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Have you ever gone into a shoe shop to have the shop assistant start throwing around terms that make you feel like they’re speaking a foreign language? Trust us, you’re not alone! Finding a good pair of running shoes that match your feet is hard enough without being lost in translation. While it all sounds good instore, many people leave the store being unable to explain to their friends why they ended up with the shoes that they have.


Today, we’re breaking down the running shoe jargon, so you know exactly what is being discussed – and what to look for.


When your foot pronates, it means that it’s rolling inwards and your arch is flattening. Some people pronate slightly, which may be normal, while others pronate excessively to the point that they may have no sign of an arch. When shop assistants look at your feet and the way you’re walking, your level of pronation is one thing they’re checking. The more you pronate, the more arch support you’re likely to benefit from.


This is the opposite of pronation, looking at how much your foot rolls out while you walk. Like pronation, some supination is perfectly normal – after all, anytime you pronate, you must supinate to get back to ‘neutral’. For some people, however, they have a very high arched (supinated) foot type that doesn’t pronate much at all. If this sounds like you, you are more likely to benefit from a neutral shoe without much padding and support in the arch. In fact, if you have a very supinated foot type and you choose a shoe for a pronated foot type with plenty of arch support, you may be more prone to rolling your ankle.

Neutral Foot Type

If you hear that you have a neutral foot type, it means that when you walk and stand, your foot is neither overly pronated or supinated – it’s more or less neutral. Sure, you’ll still pronate and supinate while you walk, but to a relatively natural level and not to an abnormal degree. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing! You’ll likely also opt for a neutral or mildly pronated shoe, depending on what feels most comfortable and supportive.

Heel Counter

The part of the shoe immediately behind your heel that cups it is your heel counter. Many shoes will have firm heel counters that are designed to give greater stability to your foot and ankle, so is often a sign of a good shoe in non-minimalist runners.

Heel Height

This is the height of the back of the shoe relative to the front of the shoe. Some shoes, like soccer boots, have a very low-set heel with almost no height. If you have Achilles pain, you may benefit from a higher heel height as it reduces the strain on your Achilles tendon.

Stack Height

Different from heel height, this is the general height between where your foot sits and the ground. Generally speaking, the more height there is, the greater the cushioning. Different shoes use different materials in the stack to achieve various purposes – ranging from cushioning to giving more ‘spring’ back into every step.

Toe Box

This is the area that houses your toes. Always make sure that you have plenty of room in your toe box in both length and width.

Shoe Shank

The shank is a firm, supportive structure of the shoe that runs along the bottom of the shoe, below your arch. It helps your shoe maintain its shape, supports the arch, and helps improve the stability of the shoe. A good way to test the strength of the shank is to bend the shoe in half. If it is difficult to bend at the centre of the shoe (not beneath the toes), then it has a good, firm shank. If it easily bends in half, then you may want to give that pair a miss – or if you notice this in your existing shoes, then it may be time to replace them.


Want to know your foot type, what your feet do during gait, and which shoes we recommend for your feet?

Knowing these terms gives you a great start and much more understanding when going shoe shopping. If you’d like to come equipped by knowing what’s going on with your feet and have our Podiatrists recommend shoes for your feet – come in for a foot health check!


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