Running Shoe Anatomy-

It is important to have some knowledge of Running shoe anatomy before you buy your first pair- but also when you are seeking to try a new pair/ brand/ or type with in a familiar brand.  There is a lot of shoe jargon with millions of dollars spend on shoe research, and marketing….. you need to do your homework…

Upper- this is the fabric,knit, mesh or leather which is held together by laces. These vary based on trail or racing shoes

Sole Unit- this is the tread on the bottom of shoe, but also two other parts- midsole and outsole- which come separate then glued together

Parts of the Sole Unit-

Mid Sole–  this is between the insole and outsole typically made of foam- and dictates if the shoe will be cushioned, stability or motion- controlled. Polyrethane or EVA-  gels, airbags, etc based on brand, and create varying levels of protection, durability and performance

Medial post- this is a device found within the midsole- made of a firmer EVA and is essential for controlling excessive pronation.  Medial posts are found in stability and motion control shoes but not needed in cushioned or neutral shoes

Outsole– area that contacts the ground- carbon rubber for durability, blown rubber for flexibility and cushioning and variations

Heel Drop– this is a very important component as it makes a huge difference to the way your foot strikes/ lands with floor-  It is actually an offset measurement of the thickness from the heel to toe part of the shoe

***Why is this important?  A higher heel drop encourages heel striking, whereas a small heel drop gives a more midfoot/ forefoot strike….so if you go from a higher heel drop to a lower one- it can put a lot of load on the structures in the back of your lower leg/ foot- i.e. Achilles, plantar faciitis



tongue- separate strip on upper- protects top of foot and ease to get shoes on/ off

toe box- area where toes sit in and wriggle- enough room here to allow feet to swell if its warm should not touch upper- width and height equally important. Rough guide is a fingers width from end of toes – to tip of shoe end

heel tab– Achilles protector or tab to pull shoe on- be careful the height and shape and construction of this material- it can rub

heel collar/ cuff-  heel tab attaches to collar/ cuff that wraps around ankle- this is padded cushioned and ensures firm hug of a fit

laces- trillions of variations- but tension points need to be avoided- and lacing style can help the shoe fit-  positioning of the lace eyelets and the tightness of the tie

eyelet- these are the holes which our laces thread thru. The ‘extra’ eyelet can help lock you heel in place. If you feel your foot slipping, or suffer from blisters- re- lace thru the top eyelet can help resolve the issue

sock liner/ insole-  removable insert thin foam adds layering of cushioning from under seams. This is removed when replaced with custom insoles



Manufacturers use 3 types of lasts– to create the 3 most common shapes of running shoes


Curve last-    is C –shaped the majority of racing shoes/ spikes,  are curved,  offering a light, yet unsupportive ride:


Straight last-  is the last found in motion – controlled shoes for over pronators and stability shoes- straight shoes have more support under the arch of the foot and are therefore heavier


Semi-curved lasts- are a hybrid- with a majority of the shoes semi-curved and offer a combination of speed and support


Lasts are then attached to the shoe upper by either slip last, board lasting and combination lasting, which each offer different levels of weight and stability. With all this knowledge you can now go forth and buy your next pair of running shoes with complete clarity and mastery.




With all this knowledge you can now go forth and buy your next pair of running shoes with complete clarity and mastery.

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