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Decoding shoe science

Decoding shoe science
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First Published: Fri, Aug 19 2011. 10 22 PM IST

Designed for speed. Price: Rs 3,499-5,999.
Designed for speed. Price: Rs 3,499-5,999.
Updated: Fri, Aug 19 2011. 10 22 PM IST
The science behind shoes is on a par with any other industry’s today, using space-age materials and spending billions on research and development. But does it really matter?
Ali Irani, president of the Indian Association of Physiotherapists and former physiotherapist to the Indian cricket team, says the right shoes can correct bad walking posture, prevent flat feet and help avoid damage to the knees and ankles. “But there are a lot of things to consider before picking a shoe,” he adds. “For example, the surface you are walking on will change what you need from a shoe. The softness of the ground is the biggest factor—if you’re walking on hard roads all the time, then a well-padded shoe is important. If you’re walking on soft ground, then a thinner shoe is better. A cushioned sole is very important, as 90% of the weight goes to the knee and ankle every time you take a step.”
Since choosing the right shoe is now as complicated as buying a computer, we decode the technology behind five of the latest options from the biggest brands:
Designed for speed. Price: Rs 3,499-5,999.
Puma India managing director Rajiv Mehta says there are no universally perfect running shoes. Different running styles require different padding and flexibility, so Puma has released the Faas range of shoes that are graded from 100 to 1,000 depending on the amount of cushioning. There are three shoes in the Faas line now—the 250, 300 and 500—but the brand will release more variants.
The lower numbers have less cushioning and are lightweight, fast-paced running shoes, while the higher numbers have more cushioning for longer stretches of hard running.
The trademarked BioRide technology was developed by observing the fastest athletes associated with the brand, such as Usain Bolt, and studying their movement and foot placement. These elements were translated into three categories, according to Mehta. “The Faas collection incorporates a continuous, rocker-shaped outsole which provides smooth touchdown and effortless transition. The 360-degree flex grooves throughout the soles respond to the runner’s foot. Last, the Faas shoes have a horizontal groove that runs the lateral side of the shoe, to provide stability,” says Mehta. He adds that these designs are based on studies of how world-renowned athletes run, and provide a natural ride, with less time on the ground (because the shoe is lighter and less cushioned, each footstrike is shorter, so that runners can move faster) and natural stability.
No more sweat. Price: Rs 6,999.
The Adidas King of Cool line focuses on its patented climate-control technology, ClimaCool (CC), which improves performance by minimizing sweat and discomfort. Tushar Goculdas, director, marketing and sales, Adidas India, explains: “The CC Ride is not just about bright colours and funky designs, but like all Adidas sports performance products, is a fusion of style and performance. With CC Ride comes the introduction of 360-degree ventilation.”
In essence, the design of the shoe, combined with Adidas’ patented ClimaCool material, opens up new air channels with every move of the foot so that the runner’s shoes are breathable at all times. The open mesh and ventilation channels cool the entire foot and prevent sweat from forming.
Goculdas adds: “The King of Cool is a jazzed-up version of the CC Ride and part of the ClimaCool family. It is unique because of its bright colour variants and refined design. The cool colours, design and technology make this family a must-have collection for the ones who live to run.”
Nike’s latest shoes are for anyone looking to improve their running. Robert Dolan, Nike running footwear design director, explains on email: “Fit was a huge priority in the LunarGlide + 3. The mid-foot strap was one of the most significant changes or features we brought in. When you pull on this, you’re actually pulling under your foot, supporting it, instead of from the side only.
Comfort and free movement. Price: Rs 4,795 for men, and Rs 6,995 for women.
“In the Nike LunarGlide + 3, we’ve incorporated the longitudinal flex groove and then we’ve brought in more of these cuts or swipes through the forefoot that really allow the shoe to kind of flex and...move with your body. It’s light, breathable and offers a really smooth transition and ride,” he adds.
The company also uses a foam developed especially for this purpose, called Lunarlon, which reacts to the shape of the foot to provide flexible cushioning. Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director, Nike India, says the material takes the shape of the foot “so every shoe is a custom fit, whenever it’s worn”.
The shoe also has a two-part mid-sole—made of opposing wedges of foam that shift to provide better fit and comfort as the person is running.
The perfect fit: Price: Rs 9,999.
Reebok’s latest U-Form shoes are all about the perfect fit—moulding the shoe to your foot. Premium Reebok stores have special ovens, and the shoe is heated before being placed on the buyer’s foot to take its shape perfectly.
Sajid Shamim, brand director, Reebok India, explains: “The perfect fit is essential to train harder and better. The U-Form, when heated in a special oven, gives a perfect fit, making the shoe unique to an individual.”
The whole body of the shoe is moulded, and not just the sole. Shamim says: “The purpose of the upper body of a shoe is to keep your foot aligned on the bottom; U-form technology helps to do that more effectively and, therefore, will allow you to better maximize the performance of that shoe. It also helps to lock down the heel, which is a crucial element in performing at your best.” Once heated and laced up, the shoe locks down around the foot and heel.
Aside from this, the U-Form also utilizes Moving Air Technology, which uses balance-ball-inspired toning pods that create a feeling of running on sand and strengthen leg muscles—similar to the earlier EasyTone shoes.
Converse recently introduced its Jack Purcell range of footwear, starting with the Racearound OX—a specialized badminton shoe. The shoe has a vulcanized rubber sole and is made with canvas, so it is breathable and flexible. Because it is a badminton shoe, it comes with far less cushioning than running shoes.
The best of badminton. Price: Rs 2,899.
The result, says Ravdeep Singh, CEO, sports division, Pantaloon Retail India—which handles Converse’s business in India—is a shoe that is lightweight, with a sole that prevents skidding and provides a good grip on the court surface, along with great comfort and a unique look.
He adds: “In this shoe, twill is used in the upper part to allow the foot to breathe, and reduce sweating. This sneaker also has an exposed shank on the outsole that gives the shoe its flexible structure.” The shoe also uses a technique called seam sealing, which is also used to make tents waterproof, to strengthen the unique shape. The terrycloth lining also fights sweat, while sipes (thin slits along the sole) give greater grip, and moulded socks provide cushioning and comfort during the game.
According to Singh, Jack Purcell shoes have been in use since the 1930s, and were designed in association with Purcell, who was a badminton champion at the time. He adds, “There is global research every season, and after that we carry out testing in India as well before introducing the shoes to the market.”
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First Published: Fri, Aug 19 2011. 10 22 PM IST