Many decades ago, any type of footwear was considered appropriate for sports activities. Back in the 1960s, Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars were worn by a vast majority of professional and college basketball players – something we simply cannot imagine today. Perhaps we’ve gotten used to the luxury of high-performance sports shoes, or maybe our feet aren’t as resilient as those of our ancestors. Whatever the case, one thing is for certain – today, all gym activities require appropriate shoes.
A variety of activities
A lot of people go to the gym, although almost none of them have the exact same goal in mind – some want to get buff, some are looking to lose weight, while others are simply going for a high-performance training. The first thing you need to consider when choosing appropriate gym shoes is what you will be using them for. Treadmillers, weightlifters and those who practice aerobics definitely do not need the same type of shoes.
A large chunk of gym goers is doing a variety of activities and this is in no way a wrong way of spending gym time. In fact, a broad mix of activities is perfect for individuals who are aiming at general performance, looking to get stronger and more agile. Cross-training shoes provide an appropriate amount of shock absorption and stability, which is just as good for treadmilling, as it is for deadlifts and leg presses.
Popular cross-training shoes include the Asics Gym range, New Balance gym shoes, the Adidas Boost and many others.
However, there is more to the all-rounder gym shoes; for example, if you’re looking to focus on one or two areas or aiming at boosting your performance in a particular field of workout, you might be better off with two specialized pairs and shuffle between them, depending on what exercise you’re planning on doing.
If your gym program consists of strength training one day and a cardio sweat-fest the next one, switching up your footwear is the smart way to go.
If your main aim is losing weight, jogging is likely your best friend. As a rule of thumb, if you are putting in a high number of minutes (and miles), running shoes that will properly protect and support your feet will be the perfect choice.
However, here is where things get a bit complicated – the type of your running shoes will depend on your running gait: the way in which you walk and run, which heavily depends on pronation. Pronation is the inwards rolling of the foot through your foot strike and your body’s natural way of absorbing shock. Basically, you should know whether you’re a neutral runner, an overpronator or an underpronator. Luckily, you can find out wat type of runner you are by defining your arch type with the wet footprint test.
The perfect running shoes will help you run more efficiently, while allowing for better performance, plus they will reduce the overall injury risk.
The High Intensity Interval Training is extremely popular nowadays, because it is ideal for shedding fat, without compromising your musculature. These workouts, however, involve explosive and potentially multi-directional movements. For instance, the HIIT routine may include everything from sprints, box jumps and even weight-based activity, such as squats and lunges, which means that a perfect type of shoes for this training will be the ones that can absorb high-intensity impacts, while being light, agile and stable!
The ideal HIIT cross trainers include a strong lateral support, a firm and low profile for stability, cushioning for shock absorption and lightness for agility and general flexibility. Quite a mouthful, huh?
Popular with crossfitters, HIIT is often combined with weightlifting, as it is the best possible way of getting a muscular, yet lean body. However, the problem here is mainly outlined in the fact that CrossFit workouts include combined cardio-weightlifting exercises, and switching footwear mid-exercise is simply out of the question, for obvious reasons. This is why the newer hybrid designs are so popular on the market. For example, Inov8’s F-Lite series has a firm, stable heel (for weightlifting) and lightweight cushions (for the agility requirements of fast-paced workouts).
If your exercise regimen bears a lot of similarity with that of a traditional weightlifting gym goer, your target priorities should be stability, grip and power.
Although the sight of a barefoot weightlifter is a relatively normal occurrence in the gym (they usually say that the best way to lift is by going au-naturel feet-wise), the vast majority of gym rats prefer shoes that deliver a firm, flat grip on the ground that prevents slipping and sliding, while allowing for a stable base. Quality weightlifting shoes include hard, dense soles that allow you to drive force into the ground, raised, high-density heels for better ankle mobility, as well as supportive uppers.
Zero-drop neutral shoes are an excellent option, as they tend to have firm soles, supportive uppers and a wide forefoot for stability.
Dance-based studio workouts require agility and stability, seeing as how this type of activity is full of fast multi-directional footwork and spins. The best way to go here is to wear dance-specific studio shoes that excel at shock absorption and have a supportive heel counter to both protect and support your feet.
The main downside here is the fact that you will get less “ground feel”. However, as you get more experienced, you can gradually start switching to lighter shoes with thinner soles and less support and cushioning, which will allow for more flexibility and movement.
Choosing the right gym shoes is more difficult than you might have thought. Additionally, even if you think that a certain type of shoes is perfect for your gym time, the reality will likely require more experimentation, until you find a perfect match. Consider whether you need an all-round shoe, or a more specific model, so that you can excel at the gym every time.