by Emme McAtee
Are you wearing the right shoes for your WOD? As I have been coaching, I have been seeing a lot of Bluegrass athletes wearing the wrong shoes for their workout. When it comes to major athletic footwear brands, just because it has a Nike Swoosh or a Reebok logo does not mean it is right for your workout. More often than not, footwear companies have performance and lifestyle (read “casual”) footwear. Performance footwear is meant to be worn during sports, whereas lifestyle footwear is meant to be worn for style. That being said, your favorite Air Max 1’s are not doing you any favors during your workout.
Let’s dive deeper into performance footwear. Performance can mean anything from football, to golf, to trail running, etc. The most common performance footwear categories you will see are running shoes and training shoes. For this post, we will focus on those two.
Shoes are broken down into three major parts: the upper, the midsole, and the outsole. For comparison’s sake, let’s think about a shoe as a car. The upper is like the exterior of the car; it provides protection from the elements and provides individual style to the shoe. The midsole is like the suspension system; it is the cushioning in the shoe that absorbs the impacts and protects you from the bumps in the road. And finally, the outsole. The outsole is like the tires on a car; it gives you traction and durability on the bottom of the shoe.
Let’s first talk about running shoes. When you are running, each step you take can generate five times your bodyweight of force when your feet hit the ground. The cushioning in running shoes are designed to absorb the impact of the landing. When you look at a running shoe, the midsole is going to be thicker because that is where the cushioning is housed. Notice the difference between the impact of the landing with the training shoe on the left and the running shoe on the right:
The midsole of the running shoe is absorbing the impact of the landing in the running shoe on the right, whereas the calf muscle is unfortunately absorbing the impact of the landing on the training shoe on the left. If you have a workout that contains a lot of running, or you tend to have pain after workouts with running, perhaps a running shoe is the right shoe for that day.
Now let’s talk about training shoes. More often than not, a training shoe is going to be the kind of shoe you want for your CrossFit workouts. There are two main features of a training shoe that you want, and that is stability and durability. After looking at that first visual, you might be thinking, “Why don’t they just put cushioning in a training shoe then?” I’m glad you asked.
When it comes to numerous CrossFit movements (think anything with a barbell, box jumps, lunges), the last thing you want under your foot is cushioning. Why? Stability. Cushioning in a running shoe is meant to withstand your body weight; it is not meant to withstand your body weight plus 100+ lbs overhead. With any kind of weight in addition to your body weight, the cushioning will collapse and cause instability. This kind of instability can lead to injury, whether that results from losing your balance, or overcompensating with the wrong muscles. This kind of instability is highlighted in the visual below. This time, the running shoe is on the left, while the training shoe is on the right:
There are a few things I want you to notice: in the running shoe, I almost roll my ankle. Second thing I want you to notice is that my calf muscles are moving quite a bit trying to find balance. The third thing I want you to notice is the reaction time. In activities such as CrossFit or high intensity training, time is the name of the game. Split seconds, turn into seconds within just a few reps, and seconds can mean a new PR. It can also be the difference between a great workout and a bad injury.
Durability comes into play when you are doing activities that are abrasive to shoes, such as rope climbs, burpees, etc. You need something that can withstand those kind of activities. The upper (exterior) on a training shoe is going to be able to withstand those type of activities much more so than a running shoe.
So the question is, how do I choose the best shoe for me? Well, it depends on the workout. Ask yourself this question: “What’s more important in today’s workout: stability or cushioning?” If I have a workout with rope climbs, push jerks, and box jumps, I’m grabbing my training shoes, because stability and durability is the main factor in those movements. More often than not, I’m grabbing my training shoes for CrossFit. However, if I am doing a workout that has more than 800 meters of consecutive running and does not contain movements where stability is a big factor, I’m picking my running shoes.
When shopping online or in store, footwear is generally organized by category. The category should also be indicated in the description online and on the box label in store.
My Top Picks:
Training Shoe: Nike Metcon
They are available online or at the Nike Store starting at $62.99.
Running Shoe: Nike Pegasus
You can get them online or at the Nike Store starting at $64.99.
At the end of the day, your choice of footwear could mean the difference between a great workout and an injury. So rock those Air Max 1’s! But switch them out before the workout.