The Best Shoes for Every Workout


To some gym-goers the details of athletic shoes are unimportant, save for color and size. Everyone has different feet, though, and researching different types of sneakers before they are purchased could ultimately make a large difference in a workout. Of course every girl on the treadmills wants the latest neon Nikes, but are they really the most effective footwear for your favorite workout? It’s easy to trip up and make a shoe choice that will leave your feet sore and muscles aching.

There are quite a few reasons as to why you may be wearing the wrong sneakers. Perhaps the shoes you recently purchased are your favorite color, or they sport the logo that all of your super-athletic friends are wearing. It could be that you saw them on sale, and thought they were such a steal that it would be wrong not to purchase them. Maybe you used to be an avid walker, but recently took up running without investing in new sneakers. It’s so important to remember that there are subtle differences among the footwear required for certain sports including walking, running, tennis, basketball and cross-training. Active individuals should also consider the flatness of their feet when purchasing sneakers.

So which shoe is best for you? Take a look at a few popular activities that require different types of footwear, and see whether the shoes you’re exercising in are the right choice.

Running: When buying running shoes it’s important to consider the flatness of your feet, because different types of shoes are created to assist those with high and low arches. Flat-footed runners should seek designs with motion control and stability. Those with high arches likely roll their feet outwards while running, and should buy flexible, cushioned shoes with a shock-absorbing midsole. Just have normal-sized arches? If so then you have the most common type of foot, which is least likely to be injured with appropriate footwear. Steer clear of shoes that counteract your foot type, such as those with high stability or motion control.

Walking: Avid walkers should choose sneakers with greater flexibility than running shoes, because of how the feet move as they walk. Whereas runners land on their forefoot during exercise, walkers’ feet move gradually from heel to toe, requiring them to choose shoes with flexible soles and a bit more flexibility in the toes. Make sure the shoes are lightweight and try them on to ensure maximum comfort before purchasing.

Basketball/Tennis: Unlike running or walking, during which the foot only moves in a forward motion, these activities require participants to constantly move back and forth. Because of this, shoes should have excellent traction and ankle support, as well as firm cushioning. Wearing running shoes for activities such as basketball, tennis, racquetball or aerobics may result in aches and pains, and eventually injury.

Cross-Training: These shoes are designed to be worn for a little bit of every activity. Unfortunately, “there’s no specificity to them: you can’t do any one thing well,” says Joe Puleo, the author of Running Anatomy and the head men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field coach at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J. With cross trainers you can play basketball on occasion, or jog a few miles at a time, but for any more activity in a given sport, it’s best to invest in a different pair of shoes. If you do decide to buy cross-trainers, though, choose a lightweight model with good support and a firm heel.

In addition to these tips, there are a few things you should keep in mind while shopping for athletic shoes. If possible, shop in the afternoon. Feet swell over the course of the day, and if shoes are purchased towards the end of the day you’ll gain a better sense of how they fit. Before you set out on your shopping trip, make sure you put on socks that you normally work out in, so that you know the shoes will be comfortable. Make sure there is about a half inch of room between the end of the shoe and your longest toe, which ensures a good size.

Hopefully you haven’t been wearing the wrong workout shoes! If you have, though, you now have the information you need to buy your next pair.

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