Running shoes or athletic shoes, sometimes trainers, are one of the most common sites on our streets today, worn by every type of person whether athleticor not. There are also a huge variation of types of running shoes and deigns for men, women, boys and girls. But where did the running shoe come from? The term Plimsoll was first used referring to shoes back in the 1870s.
On a ship, the Plimsoll line was a coloured band around the hull and if water got above it, the ship was flooded. When a new type of shoe came along which had a brightly coloured band on it and the same habit of letting in water that went over the line, the name stuck.
Plimsolls were originally a vacationers shoe but gradually came to be worn by tennis and croquet players. Soles were developed that had patterned grip to them and the British Army were the first to buy them in bulk. By the turn of the 20th century, athletic shoes were used for leisure as well as outdoor activities and were made compulsory for Physical Education classes in the UK.
Running Shoe History
The first true running shoe came along in 1895 by a company called JW Foster and Sons; they featured spikes in the bottom for increased speed and traction. The company were contracted to make running shoes for Team GB in the 1924 Summer Olympics and Harold Abrahams won the 100m event in them while Eric Liddell won the 400m.
In 1892, the first rubber soled shoes were made in the US and were called sneakers. Customised basketball shoes were made by Spalding in 1907 but the market really shot away after World War I when sports were seen to be the way to demonstrate patriotism and moral fibre. Endorsements from famous sportsmen soon saw the young boys lining up to buy them.
Between the two World Wars, shoes for men and women began to be marketed while their popularity with Olympic sports personalities saw a boom among the general public.
Best Running Shoes for Men
Rudi Dassler was inspired by these new running shoes and started making his own in his mother’s washroom in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria after World War I. He marketed his shoes at the 1936 Olympics and Adidas was born. Before the Second World War, he was selling 200,000 pairs a year.
Meanwhile in the UK, JW Foster and Sons who had made the first running shoes back in 1895 had a change of name in 1958 when the founder’s grandsons, Joe and Jeff Foster renamed the company – Reebok. They first made it across the US in 1979 when a sporting good distributor Paul Fireman saw the Reeboks at a trade show and negotiated to sell them at home.
Another massive name in running shoes actually started out as a distributor for a Japanese show maker Onitsuka Tiger (now ASICS). The company was first called Blue Ribbon Sports and was founded by athlete Philip Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman in 1964. They opened their first store in 1966 in Santa Monica, California and by 1967 had expanded to the east coast. By 1971, their relationship with Onitsuka Tigers came to an end and they began selling their own products under a new brand: Nike.
Women’s Running Shoes
At first, women’s running shoes were a bit of a gimmick and they were simply smaller than men’s were. However women soon began complaining that the shoes didn’t fit right and weren’t comfortable so the manufactures realised real research was needed.
The main difference that research uncovered was regarding the width of the shoe. Women’s shoes are wider in the forefront and toe area but narrower in the heel, reflecting the differences in the feet shapes of men and women. Even if a man or woman’s shoe is numbered as the same size, manufacturers have often incorporated different mid-sole materials or support in the heel.
The other piece of research uncovered was what came to be known as the Q-angle. This is the angle of incidence of the quad muscle relative to the kneecap. Because women had hips that are normally wider than a man’s so they have a wider Q-angle and therefore require greater support in the heel.
Women also have around 15% less muscle than men so they weigh less than a man of the same height and size shoe. This results in women’s shoes designs having less impact when they strike the ground so the midsole are often lighter and softer.
Like all areas of running shoes, quality has kept increasing and costs have gone down. This means that cheap women’s running shoes are a reality.
Top Women’s Running Shoes
|Saucony Women's Spitfire Track Shoe,White/Black/Pink,7 M US||6 - 11.5||Yes||4 / 5||$$$|
|Puma Women's Complete Haraka XCS Track Shoe,Teaberry Red/Medieval Blue/Gloxinia,12 B US||Up to 12||Yes||4 / 5||$$$|
|New Balance Women's WMD500 Spike Track Shoe,White/Pink,6 B US||5.5 - 12||No||3.5 / 5||$$|
|Brooks Women's Pr Sprint Running Shoe,Neon Green/Silver/Pearlized White,9 B US||6 - 12||Yes||4.5 / 5||$$|
|Riddell XT 100 Track, Field Running Spike Shoes White Adult Unisex 11||3 - 11||No||3.5 / 5||$|
Best Women’s Walking Shoes
Many people will ask what’s the difference between walking and running shoes? It is surprising to find out that there is quite a bit. A lot of this has to do with the different mechanics the body uses when walking as opposed to running.
One such example is when walking, the weight rolls from the heels, through ball and into the toe and there are times when both of the feet are on the ground at the same time. However, when running, 2-3 times the weight of the body is on one foot and there is often times when only one foot is in contact with the ground.
Shoes that have been designed specifically for walking tend to have lightweight soles as well as a soft fabric lining. Other brands use a gel cushioning system, which absorbs the impact of the foot connecting to the ground.
Best Hiking Boots
The first two things to consider when choosing hiking boots are: how much hiking are you planning and what is comfortable on your feet?
Firstly, how much hiking you are planning on doing is relevant to what type of hiking boot you go for? There are four main categories; light hiking shoes, hiking boots, backpacking boots and mountaineering boots. Most people won’t encounter the latter two are they are more specialist footwear. Of the first two, light hiking shoes are lower cut than boots are with flexible midsoles designed for day hiking while the boots can be mid or high cut and ideal for day hikes as well as backpacking with light loads.
The second question, of what is comfortable on your feet is something you probably have a good idea about from previous pairs of shoes. The height of the boot is something that can be relevant to the activities undertaken. For example, low cut shoes provide less roll resistance around the ankles but are good for well-maintained trails or not carrying a load. Mid cut boots protect the ankles and support them while high cut boots give excellent protection and support and even enhance balance if you plan to go on rough trails.
Our Hiking Boot Picks
Men’s Work Boots
Work boots can be a vitally important part of the on-the-job gear to protect feet against the hazards that can occur in many jobs. There are a wide range of materials and constructions of boots available that are designed with certain jobs in mind.
Steel toe boots are also known as safety boots and have a protective reinforcement on the toe area made from steel. This means that if something falls on the foot, toes have extra protection. Often these boots have protective plates in the soles. This means these work boots aren’t as flexible as many types of boots so the fit is crucial as there will be no softening or getting looser.
Insulated boots are designed for people working in a cold environment and use a variety of insulation methods such as wool or synthetic fibres. They can often use Thinsulate, a special material aimed at heat insulation.
Waterproof boots similarly keep the feet warm in wet conditions and are usually thicker and heavier than normal boots are. The often are made with a nylon mesh which has the waterproof later added on top so they are lighter than leather boots are.
Slip resistant boots have rubber soles so are non-slip on oily or wet surfaces. These are most commonly used by people in the catering trade as well as factories and ships.
Like most all types of boots, ski boots are available in men’s, women’s and kids’ ranges and these all have different properties aside from just the size. Women’s ski boots are generally shorter around the cuff area to avoid pinching at the calf and usually have a tighter heel and ankle area.
Kids’ boots follow a similar idea; they are smaller in the cuff area to accommodate smaller legs as well as not being as stiff as men’s boots are, as kids don’t have leg strength to twist in the boots.
Ski boots are usually measures in a sizing called Mondo Point which uses centimetres and generally come in sizes which cover a half centimetre i.e. 27.0-27.5 being one size. The boots can also be graded by the experience level of the skier so there are beginners and intermediate boots as well as expert and advanced levels. The more advanced ones have extra features to help a better performance.
Plantar fasciitis and Boots
Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the tissue running under the sole of the foot, the plantar fascia, thickens. It can be due to injury or repeated accumulation over time and can be painful.
Taking up a new exercise that suddenly increases the intensity of what you do can cause the condition, as can having flat feet, a tight Achilles tendon or even an abnormal walking position. It can also be brought on by being on your feet a great deal, from medical conditions such as arthritis or from wearing shoes that don’t provide the right amount of support.
Treatment can vary from rest to measures such as heel pads and stretching exercises to pain relievers and ice treatments. The extremes can see steroid injections and a walking cast.
If you have the condition or have recovered from it, what you wear on your feet is even more important than normal. Such features as firm heel counters and minimal twisting of the midsole areas are very important as well as having strong arch support.
There are a range of products for the condition from in-sole supports and special bandages to shoes and boots that are specially designed for people with this and similar conditions. Check out our special section on this for more information.
One of the other most common feet conditions is flat feet, which is where the arch on the inside of the foot, a natural shock absorber, is very low and most of the foot is in contact with the ground. This means the ankle twists inwards as the runner tends to roll the foot inwards when running. Long term, the condition can lead to back problems, tendonitis and shin splints.
The good news is that flat feet no longer mean you cannot run or undertake other activities because there are ranges of shoes specially designed for the condition. They tend to have greater stability control to avoid the rolling of the foot or extra padding with foam or similar material. This restricts the movements of the foot and again, stops the rolling motion that causes so many problems.
Anatomy of a running shoe
When reading through these pages, and anything connected with running shoes in general, you will hear some terms. You probably know what they mean, but in case, here’s a little run down of the anatomy of a running shoe.
Outsole – this is the bottom of the shoe, the part where the grip is and that comes into contact with the ground most all of the time
Midsole – this is the layer above the outsole that is usually made of a springy cushioned material to give support
Gel cushioning – some shoes have gel cushioning at strategic parts of the shoe to help add to the support
Insole – also called the sockliner, this is the part of the shoes that your foot rests on and can be made from a variety of different materials
Tongue – this is a strip of the upper shoe that allows ease of access for the foot and to stop the lacing rubbing against the top of the foot
Heel collar – also known as the heel cuff, this is the top of the shoe which supports the heel and the Achilles tendon as well as stopping the foot from slipping around inside the shoe
Upper – this is the top of the shoe that keeps your foot inside it, using laces sometimes to add to the stability.