The question, “What is the best shoe?”, comes up all the time.
We Google. We ask our friends and our trainers.
We want to make sure we’re making the best purchase. Having the right shoe can completely change your workout; for example, it can provide you with more power, so you use less of your energy. Here are some things to consider when you’re on the hunt for a new pair of shoes:
Running shoes were specifically designed for running, trail shoes were specifically designed for trail, and training shoes were specifically designed for training. If you are participating in multiple activities, it is best to have multiple pairs of shoes.
When we run, we can all agree that our body is moving in a forward motion. We don’t run sideways, and typically we don’t run backwards. Running is a 3 phase movement: heel strike (landing), mid-stance (the transition), and toe-off (propulsion). Running shoes are designed to facilitate this forward motion in all 3 phases, and struggles with any variance from it (side to side movements, plyometric movements …).
When we train, our bodies are moving in multiple directions, and in multiple planes. Training shoes are designed to secure the foot and facilitate these changes in direction. In a training shoe, you will see many design features used to secure the heel and the front of the foot. In some cases, you’ll see additional mid-foot securing technologies as well.
Needs of the Athlete
Not all feet were created equally, and not all bodies were either. The needs of an elite athlete will obviously vary from the needs of a weekend warrior. Since we have different feet, different bodies, and different fitness levels, shoe designers have created different models to fulfill these requirements. I mean, you wouldn’t buy a 2-door sports car if you have 4 kids, right?
If we shift our focus back to the running shoe, and consider that all running shoes are designed to aid in the 3 phase movement of running, we then need to consider who is wearing the shoe and what they’ll need:
Injuries – will they require extra cushioning?
Arch types – will they require support?
Elite runner – will they require less cushioning and more responsive materials, a smaller midsole height difference between the heel and forefoot? It can become quite technical.
For training, we can almost apply the same logic. Some of us will require more cushioning than others, and that is a personal preference. If you have any joint issues (knees, hips, back, shoulders, etc.), you may require extra cushioning.
Think about the activities you engage in; is there jumping, lifting? The amount of cushioning you require will be different from the person who works out next to you at your bootcamp class. Don’t worry, many brands have you covered from minimal cushioning to heavy cushioning. Since these types of workouts require balancing, landing, quick changes, lifting, etc., you may notice that training shoes are slightly more “low profile” in that they are closer to the floor with a smaller midsole cushion. This helps with the aforementioned movements, as trainers don’t have the same impact absorbing requirements as runners. If you have ever attempted a single leg deadlift in running shoes, you may notice some wobbling because of the built up heel cushion, and extra height away from the floor. No, don’t worry, it wasn’t you!
While you have the shoes on in the store, don’t be afraid to try a few movements in them. Test drive them! What works for your friend, may not work for you. Comfort is subjective and may depend on the shape of your foot, in addition to other factors. Also, your foot may be wider or narrower, and the brand may not work for you in the same way it did for the athlete you saw on social media.
Tell the sales associate exactly what you need the shoes for, what kind of movements you’re doing, and any other special considerations like injuries or comfort preferences.
And please, don’t run in training shoes, and don’t train in running shoes!