Cross Trainers vs Running Shoes: A Thorough Comparison

If you’re looking to purchase workout shoes, you’ve probably realized that there are two leading types of shoes on the market- ​cross trainers vs running shoes. While the two may look similar on the surface, there are important distinctions to be made between them. In fact, which type of shoe you wear during your workout can affect it greatly.

Depending on the type of workout you’re doing, you may need a certain style of shoe. Using the correct shoe for your workout not only feels more comfortable but helps you get more out of your training. You can work harder, train more effectively, and achieve better performance.

Most importantly, you can avoid injuring yourself. Knowing the difference between cross trainers and running shoes is important, but can be complicated. Luckily, this article details the important differences for you, so you know the precise type of shoe you need for your workouts.

The most basic differences in the battle of trainers vs. running shoes is as follows:

Cross Trainers vs Running Shoes

Cross Trainers-

Perfect for moving in multiple directions, especially side-to-side movements. These shoes have flatter soles, which means they’re more flexible. Cross trainers are the ideal shoe to use at the gym, where you’re likely to be doing a variety of activities.

Running Shoes-

These shoes are designed specifically for heel-to-toe movement. Unlike the lateral movements of cross trainers, these shoes are made to constantly move forward. There’s a lot of added cushioning to support the high impact running has on your body. Be sure to use whether you are running on tracks or running around the block.

For a more in-depth look at both cross trainers and running shoes, read on. This article explains their differences in more detail and also gives you tips on the type of walker or runner you might be. That way, you can ensure you’re buying the perfect shoe for your foot type.

Cross Trainers Shoes Reviews

Though shoes for cross training may look similar to running shoes, they are designed to handle a wide range of different activities, including weight lifting, jumping rope, sprinting, cycling, and playing organized sports. Cross trainers absorb less shock and give more lateral support than running shoes.

That way, when you move from side to side, your feet stay secure. Without that support, you’d have a higher chance of rolling an ankle or sustaining some other sort of injury. In this sense, cross trainers are generally more rugged than their running shoe counterpart.

Unlike running shoes, which are designed for landing on the heels of your feet, cross trainers offer broad cushion in the front of your feet. That way, your feet stay protected when sprinting, jumping rope, or landing on your toes.

Reebok Men’s Crossfit Nano 8.0 Fitness Shoes, White

Reebok Men's Crossfit Nano 8.0 Flexweave Cross Trainer, Navy/Royal/Black/Pewter/Gum,


The firm stance cross trainers offer mean they are the optimal type of shoe for weight training. If you prefer heavy weight training, like deadlifts or squats, cross trainers are perfect. Because running shoes lack total foot support, they would cave in when put under extreme pressure, rendering an already difficult workout even more intense.

Instead, cross trainers are built like tiny little tanks. They’re usually created with stronger, more intense materials designed to take a serious beating over time. If you like lifting weights, jumping rope, or attending spin classes, cross trainers may be the ideal shoe type for you.

Cross trainers are also the preferred shoe for any sort of organized sport, whether it’s pickup basketball, league soccer, or a game of football on Thanksgiving. The tougher material means cross trainers can last longer even while withstanding more activities. Running shoes just can’t deal with all the wear and tear. 

If you’re on a budget, that’s good news, because you’ll end up having to buy fewer cross trainers over time. Cross trainers are also great for training sessions that involve a lot of different types of workouts. For example, if you start with cardio, then switch to strength training, cross trainers are a perfect fit.


That being said, the tough materials and durability come at a cost: cross trainers tend to weigh more than running shoes. The extra weight really isn’t an issue when lifting or performing activities cross trainers are made for. But if you prefer running, the extra weight really makes a difference and can hold you back.

Plus, because the shoes aren’t designed specifically for running, they may cause problems with your technique and potentially injure your feet. While people do use cross trainers for running, it’s much better to use them for short, spontaneous runs. If you’re someone who prefers longer running and running often, cross trainers are not a good fit. They lack the heel cushion you need for more serious treks. Walking long distances in cross trainers is fine, but not for running long distances.

Running Shoes Review

Running shoes are very different from cross trainers. A good way to think about their difference is with a metaphor comparing the shoes to different types of cars: if cross trainers are like rugged, off-roading Jeeps, then running shoes are like sleek race cars. Cross trainers are durable and built to withstand an absolute battering. Running shoes are built for speed and precision, to do a single task really, really well.

That single task may seem obvious, but running shoes are made for running first and foremost. While you can wear running shoes to take long walks or make a fashion statement, running shoes are made to protect your foot while you run. When running, your feet smack the ground with up to three times your body weight.

If you run on concrete, pavement, or other hard substances, this constant battering can begin to weigh on your joints. This is the reason running shoes have such a thick and absorbent heel. Without that extra cushion, the high impact of running could injure your foot, ankle, or leg.


One of the biggest benefits of buying shoes specifically for running is that you can buy shoes specifically for your style of movement. These specialized shoes can prevent any foot fall issues that could potentially cause you injuries.

While it may sound like it’s not a big deal, exercising with the wrong type of shoes can cause a number of health issues, including plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, and early-onset arthritis. Cross trainers don’t have specific builds for depending on the way you walk, while running shoes have shoes designed for the three main types of runners: pronators, neutrals, and supinators.

Pronators – ASICS Men’s Gel-Kayano 24 Running-Shoes

ASICS Men's Gel-Kayano 24 Running Shoe, Silver/Black/Mid Grey, 9 Medium US

It’s easy to tell the type of runner you are based on how your shoes tend to wear down because those are the places where you put pressure on your foot when walking or running. If you notice that the top inner edge is more worn than the rest of your shoe, you’re a pronator.

This means that when you walk or run, your feet roll inward. Your feet likely have low arches or flat arches. If you’re a pronator, the type of running shoe you need is either high-stability shoes or motion-control ones.

These can help your feet align better with your legs, which is good for walking but even better for running. A good way to find these shoes is to look for shoes with a contrasting color near the arch. The contrast means there’s likely a dense material to offer support and to prevent your arches from collapsing mid-run.

Pronators need running shoes that are stiff and flex only at the toes. These shoes may look boxy because of the added support, but the effect on your feet when running is more than worth the fashion statement. You may also recognize these shoes by looking to see if they have stabilizing roll bars, helpful additions that keep your arches protected further.

ASICS Men's Gel-Kayano 24 Running Shoe, Silver/Black/Mid Grey, 9 Medium US

  • I.G.S (Impact Guidance System) Technology: ASICS design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot's natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.
  • FlyteFoam Midsole Technology: insert info here
  • Fluid Ride Midsole: Fluid Ride provides the ultimate combination of bounce back and cushioning properties with reduced weight and exceptional durability.
  • Fluid Fit Upper: ASICS Fluid Fit upper technology combines multi-directional stretch mesh with stretch reinforcements that adapt to the athlete's foot, creating a truly customized glove-like fit.
  • Heel Clutching System Technology: Exoskeletal heel counter provides improved support and creates improved heel fitting environment.

Neutrals – Adidas Men’s Energy Cloud WTC m Running Shoe

adidas Men's Energy Cloud WTC m Running Shoe, Black/Utility Black/White, 8.5 M US

If your shoes are evenly worn on all edges, this means you’re a neutral. Neutral individuals walk with an average gait and run by distributing weight equally across all parts of the foot. The type of running shoes you need have stability or moderate-stability in order to both cushion and support your feet.

That means you want a lightweight running shoe with a tiny bit of give, and just enough flexibility that it bends to the ball of your foot. That way you can reduce instep strain and prevent heel slippage from happening.

Neutral individuals have a lot of freedom when it comes to the types of shoes they can wear. Because you’re right in the middle, whichever shoe has equal cushion and support and feels the best is ideal for you.

adidas Men's Energy Cloud WTC m Running Shoe, Black/Utility Black/White, 8.5 M US

  • Weight: 1.7 oz. (size 9); Runner type: Neutral
  • Mesh upper for breathability
  • Cloudfoam midsole for step-in comfort and superior cushioning
  • A supportive cage wraps around the midfoot for a locked-down fit
  • ADIWEAR outsole offers the ultimate in high-wear durability

Supinators – New Balance Men’s Zante V4 Running Shoe

If the top outer edge of your shoe is worn, that means you’re the final category: a supinator. Supinators, who are sometimes called under pronators, tend to roll their feet outward when they walk and often have high arches. 

For running, supinators need cushioning shoes in order to absorb the shock their inner foot receives from hitting the ground first. This means looking for shoes with soft midsoles, which are the layer inside the treads and the mesh upper part of the shoe.

Your foot doesn’t have enough of its own shock absorption, which means you need a flexible yet cushioned sole. The ideal running shoe for you has extra rubber built into the sole to cushion your feet, while also adding smoothness and bounce to your runs.

When To Wear Cross Trainers

Cross training generally involves lots of different modes of exercise. You might be riding a bike, jumping rope, lifting weights, performing cardio, or any combination of these. Running shoes aren’t a great fit for these activities, however. Because there’s so much cushioning in your running shoes, lifting heavy weights may cause the shoes to collapse.

When you’re lifting a heavy dumbbell, the last thing you want is any instability in your stance. Additionally, cross training involves quite a bit of side to side movement. Running shoes aren’t adapted for this. They’re designed and intended for constant forward movement. Cross training activities, like group exercises, lifting, or agility exercises, are based around moving laterally.

When To Wear Running Shoes

You want to wear running shoes if you run regularly, and especially if you run outside. They’ll be light enough for an everyday run but comfortable enough to keep your shoe type protected. Running shoes are so comfortable that people often want to use them for cross training activities, but this is inadvisable.

Cross Training And Running

Some individuals may find that they enjoy both cross training and running. If this is the case for you, then your best option is to have a pair of cross trainers and a pair of running shoes – if you can afford it, that is. While this may seem like a waste of money initially, it actually can save you money in the long run.

Running shoes are only good for about 500 miles, after which they are too worn down to provide the cushion you need. Cross trainers are extremely durable, but if you’re using them for cross training and running, then they will still wear down faster. Having a pair for each means they’ll each wear evenly, and you won’t go through your shoes so quickly.

Not to mention that running with higher-functioning shoes means you’re less likely to get injured, preventing you from having any costly medical bills to pay.


Finding the right type of shoe for your activities requires self-assessment. Look at the type of workouts you enjoy doing and buy a shoe fit for that cause. If you perform a lot of different types of training in your workouts, you’ll need cross trainers.

If regular running is your thing, then you’ll need running shoes. Of course, doing both activities means you need two different pairs, one for each activity, to ensure they won’t be too run down to injure you further.

Additionally, if you’re a regular runner but would like to incorporate some cross training into your routine, buy a shoe made for cross training. The same goes for the opposite – if you’re a dedicated cross trainer who wants to get into running, buy a shoe for running. As always, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and healthy while you’re working out.

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