What Type of Shoes Should I Wear?
Different types of activities require different types of shoes. Tap dancers are rarely seen tap dancing in steel toe capped boots. Training is no different. Your shoes will impact your comfort, safety and performance.
One shoe doesn’t fit everything
People often use running shoes for all forms of exercise. This is not optimal and can be detrimental. When performing exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges etc. a firm surface is required to push your feet into.
Fortunately, the ground is quite firm.
However, a layer of bouncy castle like cushioning between your feet and the ground will make you unstable and your performance will suffer. While some cushioning may be useful when running or jogging, for squats and lunges it’s not so good.
A big consideration when purchasing a training shoe is the heel to toe drop of the shoe (the difference between the height of the heel and the forefoot). Training shoes range from 'zero drop minimalist style' shoes to well over a 10mm drop.
For some people and activities there are specific reasons for a higher or lower drop, but, for many, simply being unaware that some trainers are made with huge heel drops can lead to buying a training shoe with a high drop for no reason.
Short and Stiff
Wearing high heels all day shortens and stiffens the muscles and tendons of your calf and Achilles; this is not good. This same thing will happen if you are exercising with elevated heels (a high 'heel drop').
The elevated heel can, over time, decrease the range of motion through which your ankle moves and this can lead to a host of other problems such as stiff and tightened muscles. If your muscles are stiff, try foam rolling.
I like running, what is the best shoe for me…
Find out what heel drop your current trainers are and go for a shoe with a lower drop than this. Don’t go too extreme though, i.e. don’t go from a 12mm drop to a zero drop (minimalist shoes) straight away, doing so will inevitably cause an injury.
Aim towards a 4mm drop, then think about going to zero drop. Be aware that most trainers have lots of cushioning and high heel drops, which almost encourages heel striking when running (bad). So it's also a good idea to concurrently work on improving your running technique to ensure you are not heel striking.
I like going to the gym and doing a mixture of weights and cardio…
Try and find a shoe with a lowish (say 4mm) drop and a ‘firm’ sole. There are loads of these types of shoes around. If you move well and have good technique then you could also consider a minimalist style or 'zero drop' shoe.
I like Olympic Weightlifting...
This requires specialist Olympic weightlifting shoes that have a very high drop (usually 12- 20mm) and a very firm sole. This type of shoe should primarily be used for Olympic lifting and perhaps for squatting.
Don't be running or tap dancing in these and if possible, squat in a shoe with a much lower drop.
No evidence exists that wearing odd socks improves performance.
The type of shoe you wear can impact your exercise performance. Give it some thought and get the best shoes for your activity.