When I was studying to become a personal trainer, one of the units we studied had to do with proper footwear in the gym. When I first read it, I thought “duh.” Everyone knows we need to wear the “sneakers” in the gym, but do know we what a difference it can make? The right support and alignment is essential. With the wrong footwear, we can misalign our kinetic chain (ie., we can throw off our knees, hips and back).
It can actually be a bit confusing. It should go without saying that wearing street shoes in the gym is not a good idea, but it is not that unusual to see them–especially on older adults. I’ve had to have the conversation with clients more than once about having the proper shoes on during our workouts.
What kind of shoe is best to wear? It depends on what you are planning to do. If you are planning to simply do strength training, a pair of cross-trainers is usually a good bet. These are not the same as running shoes, which are specifically designed for running–providing support in different ways than cross-trainers. Basketball shoes are different as well. Of course, if you are going to a spinning class (riding stationary bikes), there are specific shoes for that as well. It can get pricey.
How do you know what to do? If you already have foot issues (pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.), talk with your podiatrist first. Find out what s/he recommends. I was wearing one kind of shoe for a while but once my plantar fasciitis kicked in, my doctor had me change the kind of shoe that I wear; I now use one with a much firmer sole.
If you do not generally have issues with your feet, your next step is to go to a good athletic footwear store. Every city has one. This is not your big box store but usually locally-owned or a small chain. The folks in these stores deal with pretty much one thing and one thing only: athletic footwear. If you explain to them the kind of workouts that you do, what issues you might have, etc., they can get the best shoe for you.
What not to do? I do not recommend getting your shoes from on-line retailers unless you are experienced and know the brand/model that you need. Also, do not go to a shoe warehouse–unless you know the exact brand/model you are looking for. Even then, exercise caution as you may not have the proper fit and those working in the store may not be well trained to help you.
Take care of your tootsies! It may not seem like such an important thing, but if you’ve ever had the experience of not being able to use one or the other, you’ll know just how important it is to care for them properly. Take the few simple steps to make sure that you are not only caring for your feet, but also everything above them!