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How to Choose the Best Workout Shoes

High angle of a group of people's feet wearing running shoes standing together in a huddle on a gym floor
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Choosing the right shoes is one of the most important things you can do to maximize the effectiveness of your workout routine. The right pair of shoes can provide the necessary support, stability, and cushioning to help you perform at your best, while also minimizing the risk of injury. Whether you’re getting into high-intensity cardio, weightlifting, or cycling, here’s what you need to know about picking the right shoes for your workout.

LifeSavvy spoke with Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS, to learn more.

Why Do Shoes Matter?

Close up photo of two people in sport clothes tying shoelaces before jogging
BAZA Production/Shutterstock.com

Virtually every workout requires a good pair of shoes. It’s hard to underestimate how important it is to put the right gear on your feet.

“Ill-fitting, improper, or inappropriate workout shoes can cause injury, stress fractures, or soft tissue damage to your feet,” said Dr. John.

While it can seem daunting to find the right pair of shoes, there are some guidelines you can follow to make sure your feet stay comfortable and secure. Here are some things to keep in mind when shoe shopping.

ASICS Women's Gel-Venture 8 Running Shoes

These are some of the most popular workout shoes on Amazon.

Consider Your Workout

Young active people exercising in spinning class

The easiest way to narrow down your shoe options is to consider the specific needs of your workout routine. Different types of workouts require different features in a shoe to ensure optimal performance and comfort, explains Dr. John. Each of these workouts will require unique shoes for the best results.


Full body profile portrait of young man running

If you’re planning on running a lot, cushioning plays a crucial role in reducing the impact on your joints and minimizing your risk of injury. Look for shoes that offer plenty of cushioning in the midsole to provide a comfortable and responsive ride. The shoe’s drop, or the difference in height between the heel and toe, should also match your running style and preference.

Another important factor to think about is arch support. People with flat feet may require shoes with extra arch support, while those with high arches may need extra cushioning and flexibility. Finding the right balance of arch support is key to preventing discomfort and injuries.

Brooks Men's Launch 9 Neutral Running Shoe

Brooks is a well-known brand that offers shoes for most foot types.


Three women walk outside

If your workouts mainly revolve around walking, you’ll want to look for shoes that provide the right balance of flexibility and stability. Dr. John recommends shoes that have proper midfoot and arch support, good cushioning, a firmer sole, and a proper width for your foot type.

Flexibility is important because it allows your feet to move naturally as you walk. Look for shoes with soft and flexible materials that will bend and move with your feet, as well as those that have a stable sole and good traction to keep you grounded as you walk. Shoes with arch support will help to distribute your weight evenly and prevent discomfort or overpronation.

KURU ATOM Sneakers

KURU's best-selling sneaker with an athletic fit and sleek design.


A man cycling down a road

Cycling shoes are an essential part of any cyclist’s gear, and choosing the right pair can greatly enhance your experience.

One of the main benefits of good cycling shoes is their stiff soles. Unlike regular athletic shoes, cycling shoes have stiff soles that provide optimal power transfer from your legs to the pedals on your bike. This means that every bit of energy you exert goes directly into propelling you forward.

Another important feature of cycling shoes is that some come with toe clips or clipless pedals. These systems allow you to securely attach your feet to the pedals, providing a more stable connection. It’s important to note that while cycling shoes excel in performance on the bike, they aren’t great for walking because of how inflexible they are.

SHIMANO SH-RP101 High Performing All-Rounder Cycling Shoe

The RP1 is designed for both road and indoor cycling use.

Weight Training

A woman deadlifts in the gym

Most athletic shoes are built with arch support and a thick padded heel. While these features are great for jumping and running, they can actually cause you more harm than good in the weight room. When you’re lifting heavy weights, it is important that your feet are planted firmly on the ground and won’t shift in the middle of a movement. This is especially crucial for serious lifters but applies to novices as well.

The ideal strength training shoe will have a flatter sole than a running shoe. You should also find shoes that have a wide bottom and allow your feet to spread out naturally, which will help you keep your balance while lifting heavy weights.

adidas Unisex Powerlift 5 Cross Trainer

The rubber outsole provides outstanding grip and a sleek, low-profile look that keeps your feet planted on the mat.


A group of people work out together

High-intensity interval training is a favorite of people who like to burn as many calories as they can in as little time as possible. This type of exercise usually involves movements like tuck jumps, lateral jumps, lunges, kicks, and more. If you’re doing HIIT workouts, you’ll need a shoe with a lot of support and traction.

One of the key elements to consider when choosing men’s and women’s workout shoes for HIIT is the level of cushioning. HIIT workouts often involve intense cardio exercises and plyometric moves, putting a lot of stress on the joints. Look for shoes with plenty of cushioning in the midsole to absorb shock and protect your feet from impact.

Support is also crucial in HIIT workouts. Quick direction changes and explosive movements require a shoe that can keep your feet stable and aligned. Cross-training shoes are a great choice for HIIT.

Reebok Men's Nano X2 Cross Trainer

From pistol squats to burpees, these combination training and running shoes help you take your workout to the next level and ensure you feel confident in or out of the gym.

Accommodate Your Arch

Two people work out together

Good arch support is super important, says Dr. John. Your arch type plays a significant role in determining the level of support and stability you need during your workouts.

Knowing your arch type is the first step in finding the right workout shoes, and you can determine your arch type by examining your footprint. The Mayo Clinic suggests a simple method: wet the sole of your foot and step onto a piece of paper.

If you see a distinct curve along the inside of your foot, you likely have a normal, neutral arch. If the curve is barely visible or non-existent, you likely have low arches, also known as flat feet. And if only a thin portion of your foot is touching the paper, you may have high arches.

Once you have identified your arch type, you can focus on finding workout shoes that offer the appropriate level of support. For those with high arches, look for shoes with ample cushioning and arch support to help absorb shock and provide stability. If you have low arches, opt for shoes with a supportive midsole to help prevent overpronation. And if you have a neutral arch, you have more flexibility in choosing women’s and men’s workout shoes that provide a balance of cushioning and stability.


These ultra-supportive shoes are perfect for hiking, walking, or for anyone who needs extra support.

Consider Price

Two men shop for athletic shoes

It might be tempting to go for the most expensive pair of shoes you can find, but it’s important to remember that a higher price doesn’t always mean better shoes. Instead, consider the quality and features of the shoes over the price.

Popular shoe brands often come with a higher price tag. While they may have a good reputation, you should also explore other brands that offer similar features at a more affordable price point, especially if you’re on a budget.

You should always try on workout shoes in-store before making a purchase if possible. This allows you to assess the fit, comfort, and overall feel of the shoes on your feet. Discuss the features and benefits with shop assistants, who are often familiar with many types of shoes and can provide valuable insights.

ASICS Women's Gel-Excite 9 Running Shoes

It's definitely possible to get high-quality workout shoes on a budget.

Choosing the best workout shoes requires careful consideration of several factors. By incorporating these tips into your search for the perfect workout shoes, you can maximize your performance and minimize the risk of foot problems while you break a sweat.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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