runningshoeRunning, provided your knees can withstand the jolt, is a great way to get in shape. Luckily, for those of us who run, a wide-range of running shoe choices are available. Brand names and witty marketing campaigns aside, it’s important to know your own feet, including their strengths and weakness, in order to select the best running shoe you possibly can. The perfect match will ensure that your feet, and your entire body, can keep on running for years to come.

Knowing your shoe size is the most basic element when buying a running shoe. After that, you need to understand your basic foot type, and your particular needs. Flat, neutral and high arches are the most common types of foot variations.

Flat feet, with their fallen arches, tend to lead to an inward rolling, or overpronation of the foot. Neutral feet are generally the best and most balanced “design” of foot for runners, with the least amount of problems. High arches tend to cause supination (underpronation), or rolling toward the outside edges of the foot, which is the opposite of overpronation.

Once you know your exact foot size, and what kind of biological gear you’re working with, you can select an appropriate build of shoe that will keep your feet as stable as possible, preventing sprains, sore knees and shin splints — or worse.

People with neutral feet can tackle most running shoes. Lighter shoes might be more suitable if you’re not a large, thunder-footed fellow, although neutral-cushioned shoes might be more comfortable overall. The important thing is to choose the correct size, and the proper amount of support best for your robust feet.

If you suffer from flat feet, and some form of pronation, you can opt for motion control or stability footwear, which will help you deal with your low arches and overpronation by holding your feet in the correct position, and reducing your pronation tendencies. The amount a foot pronates differs from person to person, so be sure to ask for some advice from knowledgeable salespeople, and try on lots of different running shoes until you find a pair that works wonders for you.

If you’re the rare breed (like the author) who has to deal with high arches, you need to figure out if your high arches lead to supination. If the answer is “no,” you’re in pretty good shape, and can go with neutral-cushioned shoes, or shoes with more arch support. Cushioning and support will reduce the shock that comes from pounding your feet against the earth, which can stress your high arches. If you’re unfortunate, and have high arches that cause supination, you might need a solid, raised midsole to support your arch, as well as fortified padding and reinforced structure on the outsole of the shoe to keep your feet from rolling outwards.

Choosing a great running a shoe can be hard work. You have to make sure your heel is locked in, but your toes can move around a bit, and then decide where you need reinforced padding, and where you don’t. Even though it’ll take some time, once you have the right shoe, you ankles, feet, shins, knees and hips will thank you for reducing the stress on your body, which will in turn let you run longer, farther and faster than if just plow through and ignore your running induced injuries.