by David Bryan

May 19, 2022

So you’ve decided to get moving and you're not sure what shoes to wear at the gym. Whatever type of physical activity or sport you've decided on, you’ll need to put something on your feet! What you put on your feet will determine your comfort, enjoyment, the effect on your body and ultimately your success.

The world of sports/active footwear is a minefield (just walk into your local Sports Direct store!). Full of bright colours, shapes, sizes, big name brands, all carrying varying costs. So, it is important that you choose the right type of footwear for your body, and for the activity that you wish to undertake. Failing to do so you run the risk of causing yourself injury, discomfort and leaving you heavily out of pocket.

When deciding your next gym shoe consider these 3 points:

  1. 1
    Function - What's the intended use and what the shoes have been designed for.
  2. 2
    Fit - How they fit and feel to your foot.
  3. 3
    Form - Aesthetics and what they look like.


Footwear can be split into a number of categories, depending on the intended activity, with each category being designed and built to suit that specific activity. Most sports have Sport Specific footwear like:

  • Court Shoes designed for Tennis / Squash etc.
  • Walking/Trail shoes designed for hiking / long distance running
  • Football or rugby boots/astros/trainers.

However, these are not good all round shoes and should be avoided (unless playing that specific sport of course!). That leaves two other types for general gym type exercise: Cross Trainers and Running Shoes.

Cross Trainers: Ideal for a variety of different activities. 

They’re designed to:

  • Provide good shock absorption when jumping
  • Be wider than normal shoes to offer more tread grip
  • Have a flat sole intended for weight lifting and squats to help your heels stay grounded and give your feet extra support for lateral (sideways) movement. Without this, rolling your foot or ankle could happen easily when moving sideways or landing (that never ends well!). 

Running Trainers: Ideal for ...running!

These are designed to give you a large amount of cushioning and spring to absorb the impact of your foot hitting the floor and to correct any sideways rolling (pronation) of the foot the impact might cause. It’s important to note that running shoes are split between two types: Neutral and Supported. Selecting the wrong one can cause you discomfort, pain and possible injury, stopping you from being active.

This video is from They have a great wealth of information and selection of shoes, go check them out!

2. FIT

It is imperative you try the shoes on. Sizes in one brand won’t be the same in another. Footwear fitting is acknowledged as being vitally important and has been found that a large portion of the population wear shoes that do not accommodate the width or dimensions of their feet. This is a major contributor to foot pain, blisters, and disorders like hallux valgus (bunions), corns, calluses and toe deformity. 

You should ideally have approximately ½ inch between your big toe and the end of the shoe for optimal fit. You can check if the shape and width are correct by following the steps in this video:


You obviously need to like the look of the shoe in the first place, but you need to be aware of shoes designed for fashion and/or are full of gimmicks! Just because they are made by Adidas, Nike or sold in JD Sports, does not mean they are appropriate for sport and activity, especially if they are totally flat or covered in crazy shaped air bubbles. They might say they will give you ‘Air’ cushioning, barefoot feel or futuristic fitting (think Marty McFly in Back to the Future 2), but are all designed to tempt you out of your hard earned cash for just a look.

Finally, if you’re looking for some new gym trainers, do your research on the internet. If that leaves even more confused, go and get advice from the shoe experts in the specific sections in your local sports store.

Reference: ‘Incorrectly fitted footwear, foot pain and foot disorders’ (Buldt & Menz 2018) Journal of Foot and Ankle Research.

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About the author 

David Bryan

David is a coach at HIT35 and lover of all things sporty. Tennis is where David's heart truly lies, while he can also be seen throughout the Summer on the cricket pitch, weather permitting!

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