit of detective work, you find out that the runner has increased their mileage too soon (normally) too many speed sessions or hills (frequently)and not enough rest (overtraining). Im not saying all shoes are blameless as you can get poor advice, but i would say that specialist shops give good advice. ive been doing it for 15 yrs and as a runner, i have a keen interest in getting it right! Foot scans are rhubarb, they are so inaccurate, it makes me laugh. They are a sales gimmic sold by adidas. If they were the bees knees all companys would use them. At the FLM shoe companys hire these machines but remember they are all part of a marketing exercise to make you buy that special go faster shoe!As you know you run up to a pad amd plant your foot on it(may do this 2-3 times) The problem is, you dont run naturally over the pad as your thinking i mustn't miss it as pple do! you plant your foot, and that gives a total false reading. We had one once, but it cannot take the place of an experienced eye that has seen thousands of feet and ankles( i sound like a pervert!) The best way, in my opinion, without having a video gait, is to look at the feet. From front on, sideways, from behind, on one leg etc. You can always see if the person pronates, suppernates etc.
I could go no for hours explaining the reasons how shoes work, but it would confuse things even more, and shoe marketing already does it so well! I wear nike structures, and they work for me, so i have had 9 pairs in a row, and wont change cos they do the job i require of them. oh i had better stop waffling and go to bed! night night.
Posted: 22/01/2003 at 22:39

Here here Kip, well said.

Posted: 22/01/2003 at 22:57

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