Are you exercising in the right pair of shoes?

Fitness, Orthopedics
Jan 23, 2018

Know your foot type for better health. Take the Wet Test.

When we exercise, it’s important we use appropriate equipment properly whether it’s a certain weight of a dumbbell or the treadmill vs. the elliptical.

Just as important to a workout routine are the shoes we wear. 

Your foot’s arch – flat, normal or high – helps determine the amount of stability you need in your footwear. The foot pronates naturally, meaning the foot rolls slightly inward on impact for stability. Knowing whether you over-pronate (roll your foot too inward), supinate/under-pronate (roll your foot outward) or neither can direct you to a shoe with the proper amount of arch support.

Michelle LaFleur

“It starts with the arch of the foot,” says Michelle LaFleur, exercise specialist at the St. Joseph’s/Candler Wellness Center and professional runner. “Your arch is going to lead you on the path of what shoe is right for you.”

For example, someone with a high arch should avoid motion control shoes that position the arch even higher. If you have a flat arch, LaFleur says to avoid cushion soles because it will feel like you are running or walking on sand when you need a harder surface.

We want our feet to bend and flex naturally, LaFleur says. If, for example, you wear a shoe that doesn’t allow the foot to bend and flex, it can affect everything from your feet to your knees to your hips to the spine. Buying the wrong shoe to run, walk, exercise or stand in for long periods of time can lead to injuries including stress fractures, hammer toe or plantar fasciitis. Additionally, the way we run or walk could cause stress on our knees, hips and spine.

Related Article: Physical therapy helps runners get back on track following injuries

Some specialty stores have salespeople trained to help you purchase the best shoe for your feet. However, a lot of times we get caught up in the look, price or technology behind shoes instead of what is best appropriate for our feet.

“There are so many shoes out there so it’s good for you to have that education and know what’s right for you before you get bombarded with ‘this looks great’ or ‘this is the newest technology,’” LaFleur says.

Determining what type of arch you have is simple. LaFleur teaches a class at the SJ/C Wellness Center called “Arch & Shoes!” She uses the Wet Foot Test to help clients find their right foot type. Here’s how it works:

  1. Get the bottoms of your bare feet wet. LaFleur puts clean water on a paper plate that is easy to step in to.
  2. Step on a piece of paper or paper towel that will reveal the imprint of your foot.
  3. Outline the imprint with a Sharpie for a more visual assessment.

A normal or neutral arch is somewhat curved because the foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls slightly inward (pronates) to absorb shock, as it should. No major correction is needed. The shoe type recommended for this type of arch is moderate stability or neutral cushioning.

A flat arch imprint will look wider with very little curvature. This type of arch means your foot is very flexible and you strike the ground on the outside of your heel and roll inwards (over-pronate). You need some motion control to prevent that inward roll. The shoe type recommended for flat feet is high stability or motion control.

A high arch imprint will have a large indentation at the center of the foot. Your foot is very rigid and you tend to run on the outsides of your feet, called supination or under-pronation. Your shoes should be well cushioned and flexible to counteract the rigidity of your feet. The shoe type best for high arch feet is neutral or extra cushioning.

“This is a good guide to follow because now you can go to the store and know what you need because of your feet,” LaFleur says.

Related Article: Should I be worried if my child has flat feet? 

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