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Home » Cross-Training Shoes Vs Running Shoes | Which Is Best for You?

Cross-Training Shoes Vs Running Shoes | Which Is Best for You?

Training shoes and running shoes are absolute musts when it comes to performing well in your respective style of activity. There are a lot of differences that we should account for to ensure we’re wearing the best type of shoe for supporting our performance and assisting us with our goals.

With countless training shoes and running shoes on the market, no two shoes are created perfectly the same. Training shoes and running shoes will differentiate with their construction in multiple ways and understanding the features to look for in each can be imperative for making educated buying decisions.

In this article, we’re going to dive into some overarching differences when comparing training shoes vs running shoes and discuss some FAQs. And if you want a quick explainer for training shoes vs running shoes, then check out some of the general differences.

  • Training shoes will often have a flatter and more stable outsole to promote stability in a variety of activities and to promote forward, lateral, and backward movement.
  • Running shoes will usually possess a higher heel-to-toe drop compared to training shoes to promote running mechanics.
  • Training shoes will generally have firmer midsoles to prevent compressing under various weights, while running shoes often have thicker and more shock-absorbing midsole constructions.

For my visual friends, check out the video below that I filmed for training shoes vs running shoes. Also, in future articles, we’ll get much more granular on how to find your perfect pair of training shoes and running shoes based on your training needs and body type (stay tuned for those!).


Why Training Shoes and Running Shoes

Before we dive into the construction differences that training shoes and running shoes will often possess, let’s first discuss the why behind each style of shoe as this “why” will help suggest what construction features different shoes will possess.

Training Shoes

Training shoes are designed to provide stability in a variety of activities and are designed to accommodate for forward, lateral, and backward movement. A great pair of training shoes will be able to tackle things like recreational lifting, HIIT workouts, lighter runs, and whatever else you can throw their way that isn’t hyper-specific in nature.

Running Shoes

Running shoes are designed for running and running shoes can come in multiple forms. Compared to training shoes, running shoes are often designed to accommodate for one thing — and that’s running. Their construction is focused on promoting forward momentum and can be limited in nature as these shoes are designed with more specificity in mind.

training shoes vs running shoes performance differences

Training Shoes Vs Running Shoes Construction Differences

There are four key construction differences between training shoes and running shoes that I want to discuss in this article. Please note, that there are obviously exceptions with training shoes and running shoes in regard to their construction, so this list is not intended to be definitive in nature, but more so, provide a general idea of differences you’ll typically see.

 1. Heel-to-Toe Drop Differences

Heel-to-toe drop in shoes accounts for the difference in height between the base of the heel and the forefoot. Higher heel-to-toe drops elevate the heels more and put the ankle in a slightly more forward position, while lower heel-to-toe drops promote a flatter foot positioning.

Generally speaking, running shoes will have a higher heel-to-toe drop and this is due to these shoes working to promote heel-to-toe locomotion patterns and to feed into the forward nature of running. Training shoes will have a much lower heel-to-toe drop and this is once again to promote stability in a variety of activities and to account for multi-directional training.

As for heel-to-toe drop norms, it can vary pretty greatly with running shoes due to minimalist shoes and more shock-absorbing shoes creating a large heel-to-toe range, but with training shoes, it’s generally pretty consistent.

  • Running Shoe Heel-to-Toe Drops: 0-12+mm
  • Training Shoe Heel-to-Toe Drops: 0-4mm is the norm, but some models provide 6-8mm, too

training shoes vs running shoes heel to toe

2. Outsole Differences

The outsole is the construction that makes up the bottom of the shoe. Running shoe outsoles will usually vary greatly and will often have a more textured material and build and will not be as firm as a training shoe’s outsole. Training shoe outsoles are typically firmer rubber that has traction to promote multi-directional activity.

Outsole construction differences can help us understand how supportive a shoe will be and how good it will be at shock absorption. All outsoles can be beneficial and there isn’t really a “one style fits all” out construction that will be best for everyone. We need to base outsole construction and firmness on the context of our needs and activities.

3. Midsole Differences

The midsole is the part of the shoe’s construction that separates the outsole (bottom of the shoe) from the insole (inside of the shoe). Midsoles are incredibly important for performance as they can be one of the main factors that contribute to stability, versatility, and shock-absorption.

Thicker midsoles, often seen in running shoes, will compress easier and will be more responsive when it comes to utilizing energy input and output during running. Due to their compressive nature, this is why it’s often not recommending to lift heavy in running shoes, especially those with big midsoles. Note, minimalist running shoes are exceptions here.

Thinner or more stable midsoles will compress much less under heavier weight and that’s why we’ll often see high-density foam material used in cross-training shoes. These materials provide some responsiveness and compress much less when loaded.

training shoes vs running shoes midsoles

4. Upper Construction Differences

The final major construction detail we’ll cover in this article is differences in upper construction. Generally, running shoes will have a lighter upper construction, and popular options include mesh and knit material due to their breathability. Training shoes will vary greatly in their upper construction and differences usually coincide slightly more with durability.

For example, most running shoe uppers that are designed with knit materials would likely not be the best option for durability when doing activities where friction and abrasion are inevitable like s-lock rope climbs. Every company will usually apply their own spin and shoe tech to training and running shoe upper constructions.

Takeaway Thoughts

Training shoes and running shoes can vary greatly when it comes to construction. When looking for training shoes and running shoes, it can be incredibly important to understand what to look for in regard to how you train.

  • If you’re someone who lifts frequently, does shorter runs, and a variety of activities, then you should reach for training shoes.
  • If you’re an avid runner and plan to put a lot of mileage into your shoes, then opt for dedicated running shoes based on your needs and running background.

Training Shoe and Running Shoe FAQs

Can I run in a training shoe?

Yes, you can run in training shoes. However, it’s often recommended to keep runs slightly shorter in these shoes due to their firmer construction aspects. If you plan to put a lot of mileage in, then you may want to explore proper running shoe options based on how you run, your background, and what would suit your needs best.

Should you get running shoes or training shoes?

Having separate pairs of shoes can be useful for supporting your performance in each activity. If you only want to get one pair of shoes, then base your decision on your training style. If you run a lot and that’s your main activity, then opt for running shoes, and if you train with a lot of versatility, then explore training shoes.

What are training shoes used for?

A lot! Training shoes are designed to tackle activities ranging from lifting, HIIT workouts, agility and plyometrics, and even lighter runs. Depending on the training shoes you get, they’ll be better suited for specific activities over others within the realm of versatility. For example, firmer outsole training shoes will have a slight edge for training heavy while training shoes with responsive midsole will be better for agility work.

Are training shoes or running shoes better for walking?

That depends. Both running shoes and training shoes can be used for walking and decisions when picking between each shoe for walking should be based on length of walks, overall physical fitness levels and backgrounds, how you want to use the shoe outside of walking, and desired comfort levels.


Jake Boly

I've been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I've trained hundreds of clients, written thousands of articles, reviewed over 100+ pairs of training shoes, and have produced a large list of training videos. I live and breathe fitness and training gear, and I think it's important that reviewers walk the walk with the gear they're testing. As for my educational background, I have my Masters in Sports Science, Bachelors in Exercise Science, and have my CSCS.

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