Runners primarily move in one direction—forward—and they need shoes designed and built to facilitate that movement. If you think pairing up in cross trainers can get the job done, you need to think again.
The right type of shoe provides the proper footing for more efficient movement. According to Dr. Cary Zinkin, a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association [APMA], there’s a foot-long difference between running shoes and cross trainers.
Dr. Zinkin explains that a cross training shoe is designed to support multi-directional movements [e.g., jumping, cutting, lateral motion]. It does not provide the kind of support your feet need for steady forward movement over a long period of time. Although cross training shoes are suitable for a variety of activities—hitting the weight room and even light running—Dr. Zinkin recommends against wearing them for long sessions on the track or test runs on the cross country course. He says, “A serious runner needs a sport-specific shoe that will allow certain movement and prevent other movement that are specific to running. A lot of people pick cross training shoes figuring they’re good for everything.” But he strongly encourages runners to wear running-specific shoes, which provide the structure the feet need to efficiently move forward over a long distance.
Here are three factors to keep in mind before lacing up your next pair of athletic shoes:
Support: Running shoes are built on a platform that is wider than other sport shoes. This provides stability and support as you move forward. “You need the most protection and support possible,” Dr. Zinkin says. The exact type of support system depends on your foot’s arch—high, neutral or low. [Click here to learn how to determine your arch type.]
Fit: The shoe should fit snugly, but not too tight. Dr. Zinkin says, “Having some movement of your toes is fine, but slipping and sliding is not safe.”
Weight: Dr. Zinkin suggests a lightweight shoe, because it allows you to better feel the terrain.