Best workout shoes – When it comes to training, one thing we tend to overlook is the quality of footwear we slip into. Sure, you want comfort and support, but there are subtle elements at play that greatly influence your fitness and safety when it comes to what you have on your feet.
Footwear is an essential technology, but like any tool or technical equipment you might use in your daily life, you need to be able to discern what works for you and what you want to do. It’s a delicate balance, no pun intended, but getting the right shoes on your feet takes a bit of attention and education.
Profile dictates pretty much how thick or thin the sole of your shoe is. A low profile shoe has a relatively thin sole, while a high profile shoe will be thicker, providing more of a platform. Workout shoes for men and best workout shoes for women. What you want to achieve or perform will determine the profile of the shoe you wear.
For example, if you’re doing something more functional and body weight-based like mobility or agility training, you will want to go for a lower profile shoe.
Any practical sport, a sport based on things you can apply to daily life such as boxing and rock climbing all have low profile footwear. That’s because, in order to be effective, your feet need to feel and feed off the ground instead of being isolated from it.
A segment of footwear known as minimalist or barefoot has grown into a burgeoning niche that aims to provide consumers with a barefoot experience with the bare essential level of protection you get from footwear.
That means no cushioning or support technology, just your foot, the ground, and a thin protective layer. High profile shoes, on the other hand, can be useful too. These are great when maximum stability, comfort, and protection are required in order to allow you to focus on other more urgent feats.
In this case, you aren’t concerned about conditioning your legs so you can forego worrying about proprioception and balance. Powerlifting is an example where the footwear isn’t focused on foot condition, but rather optimizing your goal in lifting.
Gradient or drop serves to indicate the difference in height or thickness of the outsole from heel to toe. A shoe’s gradient is always highest at the heel and lowest at the toe. Sometimes there is a zero gradient, also known as a zero drop. This is where there is no change in height from heel to toe.
The gradient of a shoe also determines what type of application you should use it for.
A low to zero drop shoe is more for a functional approach, similar to how a low profile shoe is great for functional training. That’s because your foot is naturally zero drops and only creates a gradient through plantar flexion, the act of transferring weight to your forefoot, eventually going on your toes.
That means you are activating muscles and not just passively resting. This builds strength and neuromuscular conditioning in your feet which is why a zero drop shoe is what you need for functional fitness.
A higher gradient shoe, is again, just like with profile, going to only come in handy when correctly conditioning your feet is not a priority.
That’s why shoes for weightlifting typically have a high heel to toe drop. For proper lifting technique, you want your feet to be in a flexed, forefoot dominant position, but you don’t want to use up valuable energy and mental focus on maintaining plantar flexion isometrically.
The materials a shoe is made of determines its function in more than one way. For the upper (the top body of the shoe), the material determines ventilation, flexibility, insulation comfort and support.
For the insole, midsole, and outsole, the material determines comfort, cushioning, responsiveness, protection, and traction.
For functional activities like running, hiking or any agility based exercises, you want to go for something with a firm upper, a stable, flexible midsole, and a grippy outsole.
You also want to avoid too much-cushioning technology which usually comes in the form of foamy or gel-based materials. Cushioning materials in the midsole cancel the essential ground reaction you are meant to respond to with each footstrike, lessening the desired training effect in terms of conditioning and proprioception.
It can also lead to the development of imbalances.
Flexibility can be good or bad, depending on what you’re using your shoes for. If you’re moving or performing functional activities, you need to go full flex. Because your foot and body position are constantly switching, your footwear needs to adapt accordingly.
When it comes to less dynamic exercises or sports. Such as lifting or rowing, your foot position is relatively fixed, and also acts as a base of stability.
In this case, you’ll probably do best with a more rigid shoe.
Support determines how a shoe carries your foot. There are two factors when it comes to foot support. Your insole, which sits inside your shoe, and your midsole, the thick bottom layer.
Your insole might have arch support to help your foot maintain a good profile and prevent dropped arches. Your midsole might provide some cushioning or avoid it completely.
One rule of thumb is the less cushioning, the better quality in terms of exercise and training you can get out of your shoe. Cushioning technology that relies on air or some form of mechanism is best avoided for any serious activity.
The goal of good footwear is to protect you while optimizing performance rather than isolate you from natural stressors. Always make sure whatever you decide to wear not only fits your foot but fits your desired activity. Its also not a bad idea to check up with an orthopedist before you go shoe shopping.
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