Fitness Friday – All About The Shoes Part II

Happy Fitness Friday friends!

This week is a continuation of our running shoe talk from last week. Click here if you missed Part I.

Today we are delving into how a running shoe is constructed + differences between popular brands.

I could ramble on all day about the little differences in fabrics, cushioning, and construction. But for brevity’s sake, I will stick to the basics. Things that stick out between brands and make a difference in how they fit your feet. In case you are wondering how I know all of this, I work in a specialty running store where I analyze gaits and fit people for proper running footwear. It’s quite interesting once you get into it!

We will start with my ole’ faithful…



I’m really starting with this one because I found this wonderful picture of the shoe construction. The upper is where the most fabric is. Usually some sort of mesh. The sockliner is removable in case you want to insert an orthotic. Everything between the top and outsole is called the midsole. This is where each brand uses their own “technology” for cushioning and support.

Most shoes will include the name of their technology in the model name. For example, every Saucony shoe is called a Progrid because they use a solid tennis racket-like plate for cushioning (and springy-ness). A lot of people will come in to my store asking for Progrids, but they are technically all Progrids. What differentiates the models is the level of cushioning and support they provide for a neutral runner, pronator or supinator. The above model is the Omni 8 and among the most popular Saucony in the stability category.

Also worth mentioning is that companies bring out new models every year. Sometimes they upgrade the shoes, other times they just change the colour. The older model of the above shoe would have been the Omni 7. That’s the purpose of the numbers!

Additional notes on Saucony

  • They are often made with a wider toe box.
  • People will often comment that they feel “flatter” on the bottom, or “more stable”




  • Asics uses gel as their main cushioning technology. Every Asics shoe is called “Gel + Model Name.”
  • Asics uses asymmetrical lacing with the idea that it laces up along the main bone on the top of your foot (you can really see this on the Kayano pictured above)
  • Asics are comparable to Sauconys in that people who like one usually like the other. Most common comments are that the Asics mesh is a little more breathable and they feel more “cushiony.”

The above Asics Gel 1250 are the best selling running shoe in North America. They’re a stability shoe for a mild to moderate pronator, which means just a bit of arch support. A little more cushioning than the cheaper 1150 model. They use the same numbering system – the previous model being the 1240 and so on.




  • My current running shoe!
  • Nike uses a plate technology for cushioning, which is just a simple plate in the midsole.
  • Nike Air models use gas-filled plastic membranes inserted in the sole for cushioning.


  • The new Lunarglides offer what they call “dynamic support,” claiming the level of support changes with each foot strike as you need it.
  • Notorious for running small and being narrow. People usually have to go a half size up in Nikes.


  • Other Nike running technology includes the Waffle series which uses a waffle cushioning and grip on the outsole. Said to be based on an old track coach who used his wife’s waffle iron to create cushioning in his runner’s shoes.




  • Uses the Wave technology for support.
  • Claim that “the wave” better absorbs the impact of running, whereas a flat cushioning disperses the impact evenly along the midsole. The wave also better keeps the midsole from collapsing.
  • Known for being a little narrow, very light, and a little extra cushioning in the forefoot.



  • Brooks has started using what they call DNA cushioning. They use individual molecules connected by strands to create chains.
  • Noticeable tip up at the toe to propel you forward when running. Because of this, they do not make for a good walking shoe.


New Balance

  • Use foam and N-ergy materials which have no empty air spaces for additional shock absorption.
  • A notoriously wider shoe.
  • Funky ribbed shoelaces that are supposed to keep from getting loose on long runs.


Have your eyes glazed over yet? :P

Really, the most important part of picking a running shoe is determining what kind of running gait you have. From there, it’s all about what brand of shoes fit your feet best and how much cushioning you prefer. Personally, I’m starting to prefer lighter shoes. That’s why I made the switch from wide and cushy Sauconys to more foot-hugging, flexible Nikes.

It’s also worth mentioning that you want to go up at least half a shoe size for running sneakers. You need the extra space at your toes for the forward motion of running, plus your feet are likely to swell more than in your every day shoe.


Got any running shoe questions? Send them my way! There are a few from Part I that I’ll be answering in a post soon :)

Posted on October 22, 2010, in Fitness Friday and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. The NB ribbed shoelaces are the best. I love them for my superwide feet.

    I want to know where you stand on the barefoot/minimalist shoe trend! Are you going to trade your current shoes for a pair of VFFs or Nike Frees any time soon? I’ve had sooo many foot and lower leg issues, I’m wondering if I should give it a shot or if I’m setting myself up for disaster. Discuss!

  2. Love this post! I’ll be looking for new running shoes soon, so this information is super helpful! :)

    My current running shoes are New Balance. I don’t love them for the price I made. So I’ll probably be making a brand switch. And also, those laces that are not supposed to come untied? They do!

  3. I used to be a Nike girl. Then I tried on Brooks Ravenna running shoes and I’ve never looked back. I LOVE those shoes.

  4. I just started running in a pair of Saucony Progrid Triumph 7s that were recommended to me at a running shop. I like them a lot so far. Before that I’d always run in New Balances, which I also liked–especially those laces (I think they really work!).

  5. What are your thoughts on the Nike Free? I think I am a bit of a pronator, but I am trying to use the Free as a gateway shoe to perhaps try barefoot running in the future.

  6. I run in Newtons. i used to also be a Nike girl all the way, but Newtons are designed for people who run on their forefronts. (toes). They are amazing,
    I am also curious to see how you feel about the minimalist approach. I have yet to try running barefoot or with little support but we will see as time goes on.

    Great article-the shoes really make the run.

  7. I have been anticipating this post since you mentioned you were writing it! I read every word and my eyes most certainly did not glaze over.

    Oddly enough, I am not a pronator, yet I was fitted many years ago at a swanky running shop and it was suggested I wear the Asics 2100 series. I’ve been wearing them ever since and have found I love them.

    However, according to your last post…I think I’m a supinator! (Land on my outer heel and roll onto my outer forefoot) I tried running with shoes and without shoes…supinator either way.

    Uh…I guess I’m wearing the wrong shoe??

  8. this is just a marvelous collection of shoe info…omg you spent some time, thank you for this, Susan!

  9. Could you help me? If so, many thanks!!

    I have a wide foot and pronate quite a bit….what should I be getting?

    (I have been buying men’s Brooks the last few years(to accomodate wide foot) but wonder if there is abetter option for me?

    I am overweight and using shoe for jogging and walking.(have had in the past plantar fasciitis, and other feet problems as I have gotten closer to middle age!)

    Thanks Susan!!!

  10. PS

    Just realize I am not sure if I pronate or supinate…..I do one of them lot.
    My shoes are worn away more on the OUTSIDE edges of foot,not inner….so which is that? Thanks again!

  11. Ahh yes, Bill Bowerman and his waffle maker!! Definitely gotta watch the movie Prefontaine to see it in action. Those are the spikes I run in, the waffles.

  12. What stores offer the analyze service? I live in a small town north of Toronto and think I might have to come down there.

  13. Thanks Susan. I see they have one in Barrie. That’s not too far from me.

  14. I went to the Barrie Running Room and had the gait analysis done today. I ended up buying a pair of Asics Cumulus 11. Thanks for the recommendation to have this done. My salesperson was awesome!

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