Discovering the best training shoes for you
A typical training session may include any of the following: sprinting, aerobics, calisthenics, plyometrics, rope climbing, powerlifting or weightlifting. These exercises require the foot to move in various directions at constantly-changing speed. Moreover, different activities place stress on different areas of the foot, which is not a job for a pair of running shoes. Training shoes are your best bet if you want to feel support and comfort during these workouts. Not only do they help in enhancing your athletic performance, but also protect your feet and knees from injuries.
Key differences between types of training shoes
Depending on the type of exercise they are made for, training shoes vary in the level of support, cushioning, heel stability, flexibility, weight, etc. Such rigorous activities as CrossFit and weightlifting also call for footwear with more durable components.
To the untrained eye, there are only subtle differences between a regular trainer and a specialized CrossFit shoe, unless you actually aim to distinguish them from each other. In turn, weightlifting shoes have a more discernible construction than the other two due to their sturdier forms and the unique heel platform design.
Workout shoes are characterized by their rounded toe box; a lightweight and breathable upper; and a low heel-to-toe drop (0 mm to 8 mm on average). They are built this way to facilitate multi-directional movements and provide heel support during weight training.
A CrossFit shoe is like a reinforced version of a typical workout shoe. They are both versatile and comfortable, yet the similarities end there. CrossFit shoes aim to provide a balance of flexibility and firmness to accommodate both high-intensity moves and heavy weightlifting. The midfoot and sides of these shoes often have supportive structures to prevent the foot from wobbling during lateral movements. They 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 allows for full ankle mobility. Such a design results in a more pronounced squat and an improved lifting form. This type of footwear may also have a strap or two atop the tongue for midfoot support. Lifting shoes feature a rigid external platform that is made of either stacked leather, wood, or plastic. Its purpose is to serve as a stable 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. Walking shoes 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.
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.
Popular brands of training shoes
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.
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.
Popular training shoe: Altra HIIT XT
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.
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.
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.
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 shoes, but in 2010, it made its foray into cross-training with the release of the Trunner LX.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Popular training shoes: Skechers Flex Appeal 2.0
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.
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.
Popular training shoes: Vivobarefoot Wing
Arch support in training shoes
No two pairs of feet are the same, which is what makes finding the right pair of training shoes a challenging task. In a perfect world, a shopper would only have to worry about the shoe’s fit, pricing, and features. But it’s not that simple.
Arch support is one of the essential features of training shoes. You may think of the arch as a trivial part of the foot, but it is crucial in maintaining stability and supporting our body weight. Hence, it needs to have sufficient support during a training session.
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.
Special technologies in training shoes
Each pair of training shoes has its own special features and technologies depending on the purpose that it was made for. Some technologies improve comfort and athletic performance of the wearer, while others protect the shoe from damage. Read on to find what special technologies and features make each training shoe a class of their own.
- Pivot Point. 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. 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 bottom.
- 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.
- Elevated and reinforced heel 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.
Taking care of your 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.
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 shoes 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 shoes or weightlifting shoes when you want to start focusing on CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. Specialized shoes are designed to allow the wearer to reach peak performance and maintain 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 footwear 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.
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?
Training shoes typically last up to 6 months, but they can last even longer with proper care. However, once you feel that the midsole has lost its cushioning or if the tread has worn out, then it is time to spring for a new pair.
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.
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