If you’ve ever run for a bus in heels, been hiking in flip flops or tried to dance (well) in wellies, you’ll know that the right footwear can make all the difference to your performance, sporting prowess and also, safety. There’s nothing worse than being let down by your feet in the pursuit of a PB or killer circuits round, especially when your hard training or meticulous preparation are thwarted by blister niggles or unstable shoes.
Solving footwear freakouts starts of course with making sure you’re wearing the right shoes in the first place. Many of us head straight to the gym in our running trainers, but the dynamism of many HIIT, weight training and multi-activity classes means that the often thicker soles and sturdier fit of running shoes can’t keep up. If you’re wondering what type of shoe might suit your training, not to mention max out your results to help you to become fitter, stronger and faster, read on to find out how the right shoe could well propel you to glory, or just a comfortable gym experience for now…
1. It’s the most vital piece of equipment you’ll buy
Forget fancy kit; the number one most important fitness purchase you can make is your training shoe, as The College of Podiatry’s Mike O’Neill emphasises in NHS Live Well advice:
“Serious back, knee and hip pain, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints (leg pain), traumatised toes and painful blisters are some of the conditions people wearing ill-fitting trainers may face.”
"Unfortunately, 65 per cent of the UK's recreational sportsmen and women wear the wrong shoes for their chosen sport. Trainers are the most important piece of fitness equipment you'll ever buy, and changing what you wear on your feet can prevent injuries."
For general gym training, you’ll need something that allows for speedy side-to-side movement with flexibility and stability for lunging, jumping and quick footwork. Enter the Nike Free Transform Flyknit , possibly the most high-tech training shoe to date. With a clever ‘tri-star’ outsole pattern that expands and contracts to disperse pressure evenly, flywire cables in the forefoot to provide effective but non-restrictive support and a sole that expands multi-directionally, this is as on-the-ball and responsive as gym kicks get. Faster movement and unhindered support will almost certainly translate to improved performance on the gym floor almost immediately, and we guarantee that your old jogging faithfuls will feel positively clunky in class after a session in Nike Free Trainers.
2. It will improve your form
Lifting a barbell in bouncy, chunky soles can seriously take the edge off your strength. A flatter, evenly weighted sole on the other hand could help you to blast off from the feet up with more power, allowing you to lift more and reach your goal faster, and with a lot more finesse. It’s not just weight lifting that can benefit from a gym-specific shoe; getting muscles moving in an interval class or PT session is a lot easier when shoes are built for ‘stop and go’ action. Better form equates to fewer injuries and more efficient exercise, meaning that you’ll achieve the results you’re after in less time, with far greater precision. Once that becomes a habit, you’re on the road to a stronger body for life. Cheesy but true, as Nike Elite Trainer and Barry’s Bootcamp instructor Sandy Macaskill emphasises:
“One of the first things the army teach new recruits is to look after their feet first. There's a reason for that! Despite being an athlete from childhood, I pretty much made it to my 30th birthday without a major injury, then fractured a metatarsal and had a whole bunch of domino-effect connected injuries such as back and neck problems. I'm fully recovered, and now respect the importance of my feet!”
Sir, yes sir.
3. It’s so high tech it feels as though it’s not there
Burpees will never be effortless, but getting out of your comfort zone shouldn’t feel uncomfortable from the toes up. When shoes fit like a glove, as the Nike Free Transform Flyknit is designed to do, you’ll breeze through exercises and reps you may previously have faltered on. Given the Nike Free Transform Flyknit’s breathable, seamless, sock-like support, the idea is that you forget it’s there, but thankfully it is of course cushioning your foot and loosening and tightening in line with your movement (that’ll the bright Flywire cables out front). In short, you’re in control, not your shoe, which is how life is supposed to go really.
4. It will make you a better all rounder
Having one shoe that takes you from kettlebells to TRX to bootcamp style classes is not only economical from a financial point of view, but it will help you to mix up your workouts while getting the most out of them as you sweat. With a ‘just right’ level of light as air cushioning, flex and ‘lockdown’ support for when things tricky, the Nike Free trainer allows you to push the boundaries without compromising your feet in the process. While Nike Free trainers aren’t the right choice for marathons, strength training and cross training are their calling. If you’ve ever needed motivation to mix it up, these are it, and diversifying your workout will mean that you’re challenging different muscle groups as you go, thus avoiding the dreaded plateau.
5. It will give you headspace
They’re not called Nike Free trainers for nothing; these snug, comfy shoes will free up your mind as much as your feet to concentrate on the matter in hand, which is invaluable when embarking on a workout, as Sandy highlights:
“You have to feel confident when training hard and that starts with what you're wearing on your feet. After playing years and years of tennis in pretty stiff tennis shoes (important for lateral support), I personally need to feel supported.”
“The most key thing is to use your common sense. Are you wearing a shoe that's designed only for running, when you could spend just as much time during your workout performing, for example, lateral weighted exercises? Secondly, if you’re in any doubt whatsoever about what you should be wearing and why, ask an expert. They'll guide you, and stop you worrying, or worse, incurring an injury.”
Book in with a podiatrist if you’re encountering foot, leg, joint or muscular pain. If blisters are detracting from a stellar sporting performance, ensure that you’re wearing comfortable, well-fitting, sweat-wicking socks, and of course make sure that your trainers are a perfect fit. Once you’ve got the all clear mentally and physically, you’ll soar.
6. It will make you more aware of what you’re doing
That barefoot feel is not just handy when it comes to agility; more minimalist training shoes such as the Nike Free Transform Flyknit allow you to feel your movements more acutely, therefore finding your balance, adjusting your footing and reacting to the unexpected become more intuitive than when you’re wearing more rigid styles. A greater awareness of how you move organically will not only benefit your workout technique but you’ll also be able to identify where you may be putting a foot wrong in terms of workout habits, and subsequently adjust it with ease and accuracy. Onwards and upwards.
7. It will lighten your load
Light shoes = light on your feet. Lightweight trainers are also faff-free to cart around, meaning that you’ll be more inclined to slip a workout into your working day, or even, shock horror, on holiday. The fact that they can adapt to varying workout styles means you’ll never be uncomfortable or caught short, and that your consistent exercise efforts get rewarded across the board in terms of results. In the case of the Nike Free trainers, you’ll also appreciate a light feel in terms of ventilation too; mesh panels keep feet cool and ensure that your new shoes don’t get stinky before their time. That particular element might not make you stronger per se, but it’ll certainly make you more inclined to wear them, more often, and if we can dodge athlete’s foot where we can that’s a win in itself. Fitness and fungal infections needn’t come as one.
The new Nike Free Transform Flyknit trainers are £125 and are available to buy online here .
Follow Anna on Instagram @annyhunter
Written in partnership with Nike.