Making your first trip to your local running specialist to choose a pair of shoes can be a daunting prospect.
A reputable shop will always try and make sure they sell you the best shoes for you, rather than the most expensive ones, but in order to understand your needs, you have to be able to communicate them.
Before you go shopping, determine your foot type with the wet test.
Check out our jargon-busting guide to the technical talk before you purchase.
Arch lock A reinforced mesh that wraps the midfoot tightly and supports the arch. If it’s not snug, the foot will move inside the shoe, causing blisters.
Biomechanically efficient A runner with a foot which follows the natural gait cycle, with no excessive inward or outward rolling. Does not need added stability features in a shoe. Also called ‘neutral’ or ‘efficient’.
Blown rubber The lightest, most cushioned and least durable form of rubber on the outsole. Made by injecting air into the rubber.
Carbon rubber A harder, more durable outsole, made from solid rubber with carbon additives.
Collar Made of a soft material, the collar should wrap just below the ankle and supply a snug, gap-free fit.
Cushioned shoe A shoe without added stability features, for biomechanically neutral runners.
Cushioning The ability of a shoe to absorb the forces of footstrike. Except at the extremes, there’s no right or wrong level of cushioning, but heavier runners tend to do better with firmer shoes.
Dual-density midsole A mechanism, usually a firmer wedge of foam on the medial (inner) side of the shoe, used to correct overpronation.
Eyelets The laces run through these to tighten the shoe. If you feel pressure under a pair of eyelets, you don’t have to use those ones to tie your shoe.
Flex grooves Indentations moulded into the midsole and outsole to make a shoe more flexible.
Flexibility The ability of a shoe’s forefoot to bend under the ball of the foot. If the shoe does not flex easily under your weight, your foot and leg muscles have to work harder, which saps energy and can cause injuries such as shin splints.
Forefoot The broad, front section of the shoe or foot. This is the point from which you propel yourself forward so it’s important that the shoe is protective, yet responsive. Some runners land on the fronts of their feet, and need maximum cushioning in the forefoot of their shoes. They’re called – appropriately – forefoot strikers.
Gait cycle The natural movement of the foot against the ground when you walk or run. The rear, outer part of the heel hits the ground first: the foot then rolls forwards and inwards (pronates) as the arch collapses to absorb shock; then it moves on to the inner and front part of the forefoot as the foot stiffens and pushes away from the ground (toe-off).
Heel counter An internal support feature in the rear of the shoe that sits around your heel, and usually has a notch cut in the top to prevent irritating the Achilles tendon. The fit of the shoe isn’t perfect unless the heel sits flush against this stiff backing. Tapping the foot back into the heel will lock it into position.
Insole The foot-shaped insert, usually removable, which sits between your foot and the shoe. Also known as a ‘sockliner’.
Laces Used to pull the upper around the arch. If you can feel your laces, either they or the tongue are too thin.
Lateral The outside (little-toe) edge.
Lugs Deep, rubber tread on the underside of the shoe to provide grip in off-road conditions.
Medial The inside (big-toe and arch) edge.
Medial post A firmer density of foam, sometimes with an additional plastic device, inserted into the rear, arch-side section of the midsole to add support or control excessive rear motion.
Midsole The material (usually EVA or polyurethane foam) that sits below the upper and above the outsole, protecting you from impact and often encasing other technologies, such as gel pouches or air pockets, for extra durability and protection.
Outsole The durable part of the shoe that makes contact with the ground, providing traction.
Overlays These leather strips over the top of the upper work with the laces and eyestays to make the shoe conform to the shape of the foot.
Overpronation Excessive inward rolling of the foot,
which prevents normal toe-off and can expose you to a host of injury problems, particularly in the knees.
Pronation The inward rolling of the foot, which is a natural part of the gait cycle.
Supination The opposite of overpronation; the foot rolls outwards on impact, and needs to be corrected with appropriate footwear.
Toe-box The front part of the fabric upper surrounding the toes.
Toe-off The final stage of the gait cycle, which propels you forward as your foot pushes off from the ground.
Tongue The tongue should be pulled up tight and lined up straight. You should use a tongue’s lace keeper to hold it in place.
Underpronation Too little inward rolling of the foot to dissipate the force of the footstrike.
Upper The fabric section of the shoe at the top of the foot, that holds the laces.
Vamp The part of the upper that surrounds the toe-box. If you can pinch half a cm or so, the vamp is too baggy.