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The different types of shoes explained


There are two major characteristics that help describe and categorize a running shoe: the level of pronation control (support), and the level of cushioning. These two features are often represented in a grid format as below:
CUSHIONING
Minimal Moderate Maximum


The red cell in the example above depicts a "support" (or "stability") shoe with maximum cushioning, such as a Brooks Trance or a Saucony Hurricane.

The vertical axis represents the level of pronation control (also called support), with the three levels:
  • "Neutral" - no pronation control
  • "Support" (or "Stability") - moderate to severe pronation control
  • "Control", also referred to as "Motion Control" - maximum pronation control, and a very wide and flat base that keeps the foot firmly planted and supported.

  • The horizontal axis represents the level of cushioning (also referred to as comfort or protection). There is a full continuum of cushioning levels, but typically shoes are categorized as:
  • Minimal cushioning
  • Moderate cushioning
  • Maximum cushioning.
  • There has been a trend toward a "bare-foot" running style in recent years, with certain shoes getting rid of almost all cushioning and padding altogether. Certain vendors distinguish between these truly "Minimal" shoes (such as a New Balance MT10 shoe), and the more traditional "Lightweight" cushioning (New Balance 890, Saucony Kinvara, Nike Free Run, etc.) These minimal shoes are not for everyone and can cause injury if not used appropriately or if you are not used to them.

    The level of cushioning is also more than just the padding under your foot. Along with the three general levels of cushioning comes distinctions in materials, technology, and also often durability. Below is a detailed explanation of what the three levels of cushioning typically offer:

    Minimum cushioning shoes are generally designed for speed and performance. Lighter weight takes priority over durability and comfort. Typical shoes in this category include bare-foot running shoes (e.g. New Balance MT10) and more traditional lightweight shoes such as the Brooks "Pure" series, the Saucony Kinvara, the New Balance 890, the Nike Free Run, etc.
    • Outsoles: Blown rubber outsoles increase traction and decrease weight, but tend to wear quickly. Cut out areas decrease weight and increase flexibility, but also decrease longevity.
    • Midsoles: Most shoes in this category lack added cushioning devices which save weight, but decrease the amount of cushioning a shoe offers. The life of these shoes tends to be less than those classified as Moderate or Maximum cushioning.
    • Uppers: Upper materials are extremely lightweight. Minimum levels of padding are offered especially in the tongue and heal areas to save weight. Minimum cushioning shoes offer few overlays to save weight, but this also decreases support.
    Moderate cushioning shoes are ideally suited to many runners' every day training needs. Typical shoes in this category include the Brooks Ravenna and Adrenaline, the Mizuno Rider and Inspire, the Saucony Ride and Guide, the New Balance 860, and the Nike Pegasus and Structure.
    • Outsoles: High abrasion rubber is added in the landing area of the heel and mid-foot to increase wear.
    • Midsoles: Most models in this category have time-tested midsole materials that are durable and reliable. Each company's primary cushioning devices are added to key impact areas which significantly adds life and cushioning to the shoe. Shoes designed for increased pronation control are provided design features that have proven successful in controlling over-pronation over several seasons.
    • Uppers: A greater level of padding is offered on shoes in this category which aids comfort. Insoles offer additional padding. There is an increased use of overlays as well as more durable upper materials which add support and comfort.
    Maximum cushioning shoes showcase the very best offered by that particular company. These shoes offer the latest designs, materials, cushioning devices and construction techniques. Models in this category place a premium on comfort and quality. They make use of the latest technologies available. Shoes in this category are generally the most expensive in the industry. Typical examples are the Brooks Transcend and Glycerin, the Saucony Hurricane, the New Balance 1080, and the Nike Lunareclipse.
    • Outsoles: High abrasion rubber is in the landing area of the heel and mid-foot to provide maximum life. Multiple outsole materials and design techniques are used in the forefoot that add durability, traction and flexibility.
    • Midsoles: The newest midsole materials are used in these models. Articulated landing areas in the heel increase cushioning as well as aid heel to toe transition. The largest cushioning devices available are placed throughout the midsole and provide the greatest long term cushioning. The newest technologies designed to help curb over-pronation are exhibited in these models.
    • Uppers: The greatest level of padding, the best materials as well as specially designed fit enhancement techniques are used to significantly increase comfort. Overlays are flexible and stretch to accommodate the foot through the gait cycle. Insoles are the best offered. Greater attempts are made to increase the ventilation in the upper.

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