Do You Really Need Different Shoes for Different Sports?

Athletic footwear shouldn’t be regarded as one size fits all.  

Not only is the perfect shoe going to be different from person to person, it’s going to vary based on activity.

Running shoes have come a long way from their humble inception back in the 1920s when seven time Boston Marathon winner Clarence deMar ran in thin shoes with crepe rubber soles and leather uppers. In those days, the Ritchings Company made custom fitted models, weighing in at less than 10 ounces[1].

Around the same time, give or take a decade, the Converse Rubber Corporation opened for business and eventually began making athletic shoes. After lots of research and development, the very first version of the All Star basketball shoe was produced in 1917[2].

Footwear for very different sports, yet somehow over the years, we began classifying any type of athletic shoes as one in the same.

Sneakers, or even ‘tennies’ have become terms for shoes worn for physical activities and whether those activities happen to be indoors or out, high impact or low, short duration or long, many don’t factor in what they’re going to be doing when making their choice of which to purchase.

While some go with fashion rather than function with 17% of Americans buying their sneakers because they like the look, 72% of people buying athletic shoes are only purchasing in order to replace old or worn-out sneakers, still without considering their specific purpose[3].

While wearing a comfortable rubber-soled shoe makes more sense for lifting weights or going for a run than a pair of heels, assuming they’re all the same could cause problems in the long run.

With the amount of design that goes into manufacturing shoes for every body type, foot structure and mode of activity, walking into your local running shop and choosing a shoe solely based on color or price could inadvertently force your feet, your anchors, if you will, into unchartered territory.

Perhaps those hot Nike fly-knits in fuchsia caught your eye, and you’re planning to use them for that HITT workout as well as running errands later on that day…but you’re currently wearing a Mizuno trainer you chose after reading an article about runners who pronate.

Going from a shoe offering mega-support in your weak arches (which, by the way could also be addressed by looking into strengthening and stretching the appropriate musculature) to the neutral option with nearly zero drop could lead to foot pain, ankle pain, knee pain, hip pain and back pain….and if you don’t correct it, an injury in any of the preceding.

It may sound extreme, but it’s the reality.

Does this mean that going barefoot is our best option?

It’s certainly the most natural approach, but again, going back to what nature may have intended from a very supportive angle in one shot is also a bad idea.

The body needs time to adjust, first off, and also, not every type of activity is conducive to going shoe-free.

In my experience, the best approach is to select footwear based on the category it’s designed for. Then, narrow down based on price and color, if you’re bothered about it.  

Wear the shoes inside without using them for their intended activity first to make sure they’re the right choice and consider buying them in a half to a full size larger than your daywear to accommodate the slight expansion commonly seen in the foot during activity.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of keeping shoes longer than their lifespan intended.

For runners, a good rule of thumb is to swap shoes out every three months or 500 miles[4], whichever comes first.

By paying close attention to your footwear, you’re doing one of the simplest things you can do to set your feet on solid ground and prepare for a great workout, and no time off due to injury!




[1] “A Brief History of the Running Shoe.” Runner’s World. Runner’s World, 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2015

[2] “The History of the Converse All Star “Chuck Taylor” Basketball Shoe.” The History of the Converse All Star “Chuck Taylor” Basketball Shoe. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015

[3] “Guess What? Most People Won’t Buy Sneakers for $300 — Or Even $200.” Business Money Guess What Most People Wont Buy Sneakers for 300 Or Even 200 Comments. Time Magazine, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015

[4] “When to Retire a Running Shoe.” Well When to Retire a Running Shoe Comments. NY Times, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2015