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How to Find the Best Workout Shoes for You

woman stretching quadriceps while talking to trainer at gym
Do you have the kicks to get you to the gym?

By Steven Auger 

When heading to the gym for the first time, don't underestimate the importance of having the proper footwear. Just like you wouldn't wear your best dress shoes while doing yard work, you don't want to wear the wrong type of shoe in the gym. So what are the best workout shoes for you? Here are some things to consider when looking for the perfect fit.

If the Shoe Fits

According to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, athletic shoes are grouped into three categories: running, training and walking. But there are certain criteria you should follow no matter the type of athletic shoe you intend to purchase. First, have the length and width of both of your feet measured, recommends the Health Department of Northwest Michigan (HDNM). For most people, each foot is a different shoe size. Also, bring or wear the type of socks you typically workout in when you go shoe shopping. It doesn't make sense to wear dress socks when you try on running shoes.

Finally, it's better to shop for gym shoes in the afternoon. This is because feet tend to swell throughout the day from standing or walking. "The size of your feet can increase up to half a shoe size," explains HDNM. Once you have both shoes on, take a short stroll around the store to determine how comfortable the shoes feel. If for any reason the shoe doesn't feel right on your foot, don't buy it.

The Rule of Thumb

If you are going to be doing cardio workouts, listen up. According to Runner's World, when selecting the proper running shoe, your heel should be able to slide out when the shoe is laced up but not tied. Also, you want to avoid a lot of pressure along the instep of your foot (the arch between your toes and ankle). As with all shoes, length and width are important. Your thumb should be able to fit between your longest toe and the shoe's end. As for the width, "Your foot should be able to move side-to-side in the shoe's forefoot without crossing over the edge of the insole," says Runner's World.

What else should you look for? Flex and feel. The shoe should bend along the same line where your foot flexes and the feel needs to be right when you run. While trying on the shoes, don't be afraid to jog down the hallway of the store.

Accommodate Your Arch

As the Mayo Clinic points out, in addition to proper foot width and length, you should also know your arch type. Are you neutral-arched, high-arched or low-arched? If you're unsure, "Dip your foot in water and step on a piece of cardboard," explains the source. "Examine your footprint. If you can see most of your footprint, you probably have low arches. If you see very little of your footprint, you likely have high arches." Your shoes should support your arch.

Features to Consider

When looking for the right shoe, consider features such as the Achilles tendon protector, the insole and outsole, and the toe box. The Achilles tendon protector locks the shoe around the heel, reducing stress on the tendon, explains the Mayo Clinic. The insole "cushions and supports your foot and arch" while the outsole maintains traction. A "roomy and round" toe box can also prevent calluses. These features play a critical role in protecting parts of the foot when it impacts the ground.

Weightlifters should focus on ankle range of motion and stability. BarBend also recommends shoes that have straps in addition to laces.

Choosing the best workout shoes for the gym will not only help you maximize results and keep you comfortable — they will also keep you safe.

Choosing the right workout shoes

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