Shoes are just shoes—they look good, but they don’t really do anything for me, right? WRONG! So, so wrong! Shoes are extremely important to getting the most out of your workout and avoiding injury. Have you ever felt your foot slip when you move side-to-side? Does the heel of your foot come out of your shoe during a lunge? Then, you’re not wearing the right shoes! Avoid disaster with this simple guide for choosing the right shoes and the right fit to dominate your workout!
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Before I became a Group Fitness Instructor, I thought the most important aspect of choosing my workout shoes was whether they looked cute with my yoga pants. I mean, as long as they don’t hurt, they must be fine, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. Proper footwear is fundamental to getting a great workout and, more importantly, avoiding injury. The problem is that most people don’t realize that different types of exercise require different footwear—I certainly didn’t. I thought that a good pair of running shoes worked great for everything. Running shoes are good for RUNNING, but they can be a serious hindrance for dance-based fitness and other types of workouts.
While a good pair of running shoes can be used across different workouts, it’s certainly not ideal. My advice is that if you engage in a particular workout regularly (i.e. at least 1-2 times per week), then you should invest in a pair of shoes that’s best-suited for that specific workout. Your feet and your workout will thank you in the long run.
Navigating the surprisingly complex world of workout shoes is difficult without some sort of guide. Lucky for you, the guide you need is right here! Never let your shoes sabotage your workout again with these simple tips!
Part I: How to Choose the Right Type of Shoes for Specific Workouts
In general, proper footwear should provide good cushioning, support, and flexibility, but the exact amount varies by exercise format. Below are the best types of shoes for some of the most popular workouts (if there’s something I didn’t cover here, feel free to comment below and ask!)
Step, Kickboxing, Plyometric, and HIIT
- Classes with repetitive movements, jumping, and other dynamic landing and pushing-off movements require good cushioning for the balls of the feet so that they can absorb recurring impact.
- Shoes for this type of movement have to provide cushioning both under the forefoot and the heel to maximize shock absorption and reduce the risk of injury to the foot and ankle.
- High impact aerobics put considerable pressure on the knees, ankles, and feet. Sturdy and well-cushioned shoes can relieve some of the burden on the joints.
- Without proper cushioning, your feet could slam down on the hard surface while jumping and cause severe injury. There needs to be a layer of support between your foot and the ground.
- I recommend ASICS Women’s Gel-Fit Sana 3 Cross-Trainer Shoes because they have an awesome gel cushioning system that absorbs shock. PUMA Women’s Cell Riaze Heather Cross-Trainer Shoes and Nike Womens Metcon 3 Training Shoes are also good options. These are all high-quality shoes with great cushioning in all the right places to minimize injury and help you perform high impact exercises without hindrance. When you know your shoes are protecting you and the impact from the ground isn’t hurting the ball of your foot, you can jump higher and move faster. Result: a better workout and calorie burn!
Dance-Based Fitness (i.e. Zumba)
- With dance-based fitness, it’s super important that you have plenty of lateral support. Examples of lateral movement include shuffling, side steps, or grapevines (basically, any side-to-side movement). If you take a dance-based class that involves this type of movement then good lateral support is a must.
- I used to wear regular running shoes for my Zumba classes and I slipped in my shoes all the time causing myself injury. Running shoes are built mainly for forward movement efficiency, but dance-based classes incorporate side steps, pivoting, and a lot of other non-forward moving exercises.
- Support on the lateral part of the shoe prevents the foot from rolling over, which minimizes the risk of serious injury, such as ankle sprains
- In addition to lateral support, dance-based fitness shoes should have a good amount of flexibility, so they can move with you during complex movements. You also want to ensure minimal tread on the sole of the shoe, so that you can pivot and slide effectively.
- I recently purchased NIKE Women’s Flex Trainer 6 Shoes for my dance-based workouts. I absolutely love them and they’re extremely cost-effective. The material is very flexible and breathable, so I’m able to move in any direction with ease. I’ve also heard good things about Zumba brand shoes like the Zumba Women’s Fly Print Dance Shoe, although I haven’t personally tried them before.
- For running and treadmill-based workouts, you should wear a shoe designed for forward movement efficiency. The goal is for your shoe to move with you, no matter how fast you run.
- You also want good traction on your running shoes, so you don’t slip and fall, especially when running on unpredictable terrain (i.e. on a trail).
- I’ve always loved Brooks shoes for running. They’re sturdy and extremely well-made. I currently own Brooks Women’s Ghost 10 Running Shoes in pink and black. They’re super cute (I get tons of compliments) and have great traction. Before my Brooks shoes, I owned this pair from Saucony. Saucony is a great brand too and they’re generally cheaper than Brooks.
- Indoor cycling enthusiasts should invest in cycling shoes to get the best workout and avoid injury to the foot and ankle. Regular running shoes just aren’t designed to protect against repetitive downward movements on the pedal.
- For indoor cycling, you should wear stiff-soled shoes. Soft-soled shoes, such as those used for dance-based fitness, cause the foot to flex over the pedal resulting in numbness, bruising, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Cycling shoes also improve pedaling efficiency, as well as, help to strengthen the muscle groups used in cycling. This results in a better workout and a lower risk of overuse injury.
- I asked another group fitness instructor who teaches cycling for her recommendations and she loves Giro 2017 Womens Raes Techlace Road Cycling Shoes .
Part II: How to Ensure the Best Fit for your Shoes
Okay, so now that you’ve chosen the right shoes for your workout, it’s time to to talk about fit. The right shoes won’t help you much if they don’t fit properly. Shoes that are too tight, too loose, or just not right will seriously inhibit your workout. Here are a few tips for getting the right fit on your shoes:
- Be aware that your feet swell throughout the day and can increase by as much as half a size by the end of the day. You should always allow a space about the width of your index finger between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoes. There should be enough room for your toes to wiggle.
- There should be little or no slipping at the heel, especially when pointing your toe
- Your shoes should not pinch or rub any part of your foot and ankle. Make sure you spend some time walking around in the shoes and making sure they fit comfortably.
- There are two ways I generally recommend purchasing workout shoes:
- From an athletic shoe store where the sales staff are well-trained in fitting and recommending shoes. They should be knowledgeable about choosing the right shoes (i.e. if you tell them you want a shoe with good lateral support and flexibility for Zumba, they shouldn’t look at you blankly) and how they should fit.
- If you want discount prices on high-quality shoes, you’ll need to go to the internet. Although athletic stores are best for choosing and fitting shoes, sometimes better service comes at a higher price. Most athletic stores sell shoes at list price and don’t offer many discounts. If you can afford it and there’s a good one near you, that should be your first choice. If not, Amazon offers some great discounts on the very best shoes and I have bought shoes from them before with great results. You just have to be familiar with your size before you buy. With exercise shoes, you should always pick high-quality brand names with good reputations. If you can’t find Brooks, ASICS, or other good brands in the stores near you, the internet has you covered!
One Additional Tip: How to Know When to Buy New Shoes
So, you’ve chosen the right shoes and you have the right fit. Great job! You’re probably already seeing improvements in your workout. Unfortunately though, shoes don’t last forever (which is actually a good thing because if they did, we’d never have an excuse to buy new shoes! 😉 ) Even the perfect shoes will eventually wear out and when they do, the risk of injury and other issues increases as shoes begin to lose their traction and cushioning. Workout shoes generally begin to wear out after three to six months of regular use, which is about 300 to 500 miles of running. The amount of time it takes for your shoes to wear out depends on the level of activity, but a good indicator that your shoes need replacing is when the soles start to wear down and the traction begins to flatten.
Congratulations! You are now well-equipped (literally) to rock your next workout! The right shoes will definitely help you take your workout to the next level.
Questions? Comments? Is there a particular workout shoe that you love? Drop a comment below and share with us!
Love fitness? Check out How to Become a Group Fitness Instructor in 3 Easy Steps!