Can I use running shoes for other sports?

Everyone wants a trainer that can do everything, but the reality is that all trainers are now made for specific activities, there is no longer such a thing as a multi-purpose trainer. The closest the sports industry ever came was cross trainers; they were popular in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Unfortunately these versatile trainers have pretty much all been phased out by the brands, in the pursuit of specifically functioning shoes in each sports category. So this leaves many of our customers asking the question “can running shoes be used for anything other than just running?”.

The simple answer

The simple answer is no, running shoes shouldn’t be used for anything other than running. This would always be our official line as running shoes are designed specifically for running; however there can be exceptions which we’ll explain below.

Why can’t running shoes be used for other sports?

other sports

 

The main reason for running shoes not being good for other sports is that they are specifically designed for running, every part of the shoe is designed purely for this function. This leaves large gaps in the functional ability for running shoes to perform well for other sports. Whilst some people will use running shoes for other activities and have no problems, this will be entirely coincidental. Here are some key features of running shoes that make them unsuitable for other sports:

  • Lightweight mesh uppers – perfect for breathability and weight reduction, terrible for durability so it will wear out when used for any activities where there could be abrasion on the outside of the shoe (i.e. football).
  • Thick cushioned midsole – perfect for reducing the high impact forces of running, terrible for activities where quick changes in direction are key (i.e netball and court sports), as you are more likely to twist an ankle or incur other instability injuries.
  • Flexible segmented outsole – perfect for maximum flexibility and biomechanical guidance, terrible for versatility, the individual segments are glued to the midsole and they are vulnerable to pulling off when not used in a straight line.
  • Angled heel and curved toe sections – Perfect for biomechanical guidance of the foot when running, but terrible for base stability when using them for any multidirectional activities.

There can be exceptions!

treadmill walker

 

So whilst officially running shoes should only be used for running, there are cases where they can be used with some level of compromise for other activities:

  • Walking – Running shoes actually make very good walking shoes, they are lightweight, very comfortable and designed for moving forwards in a straight line. However it’s worth bearing in mind your biomechanical needs are different for walking compared to running, so even if your running shoes were professionally fitted, they may not be ideal for your walking. Also the higher cost of running shoes is as a result of all of the advanced running specific features, which may not be entirely necessary for walking.
  • Gym Workouts – Excluding classes that involve multidirectional movements, most gym work such as weights and cardio machines can be done in running shoes. Bear in mind that the softer midsoles of running shoes are not good for heavy olympic lifting or squatting as the shoes will be unstable. However most cardio machines hold the feet in a relatively static position so the shoes are virtually irrelevant.
  • Skydiving – From what we can think there is no reason why you couldn’t wear running shoes whilst skydiving!

Summary

So it’s clear that running shoes should be kept for just running; however if you have budget constraints and need to use them for the gym, walking or even skydiving or chess then that’s generally fine. Avoiding multidirectional sports is the most important thing for avoiding injury and damage to the shoes.

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Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.