In the past, women’s running shoes were just smaller versions of men’s running shoes. But men and women have different shaped feet and different builds, which mean they run differently. To ensure you get the best support from your running shoes, there are a number of things you should consider before making a purchase.
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Female Foot Shape
Women have a narrower heel to foot ratio than men, which means wearing a shoe designed for a man could leave the back of your foot unsupported and lead to chafing. Go for a shoe that fits snugly around your heel, but doesn’t constrict it, as this can lead you to place extra pressure on the front of your foot.
As a woman, you will probably be lighter than a man of the same height, which means the cushioning in the soles of your running shoes needs to be less dense to produce bounce back. Bounce back is the springy effect of the shoe when you apply pressure to the sole with your foot and release during normal running motion. Men weigh more so the sole needs to be denser to account for their weight. To ensure maximum bounce back, look for shoes that have been designed specially for women, with a lower-density sole.
Find Your Foot Type
Your foot type will fall into one of three categories -- flat, normal or high arched -- and this will have an impact on the type of running shoe that is best suited to your needs, notes the American Podiatric Medical Association. You can work out your foot type at home by performing what’s known as the wet foot test. All you need to do is wet your foot and stand on a surface that will leave a visible footprint, such as a piece of thick paper or cardboard.
Best Shoes for Flat Feet
If all of your sole is visible in the wet-test impression, you have flat feet, which means you are likely to pronate excessively, or roll inwards on your ankle, when you run. This means you need shoes that have firm midsoles and plenty of support to reduce pronation. You should steer clear of shoes that have a lot of cushioning, as this means they have less support. According Dr. Carol Frey, Director of Director Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgery at the University of California Los Angeles, women tend to pronate more than men because they have wider hips and, therefore, a bigger angle between their hip and knee. This creates more instability, so women’s running shoes tend to have more supportive mid and outer soles.
Best Shoes for Normal Feet
If your wet-test footprint gently curves inward at the arch, you have a normal foot. Normal feet don’t require any special features in a running shoe, so if you have this foot type, you can choose any type of running shoe you that fits well.
Best Shoes for High Arched Feet
You have a high arched foot if your footprint cuts away excessively at the arch so there is only a very thin line along the outside of the footprint, connecting the heel to the top of your foot. If this is your foot type, you probably don’t pronate enough to absorb shock when running, so you need a shoe with lots of cushioning and flexibility. This will help encourage movement in your feet.