What are the Different Types of Fitness Shoes?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Running shoes.
Running shoes.

The term "fitness shoes" may refer to any types of shoes that are used for physical activities such as sports, or it may refer specifically to shoes designed for general fitness activities rather than shoes tailored to a specific sport or group of sports. Before beginning a search for a good pair of fitness shoes, it is important for the user to decide what types of fitness activities he or she will be participating in. This helps narrow down the search for fitness shoes and allows the purchaser to make an informed decision based on his or her specific needs.

Supportive running shoes can reduce the risk of injury while exercising.
Supportive running shoes can reduce the risk of injury while exercising.

Most people consider running shoes to be the best and most commonly chosen fitness shoes, and while they are almost certainly the most purchased athletic shoes, they are rarely the right choice for a person participating in fitness activities other than running. These fitness shoes are designed specifically for forward motion, so the shape of the shoe will support the foot throughout the forward movement. Lateral movements, however, will be fairly unsupported, and a user will find that running shoes are too light and flimsy for other activities such as racket sports or cross training.

Running shoes are the most commonly chosen fitness shoes.
Running shoes are the most commonly chosen fitness shoes.

Those people who need a shoe that will support the foot through forward and lateral movements should consider a cross training shoe. These fitness shoes look similar to running shoes, but they tend to have a bulkier, stiffer sole that is wider than a running shoe. This wider, stiffer sole keeps the ankle from rolling during lateral movements, making it a good choice for a variety of sports. The uppers of cross training shoes are usually a bit thicker than running shoes, though some cross training shoes do feature lightweight, breathable, and thin uppers for comfort and breathability.

More modern versions of fitness shoes are specially designed to strengthen and tone the leg muscles during normal walking activities. These shoes often feature a negative heel — in which the heel of the foot is positioned lower than the toes — or a rounded sole that creates a "rocker" motion when walking. These types of shoes tend to be quite expensive and claim to tone and firm leg muscles as well as the buttocks by essentially making the muscles work harder during normal walking. Many people claim positive results from such shoes, while others claim the shoes put too much excess strain on the legs and can cause pain.

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Discussion Comments


Before buying a shoe for exercise, everyone should read the first paragraph of this article. Different sports require different shoes. Many people make the mistake of buying a new pair of shoes with no regard for the design of the shoes and no regard for how the design of the shoes will fit with the way the shoes are going to be used.

When I was in school and playing several sports, I had a different pair of fitness shoes for each of the sports I played. If you play basketball in a pair of running shoes, you will probably twist your ankles. Instead, you need a pair of high-top shoes that will support your ankles. Some guys I knew wore cross trainers, but I never cared for them because they were made for several sports, not for one particular sport.


@Laotionne - There are certain brands of shoes that are made a little differently at the toes so that your toes are not forced together and so that the big toe and the small toe are not rubbing against the shoe and causing blisters. I have found this type of shoe, but the brand I buy is specially designed for playing tennis.

Look a little harder and I bet you can find the right shoe for you. Try going to a special sports store, and not just to a store that has a shoe department where it sells sneakers. You might even be able to find a specialty store than caters to the needs of runners specifically.


A friend and I recently started running at the track during our lunch breaks. I have exercised on and off quite a bit over the years, but I have mostly taken dance classes and exercise classes that didn't require running. I haven't had a problem with my shoes until now that I have started running.

After the first day my friend and I ran, my toes were tender where the shoes I was wearing had been squeezing them together. There were a couple places on my feet where I could see blisters forming. I thought my feet just needed to get used to the routine, but I'm still having problems. I went shopping for a new pair of shoes, but all of the fitness shoes for women that I saw were tapered at the ends and my toes were squeezed together and uncomfortable.

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    • Running shoes.
      By: TrudiDesign
      Running shoes.
    • Supportive running shoes can reduce the risk of injury while exercising.
      By: Picture-Factory
      Supportive running shoes can reduce the risk of injury while exercising.
    • Running shoes are the most commonly chosen fitness shoes.
      By: Deklofenak
      Running shoes are the most commonly chosen fitness shoes.