The Best Shoes for Fitness Classes

Portrait of a man tying shoelaces
(Image: Mina3686/iStock/GettyImages)

Picking shoes for your workout outfit can be a pain because it can be tough to find something that looks and feels good. When you work out your shoes have to be able to keep up with the rigors of whatever exercise you're doing and support your feet. There are different styles of athletic shoe depending on what type of activity you do.

Athletic shoes have become a massive part of the footwear market. They're made with different materials, styles, colors and shapes. There are minimalist shoes with less padding, running shoes that are designed with more cushion at the heel and then there are regular training shoes.

Finding the Right Fit

To find the best shoe for you, take into consideration how the shoe fits and what it's designed for. Buying the wrong shoe can mean blisters, sore feet and a lack of support.

Each footwear brand has a slightly different style of fit. Major brands each have specific foot models off of whom they base their shoes. If one brand of shoe fits poorly, try a different brand.

When you try on the shoe, take into consideration how wide or narrow the shoe feels. Does it constrict the front of your foot? Does your heel slide out of the back? If some areas are too tight or too loose, either try a different size or switch brands.

Once you find a shoe brand that fits, search for the right style of footwear for the activity you're going to do.

Running Shoes

Running shoes are designed for forward and back motions. They don't have much lateral support because runners really don't really need it. They need cushion under the heel because that's where their foot tends to hit the ground.

While they're designed specifically for athletic activities, running shoes don't necessarily offer the support that you need for a fitness class. However, there's an impressive amount of variability in the running shoe market.

You can try a running shoe out and, if it feels comfortable, use it in a fitness class. They tend to be lightweight and you can find running shoes that match the height of your arch, making them more customizable than most other styles of athletic shoe.

woman tying shoelaces outdoor
Shoes have different designs based on function. (Image: pyotr021/iStock/GettyImages)

Minimalist Shoes

Minimalist shoes are low-profile and have very little padding. Shoe manufacturers aren't trying to skimp on costs by going minimal — they're trying to give your foot a more natural feel. Less padding on the bottom of your shoe means that you feel the ground better.

While removing padding might sound like a recipe for injury, it can actually help you avoid problems like knee pain if you're going to do plyometric training. According to a 2015 study published in Research in Sports Medicine, people who wear minimalist shoes land softer and spare their joints a jarring impact.

Barefoot Shoes

The slightly less popular but more extreme alternative to minimalist shoes is barefoot shoes. Sometimes called "toe shoes," a barefoot shoe fits over your foot like a glove, providing only a thin layer of cushion between you and the ground.

If you want a barefoot feel during a fitness class, this is the shoe for you. However, be aware that there's so little cushioning in this shoe that your feet might hurt after jumping or other high-impact activities.

Cross-Training Shoes

One of the newest styles of athletic shoe is the cross-training shoe. It's a jack of all trades and master of none. Cross-training shoes have more lateral stability and less padding than a running shoe. However, they're not as low-profile as a minimalist shoe.

No matter what fitness class you take, cross-training shoes will do well. Unless you're doing something that requires specific shoes, like a spin class, you should opt for cross-training shoes so that you're prepared for anything.

Fitness classes aren't linear and include a variety of movements and directional changes. Your footwear should reflect that variability. As an added bonus, cross-training shoes are typically lightweight and maneuverable, they won't get in your way like clunky basketball or tennis shoes.

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