Running Shoe Types and Parts Defined

Running Shoe Parts

Upper. EVA. Collar. There are dozens of terms to identify the parts of a running shoe, and that can be overwhelming as you research and try to find the right pair for you.

Before you buy your next pair, take a look at these definitions to brush up on the running shoe anatomy so you'll know just what to look for in your next racing flat or daily trainer.


The upper part of the shoe is located exactly where it says—the "upper" part of the shoe. The upper is the part of the shoe that reaches across the top of your foot and holds it in place. It also includes the laces and sides of the shoe where they meet the sole.

Last or Lasting: The layer of material stitched on the upper, in between the midsole and sockliner.
Tongue: A strip of material also on the upper that provides padding for the top of the foot and keeps dirt and other items out of the shoe.
Eyelet: Holes for shoelaces to thread through.
Heel collar: The back of the shoe that wraps around the top part of the
heel and Achilles tendon.
Heel counter: The rigid inside part of the rear of the shoe that wraps around the heel.
Toe-box: The front part of the shoe; the space around the toes.

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The midsole includes the middle materials between the upper and the outsole of the shoe that provides bounce and protection. The midsole is typically made up of EVA, polyurethane foam or Dual-Density EVA. Sometimes the midsole includes gel or air between the foam, depending on the shoe manufacturer.

EVA: Ethylene-vinyl acetate foam. EVA is soft, lightweight and flexible.
Dual-density EVA: A midsole with two materials with different densities.
Stronger and heavier than pure EVA.
Polyurethane: Polyurethane is denser than EVA, but it's also more durable.
These soles do not have as pronounced a "bounce" as EVA midsoles.
Gel cushioning: A cushioning substance added to the forefoot and heel to help absorb shock.

More: When to Replace Running Shoes

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About the Author

Amanda Casanova

Amanda Casanova is a writer and journalist living in the Dallas, Texas area. She has worked for the Houston Chronicle, the Abilene Reporter-News and the Galveston County Daily News. She is an active runner and regularly competes in races in north Texas. She is currently training for her first half marathon. She blogs at and tweets at @acasanova10.

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