With the warmer weather comes more outdoor activities, and an excuse to buy new running sneakers. Although I’m an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle, I, like most of you, buy sneakers based on comfort (and looks). Admittedly, we should put more thought into such purchases, as well-fitting sneakers are vital to our personal health and maximizing the chances of an injury free summer. Remember, the foot takes on approximately five times our body weight with each step!
Below are some of the basic components of all running shoes:
Outsole: The shoe’s bottom. This is usually made of carbon or blown rubber.
Upper: The leather or fabric part of the shoe that secures it to your foot. It is either sewn or glued to the midsole/
Midsole: Located between the upper and the outsole, this part of the shoe contains the cushioning and stability. It is arguable the most important component of the shoe, and is comprised of a closed cell foam called ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA).
Midsole Cushioning: Often comes from the EVA in the midsole, but other proprietary types exist (e.g., Nike Air, Asics Gel). There is no evidence to suggest one company’s cushioning technology is superior to another’s.
Shank: Stiffens the shoe under the arch. Helps to resist torsion and flexion. Most running sneakers have this, as it helps the shoe in bending at the toes instead of under the arch (needed for heel lift and weight transfer during normal gait). The shank adds weight to shoe; so maximal performance running shoes may not have this.
Medial Post: Within the midsole. Influences the amount of stability provided by a given shoe. It also helps to control pronation. The more stout the medial post, the less pronation or “rolling in” of the foot.
Last: The foot model over which a shoe is built. It can describe the shoe’s shape or the way the upper is attached to the midsole.
A basic understanding of this is important as these components of a sneaker dictate stability. I hope this brief synopsis provides everyone with an increased familiarity with running shoes, and a greater appreciation for the complexity of such footwear. And if you’re wondering how your buying habits compare to your peers, check out the included survey results of more than 2500 runners in 2017, courtesy of “Running Shoes Guru.”
Dr. Andrew Rosenbaum is a fellowship-trained foot and ankle specialist. He is a graduate of Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Camden, NJ and completed his residency at Albany Medical College. Dr. Rosenbaum completed his fellowship training at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY, where he treated both the New York Mets and the New York Giants teams. He is also the Director of Orthopaedic Research at Albany Medical College. He has presented his research both nationally and internationally.
Dr. Rosenbaum lives in the Albany area with his wife and daughter. He sees patients in our Albany and Guilderland offices.