Home Exercise 101Running My Tips For Choosing the Perfect Cross-Training Shoe

My Tips For Choosing the Perfect Cross-Training Shoe

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Still trying to get used to this YouTubing thing. Whew.


When I was training for the Army Ten Miler – which, now that I think about it, is around the corner, hmm… – I went to Paragon Sports and was fitted specifically for a new pair of running shoes. When I shared that with my friend, she was dumbfounded. “What do you need to get fitted for? What other kind of tennis shoe is there?”

At which point, I laughed. Just a little. For goodness sakes, a “running shoe” isn’t even a “tennis shoe!”

Enter: this video.

I especially love my current cross-trainers – the Saucony Virrata – because I need my shoes to be versatile. I’m generally unwilling to carry extra shoes in my gym bag, and chances are high that whatever shoes I’m wearing when I’m running around chasing behind these kids are going to be the same shoes I work out in. (This was especially difficult in the snowy winter… either I was slipping on icy subway stairs in cross-trainers, or weight lifting on Sorels. No good.)

Short of the arch situation – which, for me, is inevitable – I’m pretty happy with these.

To answer a couple of quick questions, I absolutely would not order shoes for training online unless its a shoe you have experience with. Not a brand that you have experience with – because brands do change their cut of shoe with every upgrade of a style – but the specific shoe. If I were deciding to stick with the Virrata, after knowing what size worked for me, I’d be willing to order online now. Otherwise, you should ALWAYS check your size.

What cross-trainers are you rocking?

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irene April 4, 2013 - 11:53 AM

Heyyyy erika! I know this post is about running shoes but do u have any advice for walking shoes things I should look for when buying them certain brands… Thanks in advance lady:)

Erika Nicole Kendall April 4, 2013 - 5:05 PM

Not running shoes – cross-trainers. BIG difference! I DO have tips for walking shoes, though. That might be another video!

Durkia April 4, 2013 - 1:14 PM

I’ve definitely been looking for new work out shoes… cross trainers to be exact. For a while I couldn’t afford any bc they are soooooooo pricey so I’ve been using some old cheerleading shoes. I know I know I need to get it together. Now that I have a little extra money I’ve been on the hunt and with your tips I now know what I should look for! Thanks!!!

Erika Nicole Kendall April 4, 2013 - 5:07 PM

I think good shoes – especially for exercise – are an investment that you make carefully and cautiously. Save your coins for a few months, and get a GOOD pair. Be sure to read reviews on the technical aspects of the shoe, how long they last, and how much usage you can get out of them BEFORE you buy.

Valarie April 4, 2013 - 4:44 PM

Lovely post and video on shoes. However, the shoe I wear, the only shoe I wear unless forced into “dress shoes” by stupid professional dress codes, are vibram five finger shoes. They have all the flexibility and breathability a running girl could ever want. In response to the inevitable “what about cushion to protect your joints?” question: I don’t heel strike when I run. No heel strike, no hard impact because the muscles and tendons of your lower leg become the cushion you need, not your joints. In the ancient past, humans didn’t wear shoes, and they ran and jumped and climbed all over the place; however, there weren’t shards of broken glass and long stretches of rough concrete to deal with either, so the vibram is a good in-between place to be I think. There’s even a peer-reviewed journal article or two about minimalist running. Here’s one I like: Mechanical Comparison of Barefoot and Shod Running in Int J Sports Med 2005; 26: 593–598. Major downsides: they can get pretty cold in icy Iowa winters. Interesting side note: sports injuries from going minimalist are more likely to be broken foot bones, which heal with good medical attention, vs. connective tissue injuries, which pretty much don’t ever get better.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 4, 2013 - 5:03 PM

I own Vibrams, and while I DO love them, I absolutely would not just *jump* into wearing them full time. There’s an *art* to existing in Vibrams, let alone running or even legitimately training. I feel like people who are barefoot-fans ignore that, much to the detriment of the people taking their misguided advice.

Cross-trainers aren’t *quite* the same as quality running shoes, and you are highly likely to heel-strike when you train, even if only accidentally. You need shoes that will be mindful of that. Vibrams wouldn’t cut it for that. Someone new to working out, who needs to build up the kind of resistance and ability to withstand what happens to your legs when you go barefoot, shouldn’t be starting out with those.

Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health April 5, 2013 - 11:39 AM

Hi Erika! I came across your blog randomly today but I am so thankful that I did- I LOVE IT! You are awesome and sooooooooo easy to relate to 🙂 I will definitely be reading more often– I’ve had a blast going through numerous amounts of your previous posts today alone! I cant wait to read more- you talk about SO MUCH that I would loveeee to talk about and get opinions about. Hearing what women have to say (advice, experience, tips, etc) is always so helpful. Thanks for all you do! xoxo

Valarie April 5, 2013 - 12:23 PM


I definitely agree with you about vibrams not being for beginners; it did take me the better part of six months to adjust to the differences compared to a normal shoe. Sorry about the extra-long rave, earlier. Side effect of being so in love, 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall April 5, 2013 - 1:01 PM

No, don’t worry! And I’m glad that you said something! I think that LOTS of people get confused when they see people training in the gym with Vibrams, and think that’s what they SHOULD be doing, but there’s an art to barefoot training, and everybody ain’t able. If you don’t have stable ankles or strong calves, you probably shouldn’t be doing anything other than walking in Vibrams. Hell, your training should probably be targeting that exclusively, FIRST.

Ashleigh April 5, 2013 - 10:32 AM

I’ve been training for to run/walk a 10k and I’m doing the Couch 2 5k program and for the first 8 weeks, I was running in a pair of Air Forces. My feet did not like me at all (cut my toe w/my toenails twice) but I couldn’t allow myself the excuse of waiting until I had the money to get some “real” running shoes. I figured I’d be more motivated to save up if I was actually doing the activity that I needed them for. I was so excited when I went to a dedicated running shoe/apparel store. We tried on 5 different pairs of shoes before finding one that works for me. I have a damn near flat foot so I overpronate (ankles roll in) so I have to a have a shoe that offers ankle support. Even with the support the shoe provides, I am very mindful of making sure I land mid-foot instead of on my heels. Focusing on my form helps to take my mind off the rest of my body screaming at me to stop when I’m running. I love my new shoes: Asics GT2000. It’s a men’s shoe because my flat, wide feet can’t fit into any women’s shoe. In any case, I have definitely noticed a difference in how I feel during runs. I don’t feel as clunky on my feet–the Air Force is a heavy shoe & I could hear my feet hitting the ground. I also notice aches in different areas of my legs post run so I can tell that my running form has changed. Luckily, I’m not having the inner knee pain anymore and I think that was because my ankle wasn’t properly supported before.
So sorry about this novel length comment but I’m so excited about my new shoes. I’m definitely a proponent of spending a little bit more than you normally would on shoes that are going to do a lot for you, especially in terms of injury prevention. I know I don’t want to be taken out of the game by my body just when I’m beginning to really enjoy being active.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 5, 2013 - 11:52 AM

I have the exact same shoe in women’s, and it is my bona fide go-to running shoe. I LIVE for that shoe. When I tried them on and jogged the store in them, I didn’t even take them off. I wore them to the register. ROFL

Edmund Proctor April 6, 2013 - 8:05 AM

Being an avid marathoner myself, I know the importance of having a proper pair of running shoes. It will help to reduce unnecessary injuries.

Liam Rubel April 8, 2013 - 3:11 AM

The cross training shoe can be the simple jogging shoes which are easy to wear and quite comfortable. We can realize it by finding out walking a bit wearing the shoes.

Kim April 8, 2013 - 10:52 AM

welp. I have two pairs of ‘gym’ shoes. They maybe cross trainers. I’m not sure but I’m going to go home to check. My only requirements were that that they were on sale and they were a nice bright colour that made me feel like I had work out swag (I gotta get motivation whereever I can :/)
I’m going to google the ones I have and make plans for a new pair, just in case.

Desiree April 12, 2013 - 8:48 AM

Erika I had seen this post a week ago and ended up coming back around to it, but I was wondering – where can a person go to get fitted for a fitness shoe? I usually just go to the local Foot Locker for a gymshoe but now since I have a fitness routine I realize I would like something more. I am running and I do work out also so a cross-trainer shoe just seems to make the most sense – I just don’t know where to go to get fitted (I’m in the Chicago area) sooooooooooooo any suggestions?

Erika Nicole Kendall April 12, 2013 - 2:25 PM

There are shoe stores – specifically running shoe stores – that will test your stride, check your foot needs and will recommend shoes for you based on your specific profile. I know, in NYC, there’s the Super Running Store in Brooklyn Heights and the RUN store near University and 14th street at Union Square.

I will admit, though it may be harder, you don’t necessarily need all of this technology. You can look at your shoes, after you take them off, and see whether or not your heels are more worn on the inside or outside of your feet, which can help you understand whether your feet are rolling inward or outward; you can train to change that by adjusting your gait (and potentially losing weight?); and, most importantly, you can test your shoes in the sporting goods/fitness store. No technology can tell you how good a pair of shoes will feel – you can only get that by testing it out yourself.

Stefan S. April 22, 2013 - 10:57 PM

Thanks for the tips on how to choose a good cross-training shoe. To be quite honest I have been using running shoes and cross-training shoes without knowing the difference and now that I am aware of it, it makes a lot of sense why I suffer from pain on my left foot around the arch area. I took your advice and talked with a pro at a local running shoe store and they got me the appropriate show for running and the appropriate one for cross training at the gym. Thank you!

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