Shoe School: the Anatomy of a Running Shoe

Anatomy of Running Shoes

Take the test:

pull out an old running shoe and cut it open to see if you can identify the parts of a running shoe.

There are 2 main parts:

Upper:  covers the top/sides of the foot; holds foot in place and protects the foot.  The upper:

  1. featherline: forms the edge where the toe guard meets the bottom of the shoe
  2. vamp:  a single piece of material that gives shape to the shoe & forms the toe box
  3. tongue:  protects the foot from direct contact with the laces
  4. collar:  has an achilles tendon protector; top back of shoe
  5. foxing:  shapes the rear end of the shoe
  6. heel counter:  located underneath the foxing; supports the heel


Bottom/Sole:  makes contact with the surface.  The bottom/sole:

  1. insole:  thin layer of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate)
  2. midsole:  this is the bulk of the the cushioning; it is usually polyurethene + gel or liquid silicone or foam;  purpose:  shock absorption
  3. outsole:  carbon rubber (hard, think car tires) or blown rubber (softer, more flexible, less durable); purpose:  traction & shock absorption

Shoe Life 

A person's foot strikes the ground about 1600 times/mile.  After 200 miles, your shoe will start to break down and after 500 miles they probably need to be replaced.