Different shoes are designed for different purposes. From stilettos that are purely aesthetic to functional athletic shoes, each type of shoe has a unique sole that supports the function and the foot. Learning about the different types of soles will help you make a purchase selection the next time you wind up in a shoe store.
Athletic shoes refer to shoes that people wear to perform certain physical activities. The soles of cycling shoes, for instance, have hard tracks where clips are inserted so that the shoes attach to bicycle pedals, whereas shoes for field sports -- such as football and soccer -- have spiky soles that are meant for gripping the ground and preventing slip-and-falls. Running and tennis shoes have thick soles with more padding to protect the foot from the constant pounding against concrete, rock or other surfaces.
Formal shoes for men and women typically have smooth soles that are made out of leather or a similar material. These soles are more for aesthetic than function, which is why they do not offer a lot of protection between the walking surface and the foot. Still, the leather soles are sturdy enough to keep the shoe balanced and the foot comfortable. For women, stilettos and pumps have the sole in the front or ball of the foot.
Industrial shoes that are worn in construction sites and manufacturing plants have thick soles to protect the foot from becoming injured from sharp objects on the walking surface. The soles are thick enough to create a platform on the shoe, such that the individual wearing it may increase in height slightly. These sole are also intended to grip the walking surface so that workers do not slip when working around uneven terrain and spills.
Orthopedic shoes are made with specialized soles that provide added comfort to the individual. Soft padding is often used with these soles and offer arch support, more width and even stability to enhance the natural curvature of the foot.
Material-based shoes, such as moccasins, are constructed with a fabric that acts as the sole and the shoe. With these types of soles, a soft leather is used to provide comfort and function. Some people use material-based soles as slippers or booties for lounging around the house.
Aquatic shoes, such as flip-flops, are made out of waterproof soles and uppers that resist water damage. The soles of a flip-flop, or thong, are spongy and soft to step onto. Additionally, some water-resistant shoes look like sneakers with special soles that allow you to walk safely into lakes and rivers with them.
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