Sole material is the most important aspect that guarantees quality and durability of running shoes. Apart from that, it also provides the best comfort and proper support and cushioning to your feet.
While choosing shoes, it is essential to know about the sole material. The right one provides great traction to your feet. But how do you choose? Do not worry!
We bring this article for all such readers who want to know which sole material is best for running shoes. In this write-up, we will provide all the information on sole materials, their types, their specific benefits, and their uses.
Why Is Sole Material So Important?
The sole of a shoe is indeed the soul of it. It is that crucial part of the shoe that offers support and traction to your feet. Whenever you are walking or running, the sole part comes in direct contact with the surface. They secure your ankle and feet by facing all the ups and downs. Furthermore, it maximizes the surface traction and makes your running an enjoyable and happier experience.
This sole is a very crucial aspect to consider when looking for running shoes. The sole material should be of superior quality and should be capable of dealing with any kind of surface. Hence, these soles of running shoes are different from any other ones.
The other significant benefit of the sole is that it safeguards your feet against injuries, shocks, etc. This is instrumental for running shoes, and hence the sole material ought to be tough and durable.
What Are The Different Parts of a Sole?
In the earlier paragraphs, we discussed the significance of sole in running shoes. We learned how it supports the feet and, thereby, the entire body. Let us now try to learn about the different parts of soles and their importance in running shoes. The sole of a running shoe has three different parts and they are the outsole, the midsole, and the inner sole. Let us go through each part in detail.
As we all know, an outsole is nothing but the bottom part or the outer sole of the shoes. How do you know whether the outer sole is the best or not? Very simple. It should come with grooves to offer proper grip to the feet. Also, it has to be flexible. Only then you will get the required traction when walking or running. The outer sole usually comes in two materials, i.e., blown rubber, and carbon rubber.
Let us move on to the midsole of the shoe. As the name says, a midsole is a middle part between the outsole and the inner sole. You may think what is the need for a midsole. Well, its role is to provide the added or extra support and protection to the feet. This is essential, especially when you are walking or running on an uneven surface. Coming to the material, it is available in EVA, Dual EVA, and polyurethane materials.
3. Inner sole
The inner sole or the upper sole is the foundation of the shoe. It is a footbed that plays a pivotal role in providing required cushioning, comfort, and support to the heels. The insole is removable and easily washable, too. It usually comprises synthetic leather material to ensure durability. How do you measure the quality of the inner sole? This is how you can. It should have mesh networks inside it to allow the circulation of air. This helps in keeping your feet cool and fresh.
Now that we have a fair idea of the soles, let us learn which material is the best.
Which Sole Material Is The Best for Running Shoes?
The answer to this question is entirely dependent on the running style. We all know that the sole of the running shoes mostly comprises rubber and Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA) materials.
Let us try to analyze which of both materials are best for running shoes. We will have a look at their characteristics, their advantages and disadvantages, and their uses. Accordingly, we shall be able to decide which is the best suitable material for your running shoes.
1. Rubber Soles
We will start our discussion with the rubber sole. You can further categorize these into natural rubber and synthetic rubber. Let us discuss in detail about these below:
Natural rubber is a polymer derived or extracted from an isoprene compound. It is very soft, comfortable, and has great elasticity. However, it does not have water resistance and hence does not long laster. Hence, this material is ideal for indoor sports.
Synthetic rubber is a derivative of synthesized petroleum products. This type is the cheapest form of rubber, which you can further classify into the below types.
- Blown Rubber
- Carbon Rubber
- Air Rubber
- Hard Rubber
- Water-resistant Rubber
- Environmental Rubber
- Sticky Rubber
Here is a brief description of each type:
- Blown Rubber – Blown rubber is also known as air-injected rubber. It is a lightweight, softer and flexible material when compared to traditional rubber. Although it offers great comfort, it is not durable enough.
- Carbon Rubber – Carbon rubber is nothing but the addition of carbon to the original rubber. Since this material includes carbon, it is water-resistant and highly durable. This is one of the primary reasons why most running shoes contain this material.
- Air Rubber – Air rubber helps in improving shock absorption. However, it is less durable and hence not widely used in shoes.
- Hard Rubber – Hard rubber is the most durable and water-resistant material. This artificial rubber is strong and prevents slipping. Hence, you mostly find it in basketball shoes and other running shoes that are exclusively for rough terrain.
- Water-resistant Rubber – As the name says, this material has high resistance to water. Additionally, it is tougher and offers high durability. Shoes made with such soles are ideal for rough terrain and places with high rainfall.
- Environmental Rubber – This artificial rubber goes by its name, i.e., eco-friendly and made from recyclable materials. It is not durable, though.
- Sticky Rubber – This artificial rubber justifies its name by offering great grip and prevents slipping. It has high flexibility and hence used in most indoor sports shoes. This is best suitable for slippery floors.
2. Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate or EVA Soles
Let us move on to the second type and it is the Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate or EVA soles. This is a rubber-like material commonly used for sock liners, midsoles, outsoles, or sometimes, the entire shoes. This material is lightweight, flexible, elastic, wear-resistant, and available in many colours.
What Is The Significance of EVA Soles?
EVA soles can be a great option for running shoes and below are the reasons why:
- Flexibility – The EVA material offers high flexibility since it is softer than the rubber material.
- Shock-resistance – EVA soles are great absorbents of shock and give you all the comfort when running.
- Durability – EVA soles are the most durable materials that have a longer shelf life. These have fewer chances of damage.
- Lightweight – EVA soles are lighter materials.
- Ideal for Winters – EVA soles are best suitable for winters as they keep you warm.
What Are The Types of EVA?
Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) consists of both vinyl acetate and ethylene materials. You can categorize EVA into three different types based on the vinyl acetate (VA) concentration used in the compound production. The higher the vinyl acetate content in the shoes, the more durable they are. However, it makes them heavy. Below are the types of EVA:
- Polyethylene – Polyethylene is nothing but a modified vinyl acetate having a very proportionate of vinyl acetate, i.e., around 4%. The significant characteristic of this material is that it is not toxic in nature.
- Thermoplastic Ethylene – Thermoplastic ethylene consists of medium proportionate vinyl acetate, i.e., 4% to 30%. Hence, it has the identical behaviour of rubber.
- Ethylene-vinyl – The last type of EVA is ethylene-vinyl. It has the maximum concentration of vinyl acetate, which is over 40%. This compound has high durability than the other two types. Also, it is heavier than the rest.
Let us have a look at the other sole materials used for running shoes.
3. Polyurethane or PU Soles
PU soles are another type of material used for shoes. These earn the significance for meeting the requirements of running shoes. Yes, they are long-lasting, durable, and most important of all, comfortable. They are ideal for hard running shoes.
Below are the reasons why one should opt for shoes with PU soles:
- Flexibility – PU soled shoes offer great flexibility. And the best part, they are so comfortable that you can wear them for the entire day.
- Shock Resistance – PU soles are great absorbents of shock and give you excellent comfort when running. Moreover, they are eco-friendly.
- Wear Resistance – PU soles are tough and highly resistant to wear. As a result, they do not break easily.
- Anti-skid Feature – The shoes with PU soles come with an anti-skid feature that offers great grip and prevents slipping. Additionally, they provide amazing bending performance on slippery floors.
- Water Resistance: This material has high resistance to water, making the sole completely water-proof.
4. Leather Soles
The leather sole is yet another popular material used for shoes. Let us see its characteristic features and the benefits it offers.
Strong – These materials are harder than they appear.
Flexibility – Combining a leather sole with cork guarantees maximum flexibility and comfort. However, it is not suitable for running shoes.
Cushioning – These soles come with multiple layers of feathers, thereby providing less cushioning to the feet.
Moulding – These soles do not allow moulding legs because of their hard material.
5. Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC Soles
PVC or polyvinyl chloride soles can be a great alternative for very expensive leather soles. Let us see its characteristic features and the benefits it offers.
Easily Moulded – Since it is the softest form of plastic, you can easily mould it into several shapes and designs.
Availability – Because of their versatility, they are available in different styles and options to
choose from in the market.
Cost-effective – PVC soles are a cost-effective option and an alternative for leather soles.
Shock-absorbent Property – The PVC outsole is great at absorbing shocks and has the best insulation properties.
Stability – Most walking shoes come with PVC soles because they provide better stability and
comfort to the user.
6. TPR Soles
TPR or Thermoplastic rubber soles are basically used for making automotive bushing and also for shoe soles. Below are the features and uses of this material:
Used – The TRP soles are mostly used for the outsoles of the shoes.
Shock-absorbent – TPR soles are excellent at absorbing shock.
Anti-skid Feature – The shoes with TPR soles come with an anti-skid feature that offers great grip and prevents slipping. They are ideal for slippery and water surfaces.
Not For Daily Wear – Since these soles are not that great at providing comfort, they are not a good option for daily use.
Which Sole Material is Best For Running Shoes?
Below is a table showing the comparative analysis of the different types of materials, their features and advantages, and disadvantages:
|Sole Material||Pros||Cons||Final Remarks|
|None||Running shoes with PU soles are the
everything that you
will look for in running shoes like
comfort, and safety.
Available in Various types
Not water resistant
|Not a suitable option for running.
You can only use them for light jogging.
|No resistance to abrasion and compression.|
Easily prone to catching dirt.
|Shoes with EVA soles are the good
quality running shoes.
These are second best
material after PU.
Longer life than rubber shoes
|Does not flex|
Not properly insulated.
|The leather soles are the stylish looking soles. They have high durability than rubber but not a good option for running shoes.|
|PVC soles||High durability|
|It is a suitable option for indoor
activities. But not
ideal for high
and hard terrain.
|TPR soles||Shock absorbent|
|Better than leather,
rubber, and PVC.
Good for low
EVA vs. Rubber: Which Is Better For Running?
Both EVA and rubber soles are the most widely used outsoles for running shoes. However, they do have a set of benefits and limitations. Let us learn what they are and which one is the best:
EVA soles are great at providing excelling cushioning to the feet. The rubber soles offer less cushioning when compared to the EVA materials.
Winner: EVA Soles
The heel part of the EVA soles comes with rubber, which provides traction. Rubber soles provide more traction than EVA materials.
Winner: Rubber Soles
The EVA soles wonderful absorbents of shock. The rubber soles are more durable than the EVA soles.
Winner: Rubber Soles
EVA is lightweight than rubber.
Winner: EVA Soles
Rubber soles are available in different variants that are best suitable for various needs of the runner.
When you consider these points, it looks like both EVA and rubber souls have their own strengths. Deciding a clear winner from the duo is likely not possible. We would like to leave the choice to the runners as to which materials they would prefer. Based on their running requirements, they may choose one accordingly.
I hope this article gave you complete insights into different sole materials for running shoes. Now that you are familiar with the significant features, benefits, and uses of these soles, you should now be able to make a wise decision.
Running shoes with PU soles are the best and high-quality ones for their durability, flexibility, shock-resistant, and anti-skid features. If you are someone living in colder regions, you would better choose EVA soles as they are flexible and well-insulated.
Write to us in the comments section below if you find the information in this article helpful. Share your opinion with us by letting us know which sole material you would prefer. You can post your answers in the below comments. Also, feel free to add your inputs to this article and let us know if we missed out on any points.
We would love to hear and learn from you.
Stay healthy and stay safe!!!