Scientific facts behind the running shoe

November 3, 2015

The modern running shoe is the culmination of years of study and some phenomenal scientific breakthroughs. Shoes are designed to correct gait issues, provide added stability during running and minimize the risk of injury. Creating a running shoe that contains a happy balance of air flow and fit without rubbing or constricting takes a lot of work. However, the result is a comfortable shoe that will keep you running pain-free for miles.

Scientific facts behind the running shoe

1. It all starts in the sole

  • As the foundation of the shoe, the sole must offer good traction, durability and stability, all while allowing the foot to flex as naturally as possible. This seemingly impossible task is further complicated by some misconceptions that plague many shoe shoppers.
  • You may have heard that you are an under-pronator and therefore need cushioning shoes, or that you have a flat foot and over pronate leaving you to select a motion control shoe. Well, recent studies have found no link between injuries and arch heights or pronation. What they have found is that comfort should be the guiding factor.
  • Some manufacturers now make soles with dual density, offering both motion control and cushioning in the same shoe. This is accomplished by the simple and elegant application of two different types of foam: a higher density foam guides the foot through the right motion, while the lower density foam offers the added cushioning.
  • When everything comes together properly, a dual density sole is designed to correct any stride issue and offer a comfortable running experience.

2. Don't forget the uppers

  • For total comfort, the uppers are almost as important as the sole, as they determine air flow and fit.
  • A wide toe box gives the foot more manoeuvrability and improves balance.
  • A deeper heel cup helps prevent slippage, which can cause blisters.
  • While leather still has a place in the shoe industry, the best running shoes tend to have synthetic uppers with plenty of mesh; the mesh adds breathability, keeping feet at a comfortable temperature.
  • Closures impact comfort and fit. Most running shoes use standard grommets and laces to secure the shoe. Lacing should come up over the entire top of the foot, creating a snug fit on the heel.
  • When shoes aren't properly laced, it can cause problems, cutting your run short.

3. Anything but simple

  • Researchers have spent thousands of hours trying to find the best combination of features to improve running efficiency.
  • The result is still a lot of controversy, particularly among barefoot running proponents, and some great additions to the running shoe market.
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