If you've ever worked out in a pair of shoes that weren't the right type or fit for your feet, you probably already know how important the right shoes can be. Nothing ruins a workout like blisters, sore foot muscles and pain. Good shoes are also key for maintaining lower-body joint health, preventing muscle imbalances and protecting the skin, bones and connective tissues of the feet when you exercise. For heavier exercisers, good shoes may be even more important because of the excess stress that extra body weight places on an overweight person's feet during exercise. The weightier exerciser has many options to consider when purchasing shoes.
Cross trainers provide all-around protection and support and are not specific to any activity. If you're on a budget, cross-trainers can be a better option than buying a bunch of types of shoes. They tend to be heavier with more rigid soles than running or other high-impact sports shoes. Some good cross trainer options include the Nike Flex Trainer, Ryka Exertion and Asics Gel Sustain.
Running shoes are lighter than cross trainers and are designed to meet the unique needs of runners. Heavy runners tend to face additional challenges that should be considered with running shoe purchases, including flat arches and over-pronation. To combat these issues, buy running shoes with stability and motion control benefits. These types of shoes provide ample cushioning and features to compensate for flat feet and pronation problems. The Asics Gel Kayano provides great motion control and plush cushioning for overweight runners. Nike's Lunarglide also provides plenty of cushioning and moderate motion control for runners who have less severe pronation problems. If your arch is normal to high, Brooks Glycerin is a valuable option for long-distance runs.
Some experts believe that minimalist shoes are the best for heavy exercisers because the extra cushioning and support of traditional cross trainers and running shoes place extra stress on the joints when the foot is midstance. The argument is based on the theory that the compression of most midsoles is not in sync with the rise and fall of the body weight during motion, which ends up placing greater torque on the joints. If you'd like to try a minimalist shoe, Brooks Pure Connect is an ultralight, responsive shoe that will provide foot protection without excess cushioning. The New Balance Minimus, Asics Gel-lyte and Inov-8 F-lite are other solid options.
Precaution and Tips
Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Use a shoe fit guide or fit specialist to help you make sure the width and length of a shoe are right for your foot. Remember that your feet will likely swell slightly during exercise, so it's better to get a shoe that's slightly bigger than one that is too small.
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.