What does shoe responsiveness mean?

I hear responsiveness used often on shoe reviews, yet I'm not exactly sure what it means. Is it about firmness of the shoe, with firmer shoes being more responsive than soft shoes? Is it about flexibility? Is it about how fast the sole flexes back when you try to bend it? Is it about the bounciness of the shoes? Is it synonymous to "energy return"? Does more cushioning entail less responsiveness? Is a responsive shoe ideal for racing? 

Comments

  • I always thought it meant how precisely the shoe moved in response to the movement you initiate. A sock is very responsive; you wiggle your little toe and the sock moves with your toe. A loose fitting gumboot is not very responsive - you can lift your heel up inside the boot and it might not move at all.

    Like a stiff golf club or a rigid ski boot, a responsive shoe is only 'better' if you can rely on the precision of your underlying movements. The theory behind motion control shoes would be to be less responsive specifically because you might not want the shoe to flex in the direction your foot moves.
  • I believe responsiveness is a combination of energy return, firmness, and flexibility. I believe a soft, super flexible, or highly cushioned shoe is not responsive. While good for long slow distances, I believe they sap energy when trying to create quick turnover while racing or running fast. While a "slightly" stiffer, more firm, and less cushioned shoe helps your foot "snap" or "pop" off the ground quicker allowing faster turnover.
  • ZedZed
    edited May 2013
    @ jd_md3: There's probably a more formal definition out there somewhere, but the way most professional shoe reviewers use the term, shoe "responsiveness" means how well a shoe facilitates the transition from the contact phase (i.e., the initial foot- strike) of the running gait cycle to the push-off phase.

    As Sentzation mentions in his post, a more "responsive" shoe is generally stiffer and less cushioned than a less "responsive" shoe. A good example of a real responsive shoe is the Mizuno Wave Universe: Mizuno's proprietary "Wave Plate Technology" keeps the shoe quite stiff and firm lengthwise whilst still allowing for a bit of flex, the combination of which helps propel the wearer through his or her gait cycle. Racing flats like the Mizuno Wave Universe, the New Balance RC1600, the Adidas Takumi Sen, and the Saucony Fastswitch are probably the most responsive shoes on the market right now.

    That being said, there are times when you won't want to use a more responsive shoe. If you're looking into building ankle strength or building lower body strength in general or improving your form, you don't want to wear a shoe that does the work for you.
  • I think of responsiveness much as Sentzation described - a shoe that gives you some pop back as your foot comes off the ground. This is typical of racing flats that have fairly stiff soles. Extremely soft shoes are not generally responsive.
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