What's the difference between running and training shoes?


Visit any sports store or website and you’ll find yourself faced with a huge selection of footwear to choose from. This can be confusing, and unless you’re armed with some knowledge about the differences between types of sports footwear, it can be very difficult to know how to choose the right pair.


When looking at the dizzying array of shoes out there, you’ll quickly see that many are designed for a specific sport, such as tennis or trail running. However, with other kinds of trainers, the difference isn’t so clear – and this is especially the case with running shoes and gym training shoes. At first glance, these kinds of shoes do look fairly similar – so what is the difference between running and training shoes, and how should you choose which ones to buy?

There is a very real difference between running and training shoes

Running and training shoes do often look fairly similar – and sometimes they may even seem indistinguishable to the naked eye. They both tend to have a similar shape – sometimes with visible cushioning in the heel – and they usually also use the same materials in their design, such as mesh uppers and lightweight foam soles. This is often made even more confusing in general-purpose sports stores, where running and training shoes are unhelpfully mixed in together.

Nevertheless, there is a real difference between running and training shoes, and it’s important to understand this distinction.

What are training shoes used for?

Training shoes can be thought of as all-purpose gym and fitness shoes. They are great for using in exercise classes, doing HIIT sessions or plyometrics workouts, on elliptical machines and also for some types of weightlifting. They’re your dependable all-rounders.

Running shoes , as the name suggests, are designed exclusively for running – be that on pavements, tracks or treadmills. Everything about the way the shoes are built focuses on enhancing and supporting your running movements, and little else.?

The design difference between running and training shoes

So, how can you tell if you’re looking at a pair of running shoes or training shoes? Here are some of the main differences in design:

  1. Cushioning
  2. Running shoes: Has a lot of cushioning, focused mainly – if not exclusively – in the heel

    Training shoes: Has less cushioning than a running shoe, and what it has is distributed throughout the sole

  3. Shape
  4. Running shoes: Tend to have a larger heel drop – this basically means the shoe is built on a curved last so that the toe is off the ground

    Training shoes: Tend to have a flatter sole, where most, if not all, of the sole is in contact with the ground

  5. Weight
  6. Running shoes: Running shoes are some of the lightest shoes available and may use extra lightweight foam in the soles

    Training shoes: Will normally weigh marginally more than running shoes

  7. Tread
  8. Running shoes: The tread, or ‘grip’, part of the shoes is designed to facilitate one-directional movement

    Training shoes: The tread is designed to support multi-directional movement

  9. Sole width
  10. Running shoes: The sole usually sits directly under the foot

    Training shoes: The sole may be slightly wider than the foot

  11. Support
  12. Running shoes: Except in the case of stability shoes, most support is found under the heel, with more flexible uppers

    Training shoes: Due to the multi-directional movements you’ll make, there will be support in the soles, plus in the outer part of the shoe

Can training shoes be used for running, and vice versa?

Just as you wouldn’t use a golf shoe to play basketball, it’s generally a good idea to use running shoes for running and training shoes for cross training and gym workouts. Using the wrong pair of shoes may put you at risk of injury or discomfort.

For example, if you wear running shoes in an aerobics class, where there is lots of side-to-side movement, you may find the high, softer heel means your ankles aren’t supported, increasing your risk of injury. Or, if you’re lifting weights, a running shoe’s uneven sole could leave you feeling unsteady.

Similarly, running a marathon in training shoes is likely to result in a lot of pain. Your heels won’t receive enough support for the repetitive striking on tarmac and could result in unpleasant injuries, like plantar fasciitis. You may also find that the soles of training shoes wear away faster if you’re taking them on long road-running sessions.

All that being said, it’s most important to consider how you plan to primarily use the shoes – you may not need to rush out and buy a new pair right away.

  • if you will mainly be doing gym workouts plus the occasional short run: Training shoes make more sense in your situation. Moreover, if you want to wear them for a 20-minute run on the treadmill or a short loop of your local park, they should offer enough support for your needs.
  • If you will mainly be doing road running, plus the occasional gym session: Running shoes are the smart choice. As well, if you occasionally use exercise bikes, the elliptical machine or want to tone up using seated weight machines, running shoes are fine.

Of course, if you do plan on doing both extensive gym and running workouts, it would be a good idea to buy two pairs of shoes – not least because they won’t wear out so fast!