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Choosing The “Best Fit:” Which shoes should I wear?

racers running

Now that spring is coming, there’ll be more and more opportunities to dive into some outdoor sports like hiking, running, and cycling. Here are a few ideas on choosing the best shoe for your favorite activity:

There’s a wide variety of shoe wear available for hiking. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your shoe: the weight, potential for water resistance, the type of load you’ll be carrying, and terrain encountered. Below are a few examples.

  • Trail running shoes are light and don’t require time to break in. These may be used for dirt or sand trails (think uneven terrain), but may not hold up well during hikes where you’re carrying a heavy load.
  • Hiking shoes are similar to trail running shoes, but offer more support with increased durability. Some models have internal shanks for greater stability and durability capacity, and/or rubber toe caps toes to protect your feet on rocky terrain. These tend to last longer than trail running shoes and are adequate for moderate and long distance backpacking when the pack does not exceed 30 lbs.
  • Hiking boots are tall enough to be at or above the ankle, and are made with harder soles and tougher, denser material for support and stability. Because of that, these options tend to be a little heavier than the shoes. These are the best choice for hikes with backpacks over 30 pounds, rough on/off trail hikes, and hikes where snow may be encountered.

Your best shoe for cycling depends on how often you ride:

  • Wearing traditional athletic shoes can be done if you are an infrequent rider and do not want to invest in cycling specific shoes; however, clip-in shoes offer a more efficient way to pedal. Pedals that have clips offer the most control with minimal energy lost.
  • Road bike shoes are typically light weight with smooth outsoles and good ventilation. They do not provide a great amount of flexibility and therefore should not be walked in for extended amounts of time.
  • There is a specific tri-shoe available which helps simplify the clip in and out to ease transitions during races.
  • Mountain bike shoes have a stiff inner sole but a more flexible outer sole to make walking in them easier.
  • City bike shoes are a great choice for recreational cycling, indoor cycling, and urban bike riding due to their hybrid nature of casual and cycling footwear.

Options for these shoes vary depending on the price, different clips, weight, and waterproofing. It’s best to go to your local bike shop and speak to a specialist before committing to a certain shoe.

Depending on your running style and foot type, there are many shoe options for runners. Participating in a running analysis such as the one offered at the HSS Tisch Sports Performance Center is a good idea to understand the shoe type that works best for you.

  • Motion control shoes generally have a medial (inner) role bar to support feet that tend to over pronate (think flat foot and increased sneaker wearing on the inside of the shoe).
  • A cushion shoe is generally the best option for people who wear mostly on the outside of their shoe (think high arch). This type of shoe offers more cushion for shock absorption.
  • There are neutral shoes for people who don’t tend to over/under pronate significantly. These sneakers have a balance of control and cushion.
  • Minimalist shoes are also available for people practicing Chi running or who have more of a misfit strike pattern. They are very flexible without much support at the sole. For a runner looking to transition into a minimalist shoe, I would suggest weaning into minimalist running, as most of us are not accustomed to our feet taking on natural impact without a thick sole under them and this can lead to some lower leg injuries. Most running stores offer a running assessment to help you chose the best fit.


Cara Ann Senicola is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedics, and a USA Track and Field level 1 Certified Running Coach with HSS Rehabilitation. She is currently pursuing a 200 hour Yoga teacher certification and working towards a manual therapy certification through the University of St. Augustine. Her clinical interests include orthopedics and sports medicine, with a special interest in treating runners and triathletes.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.