fitness

What are "neutral feet" and do you have them?

Image via Thinkstock.

Confession time: I’ve been wearing the same pair of sneakers for a few years. Many years. Since before I got married and had kids. Okay, it’s nine – I’ve been wearing the same scruffy sneakers for nine dysfunctional years.

As we approach our one-decade anniversary together, I’ve decided it’s time to upgrade my limp, greying, sad excuse for shoes into a decent pair of sneakers.

You see, I want to learn to run. I’ve been inspired by Dr Mike Evans, who suggests that the key to better health is to simply limit the amount of time you spend being “sedentary” to 23.5 hours per day.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to learn how to run. Runners always seem to have great energy and they often talk about how they have a clear head after a run – that I could definitely do with. Plus, they’re fit. I’d like to be fit.

So when I was watching this video, it dawned on me that just 30 minutes of running every day could be the ticket to a healthier body.

That’s how I ended up at The Athlete’s Foot last week, confessing more about my unhealthy fitness habits to lovely Nikki than I’ve ever shared with anyone else.

“How did you choose your last pair of sneakers?” she asked.

Don’t say colour. Don’t say colour. Don’t say colour.

“The colour,” I blurted.

“Lots of people do that!” she said reassuringly. “But it’s not the best way to pick your runners.”

Image supplied.

As she continued asking me questions about my feet, I couldn’t help but feeling slightly embarrassed about my all-too-revealing answers.

“I don’t exercise every day, it’s more like a couple of times a week… If that. And when I do, it’s usually a walk around the block with my kids or a Zumba class,” I admitted.

“But I want to start running!” I added hastily. Nikki was investing a lot of time into me –measuring my feet, evaluating my answers and walking me through the fancy Fitzi foot analysis machine.

Nikki was completely neutral and totally supportive – and, incidentally, so are my new runners.

I was surprised to discover that I have two completely different feet (one is much flatter than the other), but Nikki told me it’s actually rare for anyone to have two feet that are exactly the same.

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She also worked out that overall, I have “neutral” feet. For some reason, this made me feel proud – it’s not like I have any control whatsoever about how my feet function, but neutral feet sounded good. At least, it didn’t sound bad.

As it turns out, no “foot type” is good or bad, neutral or otherwise. It’s all to do with how you pronate (or turn) your foot when in motion.

I’m a pronator, which means I strike the floor with my heel then roll towards my toes. My arch then tends to collapse inwardly to absorb the impact, so I need shoes that support my arch.

Some other facts I learnt: That at least 70% of Australians pronate. Which means you roll in and need lots of extra stability under the arch in your foot.

Image supplied.

And if you roll out (supinate) you may need some extra cushioning on the outer side of your foot.

Now, this is where the fun really started, as Nikki helped lace me into half a dozen pairs of runners.

I’m a little wobbly on my right foot, so it was important to find a sneaker that supported my ankle. With each option (I tried sneakers by Brooks, Nike and Asics) we tightened and loosened laces, and I tested the overall fit and comfort of each pair. I ended up with a pair of Brooks Womens Glycerin 11, which feel like I’m literally running with cushions in my sneakers. They’re super supportive, comfortable and best of all – they happen to be pink!

Whether you’re new to running or you’ve been jogging it out since you were young, we’d love you to join us as we journey towards fitness, one run at a time. You’ll hear from me, Sarah; I’m a busy mum of two gorgeous girls and I desperately want to incorporate running into my everyday life. You’ll also hear from Nat, our health and fitness editor; Matilda Iglesias, also known as Run Mum, who will be on hand to provide inspiration if you want to improve your fitness; and Kate Leaver, who like me, is a beginner.

If you're inspired to get moving on your own running journey, head to The Runzone for advice, tips, training plans and details of runs you can sign up to.

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