How to determine which shoe type is best for you

Looking for new footwear can be overwhelming with the many shapes, sizes and types of shoes available. Having an ill-fitting or improper type of shoe for your foot type can lead to pain and/or discomfort. 

Determining your foot type is the first step towards finding the best shoe. There are three common foot types: high, medium and low arch. Considering the foot print your foot leaves when wet is the easiest way to evaluate your foot type on your own. If your footprint is very full through the middle of the foot, you likely have a low arch or flat foot. If there is a slight shape through the arch area of your footprint, you likely have a medium arch. If your footprint consists mainly of the heel and ball of the foot only, you likely have a high arch.

Shoes of all shapes and sizes are made from a device called a last. Originally made from wood, the last is a mechanical form that is shaped like a foot. The length and width of the last determine the shape of the shoe. Lasts can be one of three shapes; curved, semi-curved and straight. Each shape is designed to work best with one of the three most common foot types. Drawing a line from the centre of the heel towards the toes is the easiest way to determine which type of shoe you have.


A straight last shoe  will have a line that runs through the centre of the heel to the centre of the tip of the shoe. When looking at the middle area of the foot (midfoot) the shoe will be wide. The type of shoe is best used for a low arch or flat foot type. It may also be used for someone who excessively pronates while walking as it provides more support than other footwear types.


A semi-curved last shoe has a curve at the front of the foot (forefoot or toe area) only. This is the most common type of footwear. When looking at the middle of the foot (midfoot) the shoe is narrower than at the toe area (forefoot). This shoe is recommended for people with a medium arch foot type who do not experience over-pronation while walking.


A curved last shoe can be identified by drawing a ‘c’ shape from the centre of the tip of the sole, to the centre of the heel of the shoe. These shoes are best suited for a foot that has a high arch that does not collapse while walking.

Once you have determined whether or not a shoe is the appropriate shape for you foot, the next step if to evaluate the fit. Using a Brannon device is a great starting point but shoe size varies between brands. Removing the insole from the shoe will tell you how your foot fits inside the shoe. There should be half a thumb-width to a full thumb-width between your longest toe and the end of the insole. Using the insole also allows you to evaluate the width of the shoe. If your feet hold over the edges of the insole, they will likely be squished in the shoe.