Are you using the correct shoes for your fitness activities? As a sports and performance chiropractor in Leawood, Kansas, I can’t help but cringe when I see someone squatting in running shoes.

You wouldn’t go running in soccer cleats, would you? Look, it’s not your fault. Shoe companies do a horrible job of explaining when to use which types of footwear. For our first blog post, we’ll be address footwear and hope to shed some light on common misconceptions so you can perform at your peak.

Cross-Trainers

Ah, the trainer. The “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” of shoes. Trainers are designed for everything from high-intensity cardio to moderately heavy weightlifting. Trainers feature the forefoot flexibility of a running shoe and the lateral stability and heel support of a lifting shoe. This means the trainer can be used for short bursts of running, but is often too heavy for any time of distance running. At the same time, it can provide support while lifting weights, but does not have the maximum stability of a lifter, which is recommended when loads exceed 70% of your one-rep maximum (read more about lifters below).

Note the flexible forefoot, yet supportive midfoot and firm heel.

If you can only have ONE pair of shoes for multiple activities, this is the one. You won’t be limited in the number of activities, but you may be limited in performance level. I typically recommend that you get a minimalist or hybrid trainer unless you have a pre-existing medical condition, as being closer to the ground can enhance your balance and coordination. Nike trainers like the Metcon are my personal favorite because they fit my feet well, but Reebok, Inov-8, New Balance also make popular trainers you will see around the weight room. Trainers should fit snugly around the midfoot but have plenty of room for you to spread out in the toebox.

Recommended for: CrossFit, high-intensity interval training, weight-lifting, short distance running

Runners

Runners are BY FAR the most common athletic shoe on the market today, and unfortunately many people mistake runners for a shoe fit for cross-training. There are two reasons this thinking is incorrect. First, the shoe is designed to be light and move you in one direction. All of the engineering revolves around propelling you forward. While this is great for running, very few high-intensity and weight training workouts involve moving in one plane. Second, the shoe often lacks sufficient lateral support for cross-training.

The New Balance Zante is one of the more popular “cushioned” running shoes on the market. Many of my distance runners sing it’s praises.

Training in running shoes can (and does, I’ve seen it!) put you at risk for an ankle sprain, or worse. To complicate all this, there are a number of different types of running shoe. These include minimalist, cushioned, neutral, and motion control shoes. We recommend that before buying a pair of running shoes, you consult with a running specialist to be properly fitted. If you’re local, we recommend Kansas City Running Company right here in Leawood. They’ll examine your gait and get you in the correct shoe for your distance goals.

Recommended for: walking, running

Lifters

The lifter is the juggernaut of the shoe world. They are heavy with very little flexibility, and feature a raised heel and support straps over the laces. Lifters have very few uses in the fitness world, but in cases of Olympic lifting and heavy squatting, they can improve performance at a staggering level. While they are often very expensive, they will last you much longer than the typical athletic shoe because they see very little wear and tear and are usually made with high quality leather.

Unlike most athletic shoes, weightlifting shoes are designed to keep you in place. Note the hyper-supportive heel and foot straps.

If you are serious about lifting weights, these are not a requirement but may be a consideration down the road. They won’t help with your deadlift, however! The Nike Romaleos and Adidas Adipowers are generally the two most popular models. Lifters should be very snug on your feet so you aren’t sliding around with weight in your hands.

Recommended for: Olympic weightlifting, heavy lifting

Others

Keep in mind that sports-specific shoes exist for a reason; if you play recreational sports on a regular basis I would recommend getting a pair of shoes designed for that sport. However, if your goal is simply to become or stay fit, you can cover 90% activities with the 3 shoes listed above, and probably 80% of activities with the top 2.

There is no one perfect shoe for everyone, but there is one thing to keep in mind: pain during activity is NEVER normal. If you’re having pain while running, squatting or lifting, give us a call so we can get you pack to a pain-free life. Visit www.schabelperformancehealth.com for more information.