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Running 101: Sneaker Lingo

If you take care of your feet, ankles, knees, and hips, you should be able to pound the pavement for a good long while. Sneakers are important — you just got to love your kicks. Running shoes are designed to not only to cushion the impact of each stride, but also to support your foot and, in some cases, help correct gait and faulty biomechanics.

When shopping for shoes, you need to know your lingo. The following terms are as important as pump, wedge, and mule, and help explain the features you can find in sneakers.

  • Motion Control: This shoe style is recommended for runners who overpronate, or roll too far over the inside of their foot. These shoes tend to be stiff to help control the undesirable pronation by creating extra support in the inside of the arch. This type of shoe is also recommended for runners who are heavier and need extra support. If you have low arches or flat feet, these shoes are for you.
  • Stability: I like to think of this style of shoe as "motion control lite." They are great for runners who have mild to moderate pronation issues, with low to normal arches. These shoes also tend to be stiff.

To see the other two terms you should know,


  • Neutral: The name pretty much says it all — neutral shoes are just that. The shoe is not designed to prevent the rolling associated with pronation. If you tend to run more on the outside of your feet, known as supination, these are the shoes for you. Great for high to normal arches, and according to Runner's World this style is generally recommended for runners who make ground contact with their mid- or forefoot.
  • Performance: If you run to race, a performance shoe would be your race-day shoe. They weigh less than regular running shoes so you can be "fleet of feet." They also tend to fit a bit more snug than the styles listed above. These shoes aren't generally recommended for training for runners with bad biomechanics since they have the corrective details found in a motion-control sneaker. The cushion and stability of performance shoes tend to vary from brand to brand.

When shopping for the right style of sneaker, I find it helpful to go to a specialty running store and try on a bunch and run around the block in them. The sales people are often serious runners themselves and can offer great sneaker advice.

What style of sneaker do you wear?


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