The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How to Choose Running Shoes: The Three Point Test

Posted by on Monday, May 28th, 2012


“What shoes should I get?”

Unlike most sports, which require equipment (balls, bats, clubs, sticks, pads) or a specific location (court, pool, field, course), running doesn’t require anything. All you need is the great outdoors, your will to run, and a pair of shoes.

Oh, that’s right–the shoes. Which is why the “What shoes should I get?” question is the biggest one most runners deal with (other than, “Is it raining? How hard?”).

Choosing a running shoe is a very personal thing, because, of course, everyone’s feet and bodies are different. For example, I wear a brand of running shoes that is definitely not one of the popular or trendy brands with serious runners, or a brand you’re likely to find on any “Best Running Shoe” list. I wear them, though, because there’s something about the way they cut the shapes of their heels that makes them perfectly suited to my feet. Someone in a running store once told me that yes, there’s definitely a type of foot that only feels happy in this type of shoe. I’ve tried other brands and have always ended up with some kind of injury–that’s actually how I ended up making my first visit to a podiatrist, by vainly trying to run in what was considered at the time the “best” running shoe out there for hard core runners. Not for me, as it turns out. So let’s put that out there right now, that there is no perfect, single shoe that can be recommended to everyone.


However, there is something called a “three point system” that has been used for years to test whether a running shoe is good or bad for your feet, meaning whether it offers enough support. You can watch a video that explains it, but if you don’t want to spend the 2:41 minutes (and I’m serious about this–I often get impatient when I’m directed to watch a several minute video that explains something I could read in 45 seconds), here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Hold the toe of the shoe and bend it inward, as if you were trying to fold the shoe in half. If you can, indeed, fold it in half, the shoe is too soft. You should be able to bend it in a little, but not so easily that your hamster could do it without breaking a hamster sweat.
  2. Grab the heel and the toe of the shoe and twist it. If you can really twist it, like, “Hey, look, my shoe is like a curly fry,” then the shoe is too soft. Again, you should be able to twist it somewhat, but not enough to tie it in a bow.
  3. Push on the heel–not the sole heel, but the part of the shoe that covers the back of your heel (note to self: sometime do a “shoe terminology” breakdown). If you can push it into the insole with as little effort as brushing a pixie off your shoulder, then it is too soft. It should give a little, but shouldn’t fold like the proverbial cheap suit.

So these are things anyone can do in a store when you’re sitting there surrounded by pairs of seemingly “okay” running shoes. As noted above, just passing the three point test isn’t a guarantee that a running shoe is perfect for you; there are plenty of other factors to consider, such as your running style, the distances you run, where you run, price (though buyer beware: a really cheap shoe might save you money in the short term, but cost you a lot in injuries over time).

That is, of course, if you are running in shoes at all or want support in your shoes. But minimalist running is a topic we’ll cover on another day.

Of course, foot injuries happen to the best of us, whether your shoes pass the three point test, fail it, or you don’t wear shoes to test. If you have any kind of foot problem, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.




If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.