Find The Best Shoe For Your Workout

It’s not enough that the shoe fits – it also needs to fit your fitness routine.
Sneaker Guide

Unless your sport of choice is swimming or yoga, if you’re going to exercise, you need sneakers. And not just any sneakers; to protect your body from injury and maximize the benefits of your workout, you need to match your shoe to your activity. Scanning the aisles of a shoe warehouse or heading to your local sporting goods store isn’t enough; we got expert tips on what shoes are best for which workouts from podiatrists Elizabeth Kurtz, DPM, spokesperson for American Podiatric Medical Association, and Matt Werd, DPM, spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine.

Best for: running or walking. They’re specifically designed for forward motion, and the sole is constructed for the continuous heavy impact of running.
Skip them if … you do cardio classes like Zumba and step. Running shoes have very little – if any – support for all the side-to-side moves you’ll do in these types of classes.
Buying tip: Running shoes often dominate the shelves of athletic shoe departments or stores, offering you a wide variety of styles. To help you navigate all the options — stability, neutral, and motion control — shop at a specialty running store. The salespeople are more knowledgeable and can help you find the shoe that’s best for your feet.

Best for: walking. Like running shoes, they’re designed for forward motion and to facilitate the heel-to-toe rolling motion of walking.
Skip them if… you plan to include running intervals in your walks. The impact from running is two to three times higher than walking, and walking shoes aren’t built to handle those kinds of forces.
Buying tip: Many stores have slim pickings when it comes to walking shoes (and they’re often less stylish than other sneakers). If you can’t find a pair that suits your feet and your style, browse the running shoe section.

Best for: strength training, Zumba, boot camp workouts, step aerobics, cardio machines such as ellipticals. These shoes provide support whether you’re moving forward, backward, or side-to-side.
Skip them if… you do walking- or running- specific workouts. If you’re doing a certain activity two or more times a week, you should get a sports-specific shoe to better handle the repetitive motions. This goes for other activities like tennis or basketball, too.
Buying tip: Not all stores label these shoes as cross trainers. Some are simply called “trainers” or “performance training” so ask a salesperson to identify them for you.

Best for: hiking hilly trails with rocks and roots. The rugged soles on these shoes grip better than other athletic shoes and are harder to protect your feet from obstacles you’re likely to find in your path.
Skip them if… you stick to mostly level gravel or well-groomed dirt trails. Hiking shoes are heavy so they’re likely to slow you down. If you don’t need the protection, you’ll get a better workout with a lighter-weight running or walking shoe.
Buying tip: Choose a high-top hiker if the terrain is very hilly or you’ll be navigating a lot of obstacles. For more moderate trails, a low-top trail shoe is fine.

The Shoe That’s Not Right For You

Shoe companies have jumped on the barefoot running trend, and most manufacturers now offer “minimalist” styles that provide little to no support or cushioning in an effort to mimic barefoot walking or running. While features vary among brands, the shoes are basically just protecting your feet from the pavement. Minimalist shoes may have a place in training programs for competitive runners or walkers, but they aren't right for the average walker or runner who is trying to lose weight. The heavier you are, the more support you need when you begin exercising to avoid excess strain on your feet that can cause injuries, says Dr. Werd. Bottom line: If you wouldn’t exercise barefoot, don’t exercise in these shoes.

Best for: slow, short walks. Ads tout that these shoes with rounded or rocker bottom soles work muscles harder for faster toning, but some scientific studies dispute these claims. Even if they provide some benefit, wearing these shoes for a full-length workout or all day as you run errands may put you at risk for injuries like Achilles tendonitis.
Skip them if… you have balance or joint problems The purpose of these shoes is to make you unstable. Combine that with balance or vertigo issues and you may be more likely to fall. This instability also changes how you walk, which could aggravate joint problems like arthritis.
Buying tip: Some toning shoes are more curved than others, so try on a variety of styles and pay attention to how your entire body feels when you’re walking in them. If something doesn’t feel right (for example: your knees seem to be rolling in) try a different brand or put these back on the shelf and stick with a traditional walking or running shoe.

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