Difference Between Running Shoes and Cross Trainers

There are running shoes, and then there are cross-trainers. From the name alone you can understand there is a difference in purpose – but are there similarities? Which one is the best choice for your needs?

Not every shoe will fit the same way, and your choice will depend on your activity. Follow our guide below to determine which type of shoe suits your needs.

What’s the Difference Between Running Shoes and Cross Trainers?

 Running Shoes

A running shoe’s main purpose is to enhance heel-to-toe movement. In doing so, they usually have more arch and heel support. This is because when your feet contact the ground at high speeds, the first impact point is your heel.

Running shoes are also designed to absorb shock, which is why they are adequately padded but remain lightweight. In fact, when you look at walking shoes versus running shoes versus cross trainers, you will notice that running shoes are the lightest.running shoes

There won’t be as much traction on the sole of a running shoe as runners don’t generally climb uneven terrain. You will also notice a greater amount of mesh and breathable fabric used in running shoes compared to cross trainers because running creates more heat than regular workouts.

Ideally, the running shoe should fit as closely as possible, which is why knit, woven, and mesh fabrics are so widely popular. The perfect contour to your foot will provide the necessary support your feet need to excel.

 Cross Trainers

Cross-training shoes need to accommodate agile movement. The arch support is noticeably lower as cross trainers have a flat sole compared to running shoes and they are also much more flexible. This is because cross trainers can be used for a variety of purposes from aerobics to weight training.

Another prominent difference is the width of the sole. Running shoes have a sleek design while cross-trainers appear bulkier. Unlike runners, cross-trainers tend to have a sole that extends beyond the shoe itself and has more cushioning near the front of the foot.cross trainers

Cross trainers are also usually heavier than runners, and they are composed of more rigid and tough materials since they need to support more heavy-duty movement.

Risks of the Wrong Type of Shoe

What can happen if you pick the wrong type of shoe for your activity? You may not feel any discomfort in the short term, but prolonged use could affect your posture and give foot pain. You may even experience aches in places you shouldn’t and develop unnecessary blisters.

Not only will these small injuries hinder your performance, but they could lead to more serious problems such as sprains and plantar fasciitis. The latter is a foot problem that is difficult to treat. It can become an everyday struggle that may require surgery. However, the recovery time for plantar fasciitis surgery is long and inconvenient.

Speaking of performance, using the wrong type of shoe will also prevent you from reaching your full potential. For example, cross trainers are heavier, which means over time, you won’t be able to run as fast.

If you have noticed that you have work extra hard to match your previous speeds after switching to new shoes, then your shoes could be the culprit.

Which Type Should I Pick?

If you mostly travel on even ground with running as your main form of exercise, a pair of well-fitting running shoes will suffice. If you worry about the lack of traction, you can go for a pair of trail-running shoes. When we compare how well trail-running shoes and cross trainers hold the ground. You will notice that the former is a good balance between running shoes and cross trainers as they are lightweight yet stable.

If your workouts are done mostly on matted floors inside the gym or on concrete, then we would suggest you invest in a good pair of cross-trainers. Cross trainers provide more versatility as they can be used for anything from weightlifting to Zumba.

Another important aspect to consider when searching for the right type of shoe is the fit. Make sure the footwear you choose has adequate support and contours to the shape of your feet as closely as possible.


1. Can you use Running Shoes for Cross-Training?

Yes, you can use running shoes for cross-training, but it isn’t advised. Runners are created with softer and more breathable material, which generally lack the support more vigorous exercise needs. Running shoes mostly provide support in the middle to the back of the foot, which is meant to support and absorb shock in that area.

Cross trainers are padded in the middle to the forefront because they are designed to support more toe movement. In summation, you can use running shoes for cross-training but only for a short period. Prolonged use of running shoes for cross-training can result in foot problems.

2. Can you use Cross Trainers for Runners?

Yes, you can use cross-trainers for runners as well, but there are drawbacks. The Cross trainers are generally more cumbersome than runners, which makes them less ergonomic and efficient for a fast-paced activity. Trainers provide more traction as well, which means running won’t be as smooth.

Cross trainers are ideal for lateral movement, but since running is primarily vertical, you may start to notice insufficient support when you move from side to side. Cross trainers are also cushioned differently, which means they will lack the healing support that runners need.cross trainers for runners

If you keep your runs short, the disadvantages won’t be very severe. However, for the long haul, we suggest purchasing a good pair of runners.

3. If I Run and do Cross-Training, should I own Two Different Types of Shoes?

Yes, if you do both activities frequently, your best bet is to own both types of shoes. Footwear is categorized differently because they are all created to cater to various movements and provide support in differing areas. It doesn’t make sense to try and improve your lap speed with a heavy pair of cross-trainers, just as it is equally unideal to train with running shoes that don’t provide the type of support and traction you need.

If you do one type of exercise much more than the other, then that specific type of shoe can be a stand-in for the time being.

For example, if you’re primarily a runner but hit the gym once a month, then running shoes can be a substitute. Just make sure to only engage in gym workouts for a minimal amount of time while wearing running shoes.


Choosing the proper footwear is much more important than many people realize. Although all shoes may look similar, their differences lie within. It’s crucial to determine the type of shoe you need for the activity you regularly take part in. Taking care of your feet by spending time choosing the right footwear can provide a better performance, minimization of unnecessary injuries, and protection for your joints and overall posture.

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