If you do a lot cross-training and you run, it’s a common thought to wonder if you can use the same pair of shoes for both.
It would be convenient and save you some money… But can training shoes be used for running, or is it a bad idea?
We’ll cover some of the main differences between these two types of shoes in this article. We’ll also discuss some potential problems that could arise if you wear the wrong shoes for your activity.
By the end of this article, you should understand the difference between the two and know what the best course of action is for running and cross-training.
Is a Training Shoe a Running Shoe?
Training shoes and running shoes may look similar, but they’re actually very different. Both are created for a specific purpose, and their design reflects that.
For example, running shoes place a lot of emphasis on shock-absorbing cushioning, and they’re designed for forward – not lateral – movement.
On the other hand, training shoes—sometimes called cross-training shoes—are designed to support your foot through multi-directional motion. This means they are not only built to go forward but also for side-to-side and backward movement.
Running shoes are meant to be used while running, either on the road, the track, or the trail—there are different shoes for each surface. Training shoes are meant to be used in the gym or for HIIT training that doesn’t involve running.
Can Training Shoes Be Used For Running?
Technically, you can run in any shoes. But the better question is, should training shoes be used for running?
The flatter, firmer sole of training shoes may leave you uncomfortable during a run, and there’s likely to be less cushioning to absorb shock as well.
This means that while you can run in training shoes, you aren’t likely to have a comfortable run. Training shoes are not designed to protect the foot from the shock of running.
However, you can use them for running shorter distances—up to 5K—on flat, even ground like a track. This distance is short enough that your feet should be able to handle it.
You can also use training shoes if you’re running on a shock-absorbing surface like grass, a synthetic track, or even a treadmill.
But if you’re planning on running longer distances on the road or trail, we highly advise investing in a pair of proper running shoes.
You should use your cross-training shoes for training in the gym, CrossFit box, or studio, and running shoes for actually running.
What’s the Difference Between Running and Training Shoes?
It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a running shoe and a training shoe by sight.
However, they are built quite differently and have multiple features that make them best for each purpose.
As running shoes are intended for repetitive high-impact activity, they tend to have more cushioning. The exact amount of cushioning varies, with minimalist and maximalist models and everything in between.
You can also find shoes with cushioning in varying degrees of softness or firmness, depending on your needs and preferences. The cushioning also provides support for the arch, so it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the right arch support for your type of arch.
Most running shoes also have more cushioning in the heel, which tapers down to less cushioning in the forefoot. Some shoes are zero-drop, however, but they’re the minority.
Training shoes are usually flatter and less cushioned, as they’re not designed to absorb repetitive shock from the same kind of high-impact activity as running.
Since they’re created for less harsh impact, they’re often less generous with the cushioning, and the padding they do have is usually firmer. There’s often also less arch support in training shoes, although you can always add an orthotic to provide the support you need.
Training shoes usually have a far smaller heel-to-toe drop than running shoes, if any. Many of them are zero-drop, which makes them feel flat.
Being weighed down by your running shoes will compromise your performance, whether you’re training or competing. If your shoes are too heavy, you’ll not only be slightly slower, but you’re also at risk of tripping over your own feet.
Running shoes are designed to be lightweight, with some of them weighing as little as 6 to 7 ounces per shoe. Stability shoes do tend to be heavier, and can weigh up to 11 ounces per shoe.
Training shoes are usually heavier than running shoes, despite having less cushioning. They’re made to be more robust so they can withstand side-to-side and twisting movements that come with training.
Since you’re not likely to be moving very fast in these shoes, they’re designed more for durability than speed. If you want to run in these shoes, be aware that they’re a little heavier than regular running shoes.
The durability of running shoes usually depends on the brand. Some shoes feature a thick layer of rubber on the outsole, while others only have small, strategically-placed sections of rubber on an exposed foam outsole.
Different brands also have different upper designs. Some include overlays on the upper for extra durability against abrasion, while others feature only a thin mesh layer which is more prone to being damaged by the elements.
Training shoes often have a more durable upper, many of them including a midfoot cage and a rubber section in the medial midfoot to provide extra grip when climbing ropes.
These outsoles are often fairly durable as well, but like running shoes, it depends on the brand of shoe. However, as the rubber underneath the shoes isn’t exposed to abrasive surfaces like the road, it tends to last longer.
Running shoes vary in flexibility. This comes down to personal preference, as everyone enjoys a different feeling underfoot when they’re running.
However, they’re usually more flexible than training shoes in the heel-to-toe plane, using things like flex grooves and meta-rockers to increase flexibility.
Training shoes have an unusual amount of medial-to-lateral flexibility to allow for easy dynamic movement. They’re flexible enough to perform a variety of movements in multiple directions.
While this kind of flexibility could be dangerous in a running shoe, it’s safe in a training shoe as they’re not used at a high speed like a running shoe, which could compromise the safety of your feet.
Running shoes come with a range of different stability features to suit those who need extra stability.
Stability shoes and motion control shoes are specifically designed to prevent your feet from rolling inwards, which could cause injury. They also usually have a firm heel counter that locks the foot into the shoe securely.
Training shoes don’t usually come in the equivalent of stability shoes that running shoes do.
However, they usually have a wider, flatter platform that adds inherent stability to the shoe when worn. There’s a sharp focus on lateral stability, more so than most running shoes.
Which One Should You Choose?
If you’re still unsure of which shoe you should be wearing, here’s a quick guide to both and when you should choose them.
When to Wear Running Shoes
Wear proper running shoes when running. If you’re running anything longer than 3 miles, you would do better to wear a pair of shoes that’s specifically designed to protect the foot from the impact of running.
You can wear running shoes to the gym if you don’t have training shoes—but they won’t have lateral stability, so you’ll need to be careful.
When to Wear Training Shoes
Wear training shoes in the gym, the CrossFit box, and the studio when doing high-intensity workouts with a lot of sideways movement. They’re the better choice for weightlifting, plyometrics, and some HIIT workouts.
You can wear them for short runs up to 3 miles, but this will depend on personal preference. We advise NOT wearing training shoes for longer runs.
Why Does Shoe Choice Matter?
Choosing your shoes carefully based on your activity is important for a number of reasons. As they’re designed quite differently for specific purposes, you’d be better off choosing the shoe that’s made for the activity you’re doing.
But what happens if you choose the wrong shoe for your activity? Wearing a training shoe for running and vice versa can lead to:
- An increased risk of injury due to a lack of correct support for the movement.
- More foot pain as the feet aren’t cushioned enough for the activity.
- A higher chance of developing foot conditions over time.
- Reduced performance in your chosen activity due to lack of support.
- Discomfort due to the types of materials and lack of comfort features.
- Chance of developing blisters as the shoe doesn’t move with your foot.