Running Jargon: Anatomy of a Running Shoe

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The time has come. You’re shopping online for running shoes, and the sheer number of shoes available is very overwhelming. Of course, when choosing a shoe, you’ll find yourself attracted to certain styles and colors – it’s only natural. But in reading the description and details of each running shoe, you’ll quickly come to realize that there are a lot of factors that go into determining if a given shoe is your “solemate”. Running shoes are built to deliver a specific experience, allowing you to enjoy your run. Buying shoes online poses a unique issue because you can’t try them on. Instead, you must rely on product descriptions to learn more about the shoe you are considering.

When you’re searching for that perfect shoe and reading through shoe descriptions, however, you’re bound to run into unfamiliar terminology. The descriptions and details of running shoes can get bogged down with jargon, so today we’re going to break down some of the terms you should understand that will help you know more about the structure and features of your prospective running shoe.

Microsoft Word - Shoe Anatomy-1.docx

Anatomy of a Running Shoe

Upper – The top portion of your shoe, consisting of the materials that wrap around the sides and top of your foot. It shapes the fit and provides you with the comfort that you feel above your foot when you are wearing your shoes. In lighter weight shoes, uppers are minimal and feel stripped down to save weight. In premium shoes, the upper is typically very plush (well-padded) or supple and soft.

Midsole – All about ride management. How the shoe is constructed in the midsole factors into the feel of your run. The midsole is underfoot and provides shock absorption… more midsole means more shock absorption. Midsole thickness (combined with outsole thickness) is reported on our site as stack height.

Outsole – Provides traction and durability. The bottom of your shoe is considered the outsole, and certain types of rubber can be placed on the bottom of the shoe to provide more traction and durability. If your priority is durability, look for outsoles made with carbon rubber. If you’re looking for a softer of more flexible shoe, look for an outsole constructed with blown rubber.

Heel collar – This forms the opening of the shoe (where your foot enters the shoe), securing the heel fit. The collar can be well-padded, made with memory foam for a more individualized fit, or made with a minimal construction to save weight.

Toe box – The part of the shoe that provides space around and above the toes. A toe box can be shallow, medium, or deep, and vary in shape. A shallow toe box will provide a more snug fit, while a deep toe box is more roomy if you prefer an open feel. Toe boxes can also be pointy or rounded to contribute to a snug or roomy fit.

Lateral side – The length of the shoe that runs along the side that corresponds with your pinky toe.

Medial side – The length of the shoe that runs along the side that corresponds with your big toe.


Information about these aspects of running shoes are listed under the technical details of the shoe pages on our website and within the descriptions of shoes and how they fit.

Interested in learning more? Check out our Learning Center article on shoe components.

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