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Erin From Saucony

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Everyone say hello to my good friend, Erin. She basically has the coolest job in the world. If you ever see a Saucony car (and trust me, you can’t miss it) cruising around Ohio, there is a good chance Erin is behind the wheel. She is Saucony’s Field Marketing Specialist, and a good one at that. I asked Erin if she could sum up what it’s like to work for one of the best running brands in the world. So, without further ado, here is her story with Saucony.

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“When I was a sophomore in high school my older brother tried to convince me to run cross country. I had been a part of the track team since middle school, but cross country? That wasn’t just one or two laps around the track. Cross country was a whole other ball game! My brother decided to take me out for a run to show me what the distance of a race felt like, and to prove that 3.1 miles wasn’t all that bad. He was wrong. It was awful and I hated every minute of it.

You can probably guess how this story ends. Yes, I joined the cross country team and even continued running in college as a walk on athlete to a Division 1 cross country and track team (Go Kent State Golden Flashes!) Somewhere along the way this really weird thing happened… I became obsessed with running.

I wasn’t just obsessed with my own running, (because let’s be honest I was very mediocre) I was totally infatuated with the entire sport… the professional athletes, the shoes, the different training tactics, the races (oh, the races)! If only my 20-year-old self knew then where my career would take me… but, where’s the fun in that.

So, here I am, four years into working for one of the best running brands in the world: SAUCONY. My daily life tends to be a mystery to those outside of this sport. People see me driving a Saucony car around Columbus. Occasionally I stop and unload dozens of shoes for strangers to try on, and we all run together. Yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds, but there is also so much more!

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My official title with Saucony is Field Marketing Specialist. Essentially, my responsibilities are to be the brand ambassador in the mid-Ohio region helping local retailers become educated on the product and bridging the gap with the consumer experience.

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How many of you have gone into your local running store and wondered, “What is the best shoe?” or thought, “My friend wears (insert any brand name here), so I must need those too!” The truth is, every foot is so different, especially in motion, that not every runners’ needs are the same. Cue the running brands! Each brand creates different types of shoes to help meet all runners’ needs. At Saucony, we pride ourselves on offering the best selection of running shoes that not only feel great walking around, but miles into your run- where it truly counts!

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this job is getting to bring the products directly to consumers. When a store like Columbus Running Company offers weekly social runs, they often invite brands to come out and get product in front of the runners. That means, yes, I bring shoes that people can ACTUALLY run in, because, let’s be real, you won’t truly know how a shoe feels until you’re a few miles into a run.

I love CRC

The other reason why “demo runs” are so cool is because it gives consumers a chance to give me real-time feedback on the shoes! One of the best parts about working for Saucony is how accessible we all are to each other. At any time I know I could reach out to our developers, designers, lab technicians or marketing team to give feedback from the field. This allows us to stay closely connected with what real runners want and need.

Like our brand manifesto says, “A good day is when we get to run. A great day is when we inspire someone else to run!” So, get out there and run!

Find Your Strong,

Erin”

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The Testing Phase

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You may want to check out my last post, “The Design Phase,” before reading this one. But if you are just now tuning in, I’ll catch you up real quick.

ProE, a freshman engineering design team, kindly agreed to help me test my running shoes. The team worked very hard all semester and came up with an awesome design that tested the bendability of aluminum while also incorporating my running shoes. The drop test device ProE designed is featured below. The only things I can take credit for are crafting the wooden foot, providing the running shoes, and helping to analyze the test results. ProE deserves credit for pretty much everything else such as designing the machine, doing the calculations, and performing the drop tests. So congrats to ProE for finishing their semester long design project! (And of course, thank you ProE for helping test my running shoes. I’m glad I could be a part of your design project.)

After the drop test device was created, it was time to begin the testing phase. ProE’s goal was to see a noticeable difference in the deflection of the aluminum beam according to the shoe the device was wearing. Deflection simply refers to how much the beam bends. To make the aluminum beam bend, ProE dropped the device from a specified height and watched how the aluminum beam reacted to the impact of the running shoe striking the ground.

In order to have controlled tests, ProE dropped the device off of a platform previously used for another project. The platform was seven feet tall. The aluminum beam was two feet long. Therefore, the shoe only fell a distance of five feet. The whole device weighted a total of 3.6lbs. Each running shoe differs in weight by a few tenths of an ounce so the weight of the device remained fairly consistent. In order to drop the shoe at the same angle for each test, ProE added a cantilever beam that hung off the edge of the platform. The team added two eyebolts about two inched apart to the underside of the cantilever beam. Then they attached one eyebolt to the top of the weight on the drop test device. The eyebolt on the device was placed at the device’s center of gravity in order to make the running shoe fall straight down. The falling device imitated a runner’s heel or midfoot striking the ground.

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The seven foot platform used for the drop tests
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A cantilever beam was hung off the edge of the platform
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The three eyebolts were lined up and a pin connected to a chain was fed through the three eyebolts

ProE used three running shoes for their testing phase. The test shoes included the Saucony Ride, Brooks Ravenna, and 361° Sensation. Each shoes’ midsole is made from different materials and each shoe has a different amount of miles on it. I’ve worn the Brooks Ravenna shoes for about 500 miles, the Saucony Ride shoes for about 300 miles, and the 361° Sensation shoes basically came right out of the box. With all the contributing factors, ProE was hopeful to see a difference in the deflection of the aluminum beam when the device was dropped from the platform. And indeed, the team saw a noticeable difference.

To preform the tests ProE team member, Tyler, climbed up on the seven foot platform. He lined up the three eyebolts, placing the eyebolt connected to the device in between the two eyebolts connected to the underside of the cantilever beam. Tyler placed a metal pin through the eyebolts. This suspended the device in the air until the chain connected to the pin was ready to be pulled, causing the device to drop.

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Hi Tyler!

ProE dropped the three shoes multiple times and recorded the falls using a slow motion camera. A board with graph paper attached to its surface was placed behind the drop test device so measurements could be taken. For the most part, the running shoes landed on the heel or midfoot then rolled onto the forefoot. This is exactly how a running shoe should act when it hits the ground. The natural movement of the running shoe should be forward. From the multiple videos ProE recorded, I chose the video for each shoe that best represented the falling shoe.

Here are the screenshots that best represented the point of maximum deflection in the aluminum beam.

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As you can see, the amount of deflection did not differ too greatly between the three shoes. The Saucony Ride and Brooks Ravenna deflected the aluminum beam about 3 inches whereas the 361° Sensation deflected the aluminum beam about 3.5 inches.  I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between wearing the three shoes, I’d choose the one that causes the least amount of deflection.  Therefore, I’d either go with the Ravenna or Ride.

Next are some screenshots that best represented the maximum height the running shoes bounced after striking the ground.

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As you can see, the 361° Sensation and the Saucony Ride got some air whereas the Brooks Ravenna barley left the ground.  My theory as to why the Ravenna did not bounce very high is that I already ran 500 miles in them so the shoes were already shot. This is why it’s important to buy new running shoes every 300-500 miles because after so many miles, the shoes do not return energy back to the runner. Even though the Brooks Ravennas did not return much energy, the 361° Sensation and the Saucony Ride returned quite a bit of energy back to the runner. The shoe literally popped the runner off the ground, which is exactly what we want.

So according to the results, out of the three shoes ProE tested, the Saucony Ride was the winning shoe. The Saucony Ride caused the least amount of deflection in the aluminum beam and it also returned the most energy to the runner. Now this doesn’t mean the other two shoes are bad shoes. I would be interested to see how the shoes compare to one another if they were all brand new shoes and had zero miles ran on them. But for now, we’ll just say the Saucony Ride is our winner.

So again, congrats to ProE! It was a pleasure working with you fellows.

 

The Design Phase

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Teamwork is always better than solo work. Every year at MVNU a new group of freshman engineering students are required to take Engineering Design I and Engineering Design II. Each semester the students are challenged with the task of making a machine that tests some type of material. When I was a freshman, my team designed and built a hydrostatic pressure-testing machine. Sounds cool, right? The machine tested how much pressure a 2-liter pop bottle could hold before bursting. Although the class revolves around designing and testing a machine, I remember learning much more than that. Leadership, teamwork, and communication are of utmost importance when groups of people are working towards a goal. Engineering Design I and II are great classes for incoming engineering students because they teach the students how to work in a team, along with how to design and build a machine.

Professor Winyard, the professor overseeing my running shoe testing project, happens to be the professor who teaches Engineering Design I and II. Together, Professor Winyard and I decided to include one of the freshman design teams in my running shoe project. The lucky freshman team that got to partake in testing my running shoes was ProE. The team consisted of six guys: De-Andre, Dustin, Jorge, Rodrigo, Tyler, and Yanni. The team’s original task was to design a machine that tested the bendability property of aluminum. ProE graciously agreed to incorporate my running shoes into their aluminum testing project.

Now, you might be wondering how one combines a running shoe project with an aluminum testing project. That was our first thought as well. But don’t worry; we didn’t design a running shoe sole made of aluminum. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t offer much cushioning. To combine aluminum testing and running shoe testing, ProE and I had to get creative.

For the first half of the Fall semester, ProE worked on the researching and designing phase of their project. Amazingly, they came up with a design that tested both aluminum and running shoes. Their final design is featured below. As you can see, the aluminum beam acts as a leg. The purpose of this device was to test how the running shoe and the aluminum beam react when the “runner” plants their foot on the ground. ProE simulated a runner striking their foot on the ground by dropping the test device off of a platform and recording how the running shoe and aluminum beam reacted to the impact.

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Although the drop test device is a fairly simple design, there was a decent amount of work that went into building the machine and performing the tests. First, a model was created using the software SolidWorks. It’s always a good idea to have a visual concept before you start building the machine.

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The SolidWorks model consists of a wooden foot, steel L bracket, an aluminum beam, fasteners, and a wooden weight at the top. Since all the running shoes ProE would be using for their tests were my running shoes, it was important that the wooden foot be approximately my size. This made me the perfect candidate to craft the wooden foot base. To start out, I traced my foot onto a piece of green engineering paper and cut it out. Next, I traced the paper outline onto a 2×4. I used the band saw to cut out the outline on the 2×4. Then the electric sander was used to shape the wooden foot into the approximate shape of my own foot. To allow the wooden foot to easily slide into each shoe, I chamfered the edges.

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ProE was then able to use the wooden foot as the base of their drop test device. Just like in the SolidWorks model, the real drop test device was fabricated out of the wooden foot, steel L brackets, an aluminum beam, fasteners, and a wooden weight. As you can see below, another wooden piece was added to the foot to make it fit more securely in the shoe.

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A steel L bracket and fasteners were used to connect the wooden foot to the aluminum beam.

And here we have the finished drop test device! ProE likes to refer to the device as “Little Jessi.” Seems fitting…

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How Hard Can Running Be?

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If you’ve ever tried on different brands of running shoes, it’s pretty obvious that some are softer under your feet than others. Some runners like lots of soft cushioning under their feet while other runners like more firm cushioning under their feet. There is no right amount of softness when it comes to running shoes. Every runner must personally determine the amount of softness they prefer under their feet.

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I was curious if I could put a number to the softness of my running shoes. As it turns out, I totally can! With the help of my handy dandy hardness tester, I was able to compare the hardness of seven pairs of running shoes. Incase you were wondering, yes, those are all my running shoes pictured above. No shame…

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This is a Shore A Durometer that measures the hardness of materials such as rubber, foam or soft plastic. This particular hardness tester ranges from 0-100. The higher the value is on the durometer scale, the more likely the material is to resist permanent indentation. The lower the value is on the durometer scale, the less likely the material is to resist permanent indentation. To put this into perspective, the human skin ranges from 0-10 on the durometer scale while glass measures 100 on the durometer scale.

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The hardness tester is a fairly simple and easy to use instrument. A needle sticks out at the bottom of the gauge. When the exposed end of the needle comes into contact with a material, the other end of the needle compresses a spring inside the hardness tester. The amount of compression applied to the spring is directly related to the value displayed on the hardness tester’s digital screen. If the spring is under a small amount of compression, a small measurement will appear on the screen (like if you were to measure the hardness of your skin). If the spring is under a large amount of compression, a large measurement will appear on the screen (like if you were to measure the hardness of glass).

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Before I tested the hardness of my running shoes, I tested rubber blocks. To do this, I used the Durometer Test Block Kit pictured below. Each color of block had a different hardness.

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I took ten measurements of each colored block and averaged the values. The average values I measured were within +/- 3Ha of the given Durometer Test Block Kit measurements. Not too bad.
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Then I got to the exciting part. I tested the midsole hardness of my seven pairs of running shoes. I found the results to be quite interesting. According to my findings, Saucony’s shoes were the softest followed by Asics, Brooks, 361°, then Mizuno. Like I mentioned before, there is no right amount of softness when it comes to running shoes. Runners who like a softer shoe might like Saucony or Asics while runners who like a firmer shoe might like Mizuno.
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Midsole Hardness

After I tested the midsole hardness, I tested the outsole hardness of the same seven pairs of running shoes. The Asics outsole measured to be the hardest material by far. The other six outsoles measured relatively close to one another ranging from 55-58 on the durometer scale. Typically, the harder outsole materials last longer. However, since the harder materials are denser than the softer materials, the harder materials tend to weigh more than the softer materials. This is a tradeoff every runner has to consider.

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Outsole Hardness

So next time you go to buy new running shoes, take your hardness tester with you. Just kidding. You might be the person who likes a tremendous amount of softness under your feet. Or you could be on the other end of the spectrum and like a shoe that feels more firm under your feet. Whatever the case, I simply advise going with the shoe that feels most comfortable on your feet. You are the judge of how much softness or hardness you prefer.  That’s why different brands offer different amount of hardness in their shoes.

Let’s Play “12 Questions”

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What is the #1 thing you’re looking for in your running shoe? This is the question, along with many other questions, I asked my cross country teammates and Columbus Running Company’s Saturday morning group runners. The responses I received were all over the board. So what are people really looking for in their running shoes?

In order to produce a sellable product, the producer first has to know what the consumer wants. I came up with a twelve question survey to find out what runners want in their most important piece of equipment: their running shoes. Although runners are looking for different and specific qualities in their shoes, I found some common characteristics the majority of people want.

The first question I asked my 28 survey takers was, “What brand and model of shoe do you currently train in?” As I expected, my teammates and CRC’s group runners trained in some of the most well known brands such as Asics, Brooks, Saucony, Nike, Mizuno, New Balance, and Hoka. I asked the runners to rate the overall comfort of their shoes on a scale from 1-10, 1 being unbearably awful and 10 being heaven on their feet. Most of the runners rated the comfort of their shoe to be an 8, 9, or 10. So these top brands must be doing something right! Good job guys.

When I asked the runners more specific questions about the flexibility, durability, and weight of their shoes they surprisingly gave very similar answers. Most of the runners thought the flexibility of their shoes were “just right.” They thought their shoes moved and flexed nicely with their feet while running. However, the majority of my teammates and CRC’s group runners were not happy with the durability and weight of their shoes. We all wish our shoes could last 1,000,000 miles and weigh a fraction of an ounce. That would ultimately be the best shoe on the market but that’s just not very realistic… Quite a few people mentioned they wanted a more durable upper (the upper is the part of the shoe that covers the top of your foot). Just a fun fact, if your toes poke holes through the upper, it probably means your shoes are too small or too narrow. Try going up a size or a width and you shouldn’t have a problem with the durability of the upper. As far as the durability of the outsole and midsole goes, runners can typically get 300-500 miles out of a training shoe before the materials break down and the shoes are no longer good for anything except mowing the lawn. That’s not 1,000,000 miles but it’s sufficient for the average runner.

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The shoe on the left ran 500+ miles whereas the shoe on the right is brand new. As you can see, the outsole materials break down from the constant pounding and frictional contact with the ground.

Like I said before, runners taking the survey were generally unhappy with the weight of their training shoe. Today, people want the lightest and fastest shoe possible. I noticed that a lot of my teammates and CRC’s group runners were running in some hefty stability shoes. Stability shoes typically tend to be on the heavier side of the spectrum due to the immense amount of support and cushioning the shoe offers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For a women’s size 8, trainers can range anywhere from about 6.5 ounces to 9.2 ounces. A difference of three ounces may not sound like a huge deal but when you are running a race, three ounces can feel like a bag of bricks. If you are looking for a lighter weight trainer try the Saucony Breakthru, Brooks PureCadence, or Hoka Clifton. All of these models offer adequate support without the extra weight.

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Brooks PureCadence. I found these beauties at a yard sale for 25 cents (best 25 cents I’ve ever spent!) They are super cushioned yet light on your feet. The Brooks Pure line offers a substantial amount of support due to the “nav-band” located around the upper.

The last question I asked my teammates and CRC’s group runners was, “What would you improve/change about your shoe?” Even though I received 28 difference opinions, everyone basically said the same thing. I came to the conclusion that the majority of runners want a lightweight shoe that’s comfortable, durable, and stylish. However, I also came to the conclusion that everyone has different definitions of lightweight, comfortable, durable, and stylish. No two runners have the same feet but every runner wants a running shoe specifically tailored to fit his or her unique foot. This is why some brands work for some runners while other brands work for other runners. In reality, there is no universal shoe that works for everyone. You just have to find the right one that works for you! So let the search begin. Ready, set, go!

What’s Beneath My Feet

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For this blog, I want to focus on two awesome and unique types of running shoe midsole cushioning. One type can be found in Saucony’s shoes and the other can be found in Brooks’ shoes.

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The Ride, Saucony’s top selling neutral shoe, is pictured above. The factor that sets Saucony apart from other brands is their use of PowerGrid technology. The PowerGrid technology is featured in the yellow layer of cushioning you see in the shoe above.

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This photo can be found on Saucony’s website. The PowerGrid cushioning makes Saucony a very springy and responsive shoe. So how does the PowerGrid actually work, you ask? Think of it in terms of a tennis racket and tennis ball. The PowerGrid acts like the tennis racket and your foot acts like the tennis ball. When the ball hits the racket, the racket absorbs the impact from the ball then returns the ball back in the direction it originally came from. In the same manner, when your foot strikes the PowerGrid, the PowerGrid absorbs the impact from your foot and responds by returning the energy and causing your foot to pop off the ground. Basically, it’s like having a trampoline built into your shoe. Pretty neat, huh?

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Next, we have Brooks. While most running shoes use EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam for the midsole cushioning, Brooks uses something special they like to call DNA. The DNA midsole cushioning is the grayish/whitish material you see in the shoe above. It’s made up of a non-Newtonian material.

So what exactly is a non-Newtonian material? I’m glad you asked. A non-Newtonian material is a material that changes its viscosity depending on how much force is applied to its surface. As you probably guessed, Sir Isaac Newton was the genius who discovered the material (hence the name). Brooks put the material to use in their shoes and ta-da, we have a non-Newtonian cushioning called DNA. DNA tailors itself to the type of cushioning you need for each step. Suppose you are going for a lite jog, which causes a relatively small amount of force on your shoes. The DNA material acts in such a way that it provides a great amount of softness and plushness for your feet. Now suppose you pick up the pace and apply more force to your shoes. The DNA material changes it’s viscosity and becomes a firmer and more responsive material, popping you off the ground and propelling you forward. In simple terms, DNA is adaptive cushioning that responds to your unique stride. (I came up with that myself… Just kidding, I found it on Brooks’ website.)

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And you thought a running shoe was just a shoe. Nope, that’s not the case at all. Next time you go for a run, you can think about all the forces and reactions going on beneath your feet. Or at least that’s what I’ll be thinking about.

Heart and Sole

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Everyone is familiar with the cliché saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that matters.” Typically, it’s talking about people but the saying goes for running shoes too. The cushioning of the midsole is the heart of the shoe. In other words, the sole of the shoe is the soul of the shoe.

I’ve collected quite a variety of shoes throughout my running career considering I’ve been running for nine years and switch shoes approximately every 500 miles. For some unknown reason I always hoard my old shoes (I’m pretty sure every runner does though). Within a ten meter radius, I found five pairs of old running shoes nonchalantly lying around my room. I found the Saucony Ride, Brooks Ravenna, Asics GT-1000, Saucony Mirage, and 361° Sensation. I began to wonder what made these five shoes different from one another. (Isn’t that what every college kid thinks about in their spare time?) On the outside, the shoes looked fairly similar. However, all the shoes felt very different on my feet. I hypothesized that the unseen cushioning on the inside of the shoe must differ from brand to brand. Well my curiosity got the best of me as I took my shoes to MVNU’s engineering shop to slice them in half and investigate the inside. It broke my heart to say goodbye to my beloved shoes but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

To begin the procedure, I secured my shoe to a homemade cutting fixture made out of plywood, 2x4s, 2x2s, and wing nuts and carriage bolts.

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Once the shoe was secure, I ran the cutting fixture through the band saw. The band saw blade created a clean cut down the center of the shoe.

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One by one, I secured my shoes to the cutting fixture and sliced the shoes vertically in half. (I only cried a little.)

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It was really exciting to see the soul of the shoe. I discovered that each shoe uses its own methods and materials for the midsole cushioning.  As you can see in the photos below, some of the shoes have multiple layers of cushioning and each layer has its own hardness, density, elasticity, durability, etc.  Every layer and material adds its own “feel” to the shoe. So as the saying goes, it really is the inside that matters.

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Brooks Ravenna 6
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Asics GT-1000
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Saucony Mirage
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361° Sensation
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Neutral Vs. Stability

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When a customer walks into CRC looking for a pair of running shoes I like to play 20 Questions before I even look at their feet. “Have you ever been fit for a running shoe? Have you had any recent injuries? How many miles do you run a week? Do you know if you are neutral or stability?” When I get to the neutral or stability question, my customers usually shrug their shoulders and raise their eyebrows in confusion. Most people don’t know the difference between a neutral and stability shoe. Well hopefully this clears it up…      

There are three main types of running gaits. You have neutral, over pronation, and supination (also known as under pronation). It’s very important to know your gait type when shopping for running shoes.

I’ll start with neutral since that’s the ideal and most efficient gait cycle. When a neutral runner’s foot strikes the ground the foot remains in a neutral position (as the name suggests) throughout the entire gait cycle. From the heel strike to the push off phase, there is an even amount of pressure distributed on the foot. Runners who have a neutral foot typically have pronounced arches that hold their shape throughout the gait cycle. It’s pretty obvious that a neutral runner needs a neutral shoe. Neutral shoes offer an even amount of cushioning throughout the midsole. Some examples of neutral shoes include Brooks Ghost, Saucony Ride, Mizuno Wave Rider, New Balance 880, and Asics Nimbus. And that just to name a few.

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This is the Saucony Ride 7. As you can see, the midsole (the white part) is made entirely of one type of foam.

Next is over pronation. When an over pronator’s foot strikes the ground they usually start by striking on the outside of the heel. As the foot progresses through the cycle the foot rolls inwards and the runner’s arches flatten out. This creates unwanted pressure on the inside of the foot. Over pronation creates unhealthy torque in joints such as the ankles, knees and hips. When the feet, ankles, knees, and hips are unaligned the runner is likely to develop injuries due to uneven amounts of stress on the body. Runners who over pronate typically have flat feet or low arches that tend to collapse during the gait cycle. An over pronator needs a stability shoe. Stability shoes offer cushioning just like a neutral shoe. However, stability shoes have a post. A post is dense foam (or another denser material) under the arch that adds additional support. The post prevents the feet from rolling inwards and keeps the arches propped up. This created better alignment with the feet, ankles, knees, and hips and ultimately prevents injuries. Examples of stability shoes include Asics Kayano, Saucony Hurricane, New Balance 860, Brooks Adrenaline, and Adidas Supernova Sequence Boost.

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This is the Brooks Ravenna 5, a lite stability shoe. As you can see, the midsole consists of two different foams. The white foam is what you would find throughout a neutral shoe. The green foam is the post which is made of a denser foam.

Lastly, we have supination. Supination is basically the opposite of over pronation. The runner strikes on the outside of the heel and continues to stay on the outside of the foot throughout the entire gait cycle. Like over pronation, supination can cause all kinds of injuries due to the fact that the feet are not properly aligned with the ankles, knees and hips. Runners who supinate are rare but they typically have very high arches that hold their shape throughout the gait cycle. A supinator does not need a stability shoe; rather a neutral shoe will be most beneficial.

Don’t worry; I don’t go through that whole spiel with my customers. I simply ask them to take off their shoes so I can do a gait analysis. As I watch my customers walk, I look at the movement in their feet and ankles as they progress through the gait cycle. In simple terms, if their feet roll down the center, they are neutral. If their feet roll inward, they over pronate. If their feet roll outward, they supinate.

*** Warning: If feet gross you out, proceed no further.

My wonderful teammates let me take pictures of their beautiful feet!

Neutral Runner
Over Pronator
Supinator

Up and Running

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Growing up, I was never the most coordinated kid. I could not pass a basketball, swing a softball bat, or kick a soccer ball to save my life. However, there is one thing I was always good at. I could run. After I came to the realization that I was never going to become a star player on the basketball court, I started running cross country. And let me tell you, that was the best decision of my life. I still remember my first ever cross country practice in 7th grade. I was wearing long red basketball shorts and a t-shirt that was probably two sizes to big. We ran three miles and I was one of the first 7th graders to finish so I was feeling pretty good about myself. I remember thinking, “I finally found something I’m good at! Woo hoo!”

Fast-forward a little bit to high school. First things first, I got some real running clothes and pitched the heavy basketball shorts and huge t-shirts. I also invested in a quality pair of running shoes from a local running specialty store called Columbus Running Company. My sweet new running gear made me feel like the fastest girl in the world. Soon, “runner girl” became my identity and I was 100% okay with that. Throughout high school, I was surrounded by teammates and coaches who were encouraging and excellent role models. I learned how to work hard, push my limits, and be a team player (all good qualities for life in general). While in high school, I helped my cross country team qualify to the State Championship twice and I also broke my school’s 3200-meter record that had stood for ten years prior.

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The 3200-meter run was always my favorite race in high school.

Running and competing were such a huge part of my life that I was not willing to give up after high school. So as I began my college search my main requirement was to find a school with a good cross country program. Mount Vernon Nazarene University was one of the last schools on my list but it’s now the place I call home and I couldn’t be happier. I am currently a junior at MVNU and the captain of my team, which consists of thirteen girls.

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My girls. My second family. My home away from home.

Running has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I fell in love with the sport in 7th grade and I believe it’s something I will continue to love for the rest of my life. Now that I am in college, I think about my future a lot. Ultimately, I aspire to become an engineer. If I could incorporate running into my engineering career, I’d be one happy girl.

If you think about it, a runner’s most important machine is their running shoes. According to Webster’s dictionary a machine is “a device that assists in the performance of human tasks.” People typically don’t think of running shoes as machinery but imagine going for a 10 mile run without running shoes… Sounds painful, right? Quality running shoes provide a tremendous amount of assistance to the runner.

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The way I see it, I need four things to become a running engineer. One: I need to be a runner. Two: I need to be an engineer. Three: I need to learn as much as I can about running shoes. And four: I need to make connections with the running industry. Like I mentioned before, I religiously bought new running shoes every 500 miles from a local running specialty store, Columbus Running Company (a.k.a. the #1 running store in the Nation in 2014!!!). I figured they were my best resource for learning about running shoes. I decided to send CRC my resume and application to see if they needed help in the stores during the summer months. CRC welcomed me onto their staff team the summer of 2015. It would be an understatement to say I had a spectacular summer with CRC. I learned so much about the shoes and the running customers. I would go to work happy everyday because I was surrounded with runners and it was awesome.

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Meet Pete! He regularly came into CRC to show off his Senior Olympic medals. At 85 years young, Pete won the 800-meter run with a 3:40! Go Pete, go!

Working at CRC confirmed that I wanted to stay within the running industry forever. Although I cannot work at CRC much throughout the school year, I want to continue to increase my knowledge about running shoes. This semester, I’m working on a voluntary project where I’ll be exploring the engineering behind running shoes! This project is not a requirement for my school but it’s something that highly interests me and I love exploring and experimenting, especially if it involves running.

I’ve worn many brands throughout my running career and they all have their pros and cons. Throughout this project, I want to investigate and analyze different running shoe brands and understand why the company makes the shoes the way they do. In the end, hopefully I can combine all the good characteristics of each shoe into one super shoe. Let the fun begin! Ready, set, GO!

“If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.” – C.S. Lewis

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