If you are anything like me you are probably wondering, “why are there so many different kinds of athletic footwear?”. Intuitively I understand that each shoe is made for a specific purpose and there may be some minor differences in each shoe that sets it apart from the rest but I wanted to get more into the science behind these different kinds of shoes. After having a difficult time with finding the proper running shoes (I have flat feet/ over pronation) I realized that I needed to invest in the proper running shoes if I wanted to enjoy running at all.
I found an excellent article about different kinds of shoes and why they are that way by Promjun & Sahachaisaeree (2012) titled “Factors Determining Athletic Footwear Design: A Case of Product Appearance and Functionality”. I want to give you a breakdown of what different kinds of athletic shoes are out there and why. I found that it is important to have the proper shoe, especially if you are an avid runner, tennis player, sport enthusiast, etc.
Behind the Footwear
When designing the perfect athletic shoe companies like Nike and Adidas have to take into account different factors other than the design, they actually have entire teams testing out different designs and ergonomics of the shoes. That’s right, shoes are literally scientifically engineered now to fit the needs of an athlete, professional or not. Playing sports and going to the gym has gained more popularity and these large sports companies have taken notice of this.
Each activity requires different weight on different placement of the feet. As a result the ergonomics of the shoe has to change as well as the structure and what it is made up of. Typically people do not pay attention to the kind of shoe they buy until it is too late. Maybe I am just speaking for myself but I used to think it was ok to spend $25 on a pair of cheap running shoes (I couldn’t be more wrong). I ended up buying me a pair of Adidas ultra boost running shoes and it was one of the best purchasing decisions I ever made.
Different Components of the Shoe
The three main components of the typical athletic shoe are these; the upper, midsole and outsole. The upper part covers the feet and protects them from external hazards. The midsole gives impact support and maintains posture balance while doing activities. The outsole (the bottom of the shoe) provides grip when striking the ground so one does not slip.
The upper part of the shoe can be made of mesh, full grain leather or synthetic leather. The midsole is made of Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, Phylon, and Polyurethane. All of these elements are materials that are highly durable but also lightweight to provide maximum comfort and support to the athlete. The outsole contains carbon rubber, duralon and solid rubber. This is so that the shoe remains intact, durable and functional no matter what kind of weather.
Shoe Sole Patterns
There are five types of shoe sole patterns and they each have a different function depending on what kind of shoe you are looking to buy or need. They are as follows; Waffle, Waffle fill, Herringbone, Hybrid, and Texturized outsole.
The Waffle pattern has large bulges, and of course looks like a waffle, and is great for impact, strength, surface attachment, and forward movement.
The Waffle fill pattern also looks like the waffle patter but this sole is filled with a different kind of rubber usually for smooth movement. This is better for running shoes.
The Herringbone is a criss-crossing pattern and is used mostly in tennis, basketball and cross training because it is better at attaching to surfaces. This is sole is great for sudden movement and spinning.
The hybrid is a combination of these different sole types and is great for all kinds of movement but is mostly used in cross training.
The texturized sole is a mixture of straight lines and other patterns and is great for high impact. People mostly use this show when they are doing aerobic dance, step, kickboxing more.
Types of Shoes
There are five main types of shoes that I will talk briefly about and what makes them unique; running shoes, walking shoes, shoes for aerobic dance (weight training exercise), types of athletic shoes and motion control shoes. Running shoes must have shock absorbers that affectively help the runner absorb shock and transfer weight from the back, legs and feet to the ground. There are two types of running shoes; shoes for long distance running and shoes for short distance running. Long distance running shoes have to be more light weight than short distance running shoes so they can not only reduce friction with the ground but also provide good ventilation and have high impact strength.
Walking shoes must also be light weight and have shock absorbers and they have harder upper soles than running shoes because the weight being transferred is much more methodical and takes longer than the runner has to transfer weight. Shoes that are best for working out and dancing must also be lightweight and have soft shock absorbers.
When it comes to athletic shoes, there are so many being released out on the market that it is easier to break them down for what is needed most when buying athletic running footwear; motion control, cushion trainers, stability, and lightweight. Those are the most important factors to look for when buying any athletic footwear. One can get lost trying to figure out the most perfect athletic shoe to wear for which sport or exercise.
Also there are motion control shoes. These shoes are good for people like me who are flat footed (have over pronation) because the outsole (outerpart of the shoe) is stiffer and has more structure and therefore provides more stability and form to your foot. When you overpronate that means that when you walk or run that your foot rolls inward so it is good to have a shoe that is more structured on the outside with more motion control.
Recommending the Proper Athletic Footwear
In the world of athletics, sports and proper running shoes and more- there is simple too much to write in one blog post. I have given a breakdown of why there are so many different types of athletic shoes out on the market but I would really like to write an article explaining how to go about recommending the right athletic foot wear.
When it comes to the science behind shoes, their design, function and purpose I have just scratched the surface. Feel free to leave your comments below or questions about buying the right athletic footwear and stay tuned for my next post about recommending the proper athletic footwear.
Promjun, S., & Sahachaisaeree, N. (2012). Factors Determining Athletic Footwear Design: A Case of Product Appearance and Functionality. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 36(ASEAN Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies (AcE-Bs), Savoy Homann Bidakara Hotel, 15-17 June 2011, Bandung, Indonesia), 520-528. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.03.057