New to exercise? The question of which shoes should be chosen when starting out may seem pretty trivial but it really isn't. Unaware of this fact, people typically end up ambiguously purchasing a pair of trainers which suits their personal taste; with the two main criteria usually being affordability and fashion. The shoes one choses however, do matter quite a bit as that choice can seriously impact your training for better or for worse in the short and long term, not to mention there are other criteria worth taking into consideration.
Let me explain. In the first part of this series we spoke about the fact that many of us start off with bad posture and alignment issues which need correction. I mentioned that if your exercise program involves lots of running and/or jumping it becomes especially important to address these issues from early on.
Many people have a natural foot strike (the way your feet hit the ground when your run) which is less than ideal. This throws their ankles, knees and consequently the rest of their body out of alignment. Overtime, this inefficiency may cause several painful conditions which can be avoided by simply assessing what type of shoe is best suited for your individual characteristics and the type of training you are involved in.
When it comes to running, especially medium to long distances, what's needed is a shoe with a well cushioned sole to absorb the constant impact of hitting the ground and good ankle support to stabilize your foot during your running stride.
Running on hard surfaces such as the road or pavement can cause considerable strain on the body and can spell trouble for the inexperienced runner. Painful conditions which develop as a result such as shin splints for example can be minimized by wearing proper shoes and running on softer surfaces.
Consideration should also be given to how your foot hits the ground. Some have flat feet for example and need special inserts to provide the additional support they need. Others have an either pronated or supinated foot strike depending on the shape of your foot and your body's natural tendencies, either of which would need correcting.
Additionally, some have wide feet while others have narrow feet. Each of these things should be taken into consideration when selecting a well fitting running shoe as it is important to maintain as neutral of a foot strike as possible with a snug fit to minimize the risk of pain and injury.
For those who have intentions of enrolling in a resistance training program it would be wise to invest in a pair of weightlifting shoes (also known as squat shoes). These shoes provide a much firmer sole to allow for stability and efficient transfer of force to the ground which is precisely what you want during a lift. The soft, malleable soles of running shoes are terrible at providing the stability needed for performing certain lifts safely and correctly. Quite frankly running shoes (trainers) should be not be worn in the weight room.
Another benefit of weightlifting shoes is that they help keep the spine in a more upright and neutral position during movements which involve squatting (and any good resistance training program includes plenty of that!). This is accomplished as a result of the elevation of your heel off the ground. This elevation increases the relative angle of your ankle joint and without getting too technical reduces the amount of ankle mobility needed across the same range of motion.
Chuck Taylors or any other stiff, flat, rubber soled shoe can provide a great alternative for those who aren't planning to get too serious about weightlifting or who have great ankle mobility. Powerlifters generally prefer to wear these as they allow for maximum contact with the ground which equals maximum force transfer.
Cross trainers tend to have a flatter more rigid, sole than regular running shoes. They are designed especially for interdisciplinary workouts and are versatile enough to be worn by those who intend to engage in multiple activities. Those who play sports such as football which require plenty running, quick bursts of speed (sprinting) lots of stopping, turning, jumping and other agility related movements stand to benefit the most from a cross training shoe.
This is the ideal shoe for Crossfit which involves a wide range of activities such as olympic lifts, skipping, middle distance running and more. With its increasing popularity now there are even cross trainers designed specifically with Crossfit related activities in mind such as the shoe pictured to the left (above on mobile) with a modified outsole to grip better during rope climbs. If your plan is to engage in a training program which includes a bit of everything, then an investment in a good pair of cross trainers would be the smart choice.
Another point worth noting is that shoes don't last forever. Like anything else they deteriorate with usage and become less and less suitable for their intended purpose over time. It is advisable therefore to pay attention to wear and tear to know when it's time to replace them. A worn outsole or a decrease in firmness of the insole are pretty good indicators that it's time to throw out your favorite pair of kicks for new ones.
If you are serious about getting fit and reducing your chances of injury it may be a good idea to visit a podiatrist in order to ascertain the right type of shoe for you. This goes especially for people who have flat feet, or a history of issues with their ankles and/or knees.
For those recovering from injury, the rehabilitation process may be hampered or helped based on your choices and practices in relation to footwear so it is advisable to be informed and listen to your physiotherapist's recommendations.
And finally it is always a good idea to read the reviews from previous buyers before choosing your next shoe in order to find out crucial information about a particular shoe's characteristics, drawbacks and strengths.