Finding the perfect pair of running shoes is a crucial and somewhat overwhelming task. Although size, functionality, and design are major deciding factors, people also consider the aesthetics of a shoe. That’s where a fashion-focused runner may be left wondering: Is it ever OK to run in the forever trendy high-top sneaker?
Professional athletes and podiatrists agree that it is not advisable to run in high tops. The flat soles, bulkiness, and lack of arch support make high tops unsuitable for running. Rather invest in a pair of shoes specifically made for running- for better performance, comfort, and reduced risk of injury.
If they are labeled as ‘sneakers’ – and often make a presence in NBA games, why is it never okay to run in high tops? What is the difference between high tops and running shoes? Discover the importance of proper running shoes and why high tops don’t make the cut.
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What Are High Tops?
High tops are popular street-style shoes that mostly come in the form of a lace-up sneaker. They are called “high tops” because, unlike regular shoes that stop just below the ankle, these sneakers extend above the ankle. With a wide variety of colors and designs, they are worn by males and females of all ages.
The advent of high tops dates back to the early 1900s. They have continued to trend as the most iconic footwear throughout the decades. Chuck Taylor All-Stars by Converse are undoubtedly the most popular high tops of all time (popularized by American basketball star Chuck Taylor himself). (In fact if you want to read specifically about Converse and running, make sure and check out our article, here)
6 Reasons Why High Tops Aren’t Ideal For Running
If you are going for a run for a few miles, you can definitely use just about any shoe, including high tops.
However, if you are looking for running shoes, you should skip high-tops. Whether you are running competitively, leisurely, on the road, or on the trail: high tops will not allow you to put your best foot forward!
Lack of Arch Support
High tops are flat shoes with very thin insoles. The flat heels and lack of cushioning may cause pain and discomfort because the arches of the feet are not aligned or supported during impact. There will be a greater strain on the feet, hips, knees, and back.
Lack of Mobility
It may sound counterintuitive, but high tops will not benefit the ankles when it comes to running. Reaching just above the ankles, these shoes are too restrictive, preventing freedom of movement.
In fact, some studies (like this one) have demonstrated that immobilizing a joint over the long-term can cause muscle weakness.
And this study showed that athletes that taped their ankles and wore low-top shoes had the lowest frequency of injuries as compared to high tops.
While ankle support is not proven to always be bad, it shouldn’t be chosen for athletic activity just because they look cool.
The thick rubber soles and canvas material make high tops significantly heavier than the average running shoe. This will increase resistance during running, which will hinder ease of movement and overall performance.
As most high tops are made from cotton canvas, they will not be waterproof. That’s fine and normal for outdoor running, however, if you get that cotton canvas wet it’s going to stay wet for a long time. If you’re running long distances you want as little water to stay in the material as possible.
Discomfort and Risk Of Injury
The flat soles, lack of padding, heaviness, and restrictive movement can lead to frustration and discomfort. The constant and rapid movement while running in high tops may cause chafing, blisters or even Plantar Fasciitis (pain in the heel and arch of the foot).
The raised upper and very stiff design of high tops can be very restrictive – reducing mobility and natural movement. This increases the possibility of injury.
- Hindered overall performance
Taking all this into account, hopefully it’s more evident that high-top sneakers aren’t the best choice for running and in fact can negatively impact your overall running performance.
Can I Do Other Forms of Exercise In High Tops?
While high tops are better suited for athleisure and everyday wear, there are a few instances where they may be acceptable during exercise:
- While using gym equipment like the rowing machine or stationary bike.
- When performing weightlifting exercises that don’t require much movement with the feet: squats, deadlifts, chest, shoulder, bicep and tricep exercises.
- Classic high-top sneakers like Chuck Taylors and Air Jordans have ruled the basketball courts for decades, but there has been a recent shift – the majority of professional and college basketball players prefer low-top sneakers.
As a rule of thumb, high tops are acceptable for exercises involving more static movement.
They are not the best for running, walking, jumping or cross-training where total flexion and freedom of the feet is needed.
How To Choose The Perfect Shoes For Running
Do not underestimate the importance of good running shoes. They are the foundation and key factor for comfortable, efficient, and injury-free running.
The process of selecting the ideal pair of shoes requires careful consideration of the individual’s anatomy, running style, environment, and goals. That is to say, what works for me probably won’t work for you.
Here is a step-by-step guide to picking the perfect pair (inspired by roadrunnersports.com link):
Step 1: The Environment
On what kind of surface will you be running?
- Treadmill Running: Road shoes are also suited for treadmills, but you can get away with a basic shoe that is lighter and less cushioned.
- Trail Running: You will need a shoe with sufficient tread and traction, providing stability for running off-road on rocks, roots, mud and in wet conditions.
- Road Running: Ample cushioning and flexibility will be needed for harder surfaces. Or, if you’re into barefoot running, this might not be the case!
- Long-distance running (Road or Trail): Cushioning is vital for longer distances. You may need to invest in a second pair of shoes so that you can rotate between the two.
Step 2: Shoe Size
Your running shoe will most likely be a half or full size bigger than your everyday footwear. Feet can swell during running- a slightly bigger size will help prevent blisters, black toenails, or at least discomfort.
Make sure to have enough toe room – about a thumb’s size space between the edge of your big toe and the end of the shoe.
The shoe should fit snugly (not too loose nor too tight!) around the heel and ankle to avoid slipping and chafing.
I did an article on fitting hiking shoes, actually, and although they aren’t the same type of shoe, there are a lot of principles that do apply. Make sure to check it out.
Some other tips from runningwarehouse.com.
Step 3: Foot Shape
Consider the shape of your feet, particularly the arches.
- High Arches (Underpronation): Look for shoes with thick cushioned insoles for better stability and comfort.
- Flat Feet (Overpronation): Your shoes need to have a broader mid-foot base and slight cushioning for support and shock absorption.
- Neutral Feet: You can get away with a shoe that provides regular cushioning and comes in the usual hourglass shape.
Step 4: Expert Tips
When you are ready to go out and purchase your shoes, keep the following tips in mind:
- As feet tend to swell, the ideal time to shop for running shoes is right at the end of the day.
- Always try on shoes with the actual type of socks you will wear for running.
- The size, fit and design of running shoes vary greatly. Do not assume that you will wear the same size in another brand or style. Your feet also change over time.
- It is worth investing in high-quality shoes that will last a lot longer and support your individual needs.
- Good quality running shoes will last anywhere between 300-500 miles (depending on usage). The average runner would need to replace their shoes every six months.
- Head straight to a store that specializes in running shoes. The salesperson can provide expert advice and assist with proper fitting. Some sports stores are equipped with treadmills – allowing you the opportunity to try out the shoes before purchasing.
- Looks don’t count! Instead, settle for a shoe that fits like a glove and provides you with the support and comfort you need.
Click on the link to view Runner’s World’s Top Picks for 2021.
When it comes to running, do not compromise functionality for fashion. A decent pair of running shoes will provide the support, comfort and stability you need to go the distance. Save your hip, hot and happening high tops for leisurely outings.