Guide to Choosing the Best Running Shoe

Running shoes are not just ordinary footwear. They are specifically designed to help runners achieved a more satisfying experience on the road or the trail. Running shoes have specialized technologies designed for shock absorption, flexibility, and traction. These technologies, along with other materials, aim to provide added features to help runners move with ease. 

Choosing the right running shoe for you can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if you are new to this kind of outdoor activity. However, you don’t have to worry too much. Here are some excellent pieces of information that would help you pick the perfect running partner for you.

The Anatomy of A Running Shoe

There are three major parts of a running shoe – the upper, the midsole, and the outsole. The rest are still considered as essential components, and they have specific functions to perform.

Upper

The upper refers to the top part of the shoe. It is designed to hold the foot securely from the midfoot to the forefoot. Most of the time, the upper component is made of a form-fitting and breathable material. Common materials used include fabric and mesh. Some running shoes come in a waterproof version depending on whether it is designed for trail or road running.

Midsole

The midsole is the part of the shoe found in between the outsole and the insole of the running shoe. This section is usually made from foam materials and is designed depending on the different running mechanisms. The midsole should be able to provide users stability, cushioned, or motion-controlled ride. An EVA foam is a common material used in constructing the midsole. It is the goal of the midsole to provide bounce and durability. 

Outsole

Makes up the based of the shoe, the outsole is designed to provide grip and durability. Depending on the type of terrain, running shoes come in various outsole materials. Usually, manufacturers are using a combination of carbon and blown rubber. The carbon rubber is designed for durability, and the blown rubber is meant for cushioning and flexibility. Trail running shoes are expected to use a more durable and grippy outsole because of the aggressive running surface. 

Other Components

There are other components in a running shoe, and they are as important as the first three mentioned parts. 

  • Heel Collar – Sometimes referred to as heel cuff, heel collar is incorporated into the heel tab. It is designed to wrap the ankle, preventing heel slippage while running. It is moderately padded and delivers a firm yet comfortable wrap. 
  • Heel Counter – The heel counter is an essential component of the best running shoe. It is a structure on the heel area that wraps the heel securely. 
  • Tongue – One of the tongue’s main functions is to prevent the rubbing of the laces to the instep of your foot. Depending on the shoe model, the tongue may come in different designs and lengths. For trail running shoes, some tongue is attached to the upper to prevent the debris from entering the shoe. A reliable heel counter should hold the heel securely during the running activity.
  • Laces – There are several different ways to lace your running shoes. The purpose of the laces is to a comfortable and secure fit. Laces work hand-in-hand with the eyelets. The eyelets should be large enough to facilitate smoother lacing adjustments. 
  • Toe-box – The toe-box is the area in the forefoot where the toes sit and move. The right running shoe should be able to provide your toes enough room to spread and move when needed.

Types of Running Shoes

There are two types of running shoes – road running shoes and trail running shoes. These shoes are different in the materials used and technologies. 

Road Running Shoes 

Road running shoes are built for pavement and packed surfaces. They have smoother soles, lightweight, and flexible design and are reliable for sidewalk and treadmill run. 

Trail Running Shoes

Trail running shoes are designed for irregular surfaces and off-road terrains. They are intended to survive mud and rocky surfaces and they have more protective features than road shoes. They have a more rugged outsole and are stiffer than road running shoes.

Understanding Heel-to-Toe Drop in a Running Shoe

The heel-to-toe drop is the difference between the heel height and forefoot height. It is measured in mm, and it affects how the foot strikes the running surface. There are zero drop running shoes, which have a zero heel-to-toe drop, and there are traditional running shoes, which has a drop of about 10mm to 12mm. 

Traditional running shoes offer a generous amount of cushioning in the heel, allowing the heel to land first on the ground as the foot moves. On the other hand, zero-drop shoes have equal cushioning in the heel and forefoot. 

The lower the heel-drop, the more the running shoe promotes a midfoot strike, and the more the Achilles tendon needs to work. Thus, runners who are used to traditional shoes need a lot of adjustment if they switch to zero drop running shoes.

Level of Cushioning

The quality of the running shoe’s ride is determined by the cushioning. There are two things to consider when it comes to shoe cushioning  – (1) how firm the foam is and (2) its thickness. 

Some runners need too much cushioning, while others prefer a minimal cushioning. It depends on the runner’s preference. And when it come s to cushioning, here are the options:

Maximum

Running shoes with maximum cushioning are options referred to as maximalist shoes. They have thick midsole padding for an impressive plush feel. Some runners find comfort from thick and softer foam and prefer a softer underfoot feel, especially on long-distance runs.

Moderate

Moderately cushioned running shoes are designed to provide a balance of softer and comfortable underfoot feel. Traditional running shoes offer moderate cushioning; thus, you can easily find the best pair in this category.

Minimal

Runners who want to feel a closer ground contact prefer to wear shoes with minimal cushioning. With a minimal amount of underfoot cushioning, runners will experience a more natural running movement.

Barefoot

This type of running shoe offers runners the closest feel of running barefoot. Barefoot shoes are very lightweight, and they have no underfoot cushioning. What gives the foot protection is the thin layer of material placed in between the ground the foot. Since it has no cushioning, this type of running shoes offers no stability features and arch support.

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