Running shoes vs Cross Trainers. What’s the difference and do I need both?


Have you ever wondered why your running shoes feel unstable when at the gym, in a fitness class or at boot camp? 

Or maybe you have switched from the gym into running and as you increase the km’s have thought are these the right shoes for longer runs?


The truth is, both running shoes and cross trainers are built for specific activities and are made to help you perform at your best while also reducing your risk of injury BUT those only if you use them FOR those specific activities.


The key differences between a running shoe and a cross trainer is that the runner is typically designed to protect you from the highly repetitive load that is put on your body whereas a cross trainer is typically designed to increase the awareness between your feet and the ground to add stability to your movements. 


Running shoes will normally have:

  • A higher level of cushioning, especially at the heel
  • Flex points at the forefoot to promote forward motion
  • A difference in heel to toe gradient of between 12mm and 4mm  

Cross trainers, depending on their style, will normally have:

  • A rounded edge to reduce the likelihood of rolling your ankle
  • A flatter, smoother outsole to increase ground contact for greater stability 
  • Leather or strong synthetic upper materials to hold your foot in place for multi-direction movements


Sound more complex than what you thought?

Here are a few golden rules to think of when deciding what is right for you:


Straight-line vs multi-directional movement

  • Think of running as exclusively straight-line movement, although you’ll turn the odd corner while running, the large majority of your time will be spent moving in a straight line. 
  • Multi-directional movement is exactly what it sounds like, movement in multiple different directions. Think of exercises classes where you are bouncing back and forth and side to side or even a casual game of basketball or netball.


Be specific 

  • Running shoes are self-explanatory in their purpose, they’re for running! Although you can definitely be used for walking too, you don’t need to be breaking speed records to invest in a good pair of runners.
  • Cross trainer is a very broad term that actually encompasses a large range of shoes for different activities. Do you primarily go to classes like F45, or maybe you only lift weights? Is it a sport like basketball or netball? Each will have a shoe built for that purpose.


Do I need both?

  • The short answer, yes! Perhaps you split your week into running or class-based activities, ideally you will have a different shoe for those two examples to help you with the demands of each. 


The right shoes certainly help you take a step in the right direction in whichever activity you choose. 

If you would like tailored advice on new footwear, an assessment of your current footwear or clarity as to whether your current shoes are a factor in that nagging achilles or heel pain let me know, I’m here to help! 


David Hudson

Hawthorn and Kensington Podiatrist 


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