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11 Types and Styles of Athletic Shoes and Their Purposes

I’m not much of an athletic person. I do run occasionally, but most of the time I just do long walks. When it comes to choosing shoes, I just choose anything that’s comfortable. I’m not exactly sure about the difference between running shoes and walking shoes, but as long as my sneakers don’t cause too much strain when I do take my walks, I’m fine with it.

But, if you’re an athlete and you’re always on the move, you might need to know about the different types of athletic shoes as choosing the right pair could make a difference.

Running Shoes

Neutral footwear, stability shoes, as well as motion-controlled shoes are the three major kinds of running shoes available today.

Stability Running Shoes

Propet Women's Stability X Strap Sneaker, Black/Berry, 8 2X-Wide

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Stability running shoes are made for runners who struggle to maintain good arch support during runs.

These runners are pronators, meaning they overpronate or flatten their feet when they are running.

To keep the arch elevated, stability running shoes offer lightweight support in the arch as well as the heel areas.

As a result, a heavier, cushioned, and comfortable running shoe is produced.

Neutral Running Shoes

ASICS Women's Gel-Kayano 27 Running Shoes, 7.5, Black/Black

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For runners who have normal arches and a “neutral” running pattern, neutral running shoes are usually recommended.

This means that when they jog or run, the outer area of their heel naturally gets in contact with the ground first, rolls inward about fifteen degrees, with the rest of the foot flatly contacting the ground, and the foot then pushes off from the ground in tandem with all of the toes.

Pronation refers to the inward movement of the foot.

A “neutral” running style is thought to be practiced by 50 to 60% of runners.

Because the foot contacts the surface evenly with an equal distribution of weight, neutral running shoes usually have most of their cushioning in the heel. As a result, no additional padding for the rest of the foot is usually required.

Because they contain fewer supporting structures, such as plastic posts, neutral running shoes are typically more lightweight than other types of running shoes.

They can also be curved or semi-curved, meaning that the sole of the shoe doesn’t come into contact with the ground at the same time, allowing for faster running.

You can have your running gait checked either on a treadmill by a professional at an athletic footwear store or analyze it yourself. Check how your feet lay when standing flat in your regular shoes to determine if you require neutral running shoes.

If your feet face forward in a straight line when you examine your foot position in your regular shoes, you’re probably a neutral runner.

Motion-Controlled Running Shoes

Ryka Women's Walking Shoe, Frost Grey/Aqua Sky/Iron Grey, 11 W US

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Runners with severely flat feet, also known as “over-pronation,” will benefit most from motion control running shoes.

Over-pronators and people with a heavier build should wear this type of running shoe because it provides the most shock absorption, support, and stability.

For added stability, motion control running shoes typically include an additional “stabilizer” on the inner edge of the heel counter, as well as a carbon rubber outer sole that is heavier and stiffer for added durability.

Barefoot Running Shoes (Minimalist Running Shoes)

WHITIN Men's Trail Running Shoes Minimalist Barefoot 5 Five Fingers Wide Width Toe Box Gym Workout Fitness Low Zero Drop Male Sneakers Treadmill Free Athletic Ultra Black Size 11

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Barefoot running shoes are footwears that have grown in popularity in recent years. They are designed so that the front or middle part of the foot, rather than the heel, makes contact with the ground.

This is thought to reduce overall pressure and stress on the entire leg, lowering the risk of muscle injuries and compression fractures.

Barefoot running shoes provide little cushioning or support, but they do protect the foot from being punctured by stepping on rough objects or surfaces.

Walking Shoes

Skechers womens Go Joy Walking Shoe, Black, 11 Wide US

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Walking shoes typically have a smooth tread, good shock absorption, and a supportive arch

Walking shoes must be strong and supportive, with a stable counter, because walking necessitates a heel-to-toe gait pattern.

Shoes for Cross-Training

Reebok mens Nano X Cross Trainer , vector Navy/White/Chartreuse , 10.5 medium US

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Cross-training shoes are made to be worn for a variety of sports with just one pair of shoes.

For athletes who run for more than four or five miles per day, this type of shoe is usually unsuitable.

Cross trainer shoes are typically made of a mesh-like fabric with leather pieces woven into the fabric.

Cross-training shoes frequently have a tread on the sole that is not appropriate for use on basketball or tennis courts.

Cycling Shoes 

Venzo Bicycle Men's Road Cycling Riding Shoes - 3 Straps- Compatible with Peloton Shimano SPD & Look ARC Delta - Perfect for Road Racing Bikes Black Color 44.5

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Cycling shoes are typically snug on the foot and have a well-supported arch.


Under Armour mens Leadoff Low Rm Baseball Shoe, Black/White, 10.5 US

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Cleats are used in various sports such as baseball, football, soccer, as well as lacrosse.

Cleats are made of hard plastic or steel and offer traction when moving on grass or soft turf.

Cleats used for soccer often have a tighter fit and are generally manufactured out of soft leather.

Football cleats contain a central toe cleat that assists with traction while running across the football field.

Baseball cleats normally feature longer and thinner cleats on the sole of the shoe which are typically constructed of steel rather than plastic.

Court Shoes

adidas unisex adult D.o.n. Issue 3 Basketball Shoe, Team Power Red/White/Vivid Red, 10 Women Men US

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Court shoes are typically made of supple leather with a solid tread for smoother movement on tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts.

Court shoes have a low, below-the-ankle cut or a high, above-the-ankle cut.

They’re made to provide stability both inside and out, as well as movement in any direction.

Hiking Shoes

Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe, Walnut, 10 M US

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Hiking shoes need both comfort and stability as well as a robust tread to facilitate ambulation on challenging terrains.

Hiking shoes normally lace-up high on the feet for improved stability.

Trail Shoes

Saucony Men's Grid Excursion TR12 Trail Running Shoe, Silver | Gold, 10 M US

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Trail Shoes are for runners who prefer to run off-road.

Trail shoes have deeper treads for better traction and are more stable than running shoes.

Golf Shoes 

FootJoy mens Fj Originals Golf Shoes, White/Brown, 9 US

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A pair of golf shoes feature short cleats that aid in the planting of the feet in preparation for a golf swing.

Skates with Ski Boots

Madshus Metis S Skate XC Ski Boots Kids Sz 36

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Skates and Ski Boots are normally customized molded to the foot and feature supporting arches for increased stability.

Commonly Asked Questions About Athletic Shoes

Are your running shoes recyclable?

Certain parts of your running shoes can be recycled, but they must be recycled individually.

What is cross-training, and can you cross-train in running shoes?

a personal trainer coaching woman in gym with ropes for cross-training

Cross-training is when you engage in activities other than your primary sport in order to increase your strength and endurance.

What does a running shoe entail in general?

A pair of running shoes are footwear that is created to flex with the runner’s feet for maximum performance and typically has a higher heel and sole than normal.

Is it OK to play basketball in your running shoes?

Running shoes don’t provide enough lateral support for basketball’s numerous quick changes of direction.

Is it safe to exercise in running shoes?

This type of athletic shoe is not ideal for aerobics because they lack the lateral support required for sideways movements and frequent, abrupt direction changes.

How long does a running shoe typically last?

A running shoe’s average lifespan is between 300 and 500 miles, but this varies depending on the runner’s weight and the type of terrain they run on.

Is it possible to play tennis in running shoes?

close up cropped image of model's shoes alongside tennis racket and tennis ball with net's shadow

Running shoes typically lack the lateral support required for tennis’ side-to-side movements.

Is it possible to hike in running shoes?

Running shoes typically lack sufficient cushioning for hiking, particularly on steep terrain.

What is pronation of the foot?

The movement of your foot rolling inward as it strikes the ground is referred to as pronation.

What is gait analysis?

cropped image of person walking on a treadmill at a gym

A scientific examination of how your feet contact the ground while running is known as gait analysis. It is done to determine correctly the right type of running shoe for you.

Where to buy athletic shoes

Buying running shoes online can be difficult for a variety of reasons, including the inability to try them on to ensure comfort and proper fit.

Typically, the best place to begin your search for the ideal running footwear is at a local running store. An expert can help with your gait analysis and recommend the perfect running shoe for your specific needs.

If you know exactly what kind of running or athletic shoe you want, can get it for you quickly and for a reasonable price.

Foot Locker, as well as other retail shoe stores, carry the most up-to-date running and athletic shoes in a variety of colors and styles, as well as experienced salespeople who can assist with fitting and gait analysis.

If you’re looking for a specific brand of running or athletic shoes, such as Nike, Brooks, New Balance, or Asics, you can visit their retail or outlet stores in nearby malls or go to their specific brand websites.

Dick’s Sporting Good is another great place to go for well-known brands of running shoes as well as cross trainers like New Balance and Nike, and they usually have the most up-to-date styles and designs in a variety of widths and sizes.

Kohl’s also carries the latest Nike and New Balance cross-training and running shoes.