Foot Test

By Ian Griffiths BSc (Hons) PGCert MChS, sports podiatrist

The Old Shoe Test

Old trainers

One way of identifying your particular foot or gait characteristics is to closely inspect an old pair of running shoes. This may well give some clues as to if you are in an appropriate shoe, and if not which shoe may be more suitable.

Place your old shoes on a flat table and look at them from directly behind (looking at the heel).

Inward lean

If you have a tendency for increased pronation moments your shoes may show a slight inward lean (towards each other). You may need stability or motion control shoes if this lean is significant. (Many people make the mistake of looking at wear on the outsole at the outside of the heel and thinking they don’t pronate. This wear is often caused on landing and does not necessarily relate to pronation).
Recommended stability shoes » | Recommended motion control shoes »

Outward lean

If your shoes show a slight outwards lean you may have a more rigid foot type which may have decreased pronation moments. Choose a pair of cushioning/neutral shoes to encourage motion and for maximum shock attenuation.
Recommended neutral shoes »

If there is no lean at all and the shoes are perpendicular to the surface then again you should choose cushioning/neutral shoes.
Recommended neutral shoes »

If you have run in supportive shoes in the past, not had injury problems and your shoes show no signs of inwards lean it probably means you are in the appropriate shoe. The golden rule – if running is going well and you are pain/injury free then do not change the type of shoe you run in.

The Wet Foot Test

A good starting point in helping to identify which running trainers may be best for you is to take ‘The Wet Foot Test’. This is well documented a quick and fun way of finding out what kind of arches you generally have. Bear in mind this is not necessarily predictive of how your foot may function during higher impact and higher velocity movement such as running, and is just a guide to hopefully steer you in the right direction. The categories are purely for delineation and ‘normal’ is not what you have to be to run pain free, ‘flat’ or ‘high arched’ feet can easily perform well and in a pain or injury free way if the forces associated with them are low enough. (What is normal for one is not normal for another).

With wet or damp feet leave a barefoot print of your feet on a dry floor or dark coloured piece of paper and have a look at the footprints left behind.

Normal Foot

normal foot

The ‘normal’ foot has a regular arch and will leave a footprint that shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. As a general rule stability shoes are often recommended for these foot types.
Recommended stability shoes »

Flat Foot

flat foot

The flat foot has a low arch profile and leaves a footprint which will show the whole sole of your foot. Low arches are usually a result of the foot resting in a pronated position. Stability or motion control shoes are often advised. In the past motion control shoes have been recommended for this foot type, but anecdotally many runners can find these shoes very heavy and cumbersome. It may be that runners who are slightly larger do well in them, but small and lighter runners would prefer a stability shoe. Again each runner is individual and may have to trial this to see what works best for them.
Recommended stability shoes » | Recommended motion control shoes »

High Arches

narrow foot

The high arch leaves a footprint with a very narrow band, and sometimes no band at all, between the forefoot and heel. If you have high arches, you generally have decreased pronation moments and are poor at absorbing shock. A Cushioned/neutral shoe is often the most appropriate.
Recommended neutral shoes »

Disclaimer

Whilst giving you a good indication of your foot type, you must not rely on the Wet Foot Test alone when deciding what running shoes to buy. Any of these feet can contribute to lower limb injury if the forces within the tissues are high enough. It is not to be assumed that certain feet function in specific ways. Each person, and indeed each foot, must be treated as individual and assessed as such. We strongly advise that you visit an experienced running store or visit a biomechanics expert to recommend what shoes are best for you.

When should I replace my trainers?

There is no definite figure for this. The general concensus is that trainers should be replaced after 200-450 miles of running, so to maximise the properties they offer you you’ll need to replace them after you’ve run this distance. This may also be influenced by your body weight and running style. Some research has even suggested this distance may be as low at 200 miles. If you can see that the heels have worn down, the trainers will also need to be changed. How long your trainers last timewise is dependant on you and your training plan/weekly mileage.