When shopping for a new running shoe, you want enough stability to keep you running healthy and pain free, without compromising cushioning or adding too much weight. Finally, you might want a shoe you can run in every day, as well as an occasional race. Running shoes provide shock absorption, lightweight support and cushioning, while allowing the runner to maintain stability. A good running shoe offers the following features:
- A synthetic leather and mesh combination upper, which provides durability and breathability.
- Variable lacing systems, which help customize shoe fit, and a durable heel counter, which stabilizes the heel.
- Reflective materials for nighttime running.
- Removable insoles, which allow for cleaning and replacement.
- An EVA midsole, which offers maximum cushioning and durability. That’s often combined with a brand technology to reduce weight while increasing shock absorption. Added motion control may come in the form of medial and lateral bridges and supports.
- Outsoles, which include a waffle pattern for traction, carbon rubber for durability and forefoot flex grooves for ultimate flexibility.
Parts of a running shoe
1. Running Shoe Uppers
• Synthetic leather is a supple, durable, abrasion-resistant material derived principally from nylon and polyester. It’s lighter, quicker drying and more breathable than real leather. Plus, it requires no (or very little) break-in time.
• Nylon and nylon mesh are durable materials most commonly used to reduce weight and boost breathability.
• TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) overlays are positioned over the breathable shoe panels (such as in the arch and the heel). These small, abrasion-resisting additions help enhance stability and durability.
• Waterproof/breathable uppers use a membrane bonded to the interior of the linings. This membrane blocks moisture from entering while allowing feet to breathe. Shoes with these membranes keep feet dry in wet environments with a slight trade-off in breathability.
2. Running Shoe Midsoles
The midsole is the cushioning and stability layer between the upper and the outsole.
• EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is a type of foam commonly used for running-shoe midsoles. Cushioning shoes often use a single layer of EVA. Some will insert multiple densities of EVA to force a particular flex pattern.
• Posts are areas of firmer EVA (dual-density, quad-density, multi-density, compression-molded) added to create harder-to-compress sections in the midsole. Often found in stability shoes, posts are used to decelerate pronation or boost durability. Medial posts reinforce the arch side of each midsole, an area highly impacted by overpronation.
• Plates are made of thin, somewhat flexible material (often nylon or TPU) that stiffens the forefoot of the shoe. Plates, often used in trail runners, protect the bottom of your foot when the shoe impacts rocks and roots.
• Shanks stiffen the midsole and protect the heel and arch. They boost a shoe’s firmness when traveling on rocky terrain. Ultralight backpackers often wear lightweight trail runners with plates for protection and shanks for protection and support.
• TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) is a flexible plastic used in some midsoles as a stabilization device.
3. Running Shoe Outsoles
Most road shoes are made with rugged carbon rubber in the heel. Blown rubber—which provides more cushioning—is often used in the forefoot. Trail runners tend to have all carbon rubber outsoles to better withstand trail wear, while road-racing shoes are frequently all blown rubber to reduce weight.
4. Heel-to-Toe Drop
The drop of a shoe represents the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe. This primarily affects how your foot strikes the ground when you land. A low or medium heel-to-toe drop (zero to 8mm) promotes a forefoot or mid-foot strike, while a high-drop shoe (10–12mm) promotes heel striking.
Note: Heel drop and cushioning are independent of each other. It is possible to find ultra-cushioned shoes that still have a zero or low heel-to-toe drop, for example.
5. Heel Counter
This refers to the rigid structure around the heel. It provides motion control and is sometimes supplemented with a heel wedge, which adds support and cushioning to the heel. It can help those runners who are bothered by Achilles tendonitis.
6. Medial Post or Torsion Bar
These are located on the sides of shoes to help control excessive inward or outward motion. They are designed for the over-pronator or supinator.
Read more on Buying Running Shoes: The Ultimate Guide
Running shoe anatomy image source: spotterup.com