Picking the proper shoe for your workout is truly important and walking into a store to buy a pair can be torture. Knowing some key terms can help to make that purchase a little smoother.
Here is a cheat sheet of common lingo from CoachUp a service that connects athletes with private coaches.
This is the difference in millimeters between the heel and forefoot. The standard is 12 millimeters though that varies with the new barefoot trend.
This refers to what it feels like to run in a shoe. For example a plush ride means that the it is super soft and responsive means that the shoe responds to the ground and gives back energy instead of feeling dead.
This indicates that there is less foam or thinner material and perhaps a low drop. It is basically a trend where different companies are approaching the “more with less” from different angles.
Medial vs. Lateral
These two terms are taken from the world of anatomy and refer to what side of the body something is on. The Medial side is the inside of the body, and the Lateral side is the outside of the body. These terms are applied to running sneakers to provide reference where technology is inserted or how the shoe is constructed.
Stability vs. Neutral
Stability models are designed to help prevent over-pronation, which occurs when the foot rolls inward during the transition from heel to toe. Pronation itself is a normal occurrence, but over-pronation happens when the foot pronates too much and too quickly, placing extra stress on the lower leg and foot muscles. Most shoe companies have at least one model that addresses this by placing denser (think less soft) foam along the medial side of the shoe, called a post.
Neutral means the shoe provides cushioning and comfort. Generally, the higher the price point means more cushioning and a more “plush” feel. Sometimes, companies will incorporate two different types of foam in an effort to provide a softer landing, or create a softer ride. The term “neutral” refers to the lack of a post or stability feature.
Performance and Lightweight
Many companies are offering models described as “lightweight performance” or “lightweight trainers”. These shoes are designed to give runners another option for training. Performance oriented runners will be doing at least one hard workouts per week, such as tempo runs, hill repeats, or progression runs.
Lightweight trainers are meant to be an option for these faster runs. They are usually lighter and sleeker than their “daily trainer” counterparts, and typically have a lower drop.
Also keep in mind that shoe foam doesn’t keep its elasticity forever. After a while it gets compressed, and those places where your foot might hit the outer edge a little hard, or toe off a little on the inside, will only continue to be more ingrained in the foam the more miles it goes through. It’s best to switch out your shoes after 300 miles or so.