How To Choose The Best Shoes For Your Next Fitness Workout
Wearing the wrong shoes will run you into some problems such as pain and injuries. And with different types of running available––from city runs, hiking or going to the gym––you want to make sure you're in the know on how to choose the right shoes.
Different Types And Features of Shoes
"All sports shoes are not created equal," says Horne. They may "on first look seem the same but in many ways, they are quite different as they are designed to tackle different activities."
"Jogging or running shoes are designed for a unidirectional activity running forward, usually on a fairly stable surface." Trail running shoes, on the other hand, share similar features with running shoes but "the main difference is a stiffer midsole and a more rugged outsole with bigger lugs for better grip on the ground."
Hiking shoes "are built for stability and protection as well as grip. These shoes are usually stiffer and a little heavier than trail running shoes with a cushioned midsoles to reduce fatigue, a supportive upper and often hard toe protector." It's also important to have a grippy sole and "lacing options which hold the foot snugly and comfortably."
And gym shoes have "more emphasis on dynamic exercise and cross-training." Their features include " a lightweight cushioned shoe with a wide, flat outsole with a very stable heel cup."
Li summarises the common features that running shoes should have such as lightweight and comfortable, allow the feet to move well to attenuate shock, flexible soles to allow easy manoeuvrability of the joints of feet and ankles.
When it comes to knowing which shoe is right for you, Horne says the best way to find out is to see a podiatrist. From there, you can get advice on your foot shape, foot type, and other issues you have to prevent injuries from your chosen activity. If that's not possible, you can still do your own research by visiting trusted websites and using apps like Shoe Buddy, or visiting a local shop that specialises in running and hiking.
"Ideally, your shoe should simply allow your feet to move well, provide some impact shock absorption while not inhibiting gait and not causing discomfort during or after your running," says Li. But she also adds that "we should rely on appropriate biomechanics of our feet and optimal movement patterns in our whole body to attenuate shock as the best method to reduce impact—not rely solely on shoes."
(Related: 7 Fitness And Nutrition Experts Share Their Advice on How To Stay Active and Healthy)
Getting The Perfect Fit
When you choose the wrong shoe, some of the problems you will encounter include "black toenails from trauma, twisted ankles from trail running in minimalistic road running shoes, knee pain and hip pain from doing ballistic cross fit exercises in floppy shoes or by walking down Lantau’s steep slopes without properly supportive shoes," says Horne.
"Sore feet from hiking in overly stiff shoes which are too heavy for a brisk hike up to The Peak, and especially blisters," he adds.
For Li, common issues are "excessive strain on soft tissue structures such as your Achilles tendon or plantar fascia (sheath-like soft tissue under the sole of your foot) resulting in tightness or pain."
To make sure you avoid these issues, Li has the following advice when purchasing your shoes:
1) Do your research and try to assess what your foot type might be
2) Know how much mileage you are intending to do and what terrain
3) Make sure the shoes feel right and comfortable. If possible, try running them for a few minutes in the store or at home to see if they feel that they fit you well
Horne's advice when you go shoe shopping:
1) Try to buy in the afternoon as your feet may swell slightly. Your shoes may feel okay in the morning but will feel tight in the afternoon
2) Get the right size and width
3) Choose the shoe for the activity. You don't have to be specific in your shoe choice but if you're going to the gym, look for an all-rounder shoe that is quite stable and has a good outsole
When picking out specific brands, there's no shoe that fits all as each person's foot type, gait, and biomechanics are different. Below are some general recommendations from both experts, depending on what you're activity you're doing.