Fitness Articles

Find the Perfect Workout Shoe for You

Meet Your Sole Mate

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Your feet work hard every day, carrying you through your daily tasks while you walk, stand, carry, lift, climb, clean, work, and exercise. If you neglect your feet—especially during a workout—then your feet with have to deal with swelling, blisters, and lasting discomfort on top of everything else.

One of the best ways to care for your feet is to invest in a good pair of workout shoes. There is nothing worse than trying to work out when you're experiencing pain and risking possible injury. To improve your workouts, look for a high-quality shoe with a good fit that is made to support the activities you do.

Although most people buy running shoes even if they have never jogged, the shoes you buy should be specific to the activity that you will be using them for.
  • Running shoes have additional cushioning to absorb shock as your foot hits the ground, which helps to reduce blisters. They are flexible and light. Traditional running shoes are designed for forward motion, so they don't support you well when you move in other directions (like during basketball or step aerobics). Barefoot running and minimalist running have gained popularity in recent years.  These shoes are lightweight and flexible and have very little padding or support.
  • Trail shoes have added traction for running and walking in grass, mud, or trails.
  • Walking shoes tend to be stiffer and heavier than running shoes. These provide more support because your foot rolls from heel to toe more slowly than when you run.
  • Cross-training shoes are great for people who have a varied workout routine or play different sports. This is the most versatile athletic shoe, designed to give more support for changes in direction and impact, making them an economical choice. They're heavier and less cushioned than running shoes and not recommended if running is your main mode of training.
  • Specialty shoes exist for weight lifting, cycling, hiking, tennis, basketball, soccer, and more. If you engage in these activities several days per week, consider buying a sport-specific shoe to fit your needs.
  • Lifestyle shoes are not made for athletic activities, even though they are made by the same manufacturers who make running and workout shoes. These shoes have flat soles and a sporty look, but not enough support for workout. They're fine for running errands or casual wear, but don't make them part of your exercise gear. Continued ›
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

  • When I was ready for some new walking shoes I walked in a shoe store and told the clerk. He led me to some shoes and waved his hand across the entire section saying "All the shoes here are walking shoes". After trying on practically all the shoes I finally settled on a pair that was not as uncomfortable as the others. As it turned out what I bought was just a pair of cute shoes and not walking shoes. I spent a lot of money that was slotted for athletic shoes not fashion shoes. I should have researched before buying. - 5/14/2015 7:54:56 AM
  • I have had problems with my feet all my life and being knocked kneed. My feet roll over at any nano second. Resulting in sprained ankles. My tendons in my ankles are all stretched out now. Surgery has been offered to shortened them for more stability but I'm used to it now. I also have suffered plantar fasciitis several times. I can't just pick any shoe off the rack. I have to walk around the store in them.
    Good workout shoes is a MUST. I never really understood the difference until I was turned on to a good pair. What a different that made! Yes, I did go through several different makers until I found the ones that worked best for me and yes, they were costly....but worth every penny - 3/14/2015 9:48:40 AM
  • Anyone that has problems with plantar fasciitis I have found that the need for braces is non-resistant with a shoe called KURU. The shoe has great arch supports. - 3/14/2015 9:33:44 AM
  • This article was the most helpful one I have read thus far. Thank you! - 3/14/2015 7:53:00 AM
  • Following the advice in this article is exactly what I credit with keeping me running (and walking) injury free for nearly 30 years.

    I've seen many shoe fads come and go, but I stick to the tried and true advice and my "difficult" feet - flat, severely overpronating with even an extra bone (yeah, there's such a thing) are just fine.

    I do replace my shoes every 6 months or 500 miles, whichever comes first. I don't spend much on fashion, but my feet are worth it. - 2/12/2015 8:33:36 AM
  • More important to me than a good shoe and even an orthotic in sole, was to learn to use my core muscles properly when I walk! - 2/11/2015 10:32:40 AM
  • Thanks for sharing. Good info. - 1/15/2014 6:17:46 AM
  • great content and explanation without being to much.
    Thank you! - 1/2/2014 4:33:17 PM
  • Thanks I need a new pair for a long time. Been looking but haven't seen what I want. - 6/15/2013 10:35:03 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 5/29/2013 7:32:33 AM
  • I agree with those who said this is very traditional (and limited, outdated) advice. I'm 58 years old and an avid walker, and just switched to minimalist shoes (Altra Intuitions) based on a recommendation from my physical therapist. I had back and foot problems for years and they're beginning to clear up. Putting on my old "supportive" shoes to cut the grass was physically painful and so cumbersome. Our bodies work better when ALL the muscles can do their jobs (including the muscles in our feet). After all, we don't expect our hands to need "supportive" restrictive mittens to protect them while we work! - 5/26/2013 5:54:53 AM
  • I never know whether I pronate or supinate, so it's hard to know what kind of shoe to buy. I think I need a trip to my local specialty running shop! I was going to sign up for a Zumba class, so I was glad to hear the advice about dance sneakers or aerobic sneakers here. - 4/17/2013 10:29:10 AM
  • Nice, timely article. It's way past time to replace my shoes. - 1/10/2013 5:37:51 PM
  • BAMAJAM
    I lived many years before having my feet "professionally measured" and I was really surprised to hear that my left foot is bigger than my right !! Imagine that---- LOL - 1/9/2013 3:09:54 PM
  • I do Jazzercise and have been doing it for years now. I'm permitted to dance barefoot. If I had to wear shoes it would be a problem. I would use minimalist shoes or those Skeletoes, which I wear at Curves because I must. - 1/9/2013 12:20:59 PM

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