Although the term aerobics fits any activity that builds cardio fitness -- such as running, walking, swimming or biking -- aerobic shoes are a highly specialized type of footwear. The 21st century athletic shoe industry makes specific shoes for almost every activity, and aerobic shoes are geared toward aerobic classes in the gym, such as step aerobics, Zumba and jazz dance classes and boot-camp workouts. Cross-trainers, designed for those who jock it up in a variety of ways in the gym, are sometimes grouped into the aerobic shoe category. Aerobic and other athletic shoe models change frequently, so the models mentioned below might be outdated, although they may still be available online.
The American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society says aerobic shoes are designed to provide extra cushioning underneath the ball of your foot, which is particularly stressed during aerobic classes. You should choose lightweight shoes that are designed with a high degree of lateral control, since aerobics classes require you to frequently move side-to-side as well as forward and backward. Running or walking shoes don't provide such all-around support, so don't use them for aerobics classes.
Top aerobic shoe picks from "Shape Magazine" include models from Nike and Asics. The Nike shoe features multi-directional grooves, a flexible outersole that bends in all direction and excellent heel cushioning. These features make the shoe a particularly good choice for kickboxers and steppers. The Asics shoe uses gel under the heel and forefoot for excellent cushioning. The heel also is well-padded and the outersole is immune from slipping.
"Fitness" magazine sent out 140 women to test athletic shoes and they singled out a trio of aerobic shoe models for special praise. A Sidi shoe drew high marks for its wider forefoot and tapered heel, allowing your foot to stay in place without your toes feeling squished. The Nike shoe features an almost seamless upper with extra lateral support in a lightweight shoe that is particularly good for Zumba and other dance aerobic classes. If you're into boot camp workouts or kickboxing, the supportive foam insole and roomy toe box of the Reebok shoe would make you smile.
A Legit Fit
The top-rated aerobic shoe won't serve you well if it doesn't fit properly. The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York emphasizes that the shoe should match your foot shape. The soles of an athletic shoe can be straight, semi-curved or curved. Your feet might over-pronate and roll to the inside when you walk or under-pronate and roll to the outside. Make sure the aerobic shoe you select allows you to wiggle your toes and provide 1/4 to 1/2 inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. And if the shoe twists too easily, it won't support the type of lateral and twisting movements you need for sports such as tennis or aerobics.