By Real Simple
Updated July 19, 2011
New Balance and Nike Free XT Motion athletic shoes
Credit: Jens Mortensen

Look for: Soft midsoles (the layer between the mesh upper and the treads), since this type of foot doesn’t provide enough shock absorption on its own. That means the shoes’ soles will tend to be more flexible. You can also usually spot them by the shape of the sole: “A cushioned shoe cuts in at the arch, resembling a kidney bean,” says Leahy.

Shoes for running: Extra rubber built into the sole means a smoother, bouncier gait.

Shoes for cross-training: Make lightning-quick pivots, thanks to flexible grooves in the sole.