Training Shoes vs Running Shoes: 4 Major Differences

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Assuming you’re reading this blog because you have some kind of interest in including physical activity into your routine, you know that protecting your feet is essential for any exercise you choose, which means you need to choose the right type of shoes.

Many people assume all athletic shoes are the same. But while walking shoes, tennis shoes, running shoes, trail shoes, and cross training shoes (also known simply as “training shoes”) can all be put into a category of “athletic” footwear–and they share a lot of comparable characteristics–each of these types of shoes differ from the next in a variety of ways. And training shoes vs. running shoes is no exception.

Wearing the wrong shoes while exercising may lead to unnecessary discomfort and increase your risk of injury. If you want to keep your body properly supported, you need to wear appropriate shoes for your exercise plans for the day. And while training shoes and running shoes look similar, there are some key differences that you need to keep in mind when you’re shoe shopping.

Ultimately, the best shoes for any workout are those that don’t get in your way and allow you to exercise without really thinking about your shoes or noticing them.

In this article, we will look at some major differences between training shoes and running shoes. After reading this article, you will know which type of shoe you need to be shopping for–if not both. If you’re serious about adding physical activity into your routine, you should be serious about the type of shoes you choose as well, and buy the correct shoes for the activity you’re doing.

But first, let’s look at what running shoes and training shoes are and what they should be used for.

Why Should You Buy Running Shoes?

Ok, well, you should buy them for running. But how do these shoes specifically help support this high-impact workout?

Mainly, they protect your feet and joints from the impact of your body weight repeatedly hitting the ground. Running shoes give you support and cushioning as you’re propelling yourself forward, which provides you with more comfort–especially during long-distance runs when you need a shoe that is going to give you adequate shock absorption. If you’re running anything longer than a 5K, having the cushioning of running shoes is going to be your best bet.

Why Should You Buy Cross Training Shoes?

One of the main benefits of having training shoes comes from their versatility. A good pair of training shoes can easily declutter your closet, leaving you with just one pair of shoes to use while doing a variety of activities.

Cross-training exercises are often considered to be high-impact–but, unlike running, the impact is performed in short bursts rather than the extensive impact of running. Cross training shoes can be considered to be an “all in one” gym shoe. They offer your feet and body support while you’re engaging in a variety of ranges of movement, such as:

  • Pivoting
  • Cutting
  • Jumping
  • Stopping quickly
  • Breaking

These versatile shoes are ideal for different types of workouts (high-intensity classes, bootcamps, strength training, agility training, etc.), allowing you to get a lot of use out of a good pair.

Now let’s check out the key differences between the two.

What Are the Major Differences Between Cross Training and Running Shoes?

1. Heel Drop

The heel drop of a shoe refers to the thickness of the shoe’s heel. It’s also sometimes called the shoe’s ramp angle, but, no matter how you refer to it, it’s just a measurement of the difference of thickness from the heel to the front of the shoe.

Running Shoes

Running shoes have a larger heel than training shoes do, meaning the heel is thicker. Running shoes usually have an eight to ten-millimeter drop, while some training shoes have as little as no drop and others may go up to eight millimeters. This higher heel drop increases your chance of spraining your ankles if you wear running shoes while doing any lateral movements of cross training.

Because most runners run with a heel strike stride, they need that extra cushioning in the heel of their shoes to support their weight as it hits the pavement. Compared to any other athletic shoe, running shoes are designed to assist with proper heel-to-toe movement, and the thicker heel drop provides this additional cushioning and support.

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The heel drop of a shoe refers to the thickness of the shoe's heel, it’s a measurement of the difference of thickness from the heel to the front of the shoe.

Cross Training Shoes

Training shoes have a lower heel drop than running shoes so users can have more contact with the ground when wearing them. This increases users’ control over their movement. Also, the lower heel drop of training shoes obviously leads to a flatter sole, which could lead to pain in your arches if you run a long distance in them.

2. Support

Running Shoes

This type of shoe is very supportive, focusing on this aspect so much during the designing process that there are a variety of “shapes” of running shoes to choose from, depending on the shape of your foot and your running style. For example, if you are an overpronator–meaning your feet roll inwards–you can buy running shoes that are made to help correct this. The cushioning in running shoes prevents runners from sustaining injuries due to enduring too much impact on their joints, such as plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and tendonitis.

Similarly, there are running shoes made for people whose feet roll outward, people who have flat arches, and people who run with a strong heel strike. Essentially, running shoes can help correct any variation in form that could otherwise lead to injury.

Wearing overly-supportive running shoes while doing training exercises like squats or lifting weights can hinder your progress because it prevents all of your muscles from fully engaging in the work. Also, the cushioning in the shoe can compress when you’re lifting weights, causing you to lose your sense of stability, which is not a good thing when you’re lifting heavy weights.

Cross Training Shoes

Training shoes offer more lateral support than running shoes so when you’re moving from side to side, your feet stay secure. Training shoes are made from a tougher material than running shoes, meaning that cushioning isn’t such a high focus in their design. These firmer, more rugged shoes have more cushioning in the front, which protects your feet when landing on your toes, jumping, and doing squats.

The material used to manufacture training shoes is typically stronger and more firm than what’s used for running shoes, so they don’t hug your foot in quite the supportive way that running shoes do. This is not to say that training shoes are unsupportive, they just support your feet in a distinct way that allows the shoes to endure wear and tear while still protecting you. Training shoes can cope with the demands of an intense workout.

Training shoes are designed to provide you with a great amount of stability and support for your strenuous workouts. Due to the excellence of their stability, training shoes help users quickly switch between various physical activities. The moderate level of cushioning and outstanding support for lateral movements also add to their overall stability.

3. Soles

Running Shoes

In addition to the thicker heels that running shoes have, they’re also more flexible in the toe region of the sole than training shoes are. The soles and mid-arch give running shoes an upward curve at the tip of the shoe, offering optimal support. These soles absorb most of the impact that occurs between the ground and the balls of your feet, which is particularly important for runners because the risk of sustaining a knee or joint injury is relatively high.

Also, running shoes are designed using unique and intricate treads that help runners propel themselves forward, no matter what terrain they’re running on. This design helps channel energy from your legs to your feet, and ultimately toward your destination, which makes running shoes conducive to maximizing your running performance.

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Running shoes have thicker heels and they’re also more flexible in the toe region of the sole than training shoes.

Cross Training Shoes

Because training shoes are designed to work with you as you engage in multi-directional activity, the soles of these shoes are flatter and wider than running shoes, which allows for a wider range of motion. This also means that training shoes are more flexible than running shoes.

The reduced cushioning of training shoes actually help you land properly when you’re doing activities such as jumping, which decreases your chances of sustaining a knee or ankle injury.

Training shoes also have thick, multi-purpose outsoles that provide you with a significant amount of traction, which is ideal for playing sports and working out at the gym. Training shoes have flexible midsoles that help with any type of movement, and the thinner rear of the sole allows your feet to be closer to the ground to assist with pushing off and pivoting.

4. Weight

Running Shoes

Running shoes are often celebrated for how lightweight they are, as runners don’t want to add additional weight to their feet while they’re pounding the pavement. One study looked at the impact that heavy running shoes had on runners’ performance, and found that for each 100 grams of weight that was added to a running shoe, almost a minute was added to the runner’s time in a timed trial. 

The midsole foam materials used in running shoes continue to become lighter with new technology, and the upper and outsole are also designed with weight in mind. Single-piece knit or specially engineered mesh uppers reduce the weight of running shoes, as do the thinner outsoles. Manufacturers often engineer running shoes using a mixture of compounds to reduce weight without compromising the shoes’ durability.

Cross Training Shoes

Training shoes are heavier and offer less cushioning than running shoes. They are designed to help condition your legs with the heavier feel and the increased weight of these shoes increases their durability. The heavier nature of training shoes also helps with the overall stability and support that the shoes can offer.

Final Thoughts on Cross Training Shoes vs. Running Shoes

There are risks involved in spending too much time working out in the wrong shoes, including:

  • A reduced level of performance (insufficient grip, traction, or flexibility for your intended movement)
  • Discomfort
  • Injury
  • Blisters, soreness, aches

The technology used to make athletic shoes has become very advanced, allowing athletes to endure longer and more difficult workouts without putting too much strain on their body. So which of these two types of shoes is best for you?

There are several kinds of shoes designed for people with a variety of very specific active lifestyles. In this case, running shoes are best suited for running, while training shoes are designed to be worn for a versatile workout involving many different exercises.

If you’re a runner at heart and you intend to default to running for exercise, running shoes are going to be your best bet. However, if you find that you perform a variety of exercises that involve side-to-side movement, training shoes will offer you the support that you need. If you enjoy going on long runs, but also do some cross training to add variety to your workout regimen, having a pair of running shoes and training shoes is best.

After reading this guide, you should feel more comfortable determining what type of shoe you should look into buying in order to get the amount of comfort and support that you need while you’re exercising.

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