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Updated on July 18, 2011
Running shoes are just fancy sneakers, right? But they’re the same as cross-trainers, no? And what about walking shoes? Where do they fit in?
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of athletic shoe types out there. Since physical activity can really push you to the limit, wearing the proper footwear is important—namely ones that fit the activity and your feet. So, school yourself in the nuances of athletic footwear. Because the more you know, the better your feet will feel.
Lightweight trainer – Designed for racing and speed work, this type of shoe generally has no medial support, which is support provided around the inner side or arch side of a shoe. However, there are some exceptions. If you use these shoes for daily training, beware of costs of the lightweight—less cushion, less stability and less durability.
Cross-trainer – This is a non-running shoe trainer that works well for sports with lateral movement, such as aerobics, or those that necessitate a stable platform for heavy lifting.
Trail – Trail runners feature aggressive traction, water resistance, extra upper protection and generally a darker color scheme. More hardcore trail shoes will have a lower profile for added stability on uneven trails and extra forefoot protection to prevent stone bruises.
Stability – Sometimes referred to as support shoes, stability shoes are designed for mild to moderate overpronators. Overpronation is when your feet excessively roll inward. Stability shoes provide medial support to slow down pronation, which is normal foot motion. The majority of runners can run successfully in stability shoes.
Cushioned stability – Picture a stability shoe with more advanced cushioning and stability, and you have a cushioned-stability shoe. It is generally considered a high-end stability shoe.
Neutral – These shoes are designed for biomechanically efficient runners who do not need active support inside their shoes. Neutral shoes do not use a medial post, which is a dense material used to increase the firmness and support throughout the medial area of the shoe.
Motion control – For those with overpronation, motion-control shoes offer the maximum amount of active medial support. Again, medial support is provided around the inner side, or arch, of the shoe.
Walking – Walking shoes are aimed towards the fitness walker who wants the varied stability and comfort of a running shoe but with the conservative visual appeal of a walking shoe.
Racing – As the name indicates, racing shoes are for racing and oftentimes are referred to as racing flats. These shoes are exceptionally light and have minimal amount of cushion and support. Studies have shown that racing flats can lower times by four seconds per mile. It’s an ideal shoe for distances below 10K. Half-marathon and marathon runners should use caution before wearing racing flats.