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Shoe Buyers Guide: The “Sole” Purpose

To say that I learned a few things while at Reebok is an understatement. And, since everyone has been asking me about each style, and asking for advice on what shoe to pick, I decided I’d better come home with some helpful answers! You should have seen me tapping my fingers silly on my iPad trying to get it all down so I could share everything I was learning with you.

As experts shared the technology behind each shoe, I began to understand why each style matters. Although each shoe has a unique look, they are all built for a specific reason – and it all starts with sole.

Can you tell which shoe is NOT a Reebok?

My Old Way of Shoe Shopping

I’ll admit, I used to choose a shoe based on looks and just overall comfort. I never even thought about performance. To me, performing well just meant being able to run without blisters and body aches. In my mind, a good pair of shoes just helped minimize impact so I didn’t suffer from unnecessary knee and hip pain when running.

That was my theory for running, and my theory for gym shoes was even worse. I chose shoes based on looks alone when it came to buying shoes for the gym. If they were comfy and looked cool, they ended up in my closet. This too has changed.

Lastly, my choice in a shoe became habitual. I kept buying specific brands just because that’s what I bought last time. On one hand, I can understand the “if it ain’t broke, dont’ fix it” thought process, but what about “you don’t know what you don’t have until you have it”. Well, that was me. I had no idea what I was missing, because I never really ventured out of my comfort zone. Lastly, I only bought one pair of shoes to last me about 6 months. This too has changed – and I’ll tell you why my shoe shopping has completely changed!

The Sole Purpose

The sole of a shoe is made for a purpose. Although I can’t speak for every brand, I can help you to understand various styles of shoes from Reebok, and why each shoe is made differently.

Walking: For walking, you just need to move forward comfortably. That is why most walking shoes look very basic – they are created to meet your basic needs, which are cushion and comfort. The tread is also normally pretty flat and smooth like a tire on a Cadillac. The sole is typically pretty solid, with just a few flex joints for some bending, like you see here in the Walk Around shoe. That’s also why someone’s shoe may slip off the heels of the foot when doing an exercise that requires more flexibility, like a mountain climber. If the shoe isn’t flexible, it resists these types of movements. The best thing to do in a walking shoe is walk.

Supportive Running: Before you go buying every shoe that’s labeled “running”, you should decide what type of runner you are. Are you a heel striker? Do you run on your toes? Do you like a lot of shoe or are you more of a minimalist? What type of ground are you running on? Once you answer all of those questions, THEN you can decide what shoe you want to buy. Here’s a few highlights of the running shoes I own.

Zigs: The ZigKick (yellow & black) shoe is one of Reebok’s newest shoes. It puts the cool cushiony design of the ZigTech technology (the zig-zag sole) where it’s needed most – the heel (perfect for heel strikers). The ZigLite Run (pink & black) has the Zig design all the way down the sole. Unlike walking shoes that have large blocks of rubber, with few joints for bending, the ZigKick and ZigLite Run have many joints, designed to give the shoe more flexibility, from heel to toe. If I’m not mistaken, the colored rubber represents the softer sole (also offering more give and flexibility), and the black represents the harder more durable sections. The ZigKick has more of the high-abrasion carbon rubber panels layered below the cushion for better traction and durability, making it a better cross trainer in my opinion. The ZigLite Run was made for runners so it’s sole is thinner and lighter, and only has the carbon rubber on the key strike and push-off areas. Both shoes are very well thought out and comfy – especially if you like a sturdy supportive shoe. (click on the names of the shoes to see video of the sole techology to learn more, located at the bottom of the Reebok page)


Minimalist Running and CrossTraining:

RealFlex TR: The RealFlex is built on a sole made up of a bunch of squares they call “nodes”. These offer the cushion and protection your feet need without resisting movement. Most shoes have large panels of rubber that are separated out by thinner strips of rubber so the shoe bends in those specific areas only, but the RealFlex allows the shoe to bend any which way. As you can see, those thinner panels are in a grid all over the bottom of the shoe, allowing the shoe to flex in every possible direction. That allows your feet to move more naturally with very limited restriction, and is great for going over uneven terrain (awesome for trail runs and cross training!) and doing exercises that require your feet to bend like mountain climbers and burpees.

Although the different color nodes look cool, they too serve a purpose. Like the ZigKicks, different colored panels of rubber show different types of rubber. A heavier more durable rubber is only placed where it’s needed most (green nodes), since it’s heavier than the lighter squishier rubber, so they can keep the shoe as light as possible – and it worked! These shoes are SUPER LIGHT! The wider nodes on the ball of the foot, offers more lateral support and durability, perfect for plyos.

Nano 2.0: The Nano 2.0 was inspired by CrossFit athletes and it probably the most versatile shoe I’ve ever owned. As you can see on the tread, the tread looks more like a tread of a Mickey Thompson truck tire, which is a beefy design to grip the ground when pulling heavy loads and going over all types of terrain. Created to handle the toughest jobs, this shoe was created for performance. The wider toe box allows your toes to spread out for balance (great for heavy lifts), and the low sole (5mm drop) allows your foot to stay low to the ground for good stability and a natural feel. Like how knobby truck tires wrap around the side of the tire for better gripping, the Nano 2.0 has a similar side wall lug pattern in the arch area to help grip a rope when climbing. You can also see a definite flexible joint (in white) to allow the toe to bend when doing exercises like jumping rope. Unlike the other shoes I mentioned, almost the entire outersole is carbon rubber for more durability and optimal traction. Although you may not want to run a marathon in this shoe, you could still use this shoe for running 7 miles or less. All in all, the sole purpose of this shoe is versatility – and it’s begging to be put to the test.

The Secret to Pain-Free Running

Now that I’ve worn these shoes, I honestly can’t go back to some of my old brands. I actually think the more shoe there is, the more our foot rebels – which makes sense if you think about it. There are more spots to rub, more restriction to irritate you and more rise to change your landing and your gate. But, I have to end this with one of the best tips I heard at Reebok – and one I’ve noticed myself: Don’t wear just one shoe. I used to wear only one shoe to run in. Reebok experts say its best to rotate 3 pair of shoes, and not run in the same pair back to back. This way your foot isn’t landing the exact same way for 6 months straight. By rotating shoes, it gives your foot a break and rotates the “beating”. I accidentally did this and was just telling a friend how much better I feel rotating shoes, so it was cool to hear it from the pros! In the end, you spend the same amount of money because you are dividing out your mileage – and your body will thank you!

PFIT PIC: Me (in the middle) after running the Turkey Trot in my RealFlex TR shoes in Vero Beach.

Remember, there are TONS of options – and there is a LOT more to talk about, but I hope now you at least know there is purpose for how the sole is constructed and the reason they do make so many different styles is so you can find the one that meets your particular needs. Happy Shopping!!

More Shoe Shopping Tips:

How to Select the Right Athletic Shoe

10 Tips for Shoe Shopping

How to Read Your Shoes

Owner of Lift Vero and motivational "pfitness, pfood and pfaith" blogger in Vero Beach, Florida.


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