Ever march up to a shoe display and pick a kick based on color, pattern and overall swag? Well, newsflash, that’s not exactly the wisest way to select performance footwear.
Your shoes need to provide enough support for the moves you make. If they don’t, you’re susceptible to injury. For all you runners out there, this means not lacing up a pair of cross-trainers. For weight room warriors, vice versa.
There’s actually a big difference between running shoes and cross trainers. When you run, you primarily move in one direction—forward—so you should wear shoes designed for that movement. Running shoes have a wider platform to provide the support your feet need when you run long distances.
The recently released Mizuno Wave Prophecy [$200, mizunousa.com] is a running shoe that provides both stability and protection against overpronation (when your foot rolls inward, placing pressure on your arch). The Prophecy is made with a material that shrinks and expands, so your foot moves in harmony with the shoe.
If you typically run early in the day, check out the K-Swiss California [$130, kswiss.com], part of the company’s Morning Run Collection. This rainbow bright and bold shoe features reflective details, so you’ll be visible during dawn hours. It’s also water-resistant, so your foot stays dry when you pound on wet grass.
Cross-training shoes, in contrast, are more suitable for weight room sessions, agility and speed work. They are designed to support multi-directional movements, so you can plant and cut, jump and change direction.
The ASICS Gel Intensity cross trainer [$100, asicsamerica.com] gets the job done. Its front and back portions are made with a GEL system for cushioning and comfort during side-to-side movements. The upper is made with stretch material that reduces buckling—and the possibility of blisters—while memory foam conforms to your heel for a personalized fit.
If you’ll be doing a lot of on-court cross-training this summer, consider the New Balance 871 [$85, newbalance.com]. Its outsole is made of non-marking rubber, so even when the surface is slick with water or sweat, the shoe’s aggressive traction will support quick side-to-side motions without slipping. Your foot will also stay in place thanks to the wave pattern Sure Lace feature, which keeps the foot secure during high-impact movements like ladder drills.
Some experts say training in heavily padded shoes can weaken your feet and make them more injury-prone. Hence they advocate barefoot training. In theory, the foot is forced to use muscles it otherwise wouldn’t. Proponents say such training strengthens the lower body and prevents injuries. But outdoor surfaces are not always safe. Enter minimalist shoes, which are designed to protect your feet from cuts, scrapes or other injures you could suffer by going completely barefoot.
Summer is a solid time to experiment with a minimalist shoe, because if you experience any soreness as your feet adjust to the shoe, you’ll have time to recover. The Nike Free Run+ 2 [$90, nikerunning.nike.com] is worth a look. It’s not totally minimal like the Vibram FiveFingers, but it’s good if you want a little protection. The Free Run+ 2 is constructed with deep flex grooves along the bottom to support your foot’s natural range of motion while still providing a barefoot feel.
Reebok’s RealFlex [$90, reebok.com] is another minimal sole that allows your foot to flex naturally. The bottom is made with flex sensors to give your foot a responsive feel against the ground. It’s formfitting, so you get a sock-like effect.