I once heard a joke about a man who was at a large state park on vacation. This man, decked out in his shorts, tank top and sandals stepped out of his camper to enjoy the wonders of nature. He was sitting at a picnic table eating his lunch when a large, hungry bear came up to him growling and mouth watering for his lunch. The man looked at the bear in dismay and said, "You can't chase me down to eat me yet. I don't have on my running shoes!" Sounds silly, but it brings to mind the importance and drawbacks of specialty shoes for various purposes.
It used to be, way back in the "stone age", that all there were for athletic shoes were the little canvas shoes with thin rubber soles or Converse All-Stars. There wasn't a lot of shock absorption nor was there arch support. But engineers have brought athletic shoes to a high-tech level today. Sometimes buying shoes for the gym is overwhelming. Here are some of the types and purposes of athletic shoes:
1. Running shoes- have shock absorption at the heel with a bit of flex at the forefoot. These usually have some medial support to protect from over-pronation during impact. The upper now "breathes" to allow air flow to the feet and have a sock liner and insole that prevents odor.
2. Walking- These offer overall cushioning and support for your feet. They are not designed for the harder impact of running. There are some that have some of the benefits of running shoes for the athletic walker.
3. Studio/Training-These shoes are designed for movement in all directions. the sole's pattern works with the movement and the arch has greater medial support. There are low impact for activities like Zumba and high impact for workouts like HIIT.
4. Flex Training- I put these in their own category because they are often worn for group strength training and core training classes. Here is the description from Ryka.com for their shoe called Precision:"A versatile training shoe designed for one who wants a lightweight, sleek trainer for a variety of fitness activities. Features a mid-foot brace and X-Ray bracing system for exceptional support plus dual-density foam under foot for superior cushioning."
5. Aqua Shoes- These shoes are like studio and training shoes, but have water channels in the sole that allow better movement and drainage in water exercise classes. They are also better able to handle chlorine and bromine.
Wearing the proper shoes for the corresponding activity prevents injury to the feet, knees, hips and back. They absorb shock at the places on your feet that need it the most. Replace your shoes ever 6 months if you are training 3-5 days a week in them.
If these shoes are so wonderful, what's the downside? Cost and the need to change your shoes if you are doing two or more different activities that would take care of different needs. Shoes cost from $40-$150 in most cases. Wise shopping can help you wear a great pair of kicks and not bust your budget. Swapping shoes between workouts is necessary, so know what you need and when you will need them. Don't know what to buy? Go to a shoe store that specializes in athletic shoes for proper fitting and advice for your specific needs.
However, if a big, hungry bear is charging your way, don't worry about the shoes. Just run!
God bless you!