How To Buy Great Workout Sneakers (Because You’re Probably Wearing The Wrong Ones)

how to buy workout sneakers 1

When it comes to work shoes or party shoes, we have it down. Flats, pumps, wedges, we’ve have all three… in multiple colors. But when it comes to our workout shoes we tend to buy sneakers just because they are on sale or they’re super cute. Just like you wouldn’t go to a formal event in slippers or wear stilettos at the beach, you can’t just put on any ol’ shoe and head to the gym. I mean you could, but your feet will hurt, you might injure yourself and you won’t look cute doing those Zumba moves you worked so hard to perfect. Who wants that? We did some research and found out everything you need to know to buy great workout sneakers.

1. Figure out what type of exercise you do most.

Do you go to gym just for the classes or are you hitting the treadmill and lifting weights as well? All three of these things require different shoes and wearing the wrong ones is something you should avoid. If you run often then you should absolutely purchase running shoes. If you’re lifting light weights, you should be fine with cross trainers, but if you lifting heavy weights make sure to get weight lifting shoes.

If your workout routine is heavy on the classes you definitely want a cross training shoe without a lot of tread. Let’s talk about what NOT to wear:

  • shoes with no cushion or arch support:  if your class has a lot of jumping and you don’t have the proper support, you could end up with stress fractures, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis.
  • toning shoes: sure those sneakers may be great for toning your glutes and thighs while you walk, but there is an imbalance that will lead to tragic results if you try to do anything more than stroll to the grocery store.
  • shoes that grip the floor: these can cause you to trip or twist your ankles and can cause knee injuries.
  • shoes with no tread: these shoes will be slippery and will guarantee that you fall at least once.
  • shoes meant for forward motion: running shoes and walking shoes will not work with most classes, especially Zumba.  There are a lot of side-to-side motions and these shoes do not support lateral movements.

So for a routine heavy on the classes you basically need a shoe with cushion, lateral support and minimal tread. If you run a lot and take a lot of classes, you need BOTH types of sneakers. No exceptions. When in doubt, ask a salesperson in the store.

how to buy workout sneakers 2. Figure out your foot type.

Does your foot roll inward or outward? Do you have high arches or flat feet? Maybe you knew the answer to this years ago, but your feet change when you gain or lose a lot of weight so make sure you check again. You can do this at home by wetting your foot and putting it on a piece of cardboard. If you have high arches, your footprint will show a thin connection between your heel and toes and if you have flat feet your footprint will show a complete connection between your heel and toes. If the connection isn’t too thin or two thick you have neutral feet. Most people will fall into this category. Be sure to do this for both feet. Although it is very rare that each foot is different you never know!

3. Make sure your shoe is the right size.

We all have vanity issues, but wearing a smaller shoe won’t hurt anyone but you. Like I previously said, when you gain or lose weight and as you get older your feet change. Wearing shoes that are too small, too big, too wide or two narrow can cause injuries to your feet and ankles and the friction will make your feet less than beautiful.

4. Try multiple brands.

A brand can run large, small, wide, narrow or a combination. You want to get the most comfortable shoe and you may have to try on the entire store before you find a pair that fits well. You did it for sandals you’ll only wear for three months, so you can do it for sneakers you’ll wear every day. Also make sure to buy a woman’s sneaker. Men have some very fashion forward options these days, but they were not made for us. So put them down and back away!

how to buy workout sneakers

5. Walk around the store with your shoes on.

Shoes feel one way when you’re sitting and a completely different way when your feet are supporting the full weight of your body. The more you walk around, the more you’ll notice if they pinch in a certain place, if the heel is rubbing or if they’re more like flip flops than sneakers.

6. Do the exercises you will actually be doing.

For most of us walking around in the store is not enough because we (hopefully) do more than walk around at the gym. Do some Zumba moves or do your chick boxing warm-up. You may feel a little ridiculous in the middle of the store, but that’s better than getting to class and realizing the shoes you bought just don’t work. AND you can’t return them!

7. Additional tips:

  • When you’re shopping for shoes, wear the socks you will be wearing while you exercise. Those pantyhose type things are fine for trying on pumps, but a no-go for trying on sneakers.
  • Shop for sneakers in the evening. After you’ve been standing all day your feet swell up. This is when you need to buy your shoes. Better yet, buy them during your menstrual cycle when everything on you feels largest. By buying them at these times, you’ll save yourself a lot of discomfort. And if you’re working out in the morning when your feet haven’t swelled up yet, just tighten your laces.
  • Buy new sneakers at least once per year. And if you’re extra active, every 3-5 months may be a better route.
  • Keep your shoes clean and odor free. Not only will the other women in your class thank you, but you’ll decrease your chances of developing athlete’s foot.
  • Make sure you check in with your feet if you’re losing a lot of weight. Your pants are not the only thing that may drop a size and your clothing won’t be the only thing that needs an update!

Brittany Hennessy


  1. And for peet sakes, stop doing barbell squats in running shoes! Lol. You don’t have to go out and buy olympic lifting shoes just for lifting weights, but you also shouldn’t be doing any type of weight training with a shoe that has a soft heel. Get something flat or with a non-compressible heel – your knees will thank you! If you need help deciding which shoe will work best for you when it comes to lifting, check out our review site at – I try and post video and editorial reviews on all the new models but we get a lot of user submitted info as well.

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