Should You Get Running Shoes, Walking Shoes Or Cross Trainers?

Should You Get Running Shoes, Walking Shoes Or Cross Trainers?

Long gone are the days of just buying a ‘sneaker’ or ‘sports shoe’. Buying new shoes in today’s age gives you a lot of options - and before you start choosing your width size or deciding between the soft lightweight materials or the firmer and heavier ones, there’s one crucial decision to make first: running shoes, walking shoes or cross trainers?

The difference between these three shoe types is very vague for most people, so today, we’re breaking it down so you can be left with a good idea of which shoe type you should go for.

1. Cross Trainers

Before we dive into what cross-trainers are as shoes, we thought we’d share the origins of the term cross training, which we find fascinating. Otherwise referred to as cross education or contralateral effects, cross training dates back to research in the late 1800s, which showed that when one side of your body is injured and you’re not using it during the recovery process (which may lead to a 33% loss in muscle strength from just two weeks of inactivity), actively training the other uninjured side of your body can produce positive strengthening effects on the injured side of your body too - even with no direct training. Are we the only ones that find the human body amazing like this?

And now for cross-trainers, as in the shoes. Cross-trainers are designed for the person who does a mix of general activities and sports, needing control in multiple directions across the shoe - both from heel to toe for moving forwards, and across the shoe for side-to-side movements and changes in direction. They have all your regular features - like a normal level of traction in the sole, and a good level of control of the foot, but nothing targeted or specific. This means they don’t have specific features that optimise your movement or conserve energy during running, for example, but will help promote healthy movement across a wide range of activities.

Get cross-trainers if you’re a casual gym-goer that likes to try new classes at the gym, new sports or enjoys casual walks with friends. These shoes will provide adequate support across a range of activities.

2. Running Shoes

Running places great demands on your feet, bones, joints and muscles - and your shoes have to be up to the job to match. Running shoes feature additional cushioning to help absorb the impact forces during running and continue offering this support over long distances. There is great stability around the ankle, limiting side-to-side movement (to help prevent spraining your ankle if you run over unstable ground) and promoting smooth heel-to-toe movement with good flexion beneath the ball of the foot that mirrors the natural bend of our feet.

Running shoes offer a variety of ‘heel drops’ to optimise running performance, meaning the height of the drop (in millimetres) from the heel to the forefoot, depending on whether you're a heel strike runner or a forefoot runner. Running shoes have a variety of high traction soles to prevent slippage, and also tend to feature lightweight materials to help reduce muscle fatigue from the weight of the shoes when running.

Get running shoes if you’re regularly running as a primary activity (not just running within a sport like netball), or intending to get into dedicated running or jogging. Remember that as running shoes are designed to help keep you moving forwards, they are less suitable for sports that require repeated side to side movement with quick starts and stops.

3. Walking Shoes

Compared to running, which subjects your feet and legs to ground reaction forces of approximately 2.5 times your body weight (and over three times the stress on your knees), walking only produces forces of 1.2 times your body weight. This means that walking shoes tend to have thinner soles and less cushioning for shock absorption. This cushioning is located primarily at the heel, where the foot always hits the ground during walking.

Walking shoes generally have a simpler construction to support one primary purpose: walking. As there’s less presumed side to side movement, and you always have at least one foot on the ground when walking, walking shoes tend to have a narrower base and an average amount of traction on the sole. As the focus of walking is rolling from heel to toe and pushing off with the toes bent, walking shoes tend to be more flexible, especially around the toes.

Get walking shoes if you’re a keen walker or plan to make walking your primary form of exercise.

Which Shoes Are Best If You Have Foot Pain?

Having foot or leg pain can change the level of support you need to help optimise your recovery, and therefore which shoe type you should be wearing. You want to choose a shoe with the most support - but especially the most support for your foot type. During each assessment with our experienced podiatrist, part of your treatment will include making recommendations for the best shoes to help support your recovery now - and reduce your risk of injury in the future.

Book your appointment by calling us on (07) 4162 7633.