What Are Cross Training Shoes Good For? | The Complete Guide

Our cultures are shifting towards healthy living. Everyone you talk to is starting a new type of workouts or a new dieting trend. If you’re new to working out, then you may be confused when looking at all the different types of gear to buy.

The most important piece of equipment you need to start with is a quality pair of shoes. Whatever style of workouts you do (besides swimming), you’re most likely going to be on your feet. This is especially important for high-intensity exercises like CrossFit or HIIT style workouts. These exercises can be tough on the joints, so you’ll want something with plenty of support. We’re going to go over some tips and tricks for choosing the right shoe without breaking the bank.

As you get into researching all the different types of workout shoes, you may find yourself confused. There are so many specialty shoes for running, weightlifting, tennis, basketball, baseball, and so many other athletic activities. In this article, we are going to start by talking about one of the most multi-purpose exercise shoes out there: cross trainers.

What are Cross Training Shoes Good For

If you aren’t sure where to start, cross training shoes are perfect for athletes of all experience levels. While these shoes are not specialized for any one activity, they provide the forefoot cushioning and heel support needed for almost all intense athletic activity.

Cross training shoes tend to be flexible and breathable. They use leather and synthetic materials to allow the shoe to flex comfortably with every movement. This flexibility makes them ideal for running, jumping, and any lateral movements. They can be used for sports, CrossFit, hiking, and even weightlifting.

What Makes Cross Trainers Different?

Cross-training shoes are typically a bit more rugged than running shoes. They provide less shock absorption but offer more lateral support, which is essential for multi-directional movements. The extra stability will keep your feet secure in the shoe, and the shoe on the ground. They come with extremely durable materials and support that is meant to hold up during high-stress activities.

Cross training shoes may look similar to your average running shoe, but they have a lot of different features:

  • Lateral support for moving in all directions.
  • Extra stability to help prevent foot and ankle injury.
  • Forefoot cushioning for support when landing on your feet. This is perfect for exercises like sprints and jumping rope.
  • Firm support that won’t buckle or compress under heavy loads. This makes them ideal for weight training.

Cross Training Shoes Usage

Like we talked about before, cross training shoes aren’t specialized for just one activity. They are ideal for the athlete that wants to do a full range of exercises. As their name implies, these shoes are multi-purpose training shoes that can be used in running, sports, calisthenics, yoga, and more:

  • HIIT Classes – Cross training shoes can be used for any indoor and outdoor classes
  • Bodyweight Training/Strength Training – These shoes offer plenty of flexibility and breathability for any movements you need to do.
  • Short Interval Runs – For longer runs, you may want a shoe with more cushioning. Cross trainers are perfect for running a 5K or a shorter run.
  • Weight Lifting – As we mentioned before, cross trainers are designed to avoid compressing under heavy loads.

Varieties of Cross Training Shoes

Woman doing mountain climber exercise outdoors

As we’ve mentioned, cross training shoes are ideal for just about all exercise types. However, many brands do offer specialized varieties for certain workout styles such as CrossFit. Some shoes may have different levels of cushioning, flexibility, and stability.

Daily Trainers

These shoes are the most versatile style of cross trainers. While there are more specialized varieties of cross trainers, a good pair of daily trainers can be used for almost any activity. They are even great for fitness classes of all kinds. Here are some features of daily trainers:

  • Lightweight design – these shoes use synthetic materials to save on weight.
  • Extra breathability – theses same synthetic materials allow excellent airflow to your feet.
  • Cushioning and support – they feature excellent lateral support for movement in all directions.
  • Low profile – their design doesn’t constrict movements around the ankle.

CrossFit Shoes

CrossFit shoes provide a little more support than a daily trainer. However, they are just as versatile. You’ll find that they are a little more durable than the average cross trainer shoe. Here are some features of CrossFit shoes:

  • Heel stability – these shoes have firm heels that provide a more stable base for lifting heavyweights.
  • Flatter sole – this allows the wearer to have better foot control and grip on the ground at the cost of a little arch support.
  • Extra protection – CrossFit shoes have protection against blisters and abrasions on the feet.

Weightlifting

Weightlifting shoes don’t require as much breathability as other types of cross trainers. However, they do need major support to keep your tendons and ligaments secure under extremely heavy loads. Their purpose is to keep the feet stable for a good weightlifting foundation. Any good weightlifter knows that good form is critical to prevent serious injuries. Here are some features of weightlifting cross training shoes:

  • Elevated heel – protects the Achilles tendon from strain during exercises such as deep squats.
  • Durable materials – these shoes use extremely durable materials for extra grip and security.
  • Rigid structure – these shoes don’t have as much flex in them. This aids in having proper weightlifting form.

Outdoor training

Outdoor workouts like boot camps and circuit training have a lot of lateral moves and exercises that involve quick changes in direction. For these routines, you’ll want to look for a cross trainer that has these features:

  • Flat, thick soles – with all the changing in a direction that goes on in these types of routines, you want a shoe that can change directions on a dime while still offering excellent shock-absorption.
  • Higher ankles – while you want your ankles to be mobile, you’ll also need some protection against rolling them.

Hiking

Cross trainers for hiking are similar to daily trainers, but they provide more cushioning for long days out on the trail.

  • Big lugs – cross trainers for hiking have deeper treads and bigger lugs to prevent from slipping and sliding on slick surfaces.
  • High ankles – hiking on rock and root covered trails can cause some major injuries if you aren’t careful. A shoe with a high ankle support can help to keep you from rolling your ankle on the trail.
  • Thick soles – extended periods of time spent walking can put stress on the feet and legs. Thicker soles provide more shock-absorption to prevent joint pains.

Walking

As walking doesn’t put the strain on your joints in comparison to running, you won’t need a ton of cushioning in your shoes. Here are some features of cross trainers for walking:

  • Lightweight – cross trainers for walking don’t require a lot of cushioning and support. This allows them to save on weight.
  • Breathability – because they don’t need as much material, these types of cross trainers can have excellent airflow to your feet.
  • Flat soles – this allows your feet to find a natural and comfortable gait with no assistance from the shoe.

Indoor cardio

Taking a dance cardio class? Cross trainers are perfect! They provide ease of movement, and you won’t need much cushioning for an indoor environment. You also won’t need to worry about much traction.

  • Low profile – because indoor cardio requires lots of multi-directional movements, these shoes have a low profile that won’t interfere with any movements your ankles and feet need to make.
  • Snug fit – because of the movement in all directions, cross trainers need to have a snug fit that will ensure no slipping while they are on your feet.

Difference Between Cross Trainers and Running Shoes

Cross training shoes, running shoes, and trail running shoes all have many similarities. However, they are not all the same. You’ll want to choose the one that fits your purpose.

Running shoes – the basics

Running shoes provide lots of cushion to protect your joints from the impact of a long run on the road or a treadmill. They also provide stability for your heel and ankles to prevent injury. These shoes will usually have the following features:

  • Cushioning in the midsole – this provides comfort and shock-absorption for a long run over hard surfaces.
  • Mesh linings on top – this gives the user a lot of breathability during a workout.
  • Rubber outsoles – rubber is a lightweight material that allows for a lighter shoe overall. These outsoles usually come in a ridged pattern that gives the wearer good traction on most flatter surfaces.

Train running shoes

Trail runners are very similar to regular running shoes. The difference comes in their thicker soles and added traction. They also tend to feature higher ankles for protection from injury and debris. Typically, hiking shoes have these features:

  • Cushioning in the midsole – just like a road running shoe, trail running shoes have midsole cushioning for long-term support on hard terrain.
  • Synthetic coverings – instead of having mesh on top, trail running shoes use synthetic materials for more protection against debris. You will sacrifice some breathability for this protection when compared to a regular running shoe.
  • Outsole with lugs – unlike the standard rubber outsole of a road running shoe, trail running outsoles feature heavy-duty lugs for added traction and protection from dangers on the trail.

Cross training shoes

As we’ve discussed, cross training shoes sacrifice heel cushioning for breathability and ease of movement. They also tend to be more lightweight. They typically also have extra protection for the ankles. Some of their features are very similar to running shoes, but some are quite different:

  • Flexible materials in the midsole – instead of focusing on comfort and padding, cross trainer’s midsoles are designed to flex. This makes them great for movement in any direction, not just running!
  • Breathable mesh linings – just like road running shoes, cross trainers usually come with very breathable coverings.
  • Grooved outsoles – in a combination between a road running shoe and a trail running shoe, cross trainers feature a grooved outsole for traction and protection. It is a good blending of the lightweight traction of a road shoe and the lugged protection of a trail shoe.

Running vs Trail Running vs Cross Training Shoes

Fitness girl exercising with battle ropes at gym.

What to look for in Cross Training Shoes

A good set of cross training shoes should provide adequate support in the most fragile areas of the feet:

Arch Support

Have an expert at your local store helps you to determine your arch type. Most brands have a shoe that will fit each kind of arch for the proper support. The arch is one of the most important parts of the feet! It helps to prevent Plantar Fasciitis and gives your foot the structure that it needs.

Flexible Uppers

A good cross trainer should have a sturdy cover that will help protect the top of your foot from the strain. This cover should also be breathable to help keep you from overheating. Take a walk around in your new shoes and make sure they flex comfortably on the top.

Heel Support

For CrossFit and other intense exercise styles, you’ll want a shoe that has good heel support in the form of extra plastic or other materials on the heel. You may not always see the support, but as long as your shoe has extra heel padding, you’re good to go.

Midsole Padding and Tread

For climbing activities, you’ll want to look for a shoe that has extra grip around the midsole of the shoe. This also provides extra foot support for leg-based workouts. If you find that you’re doing exercises that require gripping something between your feet, you are going to want some midsole traction.

Forefoot and Heel Traction

Make sure the shoe will provide you with a nice, firm grip on most surfaces. This will depend on where you plan to exercise. You’re going to be landing on the balls of your feet a lot with many different types of exercise. Make sure that you can jump and land comfortably without fear of slipping and sliding.

Size Matters

Get a shoe that fits! A shoe that is too small or too big will cause pain and blisters. You should have about a thumb’s width between your toes and the front of the shoe. Also, be sure to check with an expert to see if you need a wider or narrower shoe.

You may also find that you need a certain type of shoe to fit your specific gait. If you’re a heel striker, midfoot striker, or forefoot striker, you’ll need padding in different areas.

Material

Make sure your shoe isn’t made of cheap materials. Synthetics are usually good and will hold up well against moisture and wear.

You may have to pay a little more for higher quality materials, but in the end your body will thank you.

What to look for in Running Shoes

Road running

Road running shoes are all about support over long distances. A good pair of road running shoes should have the following features:

Heel cushioning

When you run, you’re going to be striking more toward the heel and then rolling your foot forward. A good pair of road running shoes will have excellent padding around the heel. The padding should taper off towards the ball of the foot to allow for an easy push off during your stride

Lightweight mesh

Over the course of a long run, your feet are going to get hot. It is important to make sur your shoes have plenty of mesh lining to allow for airflow to your feet.

Forefoot support

While you may not have as much cushioning around the balls of your feet, a good road running shoe should have plenty of structure to keep your forefoot supported during your stride.

Arch support

During a long run, your arch is going to be under some strain. As everyone has a different arch and tendency toward over and underpronation, it is important to know your foot shape. Go get fitted by an expert to determine the right type of arch support for you.

What to look for in Trail Running Shoes

Trail running shoes

Trail running shoes tend to be heavier than both road shoes and cross training shoes. With this added weight comes increased protection against any obstacles you might run into out on the trails. Here are some features you should look for in a good pair of trail shoes:

Lugged outsole

This is one of the most important features of a trail shoe. We’ve already mentioned it briefly, but these lugs are used to protect the foot and provide traction over almost any surface you’ll run into outside. They can come in many different patterns and shapes.

Deep tread

Make sure your shoe has a thick, deep tread. This will help you to grip most surfaces on the trail. A deep tread also means a thicker sole. Thicker soles help to aid in shock-absorption while you run.

Toe guards

If you want extra protection, look for a trail shoe with a rubber cap over your toes. Should you be unlucky enough to stub your toes on a rock or root, this cap will help to prevent any serious injuries from occurring.

Protective uppers

The top coverings of trail shoes typically have more durable materials than mesh to keep debris out of your shoes. They may not be as breathable as a road shoe, but you’ll be glad not to have as much dirt stuck to your socks at the end of a long run on the trail.

Why should I buy any of these shoes?

You may be wondering why you should buy any of these types of shoes. Wouldn’t trail shoes work for running on the road? Wouldn’t cross training shoes work for running on a trail?

The short answer is, yes. You could probably get away with using trail running shoes on the road. However, it wouldn’t be ideal. In order to get your best performance, you need to be equipped with the right shoes for your chosen activity. The last thing you want is for your performance to be held back by your equipment.

Why should I buy a road running shoe?

Running shoes are ideal for running on pavement and concrete, as well as treadmills and tracks. If you are a long distance runner, you’re going to want a shoe that is specially designed to give you comfort and support for a long run on the road, track, or treadmill. Using a specialized shoe like this can help to prevent injuries in the future.

Why should I buy a trail running shoe?

Trail running shoes are tailor made for running outdoors over rough terrain. They’re made to run on soft dirt and rough rocks and roots. Wearing a road running shoe out on the trail could increase your risk of injuries. Road running shoes lack the support and protection of trail running shoes. Conversely, running on the road with a trail running shoe can actually wear out the tread much faster than intended. The thick lugs are not designed for constant scraping against a hard surface like pavement.

Why should I buy a cross training shoe?

Out of these three options, cross training shoes are the most versatile. While you can do shorter distance runs in these shoes, it is not recommended that you do a long distance run while wearing cross trainers. These shoes are designed for higher intensity, shorter duration workouts that involve weights and movement in all directions. These shoes lack the cushioning for long distance road runs and don’t have all the tread needed to safely run on the trails.

You can always find more specialized versions of cross training shoes to fit your desired exercise style.

Finding the Right Fit on Cross Trainers

All shoe brands have their shoes listed in standard sizes. This indicates the length of the shoe in question. However, you may find that one brand of shoe fits when you wear a 10, while another brand of shoe fits when you wear a 10.5.

Don’t assume that a shoe will fit just because it is the size you usually buy. It is a smart idea to go and try on the new shoe before you take the plunge and buy it. Just like with clothes, there will always be a discrepancy between sizes and brands.

When you try on a shoe, here are a couple of tips you can use to help you determine if the fit is correct for your fee

  • Check your toes – you should have a little room between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. This space should be roughly the width of your thumb.
  • Check your distances – the heel and the ball of your foot should be the same distance apart as the heel and forefoot support on the shoe. Otherwise, your feet may not receive the proper support when you exercise. If you aren’t getting support in the right areas, you are more at risk for an injury.
  • No pinching – the shoe should be snug, but not uncomfortably tight. If you feel that the shoe is too tight on any part of your foot, you may need to try a different size.

It is also very important to check a shoe’s width when you are researching brands and checking sizes.

Most brands use these letters to represent shoe width: A, AA, B, C, D, E, EE, EEE, and so on. The letter “B” denotes a medium width for women—the letter “D,” a medium width for men. The closer you get to the letter “A,” the narrower the shoe is. Conversely, the further you get from the letter “A,” the wider the shoe gets.

Many people have the same size shoe but need a different width. Remember, a shoe’s size only measures the length of the shoe! Some people have narrower feet and need less room, where some people have wider feet and need more room. You may find that many generic shoes only come in one width. Some notable companies that are doing this are New Balance and Skechers.

When Should I Replace My Training Shoes?

The typical lifespan of most shoes is about 100 hours of high-intensity training. You may find that you get more time out of them, depending on how hard you exercise and what surfaces you exercise on. This will all depend on how well the shoe is constructed, as well as how often you wear the shoe outside of your training sessions.

Some shoes, such as CrossFit and weightlifting shoes may last longer due to their extra padding and bracing inside the shoes. The more structure your shoes have, the less likely they are to break down during use.

The best way to know if your shoes need replacing is to look at them.

Check out the bottom of your shoe. If the middle is starting to heavily crease, and the heel and forefoot are thinning out, then it may be time to buy a replacement pair.

Try squeezing the sole of the shoe. The sole is designed to compress on impact, so if you find that your shoe is barely giving when you squeeze it, the sole is over-compressed. This is another indicator that it is time for a replacement.

Here are some more things to keep track of if you are wondering whether or not to replace your shoes.

1. You’ve run the equivalent of 300-500 miles in them.

If you’re an avid runner, you’ll want to keep track of each mile that you run in a pair of shoes. You may find that you like to rotate between different running shoes.

This wear and tear can also vary depending on what surfaces you run on. Shoes can wear differently if you run on pavement, gravel, or dirt.

2. They are over six months old.

Again, this is very subjective! If you work out three days a week, your shoes won’t wear out as quickly as someone who works out five days a week.

3. Your feet, knees, or joints hurt after a workout.

If you start to feel pain from using your shoes, you’ll want to get a new pair fast. These issues are only going to get worse the longer you wear your shoes.

As your shoes wear down, they start to provide less shock absorption. This puts more strain on your feet and knees. It can also translate to the hips and all the joints and ligaments through your legs. It can even lead to lower back issues if left unchecked!

4. You’re starting to get blisters from them.

Blisters are a bad sign! If you’ve been getting them right from the start, then you probably bought the wrong pair of shoes. However, if you’ve never gotten them before, it means that your shoes have worn out and need replacing.

A Word from Love At First Fit

These factors are completely dependent on intensity and workout style. You may find that you’ve had your shoes much longer and they still work fine.

Shoes are always subjective. A shoe that works great for one person may be terrible for you. Find the shoe that fits your foot and feels great when you move. It’s always a good idea to visit your local shoe store and try on as many pairs as you can to find your best fit.