variety of shoes
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Pick a Shoe to Match Your Sport

Back when you were a kid, you may have pulled on your tried-and-true sneakers for just about any activity -- from running to tennis. But times have changed. Today, there's a shoe for almost every workout or sport. If you play a specific one more than 2 days a week, wear a shoe that's made for that type of exercise. It can protect you from injury and may even up your game, too.

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running shoes
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Running Shoes

Ready for a jog? When your feet pound the pavement, you'll want  a shoe with plenty of cushioning to absorb the shock. Running shoes are designed for forward motion, and they protect the front of your foot and heel. A good pair may help you avoid shin splints, stress fractures, tendinitis, and other problems.

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minimalist shoes
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Minimalist Shoes

Want the look and feel of running barefoot? Minimalist shoes, like the "five finger" type, may be the answer. They're light, flexible, and don't have much cushion. It's not clear whether they're better or worse than other shoes at preventing injuries. One study shows that pain and injury were more common in runners wearing minimalist shoes. Heavier people had a greater chance of getting hurt.

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walking shoes
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Walking Shoes

Look for a lightweight shoe if you're a walker. You'll need extra shock absorption in the heel and ball of your foot to cut down on pain and tenderness. Shoes with a slightly rounded sole or a "rocker" bottom help shift weight more smoothly from the heels to the toes. Walking shoes are more rigid in the front so you can roll off your toes rather than bend them the way you do when you wear running shoes.

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tennis shoes
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Tennis Shoes

When you play tennis, you make a lot of quick side-to-side movements. You need shoes that give you support on the inside and outside of your feet. You also need flexibility in the sole under the ball of your foot for fast forward movements. Pick a softer-soled shoe if you play on a soft court. Choose one with more tread for hard-court play.

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cross trainers
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Cross Trainers

These shoes can be a good choice if you do more than one type of sport. Look for one that's flexible in the forefoot if you're going for a run but also has good side-to-side support for tennis or aerobics class.

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trail running shoes
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Trail Running Shoes

Do you like to jog off-road? You'll want shoes that can stand up to dirt, mud, water, and rock. Trail shoes have a heavier tread than a traditional running shoe. They also have more heel and side-to-side support to keep you safe while you run on uneven surfaces.

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basketball shoes
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Basketball Sneakers

They have a thick, stiff sole to give you extra stability when you run up and down the court. High-top shoes support your ankle during quick changes in direction and when you jump and land.

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soccer cleats
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Soccer Cleats

When you're on the soccer field, you'll want to wear shoes with cleats -- spikes or studs on the soles. They give you traction on grass or soft turf. Soccer cleats don't have a toe spike, so there's no drag when you kick the ball. They're form-fitting with a tight feel that makes it seem  like your foot is one with the ball.

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lacrosse shoes
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Lacrosse Shoes

Are you thinking of taking up lacrosse? You'll need to run quickly, change directions, and do a lot of stop-start moves on grass or turf. You want shoes with high tops to support your ankles. The cleats in lacrosse shoes are often molded onto the outer edge of the sole. You'll notice a front toe cleat that gives you a good grip on the ground as you move forward.

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football cleats
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Football Cleats

The bottoms of these shoes are usually stiffer than a lacrosse shoe. They have a center toe cleat for fast starts at the line of scrimmage. Look for shoes that are made for specific football positions. Linemen may want one with a high top for ankle support. Running backs or wide receivers may need a low-cut shoe that lets you turn quickly.

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baseball cleats
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Baseball and Softball Cleats

They're longer and narrower than some other athletic shoes, and the toe cleat may be made of metal instead of molded plastic. Good baseball and softball cleats support the arch to prevent pain -- a particular problem for catchers.

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golf shoes
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Golf Shoes

When you wear a pair of these, you'll do more than impress the country club set. These shoes can improve your game and make it safer to walk the course. The short cleats on the soles help plant your feet during your swing, so you're less likely to slip. Golf shoes give you more stability as you walk from hole to hole or in and out of sand traps.

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hiking boots
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Hiking Boots

Heading for the hills? Shoes or boots made for hiking give your feet a better grip on the trail to help you avoid falls. Pick a pair that matches your hiking plans:

  • Lightweight shoes or boots are good for well-maintained trails or short hikes.
  • Midweight boots are better for hiking on rocky terrain or uneven surfaces.
  • Heavyweight boots are for people carrying backpacks over 35 pounds and walking on ice, snow, or rocks.
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cycling shoes
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Cycling Shoes

Go for a shoe that matches the type of cycling you do. Mountain and recreational cycling shoes have sunken cleats and a flexible sole, so you can comfortably walk, too.

Competitive or performance cycling shoes have a stiff sole with cleats on the outside. In theory, the stiffer sole transfers more energy to the pedal. Some styles fall between casual riding and performance, and might be a good choice for an indoor cycling class.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 03/06/2020 Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on March 06, 2020


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American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Athletic Shoes."

American Council on Exercise: "Are You Wearing the Right Shoes For Your Workout?" "Trail Running Adventure."

American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: "How to Select the Right Athletic Shoes."

Douglas, S. The Runner's World Complete Guide to Minimalism and Barefoot Running: How to Make the Healthy Transition to Lightweight Shoes and Injury-Free Running, Rodale Press, 2013.

American Journal of Sports Medicine: "Body Mass and Weekly Training Distance Influence the Pain and Injuries Experienced by Runners Using Minimalist Shoes: A Randomized Controlled Trial."

American Podiatric Medical Association: "Sport-Specific Shoes Can Affect the Way You Play."

American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine: "The Hiking and Climbing Foot," "Selecting Cycling Shoes."

Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on March 06, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.