Following several groups of outdoor enthusiasts, I’ve watched in amazement how many questions there are about what footwear works best for someone to buy. Several times a day such questions arrive. The thing is, what works well for one person, may not work well for anyone else! Feet are as unique to you as your fingerprints are! What is important is to try and figure out what foot shape you have and therefore, what footwear will work better for you to ensure you’re comfortable. In being able to do this, you’ll be able to do a little bit of your own research into footwear that might work for you and therefore not head into see a retailer totally blind and 110% at their mercy. There’s 2 main points we’ll look at here:
- Arch Shape
Have you ever gotten out of the shower and looked at what print your foot looks like in the dry bathmat? This is a big step to figuring out your arch shape. There’s 3 main types:
The print in the bathmat will have a contact point at the heels and under the balls of your feet. Depending on how high your arch, that may be all, they may join a little.
You have a high instep (and therefore may feel pressure over the top of your feet in some footwear).
Because of reduced contact points with the ground you’re likely to have a more unstable foot (more likely to roll an ankle).
You’re also likely to have tight plantar fascia- the fibrous connective tissue that runs under the arch of your foot connecting to the metatarsal bones (fascia are directly involved in the transfer of energy and help convert muscle force into motion)
Someone with high arches is likely to ‘supinate’ as they move (we’ll explain that shortly).
You may find you have ‘hammer toes’ if you have high arches, although this isn’t always the case (and hammer toes may be found in other foot types)
Around 5% of the population tend to fall in this category.
Here individuals will have a neutral gait. Naturally the foot ‘pronates’ as you move, a totally normal aspect of forward propulsion
Around 30% of the population fall into this category
Low Arches or Flat Feet:
That print as you get out of the shower will leave very little definition on the bathmat. There’ll be little to no arch shape and the print you see will be slightly smaller in the heel and then just slowly spread out to the forefoot and toes.
The ankle when you look at it from behind seems to roll in here.
It’s common that people with low arches also have a wider forefoot (although no always- long, skinny, extremely flat and excessively mobile feet also fit into this category)
Pressure on their feet is not distributed evenly and major pressure points may develop under the feet.
Low arches will usually mean a low instep (height over the top of the foot, meaning footwear with too much room over the top of the foot allows for excess
movement in the shoe or boot)
As people with flat feet walk, their foot not only pronates but often over pronates.
This is the most common type of foot, with around 60-65% of people falling into this foot shape.
- Analysis of your gait (your movement patterns when your foot strikes the ground)
In line with foot shape, there are 3 different ways in which your feet will strike the ground and they tend to be related to your arch height.
Supination (usually associated with someone who has a high arch):
This is where the weight of your body tends to roll to the outer side of your body. In a ‘normal’ stride, your foot will roll inward ever so slightly (pronate) so that your body weight falls over the ball of your toes evenly. Someone who supinates will find that when you look at the underside of an older pair of footwear you have warn away the outer edges along the whole shoe, but in particular significant wear on both the front and the rear of the foot.
Someone who supinates may have bow legs (where their knees track outwards rather than inline with their ankles and hips).
People who supinate and have high arches tend to find the ligaments and fascia in their feet are far more rigid and less flexible.
Supporting the arches with an insole will help to distribute the weight evenly under the foot, providing more cushioning and start to alleviate aches and pains, helping to prevent plantar fasciitis, shin splints and ankle sprains.
Neutral stride/pronation (usually a ‘normal’ arch shape):
A neutral gait is when your foot rolls naturally inward slightly to absorb shock. It helps keeps your ankles, knees and hips aligned. As you propel yourself forward, there’s no specific bias towards either the inner or outer part of the shoe hitting the ground- your foot will land ever so slightly towards the outside of your heel and your push off is evenly distributed at the front of your foot. Therefore, when you look at the underside of an older pair of footwear, you’ll find an even distribution of wear.
Due to an even balance of shock absorption, people with a neutral stride are less likely to face injury, however not immune to injuries.
Over Pronation (flat feet):
Those that over pronate will find their feet roll in beyond the 15% that is considered part of a neutral stride. AS your foot strikes the ground, it does so with the outside of the heel and rolls excessively inwards to the inner part of your forefoot. While your heel strikes the ground, it is the biggest 2 toes that tend to do most of the work in pushing the foot off the ground and propelling forward.
Wear under older shoes will be on the outer side of the back of the heel and inner edge of the forefoot.
Over pronators are susceptible to shin splints, heel spurs, bunions and plantar fasciitis. A good pair of insoles helps to optimise the foot’s position in the shoe and reduce the chances of injury.
Now that you’ve got a little idea of what kind of foot shape you’ve got, in the next blog we’ll look at common injuries and what can be done to avoid and prevent any injury, where footbeds come into play and help make your adventure that little bit more comfortable
*A big shout out to the wonderful folk at Sidas for the images. We work closely with Sidas who supply us with blank footbeds to make your custom insoles*