Injury Prevention

Sneakers & More – A Guide to Fitness Footwear

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Let’s talk shoes. When was the last time you went shopping for new workout shoes? Did you know what to buy or did it come down to which sneakers were the most attractive? Or in your size? Or on sale?

Because, who can resist a good sale

If you’ve ever wanted to know all about shoes for your workout, you’ve come to the right place. 

Proper footwear matters!

In fact, it’s one of the most essential components of your fitness routine. Today we’re breaking down some popular categories so you can feel way more confident the next time you buy workout shoes.

Running sneakers have a very textured, grippy bottom to provide traction. This is fabulous for running, but cardio classes that involve pivoting and twisting don’t play well with grippy bottoms. 

As a physical therapist, I’m always down for setting yourself up for injury-free success. Knowing what not to do is just as important. I’ve seen meniscus tears and other knee injuries as a result of wearing running shoes to dance fitness classes. 

Don’t be the next knee injury!

Cross trainers work well for mixed cardio classes, kickboxing, HIIT, aerobics, and circuit training classes.

They fill in the blanks for non-specific variety workouts.

Look for a cross-training shoe with a smoother bottom to allow for pivoting as well as lateral stability for side to side movements. Read the details when searching for cross-trainers, some sneakers claiming to be cross trainers lack lateral stability. The training shoe category is becoming a loose term, make sure you get the features you’re looking for. 

Side note about dance fitness classes, if you’re a Zumba devotee, check out dance sneakers! They have more flexibility and a smooth bottom to allow you to get your samba on without sticking to the floor. And look like a pro.

Sports like tennis, volleyball, basketball, or any other court-based sport all have their own category to provide stability, cushioning and support. Shop for a sport specific shoe to up your game.

Do you love to spin? Invest in a pair of cycling shoes. 

Cycle shoes are game-changers. They have specialized clips to keep your feet in place and a hard sole to support your foot during standing positions. While you can ride the bike with your sneakers strapped into the cage, as you stand your shoes will bend and place additional stress on the mid-foot.

I just replaced my cycle shoes after 5 years of consistent use.  You will get your money’s worth out of a good pair.

Yoga, Pilates, & Barre

Yoga, Pilates, and Barre classes don’t require shoes. Grip socks are an excellent option to provide more traction. 

For Pilates and barre classes, flexible soled ballet type shoes can give a bit more support if you have additional foot issues that cause discomfort while barefoot.

Some Barre and Pilates studios may have policies requiring socks. 

Bloch is a company that makes a variety of dance and gymnastics shoes and offers a Pilates studio soft shoe with heel support. 

Avoid wearing casual sneakers or street shoes during exercise. 

By casual sneakers, I mean non-athletic sneakers that were made for fashion, not function.

To be clear….I’m not hating on casual shoes, but any type of slip-on sneaker without a back or laces has no place in your workout. Casual shoes are not designed to support and cushion your foot and ankle for exercise activities. 

General fit considerations: 

Try sneakers on with athletic socks. Look for sneakers that have plenty of room for your toes to wiggle and a snug fit cradling the heel and support thru the mid-foot.

You should never feel like there is excessive rubbing in any one area or like the foot is sliding or twisting inside the shoe. Consider going up a half size if you feel contact with the front of the shoe before exercising. 

The goal is to be comfortable and well supported during activity. You can always add custom or over the counter inserts for additional padding or support. There is no shortage of athletic shoe brands, find the one that works for you. 

If your exercise routine has variety, your sneakers should have the range to match. 

This is the fun part if you like to shop! 

Multiple options will extend the life of your footwear, meaning you will need to replace less often. Consider it an investment in your health. 

How do you know when your athletic shoes need to be replaced?

The most visible signs of wear and tear are wearing the tread off the bottom of the shoe. If any part of the tread appears to be peeling off, this could be a tripping hazard.

Not so apparent signs include an increase in achy feet after a workout. Keep an eye out for pain in other places such as shins, calves, or knees, as this can also signal it’s time to get new shoes. 

Injuries are no fun. Take these extra steps for prevention to stay active. 

Featured image credit: Nick Aldi /

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