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Running Shoes Types. Complete guide to running shoes segmentation.

Running shoes have become an increasingly complex topic nowadays. Brands invest in new technologies, materials, and marketing strategies, making the selection process even more overwhelming. For new runners, it is especially challenging to find shoes that match with their ambitions and running level.

In this article, we aim to simplify the segmentation of running shoes, providing an easy-to-follow guide that covers all types. While our next article will help you understand which segment is right for you and match it with specific shoe recommendations.
Let's start by exploring the various components of running shoes. The upper part can offer enhanced comfort or lightweight design. The midsole varies in terms of material and construction, affecting the shoe's performance. Additional elements like stability features and lockdown mechanisms enhance specific aspects of running shoes. Lastly, the outsole provides grip and durability.

By altering different configurations, we can achieve different features. Here are a few quick examples:
Now that you understand how running shoes are made and the countless combinations available, it's important to note that some variations may not make a significant difference. For instance, whether a shoe has a single-layer mesh or double-layer mesh doesn't affect the overall running experience. The only distinction might be the level of ventilation, with some being more suitable for summer and others for colder periods.

In the next few minutes, we will focus on highlighting the significant differences in running shoes that greatly impact the selection process. Let's examine one example of such a significant difference: changing the midsole material from stiff EVA to bouncy PEBA. This modification significantly reduces stability, making the shoes unsuitable for entry-level runners. Consequently, a special segment needs to be created for them.

Base Segment

Now that we've covered the basics, we can delve into the segmentation. The starting point is perhaps the most challenging aspect because it represents the middle rather than the extremes of certain characteristics. This segment embodies an average level of cushioning, stability, and lightness. . It is really hard to speak about this segment, because from one point of view it does not have any advantages, from other point of view, it is best among all. Shoes like Nike Pegasus, Saucony Ride, and Asics Cumulus fall into this category. We call this segment "base".

Bouncy Segment

One direction of improvement, as mentioned earlier, involves changing the midsole material to a bouncier one. This change do allow us to be a little bit more energized, achieve much better results during the races. However, it comes at the cost of reduced stability, which may lead to fatigue in the stabilizing muscles and ligaments, potentially resulting in injuries.

Swing Effect Segment

Another aspect that improves speed is enhanced geometry. Various enhancements, such as extended heels, asymmetrical midsoles, or no heels, exist. However, we'll focus on one in particular, known as the "swing effect improvement." This type of geometry requires increased shoe height to accommodate a rigid plate. The plate can be flat and placed over a stiff material, as seen in Nike shoes, or shaped like a checkmark, as in Adidas adizero shoes. Both designs work in a similar manner. When pressure is applied to the forefoot, it propels the heel, enhancing running efficiency and speed over long distances. Yet, this improvement has a downside—shoes with higher stacks compromise stability. If your foot isn't positioned neutrally, there is an increased tendency to bend towards one side. Therefore, shoes in this segment are not suitable for runners lacking developed stabilizing muscles or those with pronation variations.

Bouncy Swing Effect Segment

The next segment combines both a bouncy foam and swing effect geometry. These shoes are likely the fastest on the market, leveraging material and construction advantages. However, they also amplify the disadvantages of previous segments. They demand exceptional technique and high levels of preparation. We'll delve further into this segment later, but for now, let's explore other options.

Stability Segment

Returning to the "base" segment, we can explore a different direction of development. By incorporating additional rigid elements into the shoes, stability can be enhanced by preventing excessive flexing or twisting. Examples include Guiderails from Brooks, which restrict excessive lateral flex, and L.E.P. from Adidas, which blocks excessive twisting. Another option is a plate from ON-RUNNING, distributing weight evenly and reducing pressure on specific areas. While these additional elements increase stability, they also contribute to bulkiness and weight. Consequently, these shoes may not deliver the fastest times, but they minimize muscle fatigue and reduce the risk of injuries.

Support Segment

The next segment focuses on further stability development. It targets runners with undertrained legs and excessive pronation, which can't be adequately handled by the foot alone. To address these issues, brands incorporate wedges into the shoes to counteract excessive pronation and help new runners maintain a neutral stride. However, this results in extremely bulky and heavy shoes that aren't always the safest option. We'll discuss this segment further in our next video, where we'll help you select the right segment for your needs.

Extra Cushining Segment and Extra Light Segment

We've covered the essential segments, and now we can apply general adjustments to them. Firstly, increasing the amount of midsole material improves cushioning but also adds weight. This improvement is beneficial for heavier runners weighing around 80kg and above. Secondly, decreasing the amount of midsole material enhances lightness, improving the shoe's dynamics. However, this reduces cushioning, making it less suitable for runners without sufficient training.
As you can see from the diagram, not all essential segments incorporate these adjustments. In fact, one particular segment works in the opposite manner. Increasing the midsole material in the extra bouncy, swing effect segment exceeds the allowed limits. Typically, this segment features a midsole height of exactly 40mm, while 41mm and above are banned by world athletics due to being considered a mechanical advantage. Consequently, this modification increases running efficiency but further compromises stability.

Speed Segments

We haven't yet discussed specifics of shoes designed for speed. Although there are different types, they all have one common characteristic: a very thin upper. This design compromises durability and lockdown mechanisms but significantly reduces weight. And the fact is all of these segments are mostly not using it, so that amateur runners will feel comfort in them. While these segments do focus on speed and this is exactly what we wanted to add about them. They have this extremely light upper.

Moreover, we can make shoes from these extra light base and extra light bouncy segments even lighter by modifying the upper and further decreasing the midsole material. As a result, we obtain some of the lightest shoes on the market, made for fast running. However, the durability and comfort of the upper are significantly compromised, and the cushioning may be insufficient, making these shoes unsuitable even for advanced amateurs.

Barefoot Running Segment

We still have one valid segment and bunch of useless. The valid one is a barefoot running. These shoes provide only a protective layer rather than cushioning or stability. At the moment we would like to comment, that this is very valuable segment for those, who seek a progress, but we also would like to comment, that almost all videos from barefoot runners are tweaking the truth. If you are interested in details you will have to wait for special video.

Segment of mistakes

Lastly, we have the segment of mistakes, which represents our subjective opinion. Many runners enjoy shoes from this segment and hold positive views about them. This segment emerged when certain brands focused more on creating new technology rather than functionality of this technology. Examples include Mizuno Wave Prophecy, Adidas Springblade, Mizuno Wave Duel Pro QTR, and Adidas 4D FWD. These shoes generally have more disadvantages compared to other models from the same brands.

This concludes the overview of different types of running shoes. While it may seem overwhelming at first, navigating through them and finding the right shoes for you can be straightforward. In our next video, we will guide you in selecting the right running shoes by providing a simple questionnaire that matches you with the appropriate segment.
But you still have one open question: Are all shoes on the market match these segments. And to be honest – no. There are some options in the middle or even outside of this mapping. We will just give you few examples.

The ADIDAS Ultraboost is a running shoe that combines elements from different segments. While it features a bouncy foam, which aligns with the characteristics of the bouncy foam segment, it also incorporates a stability plate, which is typically associated with another segment focused on stability enhancement. As a result, it can be seen as a hybrid shoe that falls in the middle or overlaps between segments.

Another example, Asics TRI-NOOSA and GLDERIDE. They are not a plated shoe, but still due to extreme stiffness foam and higher stack of midsole usually associated with swing effect segment.

And to be honest there is something about every single shoe on the market, that make it unique and special. And that is why we will still keep making shoes reviews to highlight those differences. While this segmentation is the best, we could come up with to narrow down your selection from 300 pairs to 5-6.

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