What is the purpose (and name) of this little outsole extension on the heel of trail running shoes?

I just ordered this black pair of New Balance trail running shoes, and the gum outsole has a LONG “tab” where the sole extends out past the heel.

This is a common design in trail running and hiking shoes. New Balance tends to make them an additional “style” flair and makes them a different color so it really stands out.

Their Shando shoe really has it highlighted.

A lot of different brands have this little part that juts out the back, but some, like Hoko, make it look more unified into the midsole.

I have an older pair of Adidas hiking hightops that have a chunky one that sticks out.

Obviously this serves some purpose but the people who buy the shoes don’t seem to know (The NB Shando has negative reviews where people complain it’s a trip hazard, especially on stairs).

What’s it called, and what’s it for?

It can’t just be for looks, so maybe it’s a heel spring.

Maybe it’s to prevent wear on the shoe caused by heel drag.


An extreme example. Better control on steep downhills.

This must be it! Especially since they are trail shoes and not regular sneakers. I’m surprised this feature isn’t explained in their ads or reviews. Usually companies tout the features of their products.

That’s one is getting to the point where you can’t tell which end of the shoe is the front and which is the back.

“People can’t tell whether she’s coming or going!”

[ lecherous construction worker leers at jogger’s back ]

The ridiculous heel on the Hoka “is designed to limit impact on the body and create smoother heel-to-toe transitions.” (link)

For the others, the heel “tab” (which is as good a name as any) seems intended to extend the platform of the shoe, providing more surface area like wider bumpy tires on an off-road vehicle. Do those extra few millimeters actually make a difference, or is there a bit of marketing in it? I haven’t seen the research and can’t say definitively, but I have my suspicions.

My first guess was an attachment/catching point for gaiters. On Altra shoes it’s called a ‘gaiter trap.’

While we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with the little loop on the back?

The part at the top of the heel? That’s to help pull it on. Pull on that to get the shoe over your heel instead of cramming your foot into it, and your shoes will last longer.


I was looking at it and thinking – in manufacturing, that’s to help peel the sole out of the mold.

I believe the tab owes a specific function, be it more control on downhill angles or a snow-shoe type effect that further spreads the heel-toe impact.

I personally wonder if it’s not some kind of super anti-slip for loose substrates. The few times I have slipped but caught myself, it was on a loose (slippery) surface and my stride was a heel-strike with all my weight impacting directly on my heel so my foot slipped forward and up cartoon style. I wonder if that tab helps this from happening?

At any rate, I blitzed the castle and got past New Balance’s extremely girded contact form and slipped a message through. I’m asking for specifics.

Will report back…

The gaiter trap is just a bit of Velcro that the gaiter attaches to. It is distinct from the extended sole.

Here’s an image of an “open” gaiter trap:

Correct. The trail gaitor has nothing to do with this outsole heel dealy.

How about this!

New Balance customer support wrote back that it’s nothing but a stylish quirk.

Now…I’m not usually cotton to think I know more than customer support folk but I am certain this person has no clue what they are talking about.

What a stupid question to haunt me…

Thanks for the follow up. I, on the other hand, suspect the person knows exactly what they’re talking about. As I said,

It reminded me of this humor piece:

“Guys, oh my God,” said Khrushchev. “Just put some gel in the heel or some shit, and move on.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Khrushchev continued. “Make [the shoe] look a little different from the previous thousand updates we’ve done and let’s move on.

“Add some bumpy nodules on the soles or some pods or transparent cells filled with, I dunno, niblets of corn of something. Call it the Maize Runner. None of this shit matters!”