How to Choose the Right Gym Shoe

How to Choose the Right Gym Shoe

When you perform an exercise, you perform it because you want to achieve a fitness goal related to that exercise. Every type of exercise is specific to certain goals. Which of course, requires specific equipment to aid toward that goal. This is why choosing an Exercise Specific shoe is so important.

You might not think this is a big deal but think of the times you bought a running shoe only to find that it makes your ankle sore. Or maybe, and this might sound familiar, you bought top of the range of high-quality trainers only to realize the reason they were so expensive is that they are for skiing. And you really love netball.

Sports brands have done a great job as far as designing shoes go. There are literally thousands of designs out there for Sports if not millions. With so many options to choose from, how do you find one that is tailored for you?

The short answer, in addition to the type of training you will take up, is pronation. In short, you may use this formula to find your ideal pair of trainers:

Pronation + Type of Training = Exercise Specific Shoe

This is just one way of choosing an Exercise Specific Shoe. You may already have your own. If that’s the case, please tell us about the techniques you’ve used in the comment section below. I’m sure our readers would appreciate your input. As would I.

What is Pronation?

Simply explained, pronation is a natural movement of the foot that occurs during foot landing while running or walking [1]. This movement absorbs shock by distributing the impact forces generated from the ground [2].

This means that every time your foot comes in contact with the ground pronation occurs. Which for most of us is every day when walking. It occurs as the weight of the body is transferred from the heel to the ball of the foot when a person goes through their walking or running stride [3].

Physiologists have been studied pronation for some time now. This information can be used to design shoes, among other things. To be able to use this information to your advantage when choosing an exercise specific shoe you need to know what type of Pronation you have. There are generally three types, overpronation, Neutral Pronation and under pronation. These are explained in detail below.

What is Over Pronation?

Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls inward excessively from the heel through the midfoot. When your foot comes in contact with the ground during overpronation the foot lands on the outside of the heel, then rolls inward (pronates) excessively, transferring weight to inner edge instead of ball of the foot.

What is Neutral Pronation?

Neutral pronation is when the foot strikes the ground in an effective, efficient manner. During Neutral pronation, the foot lands on outside of the heel, then rolls inward (pronates) to absorb shock and support body weight.

What is Under Pronation or Supination?

Under pronation occurs when the foot doesn’t roll inward enough or even rolls outward instead. During under pronation, the outer side of the heel hits the ground at an increased angle with little or no normal pronation, causing a large transmission of shock through the lower leg.

Overpronation and under pronation or Supination, an alternative term, don’t allow the body to optimally distribute impact. This can increase the chance of injuries—especially stress-related injuries [4]. So essentially by choosing the right shoe, you would be decreasing your chances of getting injured.

Which Type of Pronation Are You?

There are various ways to determine pronation. An Exercise scientist can help you accurately determine yours.

One way to speedball this is by inspecting the wear pattern on the soles of your well-used pair of running shoes. Overpronation can cause excessive wear on the inside edge of the soles. Supination can cause excessive wear on the outside edge of the soles. Then place your shoes on a flat surface—an inward tilt indicates overpronation, an outward tilt indicates supination [4].

Once you know which type of pronation you have then you need to consider what type of training you will be doing.

Type of training

The type of training is usually the easy part. Almost anyone doing any type of exercise often has a quick response to “Why are you exercising?” You’ll want to choose a shoe specific to your type of training because, well, it is designed for that!

For Running

Go for shoes with plenty of cushioning as these will absorb shock when you run. Keep in mind that there is an element of bouncing when you run and therefore you hit the ground at an increased force. Running shoes are designed for forwarding motion, and they protect the front of your foot and heel [5]. A good pair may help you avoid shin splints, stress fractures, tendinitis, and other problems [5].

For walking

Go for lightweight shoes with added cushioning at the front and back of the foot. Shoes with a slightly rounded sole or a “rocker” bottom help shift weight more smoothly from the heels to the toes. Walking shoes are more rigid in the front so you can roll off your toes rather than bend them the way you do when you wear running shoes [5].

Cross Trainers

If you play more than one type of sports or not sure which type of shoes to go for, cross trainers are a safe bet. Look for one that’s flexible in the forefoot if you’re going for a run but also has good side-to-side support for tennis or aerobics classes [5].


Cleats or studs have protrusions on the sole of a shoe, or on an external attachment to a shoe that provides additional traction on a soft or slippery surface. A typical example of this type of shoes is Soccer Cleats. They give you traction on grass or soft turf.

Bringing it all together

Choosing an exercise specific shoe becomes relatively easier when you know what type of pronation to choose and what type of training you will be doing. When armed with this information you can comfortably choose a training shoe knowing it is tailored for your needs.

For example, if you tend to supinate while you run, you may want to try out Nikes neutral ride running shoes. These are engineered specifically to provide remarkable cushioning and shock absorption, which increase comfort while running and may help lessen the chance of stress-related injuries.  

If you are doing indoor cycling or Snipping, you might want to go for Cycling Shoes and Cleats. These shoes are made of light, breathable materials and conform closely to the shape of the foot for greater comfort, and they feature stiff soles that transfer even more power to the pedal and offer a better connection to the bike [6].

Similar Articles:

Hopefully, this will help you make an informed choice next time you are on the market for exercise shoes. We publish articles similar to this one every week. If you want to stay updated with our latest posts and articles please subscribe to this blog and follow us on social media. Until next time. Keep moving.


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My interest in Sport and Exercise Dev SA
Works Cited
[1] Wikipedia Contributors, “Pronation of the foot,” 24 January 2019. [Online]. Available:
[2] Kintec, “Understanding Pronation,” 24 November 2017 . [Online]. Available:
[3] J. Fletcher, “Pronation and overpronation,” 22 December 2017. [Online]. Available:
[4] Nike, “WHAT ARE PRONATION, OVERPRONATION AND SUPINATION?,” 12 April 2019. [Online]. Available:
[5] T. Wheeler, “What Are the Different Types of Athletic Shoes?,” 2 March 2018. [Online]. Available:
[6] Spinning®, “The Spinning®Guide to Cycling Shoes and Cleats,” 12 April 2019. [Online]. Available:
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Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

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