Today we are delving into howa running shoe is constructed + differences between popular brands.
I could ramble on all day about the little differences in fabrics, cushioning, and construction. But for brevity’s sake, I will stick to the basics. Things that stick out between brands and make a difference in how they fit your feet. In case you are wondering how I know all of this, I work in a specialty running store where I analyze gaits and fit people for proper running footwear. It’s quite interesting once you get into it!
We will start with my ole’ faithful…
I’m really starting with this one because I found this wonderful picture of the shoe construction. The upper is where the most fabric is. Usually some sort of mesh. The sockliner is removable in case you want to insert an orthotic. Everything between the top and outsole is called the midsole. This is where each brand uses their own “technology” for cushioning and support.
Most shoes will include the name of their technology in the model name. For example, every Saucony shoe is called a Progrid because they use a solid tennis racket-like plate for cushioning (and springy-ness). A lot of people will come in to my store asking for Progrids, but they are technically all Progrids. What differentiates the models is the level of cushioning and support they provide for a neutral runner, pronator or supinator. The above model is the Omni 8 and among the most popular Saucony in the stability category.
Also worth mentioning is that companies bring out new models every year. Sometimes they upgrade the shoes, other times they just change the colour. The older model of the above shoe would have been the Omni 7. That’s the purpose of the numbers!
Additional notes on Saucony
They are often made with a wider toe box.
People will often comment that they feel “flatter” on the bottom, or “more stable”
Asics uses gel as their main cushioning technology. Every Asics shoe is called “Gel + Model Name.”
Asics uses asymmetrical lacing with the idea that it laces up along the main bone on the top of your foot (you can really see this on the Kayano pictured above)
Asics are comparable to Sauconys in that people who like one usually like the other. Most common comments are that the Asics mesh is a little more breathable and they feel more “cushiony.”
The above Asics Gel 1250 are the best selling running shoe in North America. They’re a stability shoe for a mild to moderate pronator, which means just a bit of arch support. A little more cushioning than the cheaper 1150 model. They use the same numbering system – the previous model being the 1240 and so on.
Nike uses a plate technology for cushioning, which is just a simple plate in the midsole.
Nike Air models use gas-filled plastic membranes inserted in the sole for cushioning.
The new Lunarglides offer what they call “dynamic support,” claiming the level of support changes with each foot strike as you need it.
Notorious for running small and being narrow. People usually have to go a half size up in Nikes.
Other Nike running technology includes the Waffle series which uses a waffle cushioning and grip on the outsole. Said to be based on an old track coach who used his wife’s waffle iron to create cushioning in his runner’s shoes.
Uses the Wave technology for support.
Claim that “the wave” better absorbs the impact of running, whereas a flat cushioning disperses the impact evenly along the midsole. The wave also better keeps the midsole from collapsing.
Known for being a little narrow, very light, and a little extra cushioning in the forefoot.
Brooks has started using what they call DNA cushioning. They use individual molecules connected by strands to create chains.
Noticeable tip up at the toe to propel you forward when running. Because of this, they do not make for a good walking shoe.
Use foam and N-ergy materials which have no empty air spaces for additional shock absorption.
A notoriously wider shoe.
Funky ribbed shoelaces that are supposed to keep from getting loose on long runs.
Have your eyes glazed over yet? :P
Really, the most important part of picking a running shoe is determining what kind of running gait you have . From there, it’s all about what brand of shoes fit your feet best and how much cushioning you prefer. Personally, I’m starting to prefer lighter shoes. That’s why I made the switch from wide and cushy Sauconys to more foot-hugging, flexible Nikes.
It’s also worth mentioning that you want to go up at leasthalf a shoe size for running sneakers. You need the extra space at your toes for the forward motion of running, plus your feet are likely to swell more than in your every day shoe.
Got any running shoe questions? Send them my way! There are a few from Part I that I’ll be answering in a post soon :)