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Fitness Articles  ›  Focused Fitness

Find the Perfect Workout Shoe for You

Meet Your Sole Mate

-- By Nicole Nichols, Certified Personal Trainer
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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
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • 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
  • I posted about this last year - my feet were hurting so bad and I do a lot of walking on concrete. I bought an expensive pair of walking shoes and my feet were happy the moment I walked out the door with them on.

    Thanks for sharing this article - 1/9/2013 10:46:52 AM
  • Those of us who do high impact aerobic exercise like Zumba or Jazzercise have special needs in footwear. Running and walking shoes have too much tread on the bottom to be able to perform all of the moves, especially side-to-side moves, that are common in these routines. Always look for an aerobic shoe, preferably with a pivot point on the ball of the foot which allows for greater movement. Doing high impact aerobic exercises with the wrong shoe may cause injury. - 1/9/2013 8:52:34 AM
  • Thank you, Allthatjazzva! I am a serious barefooter, and when it became necessary to buy hiking shoes I had no end of problems. I cannot wear these supportive, structured shoes at all. Couldn't get two miles before the foot pain was so bad I couldn't walk any more. I had to stop and take the stinkin' shoes off and walk the rest of the way in my bere feet.

    Thank goodness for minimalist shoes! I'm using them now while I train for a 25K walking race in April. I may or may not walk the race in my bare feet. - 1/9/2013 8:36:50 AM
  • ALTHATJAZVA
    This is very traditional advice. Before you accept it as "gospel", please do some research on minimalist/barefo
    ot running and exercise. The traditional and minimalist approaches are very different and you should try and understand both before you decide what approach works best for you. - 1/9/2013 7:29:03 AM
  • ELLEPILL
    I need help in choosing a shoe. I want to start a walking routine. (outside and at the gym) I would like to add to my workout routine soon, the basic gym equipment, and then jogging and zumba. I have a weak left ankle. Can someone suggest shoes? I am a little over whelmed by all the info.
    Thanks - 12/31/2012 9:42:22 AM
  • One quick pointer for women doing Zumba: Wear the right shoes! I injured my knee by doing Zumba in running shoes. If you are a dedicated Zumba fan (or even if you are just trying Zumba out) I recommend investing in a pair of dance sneakers. You can get a decent pair for $40-$70. It may seem like an extra expense, but it costs far less than the medical care you could need for your knee if you don't wear the correct footwear! - 12/17/2012 9:12:38 PM
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