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How much structure do you need in a shoe?

Choosing the correct running shoe has traditionally started with determining the runner's arch height. Runners with high arches tend to have relatively rigid feet that don't roll inward (pronate) during the gait cycle. This lack of pronation prevents the foot from absorbing impact effectively, requiring these runners to choose neutral cushioning shoes.

Runners with medium-high arches have some pronation (which is desirable) but may roll in too much for efficient running. They should consider stability shoes that use a medial post (usually a firmer piece of midsole) to prevent excessive pronation.

Runners with very low arches tend to pronate excessively and require seriously structured shoes with substantial pronation control.

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Minimalist footwear challenges these established guidelines by suggesting runners choose relatively unstructured shoes with little to no stability control. Minimalist shoes encourage a more midfoot/forefoot strike, which is supposed to mimic a barefoot running gait. While this type of footwear may be ideal for some runners, most will require a substantial adjustment period (six weeks or more) to adapt to the increased impact and the forefoot-strike gait.

These shoes may not offer the protection and control necessary for many recreational runners. Fast, lightweight runners who naturally gravitate toward a midfoot/forefoot strike will have an easier transition. Middle-of-the-pack runners will benefit from using minimalist footwear as a foot-strengthening alternative during faster training runs.

A good specialty shop can help runners sort through these options. Most importantly, remember the shoe should feel comfortable.

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