Diary of a Fit Patriot: Shoes!

Posted: February 22, 2016 at 9:40 am, Last Updated: February 22, 2016 at 11:57 am

By: Alison M. Hall

I’ve been asked, “Do you pick up new fitness activities just so you can buy new shoes?” No, I don’t, but it’s an added perk for a shoe-lover like myself. While I like the look of heels as much as Carrie Bradshaw, I own maybe 3 pairs, and I cannot walk smoothly in them. But I own more pairs of fitness shoes than I can count. I’ve inherited my dad’s bad feet, so I’m careful to have proper footwear for each activity. Here are some shoe options for basic fitness activities.

Cross Trainers: It sounds great, a shoe you can wear for everything. Well, almost everything. Cross trainers are great for most group fitness classes, fitness drills, cardio machines, and basic strength training. A good cross trainer is built up more around the ankle for extra support for lateral movement. Some people can wear them fine for short runs, although I’m not one of them. If you only want to buy one pair of gym shoes, cross trainers are your best bet.

Running Shoes: We runners can be very particular about our shoes because running is a lot of impact on the feet. Getting fit for the right pair of running shoes is important because different foot strike patterns require different shoes. A gait analysis in a running store can tell you if you pronate (turn in), supinate (turn out), or are neutral (neither). There are running shoes for each of those gaits. You also can chose minimalist if that’s your preference, trail shoes if you run off road, or extra-reflective shoes if you run at night. Ideally you should get a fitting at a running store. Once you know your proper shoe, you can try to find your next pair at a discount online.

Walking Shoes: Yes, walking shoes are different than running shoes. When walking, your body’s weight is distributed more evenly on your foot than when running. Walking shoes are designed to work with body mechanics and the rolling foot strike of walking. While just about any sneaker is fine for walking to class, if you walk many miles, consider a walking-specific shoe.

Cycling Shoes: You don’t need cycling shoes to participate in cycle class, but if you do it a lot, you might want them. Cycling shoes have a much stiffer sole than regular sneakers. You are supposed to push the pedal with the ball of your foot, so if your shoe has a soft sole, your foot bends. That can put pressure on your foot and reduce the efficiency of the pedal stroke. Some cycle shoes also have the option to slide in the toe cage or clip into the pedal. If you shoe clips in, your pedal stroke is even more efficient because remember, you both push and pull. As you pull, your foot stays secure to the pedal giving you more power. Clipping in also helps you keep alignment, which will save your joints the longer you ride. Our bikes use SPD compatible clips.

Studio Shoes: If you take group exercise a lot or do lots of high impact cardio drills, consider studio shoes. They give even more ankle support than cross trainers and offer more cushioning in the heel and forefoot for the impact.

Dance Shoes: Zumba is hugely popular on campus. It’s fun, upbeat, and sometimes doesn’t even seem like exercise. Because Zumba is more dance than aerobics, dance sneakers are a good option. They have a smoother sole, so pivots and shuffles can be done with less risk of twisting a joint or your foot getting stuck on the floor. They are breathable, light weight, and have a wider sole for stability.

Weightlifting Shoes: If you are a power or Olympic-style lifter, you might want weightlifting shoes. Weightlifting shoes don’t absorb force like running shoes or cross trainers. They instead let you use the force your body produces to lift more efficiently. Also, the heel is raised, which can help you increase your ankle range of motion as you do this style of lifting.