The Anatomy Of Running Shoes – For New Runners

By Ed. Ramos


The purpose of this page is to bring literacy to every runner so they may understand the different parts of the running shoe. Some of you may be browsing through this blog or in a running store and words are getting thrown at you that you do not quite understand. This page is here to help you to comprehend what is being said so you may be able to make informed decisions on which shoes you wish to purchase.

There are 3 basics components on a shoe; the upper, the midsole, and the sole.

The Upper


The upper is the fabric of the shoe that consists of the entire upper portion of the shoe… hence the name. There are different portions of the shoes upper.

First, you have the toe box. This is the area in the ball and toes of your foot resides. Most people will talk about the toe box for the purpose of how the shoe fits. This is generally where people with wide feet need extra width added to the shoe. Some shoe brands will curve the toe box to match the natural curvature of some peoples’ feet.

Next, you have the tongue and eyelets. The tongue and eyelets have to do with the manual adjustment of the fit. The eyelets are self explanatory as they are the holes on the upper to weave the shoe laces through. The tongue can be pulled to get a snug fit.

And you have the heel counter. This is usually a harder piece of fabric, sometimes even plastic that is wrapped around the heel portion of the upper in order to give more stability to the shoe. It prevents the heel from sliding backwards when either heel striking or toeing off.

The Midsole


The midsole is a dense foam that creates the cushioning between the foot and the ground on impact. This is where most of the science and concern we see in shoes. Since the impact forces cause jarring to the legs, it is expected to cause injuries. Shoe companies put a lot into innovating new ways to make their midsole lighter and softer without risking the durability and responsiveness (the pushing back of the midsole after it has already compressed).

Also, the midsole contains sometimes an extra dense arch to prevent the foot from collapsing while weight-bearing. This is called pronation which is believed to cause injuries but I believe to be considered on an individual basis.

There is also a different thickness of midsoles due to the concept of promoting natural running form.

You will find there is a wide range of midsole types, but you will need to understand your body and what works best for you in choosing a shoe with a specific midsole.

The sole


Also knows as the outsole, this is the very bottom of the shoe. This is the part that makes contact with the ground. Depending on the type of surface you are running on determines what kind of sole you should choose. Generally made of some type of rubber, companies design the sole of the shoe in order to reduce weight but not risk durability. There are really highly abrasive rubbers (like Asics AHAR Rubber) out there but there is an inverse relationship to its weight. The denser and durable the rubber, usually the heavier it is. Some companies try and counter this by reducing the amount of rubber on the shoe. Sometimes this will risk grip or longevity of the shoe.

So these are the three basic components of the shoe. Hopefully, you’ll find this information helpful on your next shoe purchase. And remember…

Keep running!

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