Find Your Solemate With 5 Easy-to-Follow Flowcharts


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  47 comments   :  363,727 Views

Wearing the correct shoes while exercising can mean the difference between a comfortable workout and one filled with pain or injury. But with thousands of workout shoes on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? Use the questions in following five guides to narrow down your options and find your perfect "solemate."

Start by choosing your primary activity from the list below:


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 can result in problems down the line. 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, or 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 help you find the best shoe for you. 



Purchasing a quality walking shoe is a smart investment if walking is your preferred mode of exercise. 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.

Aerobics/Cross-Training/Team Sports

Cross-trainers or aerobic shoes are suitable for a 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. If variety is the key to your exercise routine, cross-trainers might be better (and less expensive) than buying a number of activity-specific shoes. Cross-trainers tend to have a wider outsole, additional support for the heels and legs and lateral support all over, which 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 on which you'll be playing. You can even find shoes for aquatic activities such as water aerobics that help increase the force of buoyancy in the water and also help protect the foot from minor cuts and scrapes.


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 at home or use in the studio 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 that have a cleat fitted into the sole.


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.  

SparkPeople Picks: 

The staff at SparkPeople are no strangers to pounding the pavement. Which is why, when asked to name their favorite shoe, it came as no surprise that walking and running styles topped the list. 

Favorite overall running/walking shoe: ASICS Gel-Nimbus 
Runners Up: Saucony Ride, ASICS Gel-Excite 2, Nike SB Check Solarsoft Skate Shoe 

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.

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  • 47
    Fantastic information! - 4/17/2017   10:46:03 AM
    I had no idea there was so much to consider when choosing shoes. - 4/17/2017   5:16:55 AM
  • 45
    This was a Great and Informative article, Thank You! - 4/16/2017   10:04:09 PM
  • 44
    Good article if I were a female. It would be nice if this site occasionally included males in there articles. - 4/16/2017   1:11:39 PM
  • 43
    I do indoor cardio and sometimes walk outdoors on pavement or sidewalks. Also tai chi/qi gong. I have "duck" feet--wide at the ball of my foot with normal/narrow heels and also high arches! I have a small budget, too. I buy shoes I can afford and that fit my feet, no easy task. I love the fit of Avia wide shoes and Saucony wide. The arch is set too far forward in Nike and New Balance (also New Balance slips right off my heel, my heels always wear out sooner than the rest of my shoe). I also, to compensate for my high arch, stick Dr. Scholl's inserts in my shoes. It works for me. - 4/16/2017   1:07:35 PM
  • 42
    I love my FiLa's there so comfortable I can wear them all day and still feel good on my feet. - 4/16/2017   11:02:52 AM
  • 41
    Running shoe normal pronation is not an option. Too bad. - 4/16/2017   8:56:39 AM
  • 40
    That's a lot of information! - 4/4/2017   7:57:05 PM
  • 39
    good resource - 4/3/2017   1:07:32 PM
    I love all the detailed information - extremely helpful. I wear a EE width shoe and stick with New Balance since the do carry the extra wide width shoes - 3/24/2017   4:47:12 PM
  • GAL2202
    This is great information to know. I walk almost everyday. - 1/11/2017   6:33:49 PM
  • 36
    No Ryka shoes made the cut? - 12/27/2016   8:37:59 AM
    This is SO useful! Thank you! - 12/27/2015   3:14:10 PM
  • 34
    Great visuals, thank you! Love the decision-path thingy, can't remember what they're officially called. I have Brooks Ariel for regular walking, Vasque trail shoes, and Dunham hiking boots for the really tough stuff. - 9/1/2015   1:19:58 PM
  • 33
    Great information for what you cover, but you didn't consider toe-box shape which is very important for finding shoes that won't hurt your feet. It is nearly impossible for people with long toes to find appropriate athletic shoes. (The solution is not just buying a bigger size or a wide width - both of these leave me sloshing around in the rest of the shoe and still with painful pressure points on my outer toes.) New Balance USED to make a few appropriate styles, but changed that for some reason. Brooks is supposed to be good in some styles. Altra is the only company that makes a "foot-shaped toe-box" for all of its styles. But even so, we are limited in the ability to consider most of the other factors presented in this article. - 9/1/2015   1:19:06 PM
  • 32
    Interesting article!! The first two sections I got my favorite shoe, Asics, Most comfy shoes I have ever worn! I wear a pair of Doctor Scholl's now, they don't wear down as fast as Asics do. I have problems walking correctly on my feet. - 7/20/2015   4:45:01 PM
  • 31
    This is a great article about the different types of shoes and where to use them. I am very appreciative of this information! Thanks a great deal! :D - 7/20/2015   2:31:51 PM
  • 30
    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
  • MEL010340
    Need a walking shoe and aerobics, what shoe would you reccomend? - 11/3/2014   2:30:46 PM
  • 28
    I looked up the shoes recommended for walking and all of them are listed as running? - 10/8/2014   9:04:53 PM
  • 27
    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
  • 26
    Love this! Saving it to Spark Favorites... - 6/12/2014   8:17:50 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
  • HILLSLUG98239
    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

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