Running Shoes Review

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Anatomy of a Running Shoe (courtesy of www.visualdictionaryonline.com)

Anatomy of a Running Shoe (courtesy of http://www.visualdictionaryonline.com)

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This image illustrates the main components of a running shoe, and can help us as a visual reference for the future.

A running shoe is primarly divided in two main components

  • a shoe upper, which is the mesh/leather/synthetic part  you insert your foot in and lace up;
  • a sole unit, which is itself split into a midsole and an outsole.

The two parts (upper and sole unit) are produced separately and hand glued together at the end of the production process.

Although the upper plays a big role in the soundness, fit, comfort and performance of a running shoe, the technologies that make a shoe a cushioned, stability or motion control shoe are mainly to be found in the sole unit of the shoe – in the midsole.

We read here the importance of absorbing the shock that comes from the impact on the ground. Your running shoe’s midsole absorbs a good part of the impact and therefore it is important to understand a few basic concepts about midsoles – so that you can choose the best running shoe for your unique style of running.

Please check HERE for a guide on running shoes midsoles.


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As we saw here, when it comes to running biomechanics, there are three types of runners (click here to find out what runner type you are).

No matter what brand (be it Asics or Nike or NB), running shoes are divided into three main silos, each one addressing the specific needs of one of the three types of runners.

Runner Type Shoe Type Explanation

Over Pronator

Over Pronator

Motion Control shoes Motion control footwear emphasizes medial support by having dual density midsoles, roll bars or foot bridges. This medial (inside support) support slows the rate of over pronation. An example of a motion control shoe would be the Asics Kayano and the Brooks addiction walker.

Neutral Pronator

Neutral Pronator

Stability shoes Stability footwear combines cushioning features and support features into its design. An example would be the Asics 2110 running shoe.

Supinator

Supinator

Cushioning shoes Cushioned footwear emphasizes enhanced shock dispersion in its midsole and/or outsole design. Many shoe companies add materials to the heel and forefoot areas to enhance the cushioning properties of the shoe i.e. air, gel, hydro flow etc. An example of a cushioned running shoe would be the Asics Gel Nimbus

These kind of shoes differ from each other for a whole series of characteristics, the most important of which reside in the midsole of the shoe.

Check out our articles on the anatomy of a running shoe – we will explain you how different shoes help you run !

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There are a few tests commonly used to determine which kind of runner you are and, therefore, which kind of running shoe you should use.

One of these tests is called the Wet Feet Test and it is very simple to do and to understand. The basis of this test is that the wet footstep you leave on the floor while walking is a good indicator on how your foot absorbs the shock of the impact with the floor.

Simply wet your feet and walk over a flat surface, either the floor or a sheet of paper. Now, compare the impression you leave with the three figures here below:

Neutral Pronator

Neutral Pronator

Neutral Pronator:

If your impression looks the most like this one, you are a neutral pronator (20-30% of runners are). You strike the floor with your heel, then while you roll towards the toes, your arch lightly collapse inward absorbing the impact.

Over Pronator

Over Pronator

Over Pronator:

This foot impression looks like the whole sole of the foot. If this is the footstep that most closely resembles yours, then you are an over pronator. This means that the arch of your foot stretches inward too much, not assorbing the shock correctly and exposing you to injuries.

Supinator

Supinator

Under Pronator (Supinator)

Last, this is the foot impression of an under pronator (or supinator as most commonly called). Supinators’ feet don’t flex enough to provide an effective shock absorption during the run, making impact with the floor very hard and surely dangerous.

Whatever your kind of foot is, sport companies over the years have developed footwear technologies that can help. Almost all of them offer different lines of footwear, each one targeting only one of these foot types.

Sports industry has come to a common way to classify this different kind of footwear.

Please check the article here to find out what shoes are made for which kind of foot!

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Do you need a shoe that cushions your foot or one that supports it?

If  you want to chose the right running shoe, the first concept you need to be familiar with is pronation.

Every time you stomp your foot on the ground, either by running, jumping or walking,  you apply a force to the ground.  As we know from Newton’s third law of Motion, the ground will respond by applying an equal and opposite force upwards towards you. This force is what propels your foot up and forward. This force makes you run.

The problem is that when you run, you apply a force as high as 8 times your body-weight. This force then gets back to you through your foot, ankle, knee and hips. No different than a car, your body has natural suspensions to help you absorb the shock. The basis of this natural suspension system is a process called pronation.

Pronation is the natural rolling of your foot inwards during the running (or walking) gait. The arch of your foot collapses towards the floor in order to absorb the impact.

Pronation is part of the natural bio-mechanics of your gait, and is there to protect you from injuries. Problems (injuries) can occur when you either pronate or supinate too much. Going back to the car suspensions analogy, problems occur when your suspensions are either too stiff or too soft.

Given this premise, we can differentiate three different conditions:

  • Neutral Pronation when the foot naturally rolls inwards during the heel-to-toe transition of the gait. 20-30% of runners are neutral pronators.
  • Over Pronation when the foot rolls excessively inwards and the arch collapses in a way that is detrimental to right shock absorption.
  • Under Pronation (or  Supination) when the foot does not roll inwards enough during the running gait, leading to insufficient shock absorption.

Knowing if you are a neutral, over or underpronator is the first step towards choosing the best running shoe for you.

Here is a quick test to determine if you are a neutral, over or under pronator.


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