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Understanding your feet will help you select the right shoe. Bio-mechanically, we're all a little different, but we all fall into three broad categories.
• Overpronators. Pronation is the natural tendency of the foot to roll inwards as it moves from heel to toe. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls too far inward. Do this a few hundred thousand times, and injuries such as shin splints, fractures, plantar fasciitis and “runner's knee” could result.
Overpronators tend to have low insteps (“fallen arches”) and wear their soles excessively on the inner sides. Pronation-control shoes are designed to prevent the excessive inward roll of the foot. This is typically accomplished with a wedge of denser cushioning material on the inner (medial) side of the insole.
• Supinators have the opposite problem of overpronators: Their feet roll slightly outwards, which can result in ankle injuries.
Supinators tend to have high, rigid arches, and wear their soles excessively along the outside edges. Supinators and underpronators (whose feet don't roll inward enough, but also don't roll outward) should look for “cushioned” running shoes. Supinators may require additional arch support – and some shoe manufacturers include wedges for extra arch support with certain models of shoe.
• Neutral. Most runners have a normal arch, and their foot pronates about four to six degrees. This is considered a normal or neutral gait, and requires no correction. These runners should generally avoid motion control or “stability” shoes, and stick with a cushioned shoe. However, they generally don't need as much cushioning as supinators, unless they're heavy.