More and more people are wearing sports shoes for fashion, so many brands have capitalised on this by creating a huge variety of styles and designs to satisfy the wardrobes of the fashionistas. But beneath the glittery shoelaces and the leopard print fabrics there’s a lot more to sports shoes. Every component serves a purpose and understanding these will steer you towards the sport shoes that are perfect for you.
The Upper is the entire area above the sole. It is usually made with a breathable fabric to allow the feet to remain as cool as possible during exercise and dry out fairly quickly soon after. It sufficiently flexible to allow the foot to move as you play and provides enough support to restrict the foot from moving too much.
Tennis, squash, badminton, basketball, netball and squash shoes tend to feature tight uppers to keep the feet firmly in place because of the sheer variety of directions, speed and landings during play.
Running shoe uppers give more support at the front and back of the shoe to enable the foot to move effectively during the repetitive running motion.
Indoor training shoes like generic gym cross trainers will have a soft fabric upper while outdoor sports shoes like those used for grass court tennis feature a harder more durable material.
The upper has three components:
1. The Toe Box
This is the area from the toe to the laces at the front of the shoe. It may be plain fabric or reinforced with other materials to support the feet and cope with the demands of a given sport. Whatever your sport there should be a slight gap between the tips of your toes and the top of the shoe so make sure the shoes you buy allow for the wiggle factor.
2. The Vamp
This is the section with the laces and as such is the easiest part of the shoe for the wearer to adapt to his or her feet. Better quality shoes will have durable linings on the vamp which provide additional comfort and support. Generally speaking, the greater the variety of movement in a sport the greater the need for support from a snug-fitting vamp.
3. The Heel Collar
This is the area that circles your heel and may vary in height on certain shoes. Some sports shoes have high collars, like those in basketball, but they don’t prevent ankle injuries or really aid sports performance it’s more about comfort and style.
In a perfect fit your heel will sit below the heel collar and remain there while you play. If the collar pushes hard against your heel, or rubs your heel when you play, then the fit is not right.
The sole is comprised of three layers:
1. The Insole
The insole of a sports shoe is the material lining on which the foot rests. Typically it is a little cushioned, but the real cushioning comes from the midsole.
Those who need podiatric fittings can add these to customise their sports shoe and there are some great generic insoles you can slip into a shoe to address any issues you may have like fallen arches.
If you are adding an insole always account for this when you buy as you may have to go up a trainer size to accommodate its addition.
2. The midsole
This is the part of the shoe that provides the cushioning from impact and allows the sportsperson the flexibility for movement.
Materials used vary but typically the midsole will compress during play and gradually return to its original size and shape between games and workouts. Most sports shoes need 48 hours for the midsole to recover, so if you play regularly it’s advised that you invest in two pairs and alternate them to sustain the support they provide for longer.
The cushioning will vary across the midsole between the heel and the toe.
It’s estimated that a runner’s foot lands with a load two to three times the weight of the runner, so runners need a lot of cushioning. Runners with good technique will land on their heels and roll on to their toes as they run, so the lion’s share of the support and shock absorption is at the back and front in a good running shoe. And because the action of running hardly varies the flexibility comes from the middle of the midsole.
Racket and court-based game players run in all directions and stop and start frequently meaning they have very different requirement for cushioning and flexibility. Cushioning in these types of shoe is spread wider as is the flexibility of the midsole.
3. The Outsole
The outsole is what hits the floor or ground depending on your context of play. It has the appropriate grip you need for the surface you play on, the durability to cope with it and the flexibility to accommodate the movements you make.
Indoor sports like squash and badminton are played on smooth surfaces which require outsoles with great grip. Outdoor runners need more durable outsoles and also the right flexibility to cope with uneven surfaces. Grass court tennis players require a different type of grip that can also enable fast movement and rapid direction change, shoes for this sport also tend to have flatter outsoles to protect the turf as well as support the player.
Our final foot tip
If you’re a multisports player who thinks a simple cross trainer will do the job for every activity think again. It may seem like a huge cost to buy a different shoe for every sport, but remember they’ll all last longer if you do, added to which you’ll play better and are far less likely to be injured. And if you only play one sport make the investment in two pairs of sports-specific shoes. They too will last longer and you’ll definitely feel the benefits in your game and your body.
Now you understand more about sports shoes, take a look at our online store here where we sell a wide range of trainers for running, general fitness, gym and racquet sports including tennis, squash, badminton and racketball.