Difference between Sneakers and Running shoes

One of my close friends had a discussion with me about sneakers. He asked me a question that I wanted to answer but I wanted to do some more research before answering his question. The question is what is the difference between sneakers and running shoes.

Before I embarked on fitness I often used to get confused by the type of shoes that were appropriate for me.

I would see other gym lovers putting on different types of shoes when indoors and outdoors. There is a difference between sneakers and running shoes and ever since I discovered this I have often used each of these for their purpose.

I thought that any shoe that has a sporty design is appropriate for training and could be used interchangeably. How wrong I was…

Difference between Sneakers and Running Shoes

Whats considered a Sneaker?

The Oxford dictionary describes sneakers as soft shoe worn for sports or casual occasions; a trainer. Sneakers are made for sports activities and people can wear them for comfort as part of their casual wears.

The word sneakers are used interchangeably with the word trainers depending on which part of the world you are talking from. Sneakers can therefore be used for normal gym work, walking or playing sports such as badminton, volleyball and few other outdoor games.

Difference between Sneakers and Running shoes

Running shoes are specifically made for running. They are designed in a way that they provide maximum comfort for runners. They are light weight and enable a runner to run without having being pulled down by too much weight.

Running shoes are made to absorb shock up to 4 times your body weight when you hit your foot on the ground when running.

Can sneakers be used for running?

Let us make a distinction between the two to help you have a clear picture of the differences.


When running, you impact the ground with about 3 times of your body, conversely, when walking you only impact the ground with about 1.5 times of your body weight.

Therefore, when running the impact on your lower legs such as heels and forefoot which is first to hit the ground is greater because of the impact and for this reason the running shoe needs a better padding.

When walking or engaging in any other sport, you only impact the ground at a maximum of 1.5 times your body weight which means a sneaker with less cushion can be appropriate. Your running shoes need to fit nicely into your body so that you do not get injuries from the misfit.

Heel Height

Running shoes are built with built-up heel to provide runners with stability. Runners hit the ground first with different parts of the foot such as toes but the front part of the foot.

There is debate as to which part of the foot should touch down first to avoid injury and run faster. Their heel then comes down with their weight with quite an amount of force so that it propels them up for the next step.

The process repeats itself for as long as the run is on. This is why they need a shoe with a good heel to help them with the upward movement for the next step.

Walkers on the other hand can use shoes that are almost flat because they touch down with their whole foot at the same time.

They do not need a special heel design like their running counterparts. If you choose a shoe, manufacturers will indicate what the heel drop is and is usually measure in millimeters(mm). The heel drop is measure from the inside of the shoe because that is where your foot lies on.

The flare of the heel on the shoe

Some running shoes have heels that are flared up to provide extra comfort to athletes whose feet hit the ground with their forefoot. The flare is an extra safety measure put in by shoe manufacturers to ensure maximum comfort and avoid injury to the feet.

Walking shoes on the other hand should not have a flare on the heel because walkers strike the ground first with their heel. If the heel is flared up, it may cause injury because the foot will roll forward through the step. The best heel for a walking shoe should be an undercut one.


All work out shoes or gym shoes are designed for comfort. Exercises are high intensity events that can easily lead to injury. Wrong shoes are one of the biggest causes of fitness injuries.

Running shoes are designed to flex from the arch to mid foot. This kind of flexibility is appropriate with runners because they hit the ground with the toes first.

A running shoe or the walking shoe on the other hand should only bend at the arch because the toes need to move as the they provide support for the other part of the foot for the next step.

A shoe that doesn’t bend at all is not acceptable as it will cause a big strain on the foot and may lead to a bad injury.

Bottom Line

Understanding the type of shoe, you are using for running is as good as your safety and your longevity in the fitness world. A lack of good understanding may have career threatening injuries that will kill your dreams before they start.

Sprains, planter fasciitis, shin splints and stress fractures are some of the injuries that can arise from wearing the wrong shoes. It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional, experienced runner or just a beginner runner. Injuries should be avoided at all costs.

It is also important to know when the shoe is old and worn out. When the padding and heel flairs start coming off, it is time to get another pair of running shoes.

Finally, do not forget to get the proper shoe size for your feet.

This is often overlooked by those in the business. Getting the right shoes but using the wrong size will lead to the same results as if you are using the wrong shoe.

Your efforts to have a safe exercise regime will come to naught if you use the wrong shoe size.

When you order a shoe online and it doesn’t fit you properly it is better to return it and ask for your size. Do not be in a hurry to use the new pair of sneakers or running shoes without first ascertaining their size on your foot.

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