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The Ultimate Guide to Gym Footwear: Choosing the Right Shoes For Your Workouts

You might be wondering why I put together a collage of my client’s footwear. You also might be wondering whether I have a foot fetish or not. All concerns aside – why do I care about FOOTWEAR, and why would I rather clients go barefoot than wear runners in the gym? Well, before we deep dive into that, let’s, first of all, take a moment to appreciate the incredible complexity that is your feet! 

 

What Role Does the Ankle and Foot Play?

 

The ankle and foot are remarkable structures in the human body. The ankle joint, also known as the talocrural joint, is a synovial hinge joint that connects the lower leg’s tibia and fibula to the foot’s talus bone. It plays a pivotal role in our daily movements. During walking, it withstands a load equivalent to about 1.5 times our body weight, and when we run or jump, it can handle an astonishing 8 times our body weight.

 

Designed for stability, the ankle joint provides a firm foundation for our actions. It primarily moves in dorsiflexion (bringing the top of the foot closer to the shin) and plantar flexion (moving the top of the foot away from the shin), essential for activities like walking, running, and jumping. Ligaments help stabilize this joint, preventing excessive motion that could lead to injury.

 

Moving down to the foot itself, it’s a true marvel of engineering. Each foot comprises an intricate arrangement of 28 bones and an astonishing 33 joints. These structures provide the necessary support and flexibility for us to navigate the world, from standing and walking to dynamic activities like running and squatting. The foot’s complexity allows us to adapt to various terrains and perform a wide range of movements, making it a vital part of our everyday lives. However, because the ankle bears so much weight, it’s also prone to injuries like sprains, strains, and fractures.

 

Why Are Ankle Injuries So Common?

 

With the advent of ‘fashionable shoes’ with lots of cushiony support and cramped toe boxes, our ability to use our foot how it was designed has been severely limited. Poor foot mechanics can have a significant impact on various parts of the body, including the knees, hips, and spine. When the feet don’t function optimally, it can lead to issues such as overpronation, where the foot excessively rolls inward, or underpronation (supination), where it doesn’t roll enough during walking or running. These deviations from the normal gait cycle can result in problems like patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, and even anterior cruciate ligament injuries in the knees. Furthermore, poor foot mechanics can affect the alignment of the entire leg, leading to conditions like hip impingement and iliotibial band syndrome in the hips. Additionally, alterations in foot mechanics can cause changes in pelvic tilt and spinal alignment, potentially contributing to lumbar strain, back pain, and even conditions like scoliosis and disc herniations. Proper footwear and exercises to enhance foot strength and stability are essential in addressing these issues and reducing the risk of injuries in the knees, hips, and spine.

 

Stop Lifting In Running Shoes!

 

Stability is key when performing strength training exercises, and the shoes you wear play a significant role in providing that stability.

Running shoes are designed to absorb shock and cushion your feet during the high-impact activity of running. This design often includes a thick, soft sole and elevated heel. While this is great for running, it’s not ideal for weightlifting. The cushioning can cause instability, reducing the amount of force you can put through the floor and ultimately limiting the amount of weight you can lift.

When you’re lifting heavy weights, you want a shoe that provides a stable, flat surface to push off from. Weightlifting shoes are designed with this in mind. They have a hard, non-compressible sole that provides a solid base, allowing you to generate more force and lift heavier weights.

Just like a house needs a solid foundation to stay upright, your body needs a stable base to lift heavy weights safely and effectively. So, leave your running shoes for the track, and invest in a good pair of weightlifting shoes for the gym. Your performance and your safety will thank you!

 

Narrow Versus Wide Toe Box

 

When it comes to selecting the ideal gym shoe or even any type of footwear for everyday use, the width of the toe box emerges as a crucial consideration. Let’s delve a bit deeper into this concept. You see, the width of the toe box in a shoe plays a pivotal role in how your feet function and how they can impact your overall well-being.

Imagine your feet as the foundation for your body’s stability and strength. A wide toe box provides ample room for your toes to splay naturally, allowing them to spread and engage with the ground, much like the way they would if you were walking or standing barefoot. This engagement with the ground enhances your stability during exercises, such as lifting weights, squats, or lunges. In contrast, squeezing your toes into a narrow-toed shoe limits their freedom of movement, effectively reducing your footprint and diminishing the base of support you have when performing various activities.

But it’s not just about stability; it’s also about your toes’ ability to interact with the floor beneath you. When your toes have the space to flex and grip the ground, it provides an extra layer of stability during dynamic movements, helping prevent slips or wobbles that could lead to injuries. Think of it as your toes acting as tiny anchors, keeping you firmly rooted to the ground.

Now, let’s talk about bunions, those pesky foot deformities where your big toe starts to angle inward, causing discomfort and sometimes pain. One of the primary culprits behind the development of bunions is consistently wearing shoes with a narrow toe box. These shoes force your toes into unnatural positions, promoting the development of bunions over time.

Given these considerations, I often advocate for incorporating barefoot time into your daily routine, whether it’s at home or as part of your warm-up regimen in the gym. Going barefoot allows your feet to move freely and encourages them to function as they were designed to. It’s a way of reminding your feet of their natural abilities, promoting better foot health, and improving your overall stability and posture.

 

So what gym shoes should you buy? 

 

When it comes to selecting the perfect gym shoe, comfort unquestionably takes center stage, but let’s delve deeper into the specific features that can truly elevate your footwear choice. It’s not merely about finding shoes that feel good; it’s about finding shoes that empower you during your workouts. We’re on the lookout for a combination of essential attributes that can make a significant difference in your performance and overall foot health.

First and foremost, a firm sole is a must. A solid and stable sole provides the necessary support for your feet during weightlifting, squats, and various other exercises. This foundation is pivotal in maintaining proper form and minimizing the risk of injury.

Equally critical is a wide toe box. This feature allows your toes to spread naturally, permitting them to function as they were intended to. A spacious toe box not only ensures comfort but also promotes better balance and stability during movements, especially when lifting heavy weights.

Additionally, lateral and medial support plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of ankle rolling—a common concern during dynamic workouts. Proper support in these areas helps keep your ankles stable and secure, preventing potentially painful or injurious twists.

Now, onto specific recommendations. Two renowned brands that consistently meet these criteria are Nike Metcons and Reebok Nanos. These shoes boast a solid base, making them ideal for a wide range of exercises. Metcons, in particular, tend to excel in providing excellent medial and lateral support, helping to safeguard against ankle injuries. On the other hand, Reebok Nanos shine with their wider toe box, offering your toes the breathing space they deserve while delivering day-to-day comfort that extends beyond the gym.

For those who prefer a minimalist approach, options like flat-soled Converses and Dunlops can also be excellent choices, especially for exercises where you seek to feel the ground beneath your feet. However, it’s worth noting that they may not provide the same level of medial-lateral support as Metcons or the generous toe box found in Nanos.

As the fitness shoe market continues to evolve, newcomers such as Inov-8 and No Bull are also worth considering.

 

 

The Barefoot Revolution

 

If you’re seeking to embark on a transformative journey toward a higher level of physical well-being and mobility, consider embracing the barefoot revolution. Footwear brands like Vivobarefoot offer a compelling option by providing shoes with a zero-drop design. This zero-drop feature essentially means that the heel and forefoot of the shoe are at the same level, closely mimicking the natural alignment of your foot when barefoot. By doing so, these shoes allow your foot to return to its intrinsic role of self-stabilization, a function that it has mastered over millions of years of evolution.

 

Now, it’s important to be aware that transitioning to barefoot or minimalist footwear can be quite an adjustment, especially if you’ve spent most of your life in conventional, heavily cushioned shoes with elevated heels. Your feet, accustomed to the support and cushioning, might need some time to adapt to this new way of moving. Therefore, it’s advisable to ease your way into these shoes gradually.

 

Begin by wearing them for short durations during everyday activities or during low-impact exercises like walking and light jogging. This gradual introduction allows your feet and leg muscles to acclimate to the different sensory feedback and mechanical demands of minimalist shoes. Over time, you’ll likely notice improvements in your foot strength, balance, and posture as your feet regain their natural function.

The barefoot approach isn’t just about a change in footwear; it’s a shift in perspective that encourages you to rediscover the innate capabilities of your feet. By embracing the zero-drop design and minimalist construction of shoes like Vivobarefoot (To Get 15% off using code WILDMOVEMENT click Here, you’re taking a step toward a more holistic understanding of your body and its incredible potential for self-stabilization and mobility. So, consider joining the ranks of those who have experienced the benefits of the barefoot revolution, but remember to be patient and allow your body the time it needs to adapt to this liberating way of moving.

 

For more information on foot/feet, check out the guru’s at . Use discount code 

 

 Get 10% off (use code: DANELARSEN) and 

Get 15% off VivoBarefoot collection here.

And be sure to check out this short but super informative clip on what modern shoes today are doing to the natural ability of our feet – ShoeSpiracy and be sure to check out the foot guru’s The Foot Collective Austalia.

 

Be kind to your feet 🤙

 

Yours in Health & Wellness,

 

Dane

 

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By Dane Larsen

Hi there! My name’s Dane, I'm a Strength & Rehab Specialist, and University Accredited Exercise Physiologist. I help people move better, get pain-free, and bio-hack the system. I’m passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals through a holistic approach to health and wellness.