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Everything You Need To Know About Sneaker Cushioning
A Definitive Guide
Footwear brands have developed many differnt ways to provide their sneakers with proper cushioning. Over the past decades, there have been countless different approaches on how to maximize wearing comfort, while using the impact force to benefit the athletes activity. Without a doubt this is one of the most important aspects of sneaker technology – so let's take a deeper look into the matter.
Soft Cell adidas' cushioning from the 90s, working in soft balls encased under the heel.
Tubular An old setup by adidas which worked in three inflatable chamber which could be higher or lower pressured as you like.
Boost A material created by adidas which is supposed to feel as soft on the 1000th wear as on the first. Many people cherish smooth comfort.
Image via Solecollector
GEL To cushion the foot, ASICS used gel material to ensure long lasting cushioning. Compared to Air, the gel is less prone to defects and can't deflate. – a fact which the Japanese company highlighted in some pretty aggressive ads during the early 90s.
Air (and its derivations) A special mixture of gas in a polyurethene casing. Next to the classic version, there are several derivations such as
MaxAir: Higher volume and usually visible.
ZoomAir: A thinner and more high pressured version of air. To keep its thin form, many strands from the top to the bottom were introduced.
Tuned Air: An air bag with added plastic pillars for support – think of a combination of 'Air' and 'Shox'.
Max²: A system with different chambers adds pressure points to guide the foot.
SHOX Using springs for a cushioning system seems like a good idea in theory, but probably wouldn't work out properly in practice. That's why Nike created several spring-like structures from Polyurethan which are placed in the heel section and can absorb a lot more impact energy.
Lunarlon Inspired by space travelling (hence the name: lunar = moon), it should simulate running on marshmallows. It is a lighter version of the standard phylon-material.
Free Not a cushioning system in the proper sense of the word, but a way to construct a shoe, Free was inspired by Kenian athletes that trained barefoot. There are different versions, categorised by their flexibilty.
Trinomic / Cell PUMA introduced the honeycomb structure in their shoes in the 90s, which should absorb impact forces while maintaining lateral stability. Later on the cells got bigger/ smaller depending on their usage. Cell is just oversized Trinomic.
For this shock absorption system, Reebok included a honeycomb material in their shoes which was developed during space research.
DMX There are actually two different versions: DMX 10 and DMX 6. The DMX 10 are ten connected chambers filled with air that can move freely between the chambers, to support the movement of the foot. DMX 6 has the same system under the heel but only one chamber under the forefoot.
Image via Saucony
GRID GRID is an acronym for Ground Reaction Inertia Device. Using a Hytrel fibre net framework which works like a trampoline, the system itself is paired with foam materials to enhance the cushioning effect.
LA Lights Not really a cushioning setup, LA Gear used lights that lighted up on impact to make the shoes stand out. #90skidswillremember
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