Call them what you will—sneakers, trainers, runners, or kicks—well-fitting exercise shoes can help you avoid injury and get the most out of your fitness experience. The combination of high-tech materials and super-engineered design has bred an athletic shoe for every pastime and foot type. So, how do you choose among the hundreds of brands, models and styles on the market today?
Pick your activity
They type of activity you will dictate the best type of exercise shoes for you. For example, the high impact sport such as running can put a great deal of pressure on your feet, legs and joints. Therefore, you want a supportive running shoe that is flexible and well cushioned. Walking shoes are similar to running shoes but tend to be stiffer. If you do both activities, it’s a good idea to have a pair of each type. For an all-in-one gym shoe, cross trainers may be the answer. Although they have less cushion than running shoes, they are sturdier and offer better lateral support for side to side movement. Cross trainers are a great choice for weightlifting, stair climbing, and stationary biking.
Follow your foot shape
To find the most comfortable exercise shoes for your activity of choice, you’ll first need to assess how your foot moves when you run or step down forcefully. This has a lot to do with the way the arch of your foot is shaped. You can get a picture of your foot shape by examining the prints you leave when you wet your bare feet and walk across a piece of brown paper (such as a grocery bag).
- Low arch. If your footprint shows the entire sole of your foot with little or no curve, you have a low arch. This means that your feet will tend to roll inward as you walk, which is called overpronation. This type of motion puts extra wear on the outside heel and inside forefoot. With this type of gait, you’ll fare better with a shoe that offers good support and motion control.
- High arch. If the wet-feet-on-paper test shows the outline of the ball of your foot and a small portion the heel connected by only narrow strip of outer foot, you have a high arch. This means that your feet roll outward while walking or running, known as This is far less common than pronation. A flexible shoe with a lot of cushioning and a narrower heel will give you the best fit.
- Neutral arch. If your footprint shows an imprint of the whole foot except for distinct curve under your arch, you fall into the neutral category. Look for a stability shoe with a comfortable mix of support and cushioning.
Shopping tips for a good fit
In general, it’s best to shop for shoes in the afternoon because your feet naturally expand during the day. When trying on shoes, wear the style of socks you would typically use when exercising. If you’re unsure of your size or buying a different type of shoe than you’ve been wearing, ask the salesperson to measure your feet. If one foot is longer than the other, buy the larger size. Take a test walk around the store to see how the shoes feel—trust your own comfort level rather than the shoe size or description. If you have any particular injuries or foot problems, it’s a good idea to go to a specialty store that caters to athletes. Their prices may be a little higher but you’re likely to get good quality fitting advice from expert salespeople.
So, lets recap
When shopping for a good pair of exercise shoes, you want to have more than fashion in mind. Getting the right fit depends on your gait and foot shape. Before you begin, take into account the activity you plan to do while wearing the shoe. A sturdy shoe with good lateral support is an excellent choice for gym activities such as strength training and working out on exercise machines. If you’re a runner, you’ll want a well-cushioned shoe with a flexible midsection. A pair of comfy walking shoes, will also serve double duty as multi-purpose casual footwear.