Running Shoe Terminology Part 1
We have all gone into a specialist running store at some time and been totally baffled and bewildered by the “techno speak” of some sales assistants. Hopefully this 3 part series will arm you with some of the terms that are used when it comes to talking running shoes.
Bio-mechanically efficient: A ‘bio-mechanically efficient’ runner is one who does not waste unnecessary energy, use or generate excessive forces as they run. This phrase is often used to describe someone whose feet work ‘efficiently’ without excessive impact forces or rolling movements. See also ‘neutral’ and ‘efficient’.
Biomechanics: The ‘bio’ part shows it is to do with your body, the mechanics bit says it is about mechanics too. Biomechanics means the way you run and the forces that come into effect as you do.
Blown rubber: This type of rubber has air blown into it. This means it can be lighter, softer and more flexible than standard rubber. It gives better cushioning than normal rubber but is often less durable.
Carbon rubber: This type of rubber has carbon added into it to make it more tough and durable. Normally speaking it is not as soft, light or flexible as regular rubber.
Crash zone: This is the area of your foot that hits the ground first. For most of us this is the area on the outside of the heel. As this is the area where the biggest impact forces are created it is a crucial area in terms of cushioning. What happens at this point can also have an effect on the rest of your foot’s motion. (For some people the crash zone may be at the forefoot).
Cushioned (or cushioning) shoe: A shoe that is designed for neutral runners, not over-pronators. (Over-pronators should wear support shoes). It does not have extra support features for over-pronators. Note: a support or stability shoe may offer as much cushioning as a ‘cushioning’ shoe. The difference is that the support shoe also has stability features.
Cushioning: This is what protects you from the forces of impact (and also toe-off). Different shoes have different amounts of cushioning. It may be focussed in different places. It can be of different densities. Generally speaking heavier runners benefit from firmer cushioning due to higher impact forces.
Efficient: An ‘efficient’ runner is one who does not waste energy or use excessive forces as they run. This phrase is often used to describe someone whose feet work ‘efficiently’ without excessive impact forces or rolling movements. See also ‘neutral’ and ‘bio- mechanically efficient’.
Flat foot: If you have a ‘flat foot’ you have a low arch. Get your feet wet and then leave a footprint on a tiled floor. If you have a flat foot or low arch your foot print will show almost the whole sole of your foot with the band between heel and forefoot close to the full width of your foot. Low arches usually indicate your feet are prone to over-pronation.
Flex grooves: These are grooves in a shoe to help it bend in the appropriate places. The most common place for flex grooves is in the forefoot, across the ball of the foot. This is a place it is very important for a shoe to bend to allow a smooth running action and toe-off. However flex grooves can be positioned elsewhere to help slow pronation and guide the foot. Flex grooves are often visible from the outside but may be hidden if they are within the midsole.
Flexibility: This is how bendy a shoe is. It is important for a shoe to flex under the forefoot to allow a natural running action. If the forefoot is too rigid it can affect your running style and cause problems with your feet, ankles and throughout your body.
Foot strike: The moment your foot hits the ground.
Forefoot: The front section of your foot – the end your toes are at back to just behind the ball of the foot. This is the area of the foot that drives you forwards. Some runners also land on this area – see ‘forefoot strikers’. Forefoot also refers to the section of the shoe associated with this part of the foot.
Forefoot striker: A runner whose foot lands on the forefoot with each stride.
Gait: The action that you use when you run (or walk). With running shoes the area of your gait that is focussed on is usually what your feet do. The normal gait is for the foot to land on the outside of the heel. The foot then rolls for the forefoot and inside of the foot to also come into contact with the ground as the arch collapses to absorb shock. As you toe off you move onto the inside front of your foot as it stiffens once more to become a more rigid lever propelling you forwards.
Guidance: Running shoes are often built to help your foot follow a correct path. Different features can be combined to encourage and guide your foot through a suitable movement.
Heel counter: A piece of plastic that sits around the outside of the heel – it cups your heel. It is there to give the shoe the correct shape in the heel, give fit and to stop your heel moving inappropriately.
Heel strike: The moment that your heel lands on the ground. Most runners’ feet land heel first.
Heel striker: A runner whose feet land heel first.
Heel tab: A piece of material that rises up from the upper at the very back of the heel section of your shoe. It should help to hold your foot securely in the shoe without rubbing or causing discomfort.
High Arch: You can tell whether you have a high arch by leaving a wet footprint on a tiled floor. If you have a high arch you will see only a narrow band, or even no band at all, between the forefoot and the heel on your wet foot print. This indicates a high likelihood of under-pronation. You should choose a flexible and well cushioned neutral shoe.