How to Choose the Right Shoes for Your Workout
When it comes to workout gear it's my belief that the single most important thing you can put money into is your footwear.
When I first started running I knew nothing about choosing running shoes. I ended up with a pair of New Balance I picked out online. I liked the color and the fact that the heel wasn't super thick. The three runs I had with that pair remains to this day the three most painful runs I've ever experienced – and yes, I'm including both of my half marathons.
After that I got fitted at specialty running store – which is when my love of ASICS started, and since then I've learned a lot about choosing the right pair of workout shoes.
Every day I see so many people fitting themselves in the wrong pair of shoes, or – even worse – not caring enough to bother pay attention to what's going to be the best shoes for their feet and desired activity. It kills me a little inside, because not only can the right pair of shoes be the difference between comfort and discomfort, you can actually risk injury by wearing the wrong shoes!
So here is a quick run down of three popular types of workout shoes, and what to look for when choosing your own pair. I only list ASICS styles since I'm most familiar with their technology, but this post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by ASICS, and the principles of fitting shoes spans brands.
Road Running Shoes:
So this is probably the most common type of athletic shoe you're going to find, and there are a lot of different options. Some people swear by the minimalist style, but I'm a fan of the more traditional style with a very cushioned heel.
The first thing you need to know when picking out a running shoe is how your foot pronates. Simply put, if your foot rolls to the outside when you walk or run, you under pronate or supinate. If your foot rolls in as you walk or run, you over pronate. And if your foot doesn't roll either way you're a neutral pronator. ASICS has a great guide on determining your pronation, but I find that most people who over pronate know it, since it usually causes your arches to hurts like hell while running. If you're still not sure after reading ASICS' guide, most specialty running stores can do a gait analysis and tell you.
Once you know how you pronate it's time to pick a shoe!
If you're a neutral or under pronator/supination you're gonna want a shoe with a lot of cushion to absorb the shock from striking the ground. Cushion generally comes in two different options: gel or foam. Gel is better at absorbing shock, but it's heavier and not a squishy. Foam is lighter and squishier but doesn't absorb as much of the impact. Most ASICS running shoes use primarily foam with pockets of gel where you need it the most – that way you get the best of both worlds. The Nimbus and Cumulus are both great examples of this kind of shoe.
There are, however, full gel options in the Quantum 360 and Quantum 180. These styles also have a lower heel-toe drop, which is just the difference in heigh between the forefoot and the heel of the shoe.
If you over pronate (roll inward) you're gonna want a shoe with a lot of support. Ask for a motion control or arch support shoe. All of ASICS motion control shoes are a gel/foam mix, and most of them utilize a technology called “Dynamic Duo Max” foam to give better arch support. Simply put, it's a much firmer foam used on the arch of the shoe that keeps your foot from rolling inward. The GT-2000 from ASICS utilizes this technology and is one of my all time favorite shoes. It feels very hard at first, which sometimes turns people off, but it provides that arch support that is so important for my feet. This is the shoe I used to trained for my first half marathon.
Trail Running Shoes:
So I'll be the first to admit that when I first started running I totally thought trail running shoes were just a gimmick to sell more shoes, but they were buy one get one half off and I love running on trails so I figured why not?
I'm so glad I did.
Trail running shoes are made with tougher outsoles to withstand the dust, dirt, mud and rocks you'll encounter out on the trails, as well as with more uneven treads to give you better traction. I can definitely feel a difference in my traction when I run on the trail in my trail runners vs. my road runner. But you don't have to be afraid to wear your trail runners on the road – besides being a slightly heavier style, there's no downside to wearing them on the road.
The only trail shoe I've ever worn is the ASICS Gel-Venture. I picked it up at Kohls two years ago and to this day I think it's one of ASICS' best-kept secrets. For less than $100 that shoe has held it's own against my $120+ shoes and I'm currently on my 3rd and 4th pair because I love them so much. It was one of the two pairs I used to train for my first half marathon and I did most of my training for my second half in them as well. While not technically a motion control or arch support shoe, I've never had any trouble getting enough support from this pair.
ASICS' trail runners are all gel/foam mixes, as well.
“Cross trainers” is a very general term for any kind of athletic shoes that are made for multiple kinds of workouts. They usually feature more lateral support than a running shoe since they're not made solely (pun intended!) for forward motion. They also usually have a lower heel-toe drop than a running shoe. The benefit of a lower heel-toe drop is that while weight training you're able to stay balanced while transferring your weight into your heels instead of your forefoot - which is the correct posture for most strength training and conditioning movements.
I currently work out in the Gel-Craze by ASICS. It has a good amount of arch support which keeps my feet happy; and a gel cushioned heel which allows me to use it for minor work on the treadmill, but it still has a lower heel-toe drop than my running shoes.
I also have my eye on the Weldon which has almost no heel-toe drop. It feels kind of strange at first but I know it will help with my form while strength training.