All shoes are not created equal. Even setting aside differences in quality and durability, one pair of sneakers simply cannot do everything a workout requires.
And it’s not just a comfort thing. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports showed that when people used more multiple pairs of sneakers when exercising where nearly 40 percent less likely to be injured. Are you willing to risk your health over something as simple as a pair of sneakers?
The biggest mistake people make is buying a pair of general purpose running shoes and trying to lift weights while wearing them. The thickly cushioned soles hurt stability, and you can’t predict how they’ll shift from rep to rep. That leaves you open to injury, and it means you’re not able to focus on technique like you should. Instead, a pair of shoes specifically designed for weightlifting, such as Heyday Footwear’s Super Shift, with a flat, incompressible sole is the right choice. Shoes like that are more stable and more predictable, and don’t limit your strength the way a highly cushioned running shoe would.
The right shoes can keep you healthy and can make sure you’re actually getting the most benefit from your lifting regimen. If you lift your heels when doing squats or deadlifts, you run the risk of hurting yourself, and you aren’t getting the full effect of the exercise you’re doing. Having a shoe with a flat, incompressible sole ensures that your leg muscles contract harder, and also helps you push your feet to the outside. That lets you focus on keeping your knees in the proper position and activates your glutes. What’s the point of lifting if you aren’t seeing increases in strength in the muscle groups you’re trying to work, after all?
The Super Shift has more benefits that it’s sole, however. The eyes are moved farther back on the upper of the shoe, with offers better ankle support and locks your heels into the back of the shoe. That means more stability and more comfort.
The key to choosing the right workout shoes is personal—what exercises do you focus on? Some exercises, like Olympic lifts, deep squats, overhead squats and power cleans, are easier with a shoe that has a slight heel. That heel makes deadlifts, calf raises and backs squats more difficult, however. If you find yourself doing far more back squats that Olympic lifts, then look for a completely flat shoe.
Not everyone can afford a shoe for each kind of workout, though. There are still options that can work as an all-around gym shoe. The Heyday Footwear Prime Trainer is designed with a thin, incompressible sole, but unlike shoes designed only for weightlifting, it offers a 10mm tall heel. That’s the same as most running shoes, so it offers comfort and support for cardio exercises, cross-training and HIIT while still being suitable for weightlifting.
To get the maximum benefit from every kind of exercise, it makes the most sense to have shoes that are designed to fulfill one purpose extremely well. That limits the risk of injury, helps with your technique and gets you the most benefit from your workout routine. You wouldn’t try to run a marathon on ice skates, nor would you try to go out on the ice in running shoes. Picking shoes for the gym follows the same basic idea—the right tool (or shoe in this case) for the right job.
No matter what shoes you end up using, they should have soles that offer good traction and should support your ankles well. Those two basic standards help prevent injuries common when working out.