Best training shoes - July 2018
A typical training session may include any or all of the following: aerobic activities, strength training, stretching, and balance exercises.
These activities require the foot to move and bend in various directions at constantly-changing speed. Besides, different exercises place stress on different areas of the foot, calling for the right type of support in the footwear.
Training shoes are your best bet if you want to feel sure-footed and comfortable during these workouts. Not only do the right trainers help in enhancing your athletic performance, but also protect your feet and knees from injuries.
Choosing the right type of training shoes for you
Depending on the type of exercise they are made for, training shoes vary in the level of support, cushioning, heel stability, flexibility, weight, etc. But to the untrained eye, there are only subtle differences between a regular trainer, a walking shoe, and a specialized CrossFit shoe, unless you actually aim to distinguish them from each other. Below you can find out about the purpose and specific characteristics of each type.
Daily workout trainers are equipped with optimum cushioning, lateral support, and flexibility to accommodate gym workouts, cross-training and HIIT sessions, studio and dance classes. They are also characterized by a lightweight and breathable upper, usually made of mesh and reinforced with synthetic overlays in the high-wear areas. They use a low-profile midsole with a low or medium heel-to-toe drop (0 mm to 8 mm on average). This construction allows for fast and unhindered multi-directional movements. Their midsole units are ready for high impact but are not as plush as the soles of running trainers. A moderate firmness helps workout shoes provide better ground feedback to the wearers.
A CrossFit shoe is like a reinforced version of a typical workout shoe. They are both made to be lightweight, flexible, and versatile, yet the similarities end there. CrossFit-oriented footwear makes use of a thinner midsole with a balance of flexibility and firmness. These shoes are more pliable in the forefoot to accommodate agile, high-intensity moves but have firmer heels to provide a steady base for weightlifting. The average drop in these trainers measures at 4 mm, which puts the foot into a nearly-flat position for a better sense of ground control. They employ various internal and external supporting structures in the rearfoot and the midfoot sections to eliminate undesirable wobbling. CrossFit shoes also have add-ons that shield the facade from the abrasion caused by rope climbing, burpees, and wall push-ups.
Conversely, a pair of weightlifting shoes is a very different animal. The first difference you’ll notice is its elevated heel that goes as high as 25 mm. Its purpose is to help athletes go into deep squats without straining their Achilles tendon. It also results in an improved lifting form as the torso stays more upright when the feet and legs have an assured foundation. This type of footwear is often made of leather or other strong materials to deliver a secure foothold. Additional midfoot support is delivered by a strap or two atop the instep. Lifting shoes feature a rigid platform under the heel that is made of either stacked leather, wood, or plastic. It is meant to serve as a stable, incompressible lifting base. This design practically enables the lifter to plant the foot firmly on the ground, thereby preventing injury or discomfort. It also makes weightlifting shoes the heaviest among the training footwear.
Finally, there is footwear designed specifically for athletic walking. It also utilizes mesh and synthetic materials in the upper unit for comfort and breathability. But the key features of this type are flexibility and cushioning. Shoes for active walking usually employ a soft and pliable foam compound in the midsole. It helps in promoting a natural gait cycle of the foot. Some brands also introduce add-ons in the heel and the midfoot section of the platform to enhance the shock-absorbing properties.
Brands of training shoes
Once you know the kind of activity you'll be putting your future trainers through, it's time to decide on the right company to provide you with the pair. You may already be a loyal fan of one or two brands, but it is also a good (and beneficial) idea to explore other players on the market. Aside from the brand's name and reputation, try considering factors like customer and expert reviews, quality of technologies and materials used, the availability of width options, discounted prices, etc. There is always a chance that a perfect pair of training shoes is hiding behind a name you've never come across before.
The big ones
Nike is a multinational sportswear brand that designs, develops, and manufactures athletic footwear, among other things. It is the most valuable brand in sports with a $29.6-billion valuation as of 2017.
It started as a distributor for Onitsuka Tiger shoes (now ASICS) in 1971. When their contract ended in the 1970s, it changed its name to Nike as preparation for the launch of its line of footwear that bore the eventual globally recognizable Swoosh logo.
Adidas pioneered many of the marketing practices that are still in effect in the athletic footwear industry today. The company laid the groundwork for sports sponsorship marketing by creating a television market for the FIFA and the Olympics in the 1970s. Adidas also set a precedent for its partnership with Run DMC, the first sportswear brand and a music-act deal that ushered in today’s pervasive partnership deals between brands and hip-hop artists. Due to these marketing initiatives, Adidas is claimed to have the highest rate of consumer brand loyalty.
In 1958, Reebok was created by Joe and Jeff Fosters as a companion business to their grandfather’s spiked running shoe company in Boston, England. Their business was soon noticed by an American businessman, Paul Fireman, who helped in bringing the brand to the US market.
Following this, it expanded its offerings to include the industry’s first aerobic training shoes for women with the creation of the Reebok Freestyle in 1982. This product, along with other sports shoes, clothing, and accessories, made the company one of the top-selling athletic footwear brands in the 1980s with $1 billion in sales.
Reebok was eventually acquired as a subsidiary by Adidas in 2005. It also started repositioning itself as a fitness-oriented brand. Five years later, Reebok was awarded the official license to produce co-branded footwear and apparel for CrossFit. It also entered a fitness partnership with Les Mills, a group training program that is taught in over 15,000 studios in 80 countries.
The company was started in 1996, soon after its founder, Kevin Plank, invented a unique compression shirt. In 2006, the brand launched its first line of performance trainers, including cross-training shoes. It also set its sights on the fitness training space by acquiring fitness app companies such as MyFitnessPal and Endomondo.
Puma was started by Rudolf Dassler in 1948, after his notorious departure from the joint business with his brother Adi, the founder of Adidas. Today, Puma is the third largest manufacturer of activewear in the world.
In 2014, the brand gave a new life to its women’s training gear by signing a partnership with Rihanna. As a Creative Director and a global ambassador of Puma, Rihanna has greatly influenced women’s footwear collections, the Puma Fierce line in particular.
Introduced in 1984, Air Jordan is a successful brand that was borne out of the popular basketball shoe deal between Nike and Michael Jordan, dubbed as the greatest basketball player of all time by the NBA. Its line of shoes features one of the most iconic shoe logos in the world, the Jumpman. It is a silhouette of Michael Jordan doing a slam dunk.
The brand is mostly known for its basketball footwear, but in 2010, it made its foray into cross-training with the release of the Trunner LX.
As a brand that promotes a healthy soul in a healthy body, ASICS is a Japanese brainchild that produces quality footwear for a wide range of athletic disciplines. For instance, its running shoes have been named as some of the best performance footwear in the market.
Originally known as Onitsuka, Inc., the company had a hand at Nike’s meteoric rise as the latter used to be the official distributor of Onitsuka shoes in the US prior to producing its own line of footwear. It has been a long way since then as Asics has now grown into a $3.54-billion company.
The history of New Balance dates back to 1906 when it started as a manufacturer of arch supports and orthotics. It wasn’t until 1960 that it entered the shoe-making business when it produced its first running shoe, Trackster.
The company has subsequently expanded its product offerings to include golf, hiking, and training shoes, thus earning $69 billion in revenues since 1991.
Founded in 1992, Skechers is a performance footwear company that designs and manufactures training shoes for men, women, and children. As the second largest athletic footwear company in the US, Skechers’ global reach is so expansive that it has more than 2,400 stores in over 160 countries and territories, earning them over $3.56 billion in revenues in 2017.
Skechers is known for its endorsers including celebrities Brooke Burke, Camila Cabello, and Ringo Starr, and athletes like Tony Romo, Kara Goucher, and Sugar Ray Leonard.
The growing ones
Like with many other sportswear brands, Inov-8 had its start in the creation and production of running shoes. To stand out from its competition, the company targeted the niche market of trail running by creating a shoe that lets the feet be in control and not the other way around.
It subsequently produced a mountain running shoe that wasn’t popular in the running community but was welcomed in the functional fitness space. The company took advantage of this newfound popularity to move into the territory of cross-training shoes.
It is now operating in 60 countries.
Altra is known as one of the top-10 running specialty brands. However, the company has expanded its operations to the cross-training category with the release of the HIIT XT, a training shoe designed for HIIT and CrossFit use. It was positively received by many gym buffs.
Founded in 1979, Avia began as a manufacturer of men’s and women’s aerobics and walking shoes. By the 1980s, it decided to delve into basketball shoes that were favored among the famous NBA players of the time, such as Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler.
It also invented several athletic shoe technologies such as the Anatomical Rebound Cradle, the FOM technology, and the Cantilever Heel.
Ryka is an athletic footwear company founded by a woman for women. Since 1987, it has been delivering athletic shoes designed with the woman’s physical form in mind. The brand takes into account that a woman has a different foot shape, skeletal structure, and muscle movement. Hence, Ryka’s training shoes are developed to fit a woman’s unique needs.
Brands of minimalist trainers
Vibram FiveFingers is a minimalist shoe brand that caters to kayaking, sailing, canoeing, and camping enthusiasts. The footwear imitates the feeling of being barefoot with its thin and flexible sole that conforms to each nook and cranny of the foot.
Vibram was founded due to a tragedy that happened to the friends of the founder, Vitale Brimani. In 1935, six of his friends died in the Italian Alps due to inadequate footwear. These deaths drove Brimani to develop a more secure sole with rubber lug soles and a tank tread.
Today, the company designs and manufactures footwear for casual wear, mountaineering, water sports, running, golf, and training.
Vivobarefoot manufactures minimalist footwear for running and training. Its proprietary shoe technology enables optimum biomechanics and posture associated with walking and running barefoot.
Frequently asked questions about training shoes
If workout shoes are supposed to be versatile, what makes CrossFit and weightlifting shoes worth buying?
While most workout trainers are versatile enough to cope with gym sessions and daily training routines, there are also specialized ones for weightlifting, CrossFit, and athletic walking. These shoes are designed with a particular kind of training in mind and, thus, employ specific features to help athletes perform effectively.
While you can wear workout shoes for all cross-training activities, it is still better to wear specialized CrossFit or weightlifting shoes when you want to start focusing on CrossFit WODs and Olympic weightlifting. These types of footwear are designed to allow the wearer to reach peak performance and maintain proper form.
If you are still starting out on your cross-training journey, you can wear any training shoe, as long as it meets your needs.
Can I use training shoes for running?
Training shoes only provide support for side-to-side movements and not the forward motion that running involves. They also have a firmer midsole compared to running shoes. That said, trainers provide a semblance of forefoot support that makes them still comfortable enough for occasional light jogs and treadmill runs.
Can I go hiking in training shoes?
The rocky and unleveled terrains are what make hiking challenging and fun. However, they can also up your risk of ankle twisting, slippage, and other injuries. Wearing specialized hiking footwear can prevent such accidents due to the ankle support and traction that they provide.
Are training shoes suitable for playing basketball?
When shooting hoops, feet need cushioning in order to absorb the impact from jump shots and running. While basketball shoes are the ideal choice for the sport, you can wear training shoes for a ball game once a week or less. It still has enough cushioning to attenuate the ground impact.
What kind of training shoes do I need for Zumba and Jazzercise?
Training shoes that are lightweight, breathable, cushioned, supportive, and shock absorbent are the best footwear for Zumba and Jazzercise. Too much traction can also be bad as it can hinder twisting and gliding. It is for this reason that your Zumba or Jazzercise footwear should have a Pivot Point to make these movements easier.
What is a Pivot Point?
Located at the ball of the foot and heel, the Pivot Point is a smooth, round area on the sole designed to make sudden movements easier because it drags less on the floor compared with other areas of the outsole. Sometimes too much traction can do more harm than good. High-impact exercises that include gliding, twisting, and twirling are impeded by the strong grip of a rubber sole. This, in turn, makes ankles, hips, and heels work harder in order to fight against the traction. Therefore, putting more stress on these parts can then cause strains and injuries. The Pivot Point minimizes the chance of such undesirable consequences.
What is the purpose of rope-climbing add-ons?
Gravity-defying rope climbing exercises wreak havoc on training shoes. CrossFit shoes have found a remedy to this problem: rope-climbing add-ons installed at the shoe's inner sides. Some of the examples include Inov-8’s RopeTec and Reebok’s RopePro. These useful rubber attachments increase the durability of the shoe by protecting them against the abrasive manila ropes. Some rope guards are textured with ridges to enhance traction and performance while ascending or descending the ropes.
Why do shoes for weightlifting have elevated platforms?
Weightlifting shoes have an unusual appearance and built compared to the typical workout shoes due to their elevated and reinforced heel platforms. These heels have a height that ranges from .6” to 1”. These heels are not elevated just for aesthetic purposes. The heel height allows the wearer’s ankles to have a full range of motions, which increases the depth of squats and improves squatting form. Weightlifting heels are also more fortified than the heel of regular workout shoes as theirs are made of wood, TPU plastic, and leather. Plastic heels are the most commonly used as they are more durable and have a wide array of variations. They serve as a solid lifting foundation for the lifter. Wood and leather heels lend an old-school look to the shoe but are less durable than plastic. Aside from offering a strong lifting base, they provide a close-to-the-ground feel as well.
Do training shoes come with arch support?
Yes, some of them. While arch support has been playing a significant role in the running shoe category, it has not reached the same scale for training footwear. Due to the agility and ever-changing nature of workouts, it is much harder to incorporate gait correcting features into training shoes. That's why stability and motion control add-ons are never present in CrossFit or weightlifting footwear. They are sometimes found in workout shoes and are quite common for walking shoes, where the gait is easier to correct. So, if you are looking for a pair of supportive workout or walking trainers, read on to learn more about the matter.
There are different degrees of arch support for different gaits. These foot gaits are: neutral, overpronated, and underpronated. Find out more about these foot gaits and their corresponding training shoes below.
- Neutral training shoes are designed to provide sufficient medial (arch-side) support and shock absorption for those with a neutral foot gait or normal pronation. It implies that the foot performs a natural rolling movement when the heel strikes the ground during running or walking. This motion allows for natural shock-absorption and distribution of impact, thus keeping the foot and the leg free from any discomfort. The cushioning that’s offered by neutral training shoes is also designed to carry and support the form of high-arched underpronators, whose feet roll outwards instead.
- Stability training shoes are recommended for low-arched or flat-footed overpronators. Usually, a medial post is added to the midsole, inhibiting the excessive inward rolling of the foot as it goes through the gait cycle. Overpronation puts pressure on the ankle and the foot in an attempt to stabilize the body and absorb shock, therefore increasing the risk of injury. Custom orthotic inserts can also be used to correct overpronation. Some training shoes have removable insoles to make way for these stabilizing add-ons.
- Motion control training shoes cater to people with severe overpronation or underpronation. Just like stability shoes, they may feature a reinforcing structure on the medial side of the shoe. What makes them different from the previous category is the presence of firm, stabilizing technologies in the heel section. However, motion control add-ons are very uncommon among workout shoes and are never present in CrossFit or weightlifting footwear due to the strenuous nature of the exercises involved in these regimens. Motion control features are most likely to be observed in walking shoes where overpronation and underpronation are easier to correct as the foot movement is more moderately-paced and repetitive.
How do I find out what arch support I need?
Aside from going to a podiatrist, you can also check by doing a pronation test at home. Wet your foot and step on a piece of paper. If your footprint shows half of your arch filled in, you have a normal arch and can, therefore, wear any training shoe.
Those with flat arches will see a footprint that has an entirely filled-in arch. You would need stability training shoes or orthotics. On the other hand, high-arched feet show little to no arch in the footprint. You can wear neutral training shoes with minimal arch support.
How long do training shoes last?
The durability of training shoes depends on a confluence of factors: its construction, materials used, activities for which it is meant, and the frequency of use.
Workout shoes are meant to cope with a wide array of activities, so they’re made to have a moderate staying power. A pair of walking shoes is designed to withstand about 300 to 500 miles of walking. CrossFit shoes tend to last longer as they have features, such as the rope guard and the toe cap, that protect the high-stress areas.
Weightlifting shoes have the most robust build out of the three types and can, therefore, last longer. They also don’t break down as quickly since they are usually worn less than other, more casual sports shoes.
While workout and CrossFit shoes typically last for at least six months, a weightlifting shoe can last up to a year. However, if you start seeing signs of wear and tear and experiencing unusual pains and blisters before that period, it is advisable to replace your shoe immediately.
How to take care of training shoes?
Your feet can get hot and sweaty during workouts, so it should be no surprise that your training shoes will eventually stink. Your trainers will also get dirty, depending on where you work out. Here are ways you can get your footwear looking and smelling fresh.
- Air them out after use. The interior of your training footwear can get damp with sweat that can make them a breeding ground for bacteria. Not only will it cause your training shoes to smell, but it will also increase your risk for infection. Therefore, it is important to air-dry your training shoes after use. Don’t use a blow-dryer as the heat will likely cause damage to your shoes.
- Clean them regularly. Training footwear is an investment, so cleaning them regularly is a must. For minor stains and spots, wiping away with a damp cloth will do, while more stubborn dirt can only be removed by deep-cleaning them with a shoe-cleaner and a brush. Make sure to use a toothbrush for the mesh upper and other delicate areas.
- Wash the shoelaces. You can’t clean your shoelaces the same way you clean your entire shoe. It needs to be put into a laundry bag and carefully washed in a washing machine.
- Store them in a box with baking soda. If airing out your training shoes still doesn’t get rid of the smell, storing it in a box with a baking soda overnight will do the trick. Another alternative is to leave dryer sheets inside the shoes overnight.
- Store the shoes in a clean and ventilated place. Let your cross-trainers breathe and keep the odors from being trapped by storing them in an open-air environment when not in use.
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