athletic unisex shoesAthletic shoes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. When you head to your favorite sporting goods store, the myriad of choices can be very overwhelming. A lot of exercisers have their favorite brand athletic shoe. You know, the brand they seem to buy every time one pair wears out? They may have never even worn another brand, but just love the company or the look of their favorite brand’s newest, or vintage, athletic shoe.

The differences in athletic shoes spans a much broader area than simply the look or brand. For instance, if you are considered a “pronator” with your feet, or you tend to walk or run more on the inside of your feet or you have a low arch and flat foot, you need athletic shoes built up in the arch to counteract and balance your stride. Conversely, if you walk or run with a “supination” in your gait, you need shoes with a lower arch, due to the natural high arch in your foot. Too much arch in a shoe would cause excessive supination of your foot and ankle and exacerbate any negative stride issues. So it’s clear just from those two examples that the differences in athletic shoes require your close attention next time you go shopping for new kicks.

Perhaps you’ve heard, seen, or even tried on one of the newest phenomena in athletic shoes where the shoe itself is actually designed to mimic a barefoot stride. The thinking behind the design stems from the idea that the body and the feet were built to run in a more flat way with “zero drop”. This means the heel is not much higher than the toe. Traditional athletic shoes have a much higher heel, so when you walk, or more particularly run, you land on your heel first and push off your toes. The newer zero drop shoes are designed to have your feet land more on the arch or ball of your foot. It’s recommended that you build up to running in this style and don’t just jump right in.

Next time you head to your favorite store for new athletic shoes, try on different brands. Talk to the sales associates about what shoes would best work for your foot style. Also pay close attention to the type of training you’re going to do. If you are going hiking, you obviously don’t need basketball shoes. The traction of the hiking boots provides all the grip you need. Basketball shoes and hiking boots are miles apart, and most know the differences between them and they know when to use them.

jogging or runningHowever, smaller differences exist between running shoes and cross-training shoes, for instance. Running shoes are traditionally built for a land on the heel and a push off the toe (except for the new zero drop technology). They are designed for running which happens in a straight movement. Cross trainers are designed more for lateral, jumping, and agility-style exercises. They are more flexible in certain areas and could have adverse effects if uses solely for running. The differences are not large enough to tell from the naked eye. You need to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson and try different types of athletic shoes.

Familiarize yourself with these concepts and really think about your training style and stride next time your shop for athletic shoes.