Sneakers 101: Different Sneakers for Different Activities

We’ll be the first to admit that we’re shoe-obsessed! Yes, this means we have a solid collection of block heels, espadrilles, platforms, and loafers, but we also have a ton of sneakers. But not all sneakers are created equally, and knowing how to pick the right pair for your needs can be tricky. But that’s why we’re here! Consider this your official guide to athletic sneakers.

Running Sneakers

Experts often separate running shoes into four basic categories: neutral, stability, motion control, and minimalist. All running shoes are designed for forward motion and to protect you from shin splints, stress fractures, and other issues you’re prone to as a runner.

  • Neutral: If you have what is considered a normal arch and neutral running pattern (which an estimated 50%-60% of runners have), you’ll want a neutral running shoe with more cushioning in the heel but no extra cushioning in the rest of the foot. Neutral running shoes are also typically lighter and have a slight curve.
  • Stability: If you struggle with arch problems or tend to flatten your foot when you run, you may require a stability sneaker, giving you extra support in the arch and heel where you need it most. While this shoe may feel heavier, it will provide extra comfort and cushioning.
  • Motion Control: If you have severely flat feet, a motion-control sneaker will provide you with the most support, shock absorption, and stability.
  • Minimalist: If you prefer to feel like you’re running barefoot, you may want to try a minimalist While these sneakers are light and flexible, they provide little to no cushion; some studies have even found that those who wear minimalist sneakers suffer more injuries.

Walking Shoes

If you’re an avid walker, you’ll want to look for a lightweight shoe with shock absorption in the heel and ball of the foot. Walking shoes tend to be more rigid in the front, so you can easily roll with your toes versus bending them when you run.


Cross-training sneakers are designed to be used for a number of activities, so unless you’re running 4-5 miles a day or playing tennis or basketball on a court, a single pair of cross-trainers can go a long way. These shoes are designed to allow you to move here and there and everywhere comfortably. They are the ultimate gym shoes because you can easily transition from lifting weights to cardio.

Trail Sneakers

If your ideal workout is hitting the trails, you need a shoe with traction that can withstand the elements. Trail shoes have heavier tread ideal for mud, dirt, water, and rocks. They also provide more support in the heel and sides to help you stay steady on uneven surfaces.

Basketball Sneakers

If you’re hitting the basketball court, experts recommend a pair of basketball-specific sneakers because they have thick, stiff soles that provide extra stability as you sprint down the court, jump, and land.

Tennis Sneakers

Tennis sneakers are specifically designed for tennis, and any seasoned player will warn you against playing a match without them – lest you want to roll an ankle! Tennis shoes are much flatter than running sneakers and offer more ankle support to cater to a lot of quick, lateral movements.


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