You’re just steps away from a better workout. Here’s how to pick a pair of shoes geared toward your routine and body.
Running Shoes vs. Cross-Trainers
Go with running shoes if you mostly jog or walk, since they’re engineered for heel-to-toe motion. Why not walking shoes? “Running sneakers cater to a wider range of foot types and are built to last longer,” says Megan Leahy, a doctor of podiatric medicine at the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, in Chicago.
Go with cross-trainers if your routine includes an activity like aerobics, weight training, or kickboxing (basically any exercise on a hard surface that involves side-to-side movement).
What’s Your Foot Type?“Runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and early-onset arthritis are just a few problems that arise from exercising in the wrong sneakers,” says Louis Pack, a podiatrist in Greensboro, Georgia, and the author of The Arthritis Revolution ). In contrast, shoes designed to compensate for the impact of your feet can prevent injuries and improve structural alignment and performance. To determine your foot type: Have a podiatrist examine you, or get an idea yourself by looking at the soles of a pair of worn-in flats. “The wear patterns show where you’re putting pressure when you walk,” says Pack. Compare the red areas on the shoes at right to see which matches your own.
1. Top Outer Edge Worn
You’re a supinator (or underpronator). Supinators’ feet tend to have high arches and roll outward.
You need: Cushioning (also referred to, confusingly, as neutral ) sneakers for shock absorption.
2. Evenly Worn
You’re neutral and have an average gait with equal weight distribution across the foot.
You need: Stability or moderate-stability sneakers, which offer a balance of cushioning and support.
3. Top Inner Edge Worn
You’re a pronator, which means your feet roll inward. Flat arches or low arches are common.
You need: Motion-control or high-stability sneakers to keep your feet better aligned with your legs.
If You’re a SupinatorLook for: Soft midsoles (the layer between the mesh upper and the treads), since this type of foot doesn’t provide enough shock absorption on its own. That means the shoes’ soles will tend to be more flexible. You can also usually spot them by the shape of the sole: “A cushioned shoe cuts in at the arch, resembling a kidney bean,” says Leahy.
Shoes for running: Extra rubber built into the sole means a smoother, bouncier gait.
Shoes for cross-training: Make lightning-quick pivots, thanks to flexible grooves in the sole.
If You’re NeutralLook for: Cushioning with a good dose of stability—in other words, a lightweight shoe that bends just to the ball of the foot. That said, “in many cases, this foot type has the most freedom and can wear whichever sneakers feel best at the store,” says Steven Raikin, M.D., the director of foot and ankle services at Rothman Institute Orthopaedics, in Philadelphia.
Shoes for cross-training: These crazy soles act like a Slinky, putting an extra spring in your step.
Shoes for running: This innovative design reduces heel slippage and instep strain.