As an athletically minded individual, I am extremely grateful for the existence of modern athletic shoes (sometimes called tennis shoes or sneakers). If you’re ever bored, consider for a moment what it would have been like to be a devotee of physical activity 100 years ago. Shoes at the beginning of the 20th century didn’t exactly scream comfort. If you wanted to pursue a sport in those days, you were basically stuck with your everyday footwear. Contrarily, the athletes of the 21st century can chose from a dizzying array of athletic shoe options, each designed to cater to the demands of a specific sport or pastime.
All athletic shoes serve the same basic purpose: to protect the wearer’s feet by mitigating the challenges of whatever pastime they are pursuing. To that end, they all feature soles made of dense rubber and bodies of flexible materials that allow the foot to breathe. Some “athletic shoes” are not really intended for physical activity; rather, they are designed to mimic the style of true athletic shoes for fashion purposes. Such shoes can sometimes be slipped on and off, depending only on Velcro or elastic for a tight fit. However, true athletic shoes always feature shoelaces that can be laced up and over the arch of a foot, tightened according to the needs and desires of the wearer.
Beyond this basic definition, there are numerous kind of athletic shoes, all designed for specific athletic pursuits. For example, some athletic shoes are intended simply for running. Such shoes possess specific features to help the athlete in that physical exercise. Running shoes are lightweight so as not to slow down the wearer. They provide a great deal of cushioning, the better to protect the feet from repeated impact with the ground. Additionally, those running shoes specifically designed for racing have no heel to speak of. The lack of heel improves the foot-to-ground power transfer, allowing the runner to race more efficiently.
Cross-trainers are a popular kind of athletic shoe. The advantage of this shoe style is that is it balances support and cushioning with flexibility and light weight. It can be used for running, walking, tennis, aerobics and many other kinds of exercise. All of the large athletic shoe brands manufacture cross-trainers, including Nike, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance and many others.
Still other athletic shoes are designed for trail hiking and running. These shoes feature relatively high tops, which increases support for the ankle. Also, trail shoes have additional treads on the soles, the better to provide superior traction on uneven terrain. These shoes are ideal for hiking trails that require more support than provided by typical athletic shoes, but do not necessitate traditional hiking boots.
Lastly, some athletic shoes are designed simply for walking. These shoes are excellent for everyday life, especially when an individual has a job that requires being up and about all day. Walking shoes are designed to provide stable and secure support for long periods of time. Additionally, they often feature moisture-wicking materials that prevent feet from becoming too hot and sweaty. Walking shoes are especially popular among nurses, who have to be on the go all day long.