By Randy Leopando, CSCS, FMS, Director of Personal Training

Are you wearing the correct type of shoe when you exercise?  The right shoe can make or break your workout. After all, an ill-fitting shoe can cause faulty mechanics, pain, and even injury. If you participate in a specific sport or activity more than two times per week, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommends wearing a sport-specific shoe. This means you might need different shoes for different activities. Here are some recommendations on shoes for popular fitness modes.

Running

The repetitive nature of running requires extra attention to footwear in order to prevent injury and maximize comfort. Running shoes reduce the impact of each step you take. They are designed for forward motion with specific cushion in the heel and forefoot.  I highly recommend you get fitted at a specialty store.  Your foot type will dictate what type of shoe to get.  Locally I recommend the Running Center and Big River Running – they can analyze your gait and make the appropriate recommendation.

Walking

Walking involves a heavier heel strike, so walking shoes are created to have a round and stiff heel to support the heel-toe action of the gait. When shopping for a new walking shoe, check the flexibility of the sole. The toe box should be able to bend and twist easily for best results. Search for shoes with breathable mesh to keep feet cool on long jaunts.

Weightlifting

To lift weights effectively, a stable foot is required. Look for a shoe that provides a flat and sturdy base like a low-profile cross-trainer. Most cross-trainers work well for the average gym goer because they can be used for weight lifting, plyometric and cardiovascular endurance activities. Cross-trainers, however, are not especially great for any one activity. If you are focusing specifically on Olympic lifting, for example, Olympic lifting shoes provide a rigid structure and small heel lift, which enhances the stability of the foot for explosive power transfer.

Group Fitness Classes

Our Group Fitness and Hybrid Training classes are diverse and demand lateral movement, agility and stability. Look for a pair of lightweight cross-trainers with ankle and arch support. You will likely want a shoe with a wide toe box and a soft, flexible sole to grip the floor and maneuver in a variety of formats. If you attend cycling class on a regular basis, consider a pair of cycling shoes, which provide a solid base to alleviate foot fatigue and clips to allow you to connect with the bike for a more efficient and comfortable pedal stroke.

If the shoe fits…

Once you have the proper shoe for the workout, it’s important to replace them periodically. Shoes may lose their support or cushion long before they actually look worn. In fact, your body may signal shoe break down with aches or pains in your feet, shins, knees or back. A trained professional at a specialty store can recognize wear in your current shoes, watch your gait and provide recommendations. Most experts suggest replacing running shoes every 300 to 500 miles. For those who do not log miles, replace shoes every six months if you work out most days, or every year if you exercise a couple of times per week. You can extend the life of your fitness shoes by using them only when you exercise. If you like the comfort of your fitness shoes for running around town doing errands, consider buying a second pair to act as your “casual” shoe.  Hope this info gets you off on the right foot!