Walking shoes vs. Running shoes vs. Cross Trainers

Did you know that there are various types of sneakers that are suited for different kinds of activities? Yes – many people make the mistake of assuming that a pair of shoes will suit various activities, even if it is an athletic shoe, so you end up using it to play games on the court, go out for hiking, and go to the gym and so on.

This is a risky mistake to make, as anyone who has been in the fitness world will tell you. This is because different physical activities will place different demands on your feet, and therefore require different shoes to protect different areas of your foot in order to minimize injuries. For instance, the support your feet need when you are going on a hike is not the same as when you are sprinting, or when you are lifting weights in the gym – even if these shoes all look the same.

We will look at the differences among three shoe types: the walking shoe, the running shoe, and the Cross Trainers – and see which one is better for which activity and why.

What you need to know about:

Running shoes

While they can look awfully similar to a Cross training shoe, the main differences are in the heel drop and sole flexibility. They are best suited for running, and this is through the following aspects:

  • They guard against shock when your feet are pounding the ground repeatedly, through their midsole cushioning
  • They have a higher heel to toe drop compared to other athletic shoes, and it is due to the heavy support and cushioning that they provide.
  • They are lighter compared to Cross Trainer shoes, due to the distances that runners cover.
  • The treads that they have tends to be smooth, since runners are basically moving forward instead of on a smooth surface like a court. Runners will also rarely make sharp lateral movements that many other sports need, especially the court types such as basketball.

Walking shoes

These will have certain similarities to running shoes, but with one slight difference: they have stiffer support and less cushioning. Because your foot is not pounding on the ground to the same extent that a runners’ foot is when they are running, you will not need as much cushioning as they do.

Some of the features that make them stand out though include:

  • The major emphasis of cushioning is around the balls of your feet, as well as the heel. The aim is to ensure your foot remains aligned properly as you move on the ground instead of rolling inwards or outwards. They will also give you some support through the arch to maintain its shape, rather than propping it up like a running shoe would.
  • They also have a variety of traction, depending on the surface you typically walk on. For people that do their walking indoors or on a treadmill, the sole is usually smoother and has less depth in the grooves, while these grooves are deeper for people who do a majority of their walking outdoors (such as trail walkers and hikers).
  • A good walking shoe needs to fit properly around the instep and heel – the instep is the middle part of your shoe that is near the laces. This is because they need to keep your foot in place, but they should also be loose enough around the toes and the balls of your foot to offer some wiggle space.

Cross Training shoes

If your daily routine involves gym-style workouts at various intensities such as a boot camp-style class, then the demands on your feet are more intense than what walking or running shoes can handle. In this case, you will need a shoe that is flexible enough to allow you to squat, kick and jump, while giving you enough room to feel the ground more to help in posture.

These are the Cross Training shoes. They are great enough to handle almost any activity. However, a runner should not use them because they do not offer sufficient support while running, and walkers should not use them either because of their lack of proper cushioning in the balls of the feet.

Some of the features that make Cross Training shoes stand out are:

  • The soles are stable and tend to be wider compared to a running shoe, and they will often expand outside of the width of the shoe upper. This width is meant to provide greater support for lateral movements that you do while wearing the shoes, but this is hardly an issue for walkers or runners because the movements are in a forward motion.
  • They are lightweight to help you make faster movements, while the lower heel drops allow you to push off the ground easily and move faster.

The risks of wearing the wrong shoes

  • Discomfort – it is likely that the wrong shoes will be very uncomfortable, as well as causing soreness, pain and blisters.
  • Reduced performance – since you are not at your best, it becomes hard to put in your target mileage and accomplish your goals.
  • Various injuries developing

Final thoughts

It is important to have specific shoes for the workout you are doing, even though it might seem expensive – they will help you enjoy what you are doing, and prevent injuries.


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