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Runners or Cross Trainers…which should I buy?

Having worked in a technical footwear store fitting athletic footwear, I often get asked many questions about footwear. In a series of blogs over the coming months I will aim to answer some more FAQs podiatrists get relating to footwear. One of the most common questions I get asked is “can I use a runner for walking even if I don’t run?” In short, yes, you can use a running shoe if you plan on walking and don’t intend to do any running but there are some significant differences between runners and cross trainers that many of us don’t know and it is important to make sure you are using the right shoe for your desired activity. 

A running shoe is just like any shoe, is primarily designed to protect the foot from the environment. It is a piece of athletic footwear designed to offer cushioning, structure, support and protection. They are well cushioned, have varying heel height differentials (HDDs), different weights, flaring and inbuilt support and stability features. Running shoes are made for any straight line motion activities, such as running, walking and jogging. Running shoes are not just for those wanting to run, in fact as a general rule, if you are walking or jogging 2-3 times per week for 20 minutes or more then you are best suited to this type of shoe.

Any activity which involves side to side (lateral) movement, such as netball, basketball, tennis, aerobics etc, requires a cross training shoe. The midsole of a cross trainer is slightly denser and as a general rule, have less structural support features. As the heel height differential are often less, cross trainers sit you lower to the ground and therefore provide better stability which reduces the risk of ankle sprains (especially in sports requiring directional change). The upper is generally made from leather providing greater support across the top of the foot and prevents them from deforming quickly when moving sideways. A cross trainer is a great option for someone needing an all-round type of shoe.

Ideally, we would have a pair of shoes specific to each activity we participate in. You wouldn’t play golf in your football boots would you? Despite this, it is unrealistic to have multiple pairs of exercise footwear to accommodate some of our infrequent hobbies. A good example would be a recent patient I fitted into a cross trainer for basketball. They only walk/run on rare occasions, for those odd sessions a cross trainer would suffice ensuring they have maximum support for their sport of choice.


Adam D’Addazio is a sports podiatrist at Walk On Podiatry Narre Warren and Walk On Podiatry Pakenham. Having worked for a technical running footwear retailer he has helped manage many sports related and running injuries focusing on preventative solutions.