Find Your Sole Mate: The Perfect Shoe for Every Workout


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/14/2014 6:00 AM   :  39 comments   :  123,133 Views

Wearing the right shoes while exercising can mean the difference between a comfortable workout, and one filled with pain, or worse-injury. With thousands of workout shoes on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? By answering a few simple questions, you can narrow down your options and use this guide to find the pair that is your "solemate."

Start by choosing your primary activity from the list below:
Walking or hiking
Aerobics and other cardio workouts including team sports


While it can be tempting to shop for the biggest bargain at your local department store, investing in a quality running shoe is money well spent. Wearing poor quality shoes that don’t fit your unique anatomy and training goals results in problems. A good running shoe will offer the right amount of cushion, flexibility and breathability, but what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. In order to determine the right running shoe, it helps to know a little bit about your foot type (low, normal or high arch) as well as your pronation (how much the foot rolls in or out when it makes contact with the ground.) Most specialty running stores offer a free analysis of your foot and gait to find the best shoe for you. 

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference.


Purchasing a quality walking shoe is a smart investment if walking is a primary mode of exercise for you. Although some running shoes can be used for walking, the inverse isn't usually true. Walking shoes are more flexible through the ball of the foot to allow a greater range of motion through the roll of the forefoot. They also have greater arch support to protect where the force is heaviest on the foot. The type of walking shoe you need will depend on a number of factors, including your foot and the typical walking terrain.

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference.

Aerobics/Cross-Training/Team Sports

Cross-trainers or aerobic shoes are suitable for a wide variety of activities other than walking or running. They are also an option if you participate in many different kinds of activities without a primary mode of exercise dominating your workout schedule. In this case, cross-trainers might be better (and less expensive) than buying a number of activity-specific shoes. Cross-trainers tend to have a wider outsole, lateral support all over (for activities that take place in directions other than forward motion) and additional support for the heels and legs. Lateral support is important for the side-to-side motion of activities like aerobics classes and certain sports.  

If you do participate frequently in a specific sport like basketball or tennis, it's worth investing in a shoe designed for the sport and the surface you'll be playing on. You can even find shoes for aquatic activities like water aerobics that help increase the force of buoyancy in the water and also help protect the foot from minor cuts and scrapes.

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference.


Cycling shoes have a stiffer sole that gives extra support and efficient energy transfer as you pedal away. They also protect your feet while riding and can help prevent foot cramping and fatigue more effectively than a traditional shoe. The type of bike pedal you have will also determine the kind of shoe needed. For example, platform pedals don't require a special type of footwear, but clipless pedals require special shoes which have a cleat fitted into the sole.

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference.


Weightlifting can encompass a wide variety of workouts, from a strength training video at home to a CrossFit class that incorporates Olympic powerlifting and plyometrics. The type of workouts you do will determine which kind of shoe is best.  

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference.

In general, if you are participating in an activity more than a few times each week, it’s a good idea to buy a shoe designed specifically for it. It can be tempting to buy the first pair of shoes you find on sale, but many times, you get what you pay for. Poor-quality shoes can lead to poor-quality results (and injury), so do your homework before deciding which shoe is right for you. Your body will thank you for it.

Buzzle, "Cross Training Shoes vs Running Shoes,", accessed on February 4, 2014
Campmor, "Hiking Shoes vs. Hiking Boots,", accessed on February 4, 2014
ExRx, "Weightlifting Shoes 101,", accessed on February 4, 2014
Ezine Articles, "How to Choose the Right Type of Bike Pedal,", accessed on February 4, 2014.
REI, "Bike Shoes: How to Choose,", accessed on February 4, 2014
Skinny Mom, "How to Choose the Best Weight Lifting Shoes,", accessed on February 4, 2014
Swim Team Suits, "What to Look for in Water Aerobics Shoes,", accessed on February 4, 2014

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

NEXT ENTRY >   Introducing SparkPeople 'Friend Feed' Enhancements

Great Stories from around the Web


    Your site has many kind of shoes, however it does not guide how to buy the best walking shoes. I recommend this site: - 3/30/2015   7:02:39 AM
    No doubt your guide really helped me to choose the best one shoe.

    Also you need to check the below websites for more quality info on this topic along with reviews:

    Walking Shoes:
    Work Boots: - 3/28/2015   9:47:28 AM
  • 37
    SP is not a women's only site but yet here we have another article that seems to assume so. Specifically, most of the links are to women's shoes. Please name the articles according, please. - 3/11/2015   1:03:05 PM
    What an amazing article! It is unbelievable how much the right shoe can improve your performance. I found an equally amazing guide to finding the best crossfit shoes at - 2/2/2015   11:22:50 PM
    Value information. ManyThanks
    I found very helpful as well this site: - 1/11/2015   6:53:20 PM
    Value information. ManyThanks
    I found very helpful as well this site: - 1/11/2015   6:52:51 PM
  • SWILSON576
    I found this website helpful in selecting shoes accordingly. It gives a good tips to select shoes. I also found this site
    having good choice of walking shoes for working people too. - 1/6/2015   12:24:19 PM
  • MEL010340
    Need a walking shoe and aerobics, what shoe would you reccomend? - 11/3/2014   2:30:46 PM
  • 31
    I looked up the shoes recommended for walking and all of them are listed as running? - 10/8/2014   9:04:53 PM
    Very informative article, I loved the infographics! I had trouble finding a shoe that fits with my very wide feet, luckily I found the page
    / with excellent information! Take care! - 9/8/2014   5:21:12 PM
    Great information. I love all the posts, I really enjoyed, I would like more information about this, because it is very nice, Thanks for sharing. I like the site

    - 9/1/2014   4:25:46 AM
  • 28
    Looks like a shoe commercial to me. Asics Gels are among the best. Yet, I only see them mentioned once. Guess Asics didn't pay in enough. The usual suspects can be found: Nike, Puma, Reebok, etc. What I have found along with my wife, is that for YOU, you have to find what works for YOU. Try one on. If it doesn't work out then bring it back and try another. It's trial and error. But when you finally find the ONE. Ahh! What a relief it is. - 6/13/2014   12:58:21 PM
  • 27
    Love this! Saving it to Spark Favorites... - 6/12/2014   8:17:50 AM
    “Develop a sense of purpose, by creating a clear vision for your future.” I actually can’t say things this much nicely. But you can have someone who can in here: - 4/25/2014   4:21:55 AM
  • 25
    As much as I love the information this article gives - the shoes suggested for me are almost $200! There has to be a reaonsably prices option...we all can't afford that kind of price tag. - 4/17/2014   8:30:30 AM
  • 24
    They make so many shoes these's really hard to keep them straight. Also the cost of them to have multiple pairs could become costly for the average person. But, the feet are a very important part of the body so we need to take care of them for sure. - 3/24/2014   10:56:53 AM
  • 23
    I shop clearance racks for clothes but not for my running shoes. There the health and comfort of my feet is most important. I buy from a running store with knowledgeable employees too even though they are 30 miles away. Never online. I guess it's a matter of priorities. Some women pay a lot for fashion. I prefer to spend on health, safety and comfort. "Difficult feet" need extra attention to keep me upright and free of aches, pains or injuries. - 3/24/2014   7:18:22 AM
  • 22
    i guess we need a different shoe for every different exercise we do.. lol - 3/24/2014   5:52:41 AM
    So many to choose from... great information - 3/23/2014   5:28:04 PM
  • 20
    Stationary bike for me. - 3/23/2014   4:05:18 PM
  • 19
    Thanks for the info; it's helpful but still a little overwhelming. - 3/23/2014   11:07:36 AM
  • 18
    I run, I walk, I strength train, I do step aerobics, I do some dance type exercises, and some circuit type stuff. I would love to have shoes for each activity but at the exorbitant prices at which they sell, that is not a realistic option for me. - 3/23/2014   9:51:01 AM
  • 17
    I have a long narrow foot. Most shoes come in medium widths and lengths. - 3/16/2014   6:09:07 AM
  • LINDAM.1
    Great thoughts but no size 3 - 3/4/2014   12:07:16 AM
  • 15
    Excellent article, lots of info and ideas for when I'm out shopping. Thanks for putting together so many sources. - 3/3/2014   12:03:15 PM
    While the article is quite detailed, it leaves out one major consideration - the shape of one's foot. There's more to fitting a shoe than knowing if you have a high arch/low arch, and pronation. I can't wear most athletic shoes because I have a wide foot and high arch, and most exercise shoe brands do not carry a wide width shoe that also is deep enough for a high arch.

    Many sports shoes have a narrow front, which compresses the toes together, regardless of the type of exercise they're designed for. There is only 1 major brand of athletic shoe I can wear - New Balance.

    They have 2 lath shapes, one a "normal" width, and the other one with a wide toe box. I went to a New Balance store and was measured. I found out that I needed the wider one, but even with New Balance, the styles don't all fit the same. Some of the shoes with the wider toe box aren't deep enough to accommodate my high arch.

    You may also find that you have to go a 1/2 to 1 size larger than your regular shoes to account for thicker socks.
    - 3/3/2014   11:55:19 AM
  • 13
    Extremely well done, thorough and user friendly. - 3/3/2014   11:00:52 AM
  • 12
    Any recommendations for people with Plantar Fasciititis? - 3/3/2014   10:34:20 AM
  • 11
    I went to the website of the recommended shoes for my walking needs, and the website said they're not walking shoes, they're running shows. I'll stick with what the shoe websites recommend. - 3/2/2014   12:05:24 AM
  • 10
    I did not see my favorite brand (Sketchers) listed at all, and some of these I have never heard of. I guess I am not as serious a walker as some people, but If the shoes fit and are comfortable, thats it! - 2/25/2014   11:52:17 AM
    I've saved this, invaluable advice and really simply set out. Thank you Spark People! - 2/21/2014   4:16:42 AM
  • 8
    i am really overwhelmed by the different shoes i have looked thru online, for days and days, trying to find just the right pair for flat feet walkers. i need good support, but dont want too heavy and while i want good quality, i want a pair that is going to give me my money's worth, i keep seeing saucony and brooks, yet i can never seem to find them in my size online. i rather try on a pair of shoes in the store, but i am unlucky to live in an area that has very few shoe stores that sell good quality shoes. thanks for the article, i can now narrow my search a little more. - 2/17/2014   3:23:06 PM
  • 7
    No, I think she did well in her weight loss. - 2/14/2014   4:44:34 PM
  • 6
    Outstanding article - so very helpful!! Thank You!!! - 2/14/2014   2:47:02 PM
  • 5
    As much as I love my Vibram FiveFingers, I would not use them for hiking. I'm kind of a tenderfoot, and I often hike on rocky trails. They're awesome for running - when I run in the grass, I feel like a little kid! - and they work well on asphalt, but I can't imaging my poor little feet suffering through the unpredictable terrain of a hike. - 2/14/2014   1:59:54 PM
  • 4
    Great information. Thank you. - 2/14/2014   12:18:49 PM
  • 3
    Wow, lots of good info here! Thanks. - 2/14/2014   9:09:04 AM
  • 2
    What an informative and useful article.....very much appreciate it! Thanks! - 2/14/2014   8:19:38 AM
  • 1
    I used to have a pair of shoes that were specifically for step aerobics! Now I'd like to say that I keep it simple, but I don't. I have trail shoes for snow, more cushioned shoes for long runs, racing flats and VFFs in my current rotation. - 2/14/2014   8:14:32 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›

x Lose 10 Pounds by May 12! Get a FREE Personalized Plan