Technical Terms of Running Shoes Components

Last updated on February 16th, 2024

shoes components

No matter you are a beginner or an experienced runner, it is important to wear running shoes rather than just any ordinary athletic shoe. Why? Running shoes are specifically created to meet the specific needs of running. They help to absorb the impact of your foot hitting the ground, offer different levels of stability, and are built to last for many miles.

When it comes to shoes, particularly running shoes, there is an abundance of technical aspects to consider. These aspects can often seem like a separate dialect, hence let us unravel the meaning behind some frequently used terms when it comes to selecting running shoes.

shoes upper and sole unit

The upper part of the shoe is its attractive aspect. It encompasses the entire shoe that rests on the rubber sole. The upper has a purpose beyond aesthetics; it safeguards the foot and provides a snug fit for the shoe. The upper may also feature a one-piece construction or hot-melt technology to eliminate conventional stitching for a seamless experience.

The mesh material incorporated in the footwear design facilitates breathability for the feet and mitigates the occurrence of blisters resulting from friction. Ventilation is crucial to prevent overheating when engaging in physical activity.

The presence of lacing holes enables the wearer to customize the fit of the shoe based on their individual preferences. The placement of the eyelets directly affects the lacing technique and the runner can opt to either loosen or secure the shoe accordingly.

Strategically positioned reflective patches enhance visibility during running.

running shoes toebox/upper/eyelet

The toe box, as its name implies, is the section at the front of your shoe where your toes find solace. By opting for a more spacious toe box, you grant your toes the freedom to spread out, effectively minimizing the friction that leads to painful blisters. Certain toe boxes, especially those found on trail shoes, even come equipped with drainage systems to ensure water is efficiently released.

Let's take ASICS energy saving series for example, it incorporates rocker technology in their shoes, resulting in a toe box that boasts a heightened arch from the ground. This particular design grants an added boost to your stride, enhancing the propulsion phase with an extra burst of energy.

The bottom layer of foam on your running shoe is known as the outsole. Usually composed of rubber, this section offers traction and grip while you're on the road. If you intend to run on trails, it's important to select shoes with rubber that has a strong grip and lugs.

Situated right above the outsole lies the midsole, a foam layer that serves as the link between the upper and the outsole. This element is responsible for the shoe's cushioning. Generally, shoes with greater cushioning will feature a thicker midsole, whereas more minimalistic shoes will boast a thinner midsole.

The midsole has been a hotbed of running shoe innovation in recent times. Novel foam materials have revolutionized the design by delivering a lightweight cushioning experience, such as the ZoomX foam.

The midsole of a stability shoe includes elements designed to control motion. By providing arch support and additional cushioning, it effectively counters the effects of excessive pronation.

shoes heel drop

As you progress towards the rear of the shoe, you will encounter the heel counter. In running shoes, such as ASICS, this component serves as an external structure that envelops the outer part of the heel. Typically composed of sturdy materials, it withstands the force exerted on this area during running. By maintaining the shoe's form and providing stability, it preserves the shoe's integrity.

Heel drop refers to the disparity in height between the heel and the forefoot. This measurement is usually expressed in millimeters. For instance, if a shoe's heel stands at 24mm and the forefoot at 15mm, the resulting heel drop would be 9mm.

Shoes with a toe drop of 10mm or higher offer increased arch support, making them ideal for runners with Achilles problems or those requiring extra support. On the other hand, moderate heel drops ranging from 5-9mm are gaining popularity for their combination of arch support and lightweight design. For runners seeking an extremely lightweight shoe without any arch support, low-heel drop shoes (<4mm) or zero-drop shoes are the preferred choice.

There are two categories of support available in running footwear: neutral and stability. The dissimilarity lies in the midsoles; stability shoes possess additional padding and built-in arch support. The majority of runners find neutral shoes to be sufficient. However, if you tend to overpronate or have experienced certain injuries in the past, you might opt for stability shoes. Alternatively, some runners with minor pronation issues may prefer neutral shoes but decide to incorporate an orthotic insert for added support.

running shoes cushion

The thickness of the midsole determines the level of cushioning in running shoes, which can vary from being lightweight to providing maximum support. The degree of cushioning directly affects the amount of support you will experience.

  • Lightweight: minimal cushion, you can feel the ground
  • Moderate: Some support, but not too heavy
  • Maximum: a plush "pillow" feel under your feet

The level of cushioning in shoes can vary, with options ranging from plush to firm. It is possible to customize the combination of cushioning type and intensity. For instance, lightweight shoes can offer a plush cushioning experience, while maximum support shoes can provide a firmer feel, and vice versa.

The cushioning you select is contingent upon your personal requirements and the intended use of the footwear. Generally, a daily training shoe offers greater cushioning, while lightweight shoes are often favored by runners during workouts and races.

The inclusion of carbon plates in running shoes, like the ASICS METASPEED™ Sky, enhances running efficiency and velocity. However, it is important to note that carbon plates exert greater strain on the calves and feet, making them unsuitable for regular training sessions. It is advisable to reserve their usage for specific high-intensity workouts and competitive races.

Trail running shoes are designed with a lug line on the outsole to enhance grip on uneven terrain. The length of the lug directly correlates to the level of traction the shoe offers on dirt surfaces.

Certain shoes have a distinct curved sole known as the rocker on their outsole and midsole. This rocker aids in enhancing running speed while minimizing fatigue. By reducing ankle flexion and enhancing shock absorption, the rocker lessens the strain on leg muscles during running. While initially prevalent in racing shoes, these attributes are gradually making their way into everyday trainers.

Various brands incorporate innovative features in the tongue of their shoes to provide additional advantages. For instance, if you notice a shoe with a mono-sock fit, it means that the tongue is seamlessly integrated into the upper part, creating a snug fit similar to that of a sock. This design effectively eliminates any potential discomfort or distraction caused by a tongue that slides or shifts during movement.

running shoes sock liner

Additionally, trail shoes often have tongues that are stitched to guard against the collection of gravel, or they may include a "lace garage" to secure loose laces and prevent tripping hazards.

The inner layer of the shoe, known as the sockliner, has a close and personal relationship with your feet. It can incorporate various technologies such as moisture-wicking or memory foam.

ASICS has developed a ComforDry material for their sockliners, which not only provides cushioning but also effectively manages moisture and prevents the growth of microbes.

Apart from enhancing the initial comfort of the shoe, the sockliners are also designed to be removable, allowing for the accommodation of orthotics.

running shoes shank

The shank is an essential component that connects the insole and outsole of a shoe, providing support and stability to the arch of the foot. Its purpose is to enhance the shoe's rigidity, preventing excessive bending or twisting in the middle. By ensuring that the shoe flexes at the toes rather than under the arch, the shank plays a crucial role in maintaining both strength and flexibility. Although not present in minimalist and racer styles, the majority of running shoes incorporate a shank.