Choosing the right shoe for an activity can improve activity tolerance and reduce stresses on the body. The four major types of shoes for exercising discussed here are walking, running, cross-training and minimalist.
The walking shoe unfortunately does not seem to come in the eyecatching colors and designs of running shoes. However, walking shoes have a lot to offer in the way of overall function. Typically they have a softer heel and insole which provide comfort and cushioning during low impact activities, walking, or long-term standing.
Additionally, walking shoes are constructed with a less rigid arch and sole to allow normal movement of the foot and ankle joints.
By far the most popular, running shoes are purchased by most as a multi-function shoe due to the variety of colors and styles available.
It is important to note that the running shoe should be used for just that, running. They are known to have firmer heels to allow greater impact absorption during running and jumping activities to reduce forces on the ankles, hips, and knees. They also have a tendency toward decreased arch and rear foot flexibility limiting the foot and ankle joints mobility.
The shoe for those who want the best of both worlds.
They are constructed with a combination of elements seen in the running and walking shoes and work well for short to moderate distance running, cross-training fitness programs, and low to moderate impact aerobics.
These are the new kids on the block and have rapidly increased in popularity.
The idea behind the minimalist shoe is to more closely resemble barefoot running, challenging the foot and ankle to function without the support provided by the above options.
These shoes provide very little impact absorption and should only be worn by individuals with fitness experience. A few key points to keep in mind when choosing the right shoe for your planned activity:
Running shoes are great during high impact activities and provide improved foot and ankle stability, however if used for long distance walking or extended periods of standing, they can lead to irritation at the hips, knees, and back.
The cushioning of a walking shoe can reduce back pain in people who stand for long periods of time, they may not absorb impact adequately during running, leading to dysfunction of the hips, knees or back.
Fitness enthusiasts looking to join the growing “cross fitness” movement, will be best served with the cross training shoe built to perform well during activities with multiple forces and variables.
For those interested in trying a minimalist shoe, make sure to provide adequate break-in time and slowly increase running distance to decrease the risk of impact related injury.
After choosing the right type of shoe for your activity, it is important to select the correct fit. The shoe should feel comfortable immediately and flex easily at the balls of the feet.
Verify space for the foot to move within the shoe without hitting the front of the toe box. Measure at least the width of your thumb between your big toe of your bigger foot and the very front of the shoe to prevent pain and damage to toe nails.
Finally, come prepared with a pair of socks that you typically wear during fitness activities as sock thickness can change how the shoe feels, fits and performs.