If you're just getting started running (or just getting a new pair of running shoes), don’t pick up just any shoes that fit (or look cool).

Now, you may not yet know what your biomechanical needs are or what that means. But you do probably see running shoes thrown around with terms like "pronation" and "underpronation". Both of these speak to your body's individual running stride—its strengths and weaknesses—and if they don't mean much to you, don't sweat it. We mapped things out.

The lingo

  • Underpronation: You roll to the outside of your foot or shoe when your foot hits the ground. People with high arches are more apt to underpronate.
  • Overpronation: Your feet collapse inward when your foot strikes the ground. People with low arches or flat feet tend to overpronate.
  • Neutral arch: You may pronate either way a bit, but for the most part you won’t have many biomechanics issues, and can wear practically any shoe.

The game plan

Not sure which way you pronate or what your arch type is? No worries. "Bring your current running shoes with you to a shoe store," says NYC-based running coach Elizabeth Corkum. "The wear on the bottom of your shoe can offer clues as to form and support needs."

Best-case scenario, they'll analyze your stride on a treadmill. Because not everyone's stride is alike—in fact, there are a few factors that make yours unique.

Don't have the time to stop by a store? Follow these tips:

  1. Factor in your height and weight: Larger athletes usually need more support, she explains, because that's added strain on your joints.
  2. Take note of any pain: "Arch pain can sometimes be a sign more support is needed," Corkum says. "And plantar fasciitis is common in runners who have very high arches or very flat feet."
  3. Consider your regimen and environment: If you run occasionally, you might not need a high-support shoe. "But, runners training for long distances on hard surfaces (marathoners who train on sidewalks/roads) commonly need some stability." Corkum adds.

Match your running style, arch type, and pronation pattern. Syncing these factors will maximize comfort, improve running efficiency, and lessen your likelihood of injury.