Ultra-runner Mexican Tarahumara Indians often make their own Huarache sandals from tire treads and thongs of rawhide. But we lesser mortals tend to buy manufactured running shoes.
As with most things these days there is virtually limitless choices, so how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?
What conditions does the running shoe tread have to satisfy?
- Recreational/ Weekend Warrior.
- Amateur Athlete.
- Pro Athlete.
These basic categories can be further broken down into:
- Road – pavement surfaces.
- Trail/Field – natural surfaces.
- Track – cinder or made made surfaces.
For the purpose of this article, and the aim of this website, it is more appropriate to recreational and amateur athletes who run on roads and or trail surfaces.
Prior to the 1960’s there was not a great deal of attention given to tread pattern of running shoes; they were either spikes for cinder track sprinters and middle distance runners or slicks for road runners – which include “Plimsoles/Plimsolls” that Sir Roger Bannister, (first sub four minute mile 1954), used for training purposes. Bill Bowerman developed the waffle sole in 1960 as a way of reducing shoe weight and give increased traction. By 1970 waffle soles were predominant and technology has been trying to invent a better sole tread pattern ever since.
Original waffle tread pattern – click Here.
The waffle sole tread pattern proved to be an all-rounder, as good on pavement as it is on trails. Most of today’s tread patterns are a variation of this well proven theme.
Tread patterns can be:
- more or less durable materials.
- more or less aggressive lugs.
- wider or smaller lugs.
- different shaped lugs.
- sticky or standard grip materials.
- deeper or shallower tread pattern.
- applied to barefoot/minimalist and all running shoes.
There are many differences between road running and trail running shoes apart from just tread pattern. Trail running shoes should have fairly aggressive lugs so you can keep traction on slippery, uneven terrain and often a little extra torsional control. Road running shoes have a much smoother tread pattern due to flatter, more even surfaces. Both treads should be hard wearing and slip resistant in dry and wet conditions.