The Right Shoes for Your Workout

best exercise shoes

Most women would love to have a closet full of the season’s trendiest heels, boots or sandals…

Me? Sure, I like the fun, sexy, trendy shoes – but I love my sneaks!

And, if you’re doing a combination of exercises each week – you really do need the right pair of shoes for each type of activity you’ll be doing. It’s not a conspiracy to get you to buy more shoes – there is a difference between a trainer, a running shoe and a walking shoe!

Walking Shoes

Here… I speak from hundreds of miles of experience after twice training for and walking the Komen 3-Day (breast cancer walk). It’s 20 miles per day over three days… for a total of 60 miles.

Trust me, a good walking shoe makes the difference between wanting to pass out by the end of each day – and wanting to cut off your feet and then pass out by the end of each day.

Your walking shoes should be a 1/2 size larger than your normal shoe, have a sturdy bottom and be fit to the way your feet turn (in or out) when you take a step. This will help give your feet, ankles, knees and hips the support they need as you ask them to repeat the same motion over and over again as you walk. Preparing for the repetitive movement is the key here.

Running Shoes

Running shoes should also be fit to the way your feet turn with each step, but they should be formed to your foot and offer you the proper ball and arch support to help your foot flex and absorb the impact each time you hit the pavement.

Personally, I like running shoes that are light. I used to think that heavier shoes would help absorb more shock, but for me, the lighter the shoe, the less shock I feel. Plus – it’s a lot easier to pick your feet up off the pavement when your shoes aren’t weighing you down!

I also pay a lot of attention to the rise of the back of the shoe. If it’s too high, it rubs my ankle bone and causes blisters. But, if it’s too low – the shoe can slip right off mid-run. As silly as you may feel, it’s not a bad idea to take a quick little jog through the store when you’re trying on a new shoe just to feel how it responds to your foot.

Kickboxing/Aerboics Shoes

Finally, the fitness footwear makers are taking note of the growing trend of kickboxing and plyometric training – and have understood that we don’t want those clunky, heavy-soled cross trainers.

Now, you can easily find shoes designed to be light enough for 50 roundhouse kicks, but sturdy enough to support you as you shuffle and jab on your toes with a 9lb combat bar in your hands.

To find the right pair of shoes for you – try them on, get on your toes and jump up and down. Feel where your toes go and be sure that your foot doesn’t slide off of either side of the sole.

Also – consider the surface where you’ll be working out. The fitness classes at my gym are in a carpeted space. It’s a short-pile carpet and pretty stiff, but it’s carpet nonetheless. So, I chose a shoe that didn’t have a whole lot of treads on the bottom so that I wouldn’t trip over my own feet when switching from one motion to another.

If you’re working out on tile, wood or another flat and inherently slippery (before you even sweat all over it!) surface – you’ll want something designed to grip the floor. Look for lots of little treads and nubs on the bottom of the shoe.

Yoga Shoes?

Right – yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot. But, if you’re anything like me, your feet are just as sore as your shoulders after yoga from all of the work they do holding you in your poses.

I recently started wearing socks with little gripping dots on the bottom of them. They are black and have the toes all separated… so I feel a little goofy in them. But, they have really made a difference in my practice.

I feel like the treads help me plant my foot so that the focus of each pose isn’t concentrated in my scrunched up toes and arched sole as my foot tries to hang on to the mat. I can lay my foot flat and press deep into lunges without sliding or fighting the slide.

Also, I upgraded my mat to help ease the effects of the ground pushing back against me. Good thick mats can be 4-5 times more expensive than a normal mat – but they are worth every dime. Your feet and knees will thank you – and so will your hands and shoulders!

So, though yoga doesn’t really require the right “shoe”, it does help to have the right gear to support your feet in all the work they do for you in your practice.

Choose the Right Shoe for You

If you notice, I didn’t mention any brands or shoe models above. That’s because you have to pick the shoes that are right for you! Try them on, read the reviews online and buy the shoes that fit your foot, your gait, your exercise and your comfort.

Whatever you do, though – don’t ignore the important role that shoes play in the effectiveness and the safety of your workout!


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Author: Rachel Honoway

Rachel started based on her love for intense workouts and the results they produce. She's a wife, a mom to two elementary school aged boys and a small business owner - but here at, she gets to be a fitness enthusiast, bringing you tips, advice and routines to help keep you motivated to workout - pretty hard!

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