You wouldn’t wear a catcher’s mitt to play first base or sport soccer cleats on the football field, so why wear a running shoe to cross train? Nike and New Balance shoe designers explain the differences and dish on which shoes best complement specific training activities.
“Athletes today are doing more than just lifting weights [when cross training],” says Danielle Sullivan, associate product manager for tennis and training at New Balance. “Shoes need to be used for speed, agility and strength training, [so] they need to be versatile enough to give cushion when running and support during lateral movements.”
Running and basketball shoes don’t have the right cushioning or support for these moves, and by wearing them during training, you’re opening yourself up to possible injury. “Running shoes are designed for linear or forward movement, [and they’re] higher in the heel area, which makes them less stable for side to side movements,” explains Kenny Carroll, Nike’s global footwear product line manager for men’s training. “Basketball shoes tend to be too bulky and [don’t] allow the athlete to move as easily as he or she could.”
That lack of versatility causes a lot of ankle and lower extremity injuries. “Those models are great for certain situations, but the squared off edges make it difficult for the foot to smoothly plant and respond to the needs of the athlete.”
While wearing a cross trainer is better than wearing any shoe on the market, different shoes are better suited for specific purposes like weight, speed and agility training.
For an off-season regimen that keeps you in the weight room, a shoe like the New Balance 825, with Abzorb SBS, is ideal. New high-cushioning technology in the heel is “really important, especially for athletes doing weight training,” say Sullivan. “When they’re lifting heavy weights, [the shoe] supports and cushions the foot throughout the entire activity.”
Looking to improve your speed? Try the Nike Air SPARQ Trainer. Unlike a heavy, bulky shoe that can slow you down, the Air SPARQ Trainer is designed to act as an extension of your foot. “The SPARQ Trainer has rounded edges, like the bare foot, and [it sits] on a lower mid-sole, which allows the athlete to move in different directions for greater speeds,” Carroll says. “It also improves strength, balance and reaction time and reduces injuries.”
If you’re more focused on improving your agility, lace up the New Balance 8518s, which features Zones of Support and NB ZIP for cushion and support.
“In training, one of the key zones for support is the forefoot due to the fact that athletes are always on the balls of their feet and doing a lot of lateral motion,” Sullivan explains. “So, on the lateral forefoot, there’s a TPU weld that offers lightweight support.”
Another key zone is the heel, which includes NB ZIP shock absorbing struts. “Whatever energy you put into the shoe, it’s returning that energy to you. Any energy you can get returned will eventually help you,” she says.
When it comes to choosing the right shoe, don’t go for what looks best or what everyone else is wearing. Instead, Caroll advises asking the following:
• What kind of feel do I like?
• How heavy does this feel to me?
• Can my feet bend and flex comfortably?
• Do the shoes have too much support that will aggravate my feet when I move?
When trying on a shoe, Sullivan recommends ensuring it fits well by taking a few laps around the store. “Make sure you’re going to be supported in the shoe and that you have enough cushioning, because if your shoes don’t function, it’s going to impact your performance.”