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Shoe Construction Basics

It is useful to understand some basics of shoe construction to discuss and select a quality shoe. The design of each component, the materials used, and the construction of the finished product all contribute to the ability of the shoe to meet your needs.


Shoes are built around a length that resembles the shape of a foot. Manufacturers spend considerable amounts of research to create lasts that will match the shape of their footwear to specific foot types. The upper part of a shoe is generally sewn together by hand, then secured to the last and attached to the sole. Three processes are commonly used in the lasting - cement lasting, slip lasting, and injection molding. The shape of a shoe is dependent on the last shape, the lasting process, and the materials from which it is made.

The materials in each component of shoes make up its quality. The following describes the basic components. 


Outsole 

The outsole's function is to provide protection, traction, and durability. It can also play a role in flexibility, stability, and cushioning. Outsoles are most commonly made from rubber or compounds mixed with rubber. They also may be leather or polyurethane. 


Midsole 

The midsole's function is to provide cushioning, support, stability, and guidance. Midsoles are made from polyurethane, ethylvinylacetate (EVA), rubber mixed with compounds, and other foam polymers. 


Insole 

The insole's function is primarily for tactile comfort, although it may add cushioning, moisture control, support, and guidance. Insoles are made from EVA, polyester, thermal plastic, graphite, and foam polymers. 


Upper 

The upper functions to position, support, and protect the foot. It also is the primary influence on fit. The upper consists of four distinct parts: the heel and heel counter, the midfoot saddle, the toe box, and tongue and lacing. Materials and design are wide-ranging. Some are functional, and others are simply aesthetic.  


Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes have influenced the entire footwear industry. Today, whether you're wearing a dress shoe, a hiking boot, a sandal, or a walking shoe, most will have incorporated materials that dissipate shock, make the product light yet strong, and have molded polymer midsoles for comfort. These technologies and others were first developed for athletic footwear as manufacturers tried to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse group of persons who stay active in sports or fitness. Although shoe types utilize similar technology, athletic footwear has evolved distinct products to match different uses. In most cases, the specialization of footwear meets the unique needs of a sport or activity. Construction is different for a tennis shoe that needs to provide strong lateral support and a highly durable forefoot compared to a running shoe that provides shock absorption at rear foot impact and efficiently supports the foot through the heel-to-toe transition. The more active you are the more important it is to select footwear within a specific category.


Almost anyone can benefit and enjoy a good quality athletic shoe for daily use. Even if a person is not active, these shoes often support the feet, prevent problems, and minimize pain better than casual or dress shoes. Use the "Choosing a shoe" section and try on footwear from several categories (i.e., walking, running, lightweight hiking, or cross-training).

The following section gives some further advice for different footwear types and activities.


Running

Running is very demanding on feet and legs. The repetitive stress from the force of deceleration at impact and propulsion at toe off combined with a person's foot anatomy, biomechanics, and gait make wearing the proper footwear essential.

Innovations in running footwear continue each year. However all quality running shoes share the following components:

  •   An abrasion-resistant outsole, particularly in the rearfoot. 

  •   A midsole that dissipates the force of impact. 

  •   A stable rearfoot that controls unnecessary motion. 

  •   A higher heel height and a flexible forefoot that enhances role through. 

  •   A breathable fabric upper. 

Along with these features, shoes may have multiple technologies and designs that add to cushioning, motion control, flexibility, decreased weight, and better fit. Finding the right combination for your feet can take time, but it will be worth the effort. For assistance in finding the right shoe for you, visit our friends at Gazelle Sports.


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