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What Type of Shoes Should I Workout In?

When it comes to shoes for training, there is (literally and figuratively) no “one size fits all” pair of shoes. The most common types of shoes we see our Made 2 Move patients use for workout (or their physical therapy sessions) are running shoes, cross trainers, and weightlifting shoes. Shoes are meant to be supportive, but this structured support can sometimes get in the way of proper movement if not used for the intended activity. Just as you would not go on a run in your weightlifting shoes, you probably shouldn’t do heavy squats in your running shoes.

So which type of shoe is best? Which shoes should be worn and when? Shoe preference, like physical therapy, is highly individualized and varies from person to person. Everyone is built differently and has different biomechanics. so our shoe selection should reflect that. Below is a roadmap our Made 2 Move team put together that highlights the benefits and drawbacks of each type of shoe, to use as a guide when choosing a pair.

Running shoes

At Made 2 Move, we see lots of runners for PT, and every single person has a different foot and thus, prefers a different type of shoe. Running shoes have a cushy sole to allow for increased force absorption. This is great for repetitive movements like running. But when you are weightlifting, you want to use that force, not lose it. Running shoes make you lose that force, instead of allowing you to transfer that force into lifting the weight. All the cushion essentially absorbs the force needed to drive out of the bottom of a heavy squat. One study that analyzed squatting on a foam pad (the pad being comparable to the mechanics of a running shoe) found a 7-10% decrease in force output, as well as a decrease in form and technique.

A cushy insole also blunts foot proprioception. Proprioception refers to the awareness of the position and movement of the body. Try doing a lunge in your running shoes and then take your shoes off and try doing a lunge barefoot. Odds are that doing them barefoot was much easier. This could be due to ankle instability, attributable to the shoes or mere muscle weakness, but it could also be due to the inability of your toes and feet to perceive where they are in space because of the support of the running shoe.

While weightlifting shoes (discussed next) also blunt proprioception with their high heel elevation, they are able to provide many advantages for technique, stability, and force output.