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Spring in your step: The best exercise shoes

Do you run in your tennis shoes, or cross-train in your running sneakers? If so, you could be damaging your body. TODAY gear and technology editor Paul Hochman explains why athletic sneakers are not one-size-fits-all-workouts.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association and the British Journal of Sports Medicine, just 20 minutes of almost any kind of physical activity a week actually “help[s] mental health …” and “the more vigorous the activity, the greater the benefit.”

The foundation of almost any land-based exercise, of course, is the feet, and great workout shoes can enhance the benefits of your exercise time. Choosing wisely can help burn off the calories and, because shoes have gotten so specialized, keep you excited about your favorite sport. Here are some of the best high-tech shoes for warmer weather and warmer thoughts.

Trail running and wet weather
The Mizuno Wave Ascend 3One of the best ways to keep your workouts fresh is to literally get away from it all. In other words, a good walk or light run on a trail is not only easier on the knees, it’s easier on the eyes — variety will keep you inspired to keep exercising.

One of the best trail-running shoes available is called the Wave Ascend 3 (see image above), made by the huge Japanese sporting-goods manufacturer Mizuno. Two things recommend the shoe — first, the sticky rubber compound in the sole grips nicely on wet rocks, roots and mud, and the tread is excellent for both ascents and descents.

But the best part about the shoe is something you’ll feel the second you land on it — Mizuno’s “Dynamotion Fit” splits the shoe into three sections, so the moment your foot hits the ground, the shoe actually stays tightly wrapped around your ankle. Most shoes expand on impact right around the mid-foot, creating a gap and making your foot slip. But the Wave Ascend 3 is a great, stable shoe for walking or running on trails. $90;

Health club workouts
Under Armour Proto Power Trainer for men and Proto Evade Trainer for women Admit it: The only woods you see during your workout are the cedar walls of the sauna at your health club. So don’t wear a running shoe. Seriously: Running shoes offer almost no lateral (side-to-side) stability, because they’re only designed to go forward, in a straight line. Taking an aerobics class in a running shoe can actually be hazardous to the health of your ankles.

So get a health club or “cross-training” workout shoe. One of the best laterally supported shoes is from a company that first emerged in 1996 as a next-to-skin workout apparel maker — Under Armour. Their new Proto Power Trainer for men and Proto Evade Trainer for women offer elastic support in the forefoot (for lateral strength) and something called directional cushioning engineering (DCE) in the heel that cradles the ankle during aerobics or stretching exercises. Both have nonmarking rubber soles, so the manager won’t yell at you for scuffing the hardwood. Both shoes will be available on May 3. Men’s, $100, women’s, $80;

TennisThe Adidas Barricade 5Most people don’t realize that Adidas, the “brand with three stripes,” gets its name from the company’s founder — Adi Dassler. But most tennis fans know that the best-selling tennis shoe of all time is the Adidas Barricade 5. The shoe has always offered amazing cushioning and lateral stability, but this spring, the company has improved its cushioning adiPRENE foam to absorb impact on hard courts and has squeezed another 35 grams out of the shoe to make it lighter than it has ever been. Comes in three different color choices. $100;

And one last piece of advice: No matter what your sport or activity, choosing the right shoe is not always a matter of dropping by a big sporting goods store and hoping to find somebody who knows about shoes. A footwear specialist in your area can help you choose the right shoe and guarantee you get the right fit. Now get out there and have fun!

Paul Hochman is the gear and technology editor for the TODAY Show and a Fast Company magazine contributor. He covered the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Athens and Torino, Italy, for TODAY. He was also a three-year letter winner on the Dartmouth ski team and has a black belt in karate. Paul’s blog can be found at: