Essential guide to choosing the right trainers

With the vast range of styles, colours and brands of trainers available, you’re spoiled for choice. However, if you play sports, choosing the wrong footwear could cause pain and injuries, since different activities exert pressure on various parts of the feet.

Indeed, 65% of Brits wear the wrong trainers when doing sports, suggesting that knowing what to look for when choosing trainers is vital to protect you and your feet.

Trying trainers

© auremar / Adobe Stock


Activity type

Many of us focus on fashion when it comes to buying new trainers, but functionality and purpose should take priority. Each sport places different demands on the foot, so you should buy trainers according to the various movements involved with a particular activity.

For example, running involves forward motion only, so you’ll need footwear that lets the foot easily bend and flex with each step, firmly focusing on cushioning and support. On the other hand, racquet sports such as tennis involve a lot of sideways movements, so you’ll need trainers that provide extra stability and accommodate for plenty of stop-and-go, lateral actions. Running shoes aren’t heavy or stiff enough to cope with racquet-based sports. However, running or racquet trainers probably won’t do the job for those who do a lot of hill walking. In this case, you’ll need trainers that emphasise extra ankle support. Ankle protection is also important when looking for trainers for hockey, while grips on the soles are vital for football and lacrosse.

Therefore, always think about the sports activity you intend to use the trainers for when purchasing a new pair. If you do a number of activities with similar foot movements, such as racquet sports or netball, a pair of cross trainers may suit your needs.



A decent pair of trainers should feel comfortable from the moment you put them on your feet (forget about the concept of ‘wearing them in’). They should provide adequate levels of cushioning and support, especially for those activities involving any kind of impact.

Cushioning requirements vary for different activities. For instance, if you’re a jogger, you need trainers that provide cushioning at the heel, while those who do aerobics and other studio activities should look for trainers with cushioning at the front of the footwear.


Specialist guidance

Since there’s so much to consider when buying sports trainers, it’s often a wise idea to visit a specialist store to get expert guidance – particularly so if you’re into running.

Staff will be able to ascertain your specific running style, or gait, and how your feet impact the ground, providing supportive and shock-absorbing footwear that takes these individual factors into account. They may also be able to gauge your gait by the wear pattern on your footwear so take your current trainers with you.

Staff will also ask what activities the footwear will be used for, what surfaces they’ll be used on and whether you have any existing injuries.

When trying trainers on, always stand up and move around in them and never get your feet measured when you’re sat down. The perfect fit is essential, so there should be no more than a thumbnail’s width from the front of the trainer and the end of your longest toe (not necessarily your big toe!).

Bring along the socks that you intend to wear with your trainers when you try new ones on. You can avoid buying trainers that are too tight by shopping in the afternoon rather than the morning – your feet tend to swell as the day progresses.


Gender specific

Research conducted by Nike has concluded that women’s feet are shaped differently to men’s, where females have higher arches, narrower heels and broader forefeet. With this in mind, purchase trainers designed specifically for your own gender.



Sports trainers protect and cushion your feet, helping to prevent injuries, so it stands to reason that you should invest in a decent pair. Studies have shown that three quarters of runners spend about £70-£80 on a pair of trainers, but you can pay less as well as more than this – depending on your budget.



How much you use the trainers will influence how long they’ll last. Typically, trainers need replacing after every 500 miles of usage, but this is a rough estimate. If the tread starts to wear, if the shoe doesn’t sit flat, it loses bounce, or you start experiencing aches and pains in your feet after exercising, then it’s probably high time you got a new pair of trainers.