In my work as a personal trainer, I get to talking about the best shoes for exercise on a pretty regular basis. Some people talk about the weather, personal trainers talk about footwear. There’s a lot of reasons for that, nearly all of them obvious. The thing is, the answer to that question is always changing. I try not to recommend a specific brand or model, but there are certain characteristics that I find important.
Cushioning is Vital to the Best Shoes for Exercise
Yes, of course, fit, stability, quality of materials and other factors all play a very important role in creating the best shoes for exercise. That said, I have always found that cushioning is way up there on the list. Even better? I now have some great research published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise to back me up.
In my personal experience, I know that cushioning plays a huge part in my choice of the best shoes for exercise for both comfort and for my overall performance. Who hasn’t loved putting on new athletic footwear that gives that springy feeling before a workout? And when your old pair start to get worn down, suddenly your feet get tired or sore a lot faster and easier. This affects your performance and can put you at an increased risk of injury too. When you get that new pair, it’s like you’ve come to life a bit more even while doing the same workouts.
The Research into Cushioning in Athletic Footwear
The researchers from the paper I mentioned earlier are from University of Exeter, which is in the UK. They worked with Nike Global Sport Research Laboratory, which definitely had a bias toward a certain brand. That said, I can believe that their research was unbiased because this wasn’t about which ones are the best shoes for exercise. Instead, they were looking into different levels of cushioning and what that does for athletic performance.
So, in my opinion at least, this research benefits the design of the products they’ll be making, it’s not about trying to say that they’re in any way superior to another brand. They used their own unnamed prototype footwear with a highly cushioned model (232 grams) and a mid-cushioned model (273 grams) and tested them against each other in incremental running tests. What they discovered was that the highly cushioned model came with some significant and definitely measurable performance benefits.
There were 32 runners in the test, 22 of whom were male and 10 were female. They each tested the two footwear types. They were required to do an incremental treadmill test in a high-cushion model and a mid-cushion model. Both heir oxygen cost and maximal performance were measured before starting and at the thirty-minute mark during a downhill-style run. They repeated the test after 48-hours to measure long-term muscle damage.
The Findings for the Best Shoes for Exercise?
The running economy was a huge 5.7 percent better in the model with the high cushioning when compared to the mid-cushioning. Sounds low, right? Well, it shaved a minute and 15 seconds off the half hour run. How does that look at the finish line? At the same time oxygen cost in the presence of muscle damage was far lower in the highly cushioned model, with a 4.6 percent lower figure than in the mid-cushioned model. I think the best shoes for exercise just became pretty clear.