The right shoe makes all the difference for your exercise goals and comfort while working towards them. There are plenty of theories on what is best for your workout, but the best approach is to do what is right for YOU! Comfort is going to be the most important factor as you approach your workouts. There are many beliefs of the type of shoes for working out, but ultimately use the right shoe for your foot and your activity.
Running shoes, walking shoes, weightlifting shoes, cross-trainers, the list goes on – all shoes are not made equally. Use your shoes for what they are made for!
If you are predominately walking or running, make sure you stick with a walking/running shoe. The purpose being these shoes are designed for your repetitive forward motion pattern and help to propel and protect you as you move. There are some specific features to look for depending on what your comfort needs are, but some general guidance includes a shoe with a stiff shank (can’t twist or fold the shoe!), and forefoot rocker (when resting on a flat surface, if you press on the toe of the shoe, the heel should pop up!) and some built in shock absorption (the actual midsole material under the foot – it should have some substance!).
Whether you heel strike or midfoot strike, having cushion and structure will help absorb the impact of the ground below you with each step. The forefoot rocker help relieve pressure on the ball of the foot and toe by helping to ‘rock’ you forward with each step instead of flexing the toes so much. If you tend to have a flatter foot, pronate or dropped arches, a more stable shoe with a stiffer shank, extra support on the inside of your foot or guide rail technology will help give you the extra support you might need. Each runner/walker will have a different level of support – your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist can help you pick the right one.
If you predominantly do strength training, fitness classes or at home workouts, switching to a “training” shoe might be a more appropriate option. Ultimately these shoes usually have less structure, so if you need the extra support – stick with what works. Otherwise, these training shoes will be better designed for your lifting patterns, and have a thinner sole which can be better for your side-to-side movements. The increased flexibility of the shoe adapts the position as needed for your exercise. These shoes are not usually as good for running as walking. Stick with the basics of what makes a good shoe – strong heel counter and strong shank.
If your exercises include a lot of side-to-side movements and jumps, a shoe with a high stack or posting is something one should consider avoiding. It’s not a hard rule, but if the shoe has a lot under the foot (like a marathon runner) it might also make it easer to roll your ankle as you leap sideways. The same goes for a shoe with extra support on the inside – it is designed to push you outwards, so sometimes in combination with the force you produce it can be too much!
If you are specifically leaning into a sport, consider getting shoes designed for it, ie. Golf shoes, tennis shoes etc. Regular athletic shoes can certainly be used, but the sport specific design of a court shoe favours the stop/start, side-to-side motion that puts pressure predominantly on the ball of the foot. A golf shoe will give you good strength, stability and the ability to pivot well during your shot. These little details can help you be comfortable and successful in your activity.
Finding shoes can be as detailed and specific as you’d like it to be. If you are unsure which is best for you or looking for one shoe to use for many activities, seek advice from your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist. They can help you pick out the particularities of shoes function vs the structure you need for your feet and movement! You can find a Pedorthist at https://www.pedorthic.ca/.
Written by Katherine Hall, C. Ped (C)