I recently had my first proper fitting for workout shoes which was quite a long overdue visit if must say so myself!
Up until when I got fitted, I had been wearing Nikes for all my workouts, ranging from strength training workouts to HIIT workout, treadmill cardio to outside cardio. Not that Nikes are bad – they have some great models that are specific to certain types of training, but those weren’t the models I was wearing. Since then, I have learned what a big role proper shoes play in your fitness journey, in injury prevention and in getting results.
What many don’t realize, and I didn’t realize in the beginning of my journey, is that different workouts call for different kinds of shoes. Wearing the wrong kind of workout shoe can lead you down a long road of muscle imbalances, ineffective muscle engagement and inevitable injury. This blog will go over the different types of workouts, which shoe to look for, and my experience with various shoe brands and models.
The main types of workout shoes we will be looking at are: running shoes, strength training shoes, and plyometric workout shoes which is also called “jump training”. When deciding what shoe to get, you can either get a shoe that fits the type of exercise you do the most, or if your activities are split equally between two of these types of exercise, then you may want to consider getting a pair for each specific type of exercise. At the end of the blog I will go over which shoe I feel gives you the best of both worlds in case you are looking to buy only one shoe for all activity.
It’s important to note that at the end of the day, the best shoe for YOU will depend on your feet. So while I can give my feedback on the shoes I’ve tried, I can’t necessarily say they will be the best fit for you, or that they won’t! Several factors will determine what brand, style and fit will be best and the only way to determine that is to try them on, and preferably, test them for yourself.
The first step to getting properly fitted for workout shoes is to do a search of specialty running stores in your area. At the time, I was in Santa Monica and I found a store called Road Runner Sports. They have various equipment to test your running style and to make custom fit insoles on the spot. Most cities should have a similar specialty running store but they may be locally owned, so I recommend doing a quick search and see what comes up in your area.
After talking with an associate for a few minutes about what I was looking for, she had me hop on the treadmill to do a light jog. This treadmill was connected to a computer which tracks my running style and the way my feet land. What they are looking for is whether I “pronate” or “supinate”.
Pronating means you turn your feet slightly inward, and supinating means the opposite, so you turn your feet slightly outward. I want to point out that our feet both pronate and supinate to a certain degree, naturally. It’s when you over-pronate or over-supinate (also called under-pronate) that you need to look at shoes specific to this condition, or custom fit insoles to compensate for your over or under-pronating. I went for custom fit insoles since I pronate more than normal. Since the store I went to had the machines that makes the custom fit insoles on the spot, I walked out of the store with the insoles ready to go.
Here is a tip if you aren’t able to make it to a specialty store for them to check your running style: Take a look at your most worn pair of shoes and see where there’s the most wear and tear. If the inside edges of your shoes are most worn away, you lean towards pronating. If the outside edges of your shoes are most worn away, you learn towards supinating. If you see neither side have excess wear and tear, and it looks like the ball of your foot and heel have the most wear, you likely have a neutral supination which means you neither over-pronate nor over-supinate. Yay!
If you have been running or exercising for some time, you likely have experienced a little bit of aches and pains here and there. Some are normal, but aches and pains to the point where you can’t walk or have an all-out injury, are not. For those of you who have been following my journey for a while, you have heard me talk about my hip flexor issues. They started about two years ago, and worsened because I didn’t seek professional help for them. I was living in Rome at the time and I will admit that the thought of finding a proper physical therapy place was daunting, and I put it off. This was a bad call on my part and I put it off for so long when there came a time when I could barely lift my legs out of bed without picking them up with my hands because my hip flexors hurt so bad (!!!) – so I sought help.
Unfortunately, after nearly 6 months of physical therapy, there was little to no improvement because I wasn’t getting down to the source of the pain. That’s when I discovered foam rolling and SO much of my pain was alleviated within one week. If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend getting a foam roller – it’s one of the best rehabilitation items you can have and use daily.
The next step in healing my hip flexors was finding proper shoes. When you either over-pronate or over-supinate and don’t have proper shoes or insoles to compensate for that, your body is at risk for a whole list of ailments. The way we run and having proper shoes affect much more than you think. Here is a list of some of the most frequent injures from improper shoes:
PAY IN PAIN
EFFECTS OF IMPROPER SHOES
Here’s a quick list of the effects of improper shoes:
• Shin splints
• Flat Feet
• Ankle Sprains
• Achilles Tendinitis
• Knee Pain
• Hip Pain
• Back Pain
Running shoes need to help with stability, motion control, ankle and arch support. They need to be flexible and have ample cushion to absorb the impact of hard surfaces.
If you plan on running extensively, you may also want to take it another step and look at where you will be doing the majority of your runs – on a treadmill, on trails, or on pavement. This will have an impact on what specific running shoes will be best for you as well.
Strength Training shoes need to have a low heel with as little cushion as possible, and be as low to the ground as possible. They’re pretty much the exact opposite of your ideal running shoe. 🙂
Jump Training / Plyometrics / Gym Class
The heavier you lift, the flatter to the ground your shoes need to be which is why you don’t want a heel or a lot of cushion. A thick heel makes it difficult for you to keep your weight on your heels, which is one of the most important aspects of effective and proper lifting. Some lifters even wear converse (high top for ankle support) when lifting – or go barefoot!
When doing any sort of jumping around during your workouts, you need good grip, cushion, and arch support. You pretty much you need it all! I see these shoes as a bit of a mix of both running and strength training shoes, which are usually referred to as “cross trainer” shoes. Cross Trainers are meant to be versatile so you can wear them for various types of exercise, however if you’re *only* lifting or *only* running, I would recommend a more specialized shoe.
Tips for trying on shoes:
- Try on with the socks you will be wearing when you work out.
- Get fitted for shoes around the time of day you typically workout/run since the size of your feet do slightly change from morning to evening OR towards the end of the day since this is when they are at their largest.
- Don’t go off recommendations – go off how the shoe fits to you.
- Pay attention to how they feel – they should feel great the first time you put them on.
THE TEST SUBJECTS
1. Nike Free Flyknit 5.0
These are the shoes I had been wearing for nearly two years before I went to buy proper workout shoes. I really liked them because I preferred the snug, lightweight feel and they are extremely flexible, but they didn’t have the stabilization and ankle support I was needing for FBG workouts. Since I bought these, they have since updated the design so these exact shoes are no longer available. Here is a link to this exact shoe and here is a link to the most comparable shoe currently available.
2. Nike Zooms
I’ve enjoyed having these shoes and have found I can use them for both running and plyometric training. However, I wouldn’t lift heavy weights in them since there is a quite a heel I did recently wear them on a day-trip and they held up pretty well through the day.
3. Innov8 Power Heel F-Lite 250
I bought these shoes when I went to Road Runner Sports and the associate told me they were popular among those who lift or do crossfit since they have a low heel, good grip and good ankle support. I did lift in them and they felt fine! They didn’t wow me or disappoint me, so I would say give them a shot if you’re looking for lifting-only shoes.
4. Brooks PureCadence 5
I bought these at Road Runner Sports as well, and they were presented to me as a running shoe. If you aren’t familiar with Brooks, typically they are one of the top two brands for running shoes so I was *really* excited to try them out. They did not disappoint. I always felt supported and cushiony, without them feeling too bulky.
5. Asics FluidRide GT-2000
These were the other pair of running shoes I got at Road Runner since Asics came so highly recommended (along with Brooks) by runners. I wasn’t particularly excited about them and to be honest, I delayed my testing with them because they aren’t nearly as cute as my other shoes. Yes, I am admitting cuteness plays a factor in my workout shoes. Not so much to where I don’t wear them at all, but it took me longer to get around to them because I just really wasn’t that excited about them. Unfortunately, this is often why people get running injuries – because they choose their shoes based off looks and not their actual fit or what they’re made for – don’t fall into that trap! Being guilty of that myself, it definitely was responsible for some of my running injuries. Since testing them, they’re definitely solid running shoes and I would recommend them. They are much bulkier than I was used to (especially coming straight from those Nike Free Flyknit 5.0’s) so that also took some time to get used to, but there’s no denying the support these give you. I liked these most for outside running since there are some twists and turns if running a trail or around corners. On the treadmill I found them to be unnecessarily big and almost clunky like, so I would consider where you are running if you are going to wear these. (But again, keep in mind I was used to the super lightweight 5.0’s…) The link above is to these exact shoes and I could only find them on the Road Runner Sports website which is the exact store I got them at. Here is a link to Asic’s website that doesn’t seem to have these exact shoes, but similar shoes in the same line.
6. Asics Ahar+ Training Shoes
I actually had a hard time with these. The associate didn’t necessarily point them out to me, but I asked about them because coming from the Nike Free Flyknits, they seemed the most similar in design, being lightweight and on the thinner side (especially when comparing to the Asics GT-2000). They were one of the first pairs I was excited to try, but I was bummed to find I didn’t love them. The associate told me they are designed more for strength training, and perhaps that’s where I went wrong because I tested them more for plyometric training (during FBG workouts) and they just didn’t support me enough. In my prior Nike 5.0’s, my feet were totally snug and stayed put, and with these, my feet were sliding all over the place inside the shoe. For lifting, I would say they are a better fit and I wouldn’t wear them for plyometric or jump training.
*All the shoes up to now were paid for by me*
*The Adidas shoes below were gifted to me but my review is still 100% my own own feedback*
7. Adidas Ultra Boost
When I first started testing these out, they instantly became my favorite. I ran in them, did FBG (circuit training) and they held up great. Since then, it’s been a few months and they’ve loosened up a bit so I don’t feel *as* supported as I did in the beginning. So if you’re looking to get these, just keep in mind that they may stretch out a bit. It would be better for these to be a bit more snug when you try them on than loose, since they will losen up a bit as time goes on. I will say they get points in the cuteness category :). They’re a good balance of being cute and being supportive (as long as they don’t stretch too much). This [link] will take you to the shoe on the Adidas site, but they no longer have them in purple.
8. Adidas Pure Boost Shoes
I was soooo excited about these shoes. They are so cute, compact, lightweight, and they even have a cool feature that wraps around the arch of your foot. They were the first pair I tested and I wore them just walking around doing errands first, and I was so bummed to feel the little tab near my achilles tendon rubbing against it! I’m still bummed. I will wear them for short trips out and about, but any longer and they get uncomfortable. I’m also hoping maybe something in the shoe will loosen up and it will eventually stop rubbing like that? Just this last week I met a girl who was wearing the same pair and I asked her how she found them, and she agreed that they’re not comfortable enough to work out in so she just wears them for errands.
9. Adidas Alpha Bounce Leopard Sneaker
These are a bit bigger (clunkier) than the other shoes but they made up for that in cuteness. I have felt pretty comfortable in these, but they didn’t scream a super yes to me when working out in them. I also wore them to a trip to Disneyland and my feet were killing me by the end. They aren’t necessarily meant for long-distance walking, but now I know not to wear them out for long trips. I love how cute they are, but I still much prefer the Ultra Boost in comparison. I couldn’t find these on the Adidas site, so here is a link to a third party so you can see more closeups of the shoe. Here is the shoe on Adidas’ site but in other color options. I would recommend ordering only from Adidas directly since I can’t verify the credibility of the third party site. So which are my top picks?:)
ANNA’S TOP PICKS
IT’S A TIE!
4. Brooks PureCadence 5
7. Adidas Ultra Boost
For the type of training I do (FBG: High intensity strength training and plyometric training in the same session) I felt most supported and comfortable throughout my workouts in each of these.
If I were to ever only lift and no running/jumping, I would go with the two that were meant for lifting, shoe number 6, the Asics Ahar + Training Shoes or number 3, the Innov8 Power Heel F-Lite 250.
If I were to be only running, I would go for number 5, the Asics FluidRide GT-2000.
If I were to be walking long-distance, I would go for either number 2, the Nike Zoom or number 7, the Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes.
One last important note I want to add is that if you do both running and strength training/lifting and don’t want to buy or carry around two pairs of shoes, you won’t injure yourself wearing running or cross training shoes will lifting. You would just need to put extra focus on keeping your weight in your heels and not your toes. On the other hand, extensive running in lifting shoes does put you at significant risk for injury, so if you had to choose between two shoes even if you do both types of training, cross trainers are preferred but running shoes would suffice as well.
And that’s it! As I continue testing new shoes I will happily update this blog, and feel free to add your experience with shoes to further the conversation. This is only my first time reviewing or even looking into shoes in detail, so I am sure there are more things to cover and that we could discuss. If there is something you feel was important that I left out, please let me know in the comments below!
Lastly, as is true with nearly all health and fitness related topics, there is more to this topic than I can cover virtually. There is no one size fits all and the only way to know how this information pertains to you is to see a podiatrist, physical therapist or personal trainer trained in this specific area. There are certain tests and analyses they can run to determine what your needs are and to give you the best recommendation to ensure your body is in as great of alignment possible.