Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy


If you’re new to the running ‘hype’, chances are you have no idea what kind of running shoes to buy or what does midsole and shank means. To save you the trouble and give you the things you need to know about running shoes. Think of it as Running Shoe Anatomy 101 🙂

Today, we will breakdown the running shoes and explain what they do and how it can help you when you are looking to buy a new shoes. Let’s get started!

Running Shoe Anatomy 101

running shoe anatomy1 Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running Shoe upper


Upper is the top of the shoe, hence the name. Today, most of the upper are made from breathable mesh and other materials that aims to keep your feet dry, and fresh.

Upper is here to make sure our feet is secured in it’s place, it is sewed or sometimes glued to the midsole. Some brands weave it in dynamic fibers and reinforcing straps. This helps the shape of your foot in place and keeps it when you twist and turn.

running shoe anatomy2 Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running Shoe Midsole


Midsole is the most important part of the shoe, mostly made from spongy material, like Ethyl Vinyl Acetate or Poyurethane foam, binds between outsole and upper.

The purpose of midsole protects your feet from impact, other shoe brands are doing a lot of cool things like ASICS, Brooks and Mizuno. All of them are designed to absorb shock away from your foot.

running shoe anatomy3 Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running shoe medial post

Medial Post

Located on the inside part of the shoe, this is placed to help you reduce over-pronation. Medial post are made from EVA, that is denser material than the midsole. It also helps you with stability.

running shoe anatomy4 Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running shoe shank


Purpose is to stiffens the shoe under the arch, which makes the middle portion of the shoe firmer (minimalist shoes doesn’t have it). Some of them wraps the shank up to the medial post part of the shoe to add more stability and thus allowing it to function more like a medial post.

running shoes outsole Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running shoe outsole


The main sole of the shoes that makes contact with the ground itself. Usually made up from durable carbon rubber, most of them has the same material as car tires, although more flexible and has a great tread for traction.

Different brands uses different kind of outsole, mainly for performance. Brooks uses a hard-wearing rubber calling it High Performance Rubber, and a softer rubber in the forefoot to aid cushioning.

running shoe anatomy5 Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running shoe heel counter

Heel Counter

Heel counter usually wraps around the heel of your foot, and it is either a solid or plastic material inside the shoe that is designed to hold your foot in place.

running shoe anatomy6 Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running shoe toe box

Toe Box

You can find it in the front of shoe, where your toes are 😉 Larger toe boxes have been the recent trends in minimalist shoes, since they allow your toe to move and claw when you are running.

You will need a degree of movement in the toe box as when we run our feet swell up, sometimes as much as an extra half a size. Trail shoes often have extra leather or plastic on the outside of the toe box to protect your prized digits against flint and rocks.

Since most of use swell our toes when we run, this is a must to consider. Trail running shoes usually has a plastic protector to protect your toes from rocks, flint and other materials.

I personally like a larger toe box or has a decent toe box, since I can move my toes when I am running.


Not the last one, but this can be curved, semi-curved or straight, this differs to supinators, neutral or pronators. This is entirely dependent to the shape of the medial line. When the arch is higher, the inward V is curved called “curved last”. While the foot is flat inward curved under the arch, it is called “straight last”.

Other thing to remember for last, is the way the upper was attached to the midsole, depending on what kind of last was used, will indicate how stable or flexible a running shoe is.

running shoe Height Learn The Basics of Running Shoe Anatomy

Running shoe height


Height has become important these past few years, especially from minimalist folks. The term “heel-to-toe drop” simply means the difference from the heel and forefoot of the shoe.

The purpose of height is the smaller the drop, the more likely it is that you’ll midfoot strike instead of heel striking. Though some people have to ‘work’ it to stop heel striking in shoes that has no drop or whatnot, others will midfoot strike in a shoe with a 12mm difference.

Either way, you are introducing shocks to your entire body every time you land. Heel strike is being absorbed by bones and joints, while midfoot strike will be absorbed by your muscles.


Hope this Running Shoe Anatomy can help you when you are shopping for that new running shoes, and these marketing tactics that they employ won’t work on you since you are armed with knowledge and knows what you wanted. In case I missed something, please let me know in the comments and please do share this to your friends, hope it helps them too 🙂


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