Determining the Right Shoes for Working Out

feet of person changing into running shoes
Make sure the shoes you wear to the gym are the appropriate shoes for the right exercise!

by Steven Auger

They say you should walk a mile in someone else's shoes — but if you're wearing them to the gym, you should make sure they're the appropriate shoes for working out! To find the right shoes for the activity you have planned, check out the following guidelines.

Fit Considerations

No matter your preferred method of exercising in the gym, there are certain fit traits that deserve special attention, as Podiatry Today notes. Here are four considerations you should take into account while shopping around.

1. Size

Size can be a bit tricky because it can vary not only between brands but also between styles of the same brand! To make sure you find the right pair, try on shoes in multiple sizes and with multiple widths to ensure the best fit for your feet.

2. Shape

Feet may come in all types of shapes and sizes, but workout shoes tend to come in a limited number of shapes. As a result, it's important to match up your foot's shape with the shoe that most accurately matches factors like instep, toe depth, and heel width. Again, it's important to try on a variety of styles in order to find the best possible fit.

3. Stability

Your shoes may look cool, but are they stable? Squeeze the sides of the heel counter to find out; a stable shoe will resist compression. You can also test a shoe's stability by holding it by the toes and heel and trying to twist it. A stable shoe will be able to resist the twist!

4. Performance

This one is simple: Choose the right shoe for the right activity. You wouldn't play tennis in hiking shoes, would you? By that same token, you wouldn't necessarily wear the same shoes for running and weightlifting when you visit the gym.

5. Style

While the colors and outward design of shoes don't really make a difference in their purpose or performance, these things can make a difference to you. It's important to not only feel comfortable in your gym shoes, but confident! When you look good, you feel good — so opt for pairs that catch your eye and reflect your personal style.

Determining the Right Shoes for the Workout

Now that you know how to evaluate a shoe's size, shape, stability, performance, and style, you're ready to learn a bit about why certain exercises require specific footwear. Here are some examples of shoes you may want to pack your gym bag.

Running Shoes

Running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise. And while it is simple to start a running program, remember that your body will be taxed whether you're running laps around your neighborhood or competing in your first 5K race.

"Your feet need a combination of cushioning and stability when your run to help you avoid injury," according to SELF. The extra cushioning and support found in running shoes helps offset the pounding your joints can take, and poorly supported feet risk sprained ankles.

Good running shoes must be able to act as shock absorbers for your heels while also stabilizing you as you push through the next stride.

Weight-Lifting Shoes

If lifting weights is more your speed, there's a shoe for that, too! Shoes that are specifically designed for weight lifting can really enhance your experience. For instance, even though the thick, padded soles of running shoes protect your body between strides, too much padding can be detrimental when lifting heavy weights. It's a good idea to wear shoes designed for weight-lifting because they help stabilize your feet (and legs) when lifting.

Before purchasing weight lifting shoes, consider three qualities — fit, support, and shoe weight. The shoes should fit snugly on your feet, but you should also be able to freely wiggle your toes.

Support is super important because more support means less ankle motion, which can provide you with the ability to lift more weight. And speaking of weight, weightlifting shoes should be heavier than running shoes (to help you drive power through your leg muscles), but not so heavy that they limit your movement.

Cross Trainers

If you enjoy dabbling in both cardio and weight training, cross trainers might be the shoes for you. Cross trainers are great shoes for working out with dumbbells, various cardio machines, and many other devices and techniques. They are truly the jack-of-all-trades of workout shoes! If you're only able to purchase one pair for all of your fitness needs, this would be the style to shop for.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.