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How to Choose Sneakers: Materials, Sizes, Types, Comfort


An age-old advice doesn’t recommend judging a book by its cover. The same goes for sneakers. At least initially, pay attention not only to the color and design, as features like support and fit can influence your comfort and protect you from injuries.

Air Jordan XII
A pair of Air Jordan XIII, worn by Michael Jordan during the NBA Finals in 1998, was sold for $2.2 million. It’s considered the most expensive pair of sneakers in the world.

Buying sneakers can be stressful, but I’ve gathered everything you need to pay attention to in order to find the perfect pair for your needs.

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First, you should sort your sneakers by material:

Upper part

  • Suede sneakers: Suede pairs can easily be paired with light jeans, a t-shirt, a blazer, and trousers to create a timeless look. If your suede sneakers have a neutral tone, you can match them with a variety of contrasting colors. They’re elegant, typically waterproof, and breathable. But one of the biggest problems is keeping them clean. If you want your sneakers to have a long life and still look presentable, they require constant care – this is something to consider when choosing such material.

How to Choose Sneakers: Materials, Sizes, Types, Comfort

  • Leather sneakers: Genuine leather is durable, elegant, and usually expensive – but it’s worth it because high-quality leather footwear will last you a long time. Such sneakers pair well with jeans, are durable, easy to clean, waterproof, but one downside is that they can be hot to wear in the summer. By the way, the higher price of leather footwear often means that high-quality materials were used in its production, and key stages of the manufacturing process were done by hand.


  • Textile sneakers: Usually made from fabric, canvas, or mesh shoe fabric. Very lightweight, almost weightless. The sneakers are completely breathable but prone to tearing and easily get dirty. Such options are not suitable for professional sports or hiking, but taking a walk around the city, going out into nature, or going for a short run at the stadium near your home – no problem.

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I want to specifically mention the sole because it is the sole responsible for providing good traction with various surfaces and serves as the first level of cushioning material. Thanks to different patterns, developers have managed to adapt the sole absolutely to different types of loads, as well as the specific characteristics of certain sports.

Nike Mag (Back to the Future)

When it comes to the main sole, manufacturers most commonly use as the sole:

  • Solid rubber: a combination of several types of synthetic and natural rubber. The most popular material used for manufacturing soles for any type of athletic footwear. It guarantees excellent grip and durability, which are its main advantages. It’s also worth noting the affordable prices of sneakers with rubber soles.
  • BRS 1000: a high-strength material, which is synthetic rubber interacting in tandem with carbon. It is mainly used for producing the base of running sneakers.
  • DRC Blend: This is pure rubber with additives – the most reliable type of rubber that is not afraid of anything at all. Such a blend would be an excellent choice for tennis or walking sneakers.

Nike Duralon BRS 1000

  • Duralon: is another blend of artificially created rubber, which is produced by a blowing method. The downside of such rubber is that it wears out fairly quickly, but it contains special air pores that guarantee an excellent level of cushioning.

These are the basic materials that can be used in the creation of the sole. Similarly, it all depends exactly on the needs of the user himself.

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There’s also the midsole – one of the key components because it’s the one that can guarantee foot stability and absorb all loads and impacts.

Way of Wade 9 Infinity

The following materials are most often used in the manufacture of such a sole:

  • Phylon: a lightweight foam with excellent performance properties. It is characterized by a good cushioning effect. Footwear is made from EVA pellets, which allows creating a sole of absolutely any shape, depending on the purpose of the sneakers.
  • Polyurethane: a hard and dense material that stands out for its high level of strength compared to other options for midsole materials. It is the hardness that has led to polyurethane being used less frequently not only in the production of midsoles but also in their main part.
  • Phylite: a unique combination of rubber and Phylon, which is a kind of “golden mean” between the materials listed above. They are usually used in the production of the midsole layer together with the outsole, which allows significantly increasing the level of flexibility of the sneakers, reducing their weight significantly.
  • EVA: a relatively inexpensive foam material that is flexible and lightweight. It is usually used for entry-level sneakers because the air inside the foam begins to be expelled over time under the weight of the person, and the sole cannot regain its original shape. This characteristic means that the material is rarely used for professional sneakers, but it is suitable for everyday wear.


Sneaker height

You should also sort the sneakers by height:

  • High-top sneakers: High-tops have undergone a long evolution since their appearance in the 90s. They enjoy wide popularity: from athletes to cultural anarchists. High-top sneakers, like this pair of Chuck Taylors, are a classic and fashionable staple due to their iconic shape, which pairs with practically any outfit. Additionally, you get maximum benefit from high boots in cool weather. Over the decades, they have also been the beloved choice of basketball players – partly thanks to the success of the Jordan brand. And countless skateboarders have saved their ankles thanks to Vans Sk8-Hi sneakers.

Chuck Taylors

  • Low-top sneakers: Low-tops are the go-to for active leisure, such as summer strolls. There are thousands of low-top sneaker models available in stores, so you’re practically guaranteed to find a suitable pair for yourself. I dare to recommend the legendary Nike Air Force Low or the timeless Adidas Stan Smith.

Снікерcи Low Top

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What types of sneakers are there?

Now let’s categorize sneakers by type:

  • Everyday sneakers: Comfortable, practical, and versatile footwear. Thanks to the boundless modern fashion, you can wear them year-round. They are typically made of natural or high-quality synthetic materials that “breathe,” with orthopedic inserts and elements that properly support the foot during movement.
  • Running sneakers: The main requirements are lightness, breathability, and good cushioning. These models are the lightest, with a rigid heel and flexible toe. In running sneakers, cushioning is provided by a layer between the upper and lower parts of the sole, often silicone gel is used for this purpose. The foot in running sneakers should be securely fixed in the heel, not moving or being compressed inside.

Asics Gel-Nimbus 25

  • Fitness sneakers: It’s all about lightness, breathability, cushioning, and good support. They should be higher than running shoes, firmly securing the ankle joint. In such models, the toe is usually wider than the heel, which is necessary for stability and good grip with the floor.
  • Tennis sneakers: The features of these models include stability, support during lateral movements, and a durable outsole. Tennis shoes have a wide sole and a sturdy heel with a “pivot point” technology, which helps reduce the resistance of the sole to the ground during turns.

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  • Basketball sneakers: They are the tallest and heaviest, with special attention paid to cushioning for high jumps during manufacturing.
  • Soccer cleats: They bear the least resemblance to classic sneakers. Their main difference is the studs on the outsole, which also come in various types. They typically have a leather upper, reinforced toe, they are low-cut, and very lightweight.

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There are also sneakers for boxing, wrestling, and cycling shoes, but that’s a topic for a separate article aimed at professionals.

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How do I choose my size?

Choose your sneaker size carefully. If you have the opportunity to try them on, do it in the daytime or evening – during the day, blood flowing to your feet can cause them to swell slightly. This means that shoes that fit perfectly in the morning may give you blisters in the evening.

Який розмір обрати?

Also, keep in mind that different companies may have different sizes, so be sure to refer to their size chart in advance. Take a pair of sneakers that fit you perfectly and compare their size with the size of your future pair. Even better – head straight to the store. And please, never, ever use used footwear. The shape acquired by the sneakers from the previous owner (not to mention the microbes) can significantly affect the quality of walking and your health in general.


No matter how stylish your sneakers are, if they’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to wear them. Look for shoes with a quality, comfortable sole and a breathable upper that will keep your feet cool and dry. Seek sneakers with removable insoles so you can replace them with your own if you already have a pair you like or if they’re prescribed by an orthopedic doctor. When choosing sneakers, be sure to check the toe and heel to ensure they are reinforced, and also the sole to ensure it provides good traction.

Adidas Ozelia Wonder White

It’s also worth noting that the best sneakers shouldn’t need breaking in. If they’re not comfortable during the first try-on, they may be incorrectly sized. Or they may have support in an area where your foot simply doesn’t need it. In any case, look for a pair that feels soft and springy as soon as you put them on. Choosing comfortable sneakers is key, as it reduces the risk of injury and discomfort.

So, the main features of the perfect couple:

  • The first thing to pay attention to is the heel counter. You shouldn’t be able to push the heel counter inward, and it should snugly fit around the heel.
  • The sides of the heel counter should also be even, and you shouldn’t be able to bend one side inward.
  • A good heel counter is important because during heel strike, the calcaneus directs the movement of the rest of the foot. It’s essential to ensure that this part fits snugly and provides support. This allows the walking cycle to be smooth and prevents problems in the future.
  • Make sure the shoe flexes at the toe box area. This is the natural way your foot bends when you push off. If your shoes are very flexible, they probably won’t provide you with the necessary support, especially if you’re recovering from an injury or chronic pain.
  • Next, pay attention to torsion. When you take a step, your foot transitions from supination to pronation and back to supination. All of this takes 0.6-0.8 seconds. Make sure your shoes allow for this movement; it’s crucial.

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Buying a pair of running shoes and immediately turning them into “everyday” footwear can be incredibly tempting. However, as comfortable and convenient as it may be to use sneakers for purposes beyond running, ultimately, you’re shortening their lifespan for actual running. This is because shoes typically have a lifespan that depends on mileage. And this applies not just to running shoes. Various factors, including body weight and foot shape, can affect this lifespan.

How to Choose Sneakers: Materials, Sizes, Types, Comfort

It’s no secret that running shoes can be expensive, but if your budget allows, it’s worth having multiple pairs of sneakers for rotation. By giving them time to rest, you can maximize their lifespan. There are reasons why there are different types of shoes for tracks, roads, and trails. Various types of running shoes are made specifically for the surfaces on which you use them. And if you use road shoes for trail running, you can expect them to wear out faster.

Do not put your shoes in the washing machine, dishwasher, or dryer. Hot water can damage the materials and cause the adhesives to deteriorate quickly. A damp cloth will be sufficient. For the same reasons, do not toss your sneakers in the dryer, even if they got wet during a rainy run. Instead, remove the insoles. If you have newspaper, put some inside to absorb moisture.

Термін придатності

Untie your shoelaces before putting on and taking off your shoes. I’m referring to that moment when instead of untying the laces, you step on the heel of the opposite foot to keep it in place when removing the shoe. And the next time you’re ready to run, you’ll have to untie and lace up the same shoes again, right? So you might as well just slip your foot back into the shoes before heading out for a run. Unfortunately, these quick methods might save you a few seconds at the beginning and end of your run, but they can significantly impact the lifespan of your footwear.

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The footwear industry is a $72 billion business aimed at meeting your needs, so it does everything it can to give you plenty of options to choose from. There are different types of sneakers designed for various purposes, from everyday wear to Trail running shoes (no, the ones in the photo below are not for trail running).

Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike CPFM Flea 1 «Overgrown»

Think about how you intend to use the sneakers, and then based on that, determine exactly what type of footwear you’re looking for. It’s important to consider the overall construction and durability of your shoes.

Adidas Rick Owens X Springblade Low

Once you find footwear that meets all the criteria in terms of fit and functionality, it’s all about personal preferences in style, color, or design, and in that regard, I’m no longer your advisor.

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Julia Alexandrova
Julia Alexandrova
Coffee lover. Photographer. I am writing about science and space. I think it's too early for us to meet aliens. I follow the development of robotics, just in case ...
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