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Heel Counter
Heel Counter
The heel counter refers to a little plastic insert used to reinforce the heel cup of a shoe and increase support. A firm, thick heel counter cradles the heel and arch and reduces over-pronation. A good firm heel counter helps lock the foot into the shoe and anchors it to the mid-sole.
Check before you buy
A good heel cup is one that is reinforced with a hard plastic heel counter. You can't see the heel counter though; it's internal and covered on both sides by material. To evaluate a shoe's heel counter you will need to feel it. Press on the heel counter with your thumb or finger. If you can flatten it out, like in the example below, then no matter what other support elements the shoe may have, it probably isn't going to give your feet much support. If you are experiencing or commonly experience foot, ankle or knee problems then you should consider trying shoes with firm heel counters.
Bad heel counter animation
This shoe by New Balance (above) is a light training shoe. It is not meant to offer a lot of support and it doesn't. The heel cup is reinforced with a heel counter but it is very thin and flexiable so it doesn't give much support. If you need more support try to avoid shoes with soft heel counters like this one.
great heel counter
The heel cup on this Saucony GRID Stabil (above) is so solid that it can't be bent at all. This is the result a thick plastic heel counter that extends out far into the shoe and around the heel. This is a great example of a maximum support shoe. Two other good examples are the Asics "Gel MC Pluss" and the Brooks "Beast".