“Training shoes” vs. plain old kicks

Advancements in workout technology are allowing pro athletes, and casual gym-goers for that matter, to perform at higher levels of fitness than ever before. One example: training shoes.

Training shoes are different from traditional tennis shoes in that they’re built specifically for functional fitness, not just a jog on the treadmill or lifting a few weights, though they’ll work for this, too.

They’re typically designed to sit low on the ankle and made with light-weight material. This puts your leg stabilizer muscles to work – these muscles provide support to bones and joints during movements. With training shoes, over time these muscles become stronger, thus allowing joints to move more efficiently and naturally.

Standard shoes, built with stiffer materials and coming up higher on the ankle, basically assist your joints and stabilizer muscles, not train them. And there’s nothing wrong with this. But if you’re looking to reach an even higher level of fitness, training shoes can be a great tool.

Traditional shoes also aren’t designed for optimum flexion and extension of the ankle. When you limit ankle function, you in turn limit how the knees and hips move, too. When your joints aren’t operating in the best way possible, you’ll never reach full potential with your speed, agility, etc. – another reason training shoes can be a great tool.

Here are three popular options:

Nike Free – This shoe is probably one of the most flexible, light weight shoes available today. It’s good for short-distance runners.

 

 

 

 

Reebok Zig Pulse – This training/running shoe hybrid is designed with special nodes on the sole. It has a seamless liner, minimizing rub and irritation (something I hated about my old running shoes). Great for long-distance running and agility training.

 

 

 

Jordan Trunners – This shoe is designed for intense cross-training. The outlining is very strong, good lateral stability and sharp cuts/turns. Great for plyometric, speed and agility training. This is my shoe of choice. It’s durable, so I feel safe during intense exercise. After a year of training in this shoe, I’m injury- and joint- pain-free (knock on wood).

 

 

 

At this point, maybe you’re wondering if you should just toss your old workout shoes altogether. If you constantly have pain and injuries after exercise, the answer is yes! But before you give up your old kicks altogether, think about this: People new to “functional fitness” may lack the muscle/joint ability of someone with more experience. Because training shoes allow for more movement and have less ankle support than a standard tennis shoe, make sure your body is ready to take the step. Ease into training shoes until your stabilizer muscles are strong and ready.

Training shoes also aren’t built for high-impact sports, like football or basketball. And marathoners should steer clear of training shoes for long-distance runs because they lack the additional support offered by running shoes.

Looking for a fitness challenge this week? Set a goal to run half a mile more than you usually do, at least twice.