The right shoes can make or break your workout, especially for older women. When it comes to finding the best workout shoes, Maria Pro, a certified personal trainer, professional natural bodybuilder, and the owner of online training company Muscle By Maria, looks for workout shoes that are lightweight and flexible but stable and supportive with zero-drop.
Find out what all of that means, plus the other advice Pro has on choosing the best workout shoes for women over 50 and where to buy her re recommendations!
Workout Shoes for Women: What to Look For
When it comes to finding workout shoes, older women should focus on three key features: shoes with zero-drop, a wide toe box, and a flexible sole.
Zero Drop Footwear
“[Some] of the biggest aspects women over 50 need to consider when it comes to their footwear are stability and lower heels,” Pro explains to Woman’s World. “A stable shoe is one that allows the foot to stay evenly grounded to the floor.” That’s where zero drop shoes come in.
“‘Zero drop’ refers to the angle between your toes and heel,” Pro elaborated. “Your typical shoe will lift the heel half of an inch to one inch off the ground, which can throw off the alignment of your spine and force your heel to strike the ground unnaturally. “With a zero-drop heel, your feet and ankles become more stable and you’re in a more optimal alignment,” says Pro.
Shoes with zero-drop can help correct your posture over time by aligning your spine. They can also help improve spine alignment, balance, and foot strength. “Women often notice improved posture and balance, as well as more ankle mobility!” Pro adds.
Wide Toe Box
Pro also says women should invest in shoes that have a wide toe box, or room that allows your toes to splay naturally. These kinds of shoes can reduce your risk of painful foot conditions like bunions and corns, but they’ll also promote better stability, balance, and overall foot strength.
“Our feet contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments, and they are all designed to work together for stability and mobility,” Pro educates. “If your foot is stuck in a shoe that crams all your toes close together, your toes’ natural movement and foot strength is hindered. This can weaken the musculature of the feet and lead to a host of issues in not just the feet, but the hip and low back as well.”
In summary, our feet need room to breathe! Put them in shoes with a wide toe box to promote movement.
Finally, Pro suggests looking for sneakers that have a flexible sole. There are two main reasons why flexible soles are beneficial:
- Flexible soles allow for natural movement. “A pliable footbed allows for full range of motion in the feet, which then allows for full range of motion in the hips, knees, ankles, and pelvis,” the personal trainer says. “This complete range of motion will allow the feet to get more of a workout than they would in a traditional shoe, which helps them strengthen up. Without a thick sole under your feet, your back/spine no longer needs to act as a shock absorber.”
- Flexible soles in barefoot shoes increase proprioception. “There is a high concentration of extremely sensitive nerve endings in our feet, around 200,00 per sole!” Pro says. “These nerve endings transmit sensory information to our brains. This info controls our motor function. The more our feet can feel, the more in-tune our body and brain will be. The higher your proprioception, the lower the risk of injury.”
Barefoot Shoes vs. Traditional Sneakers: Making the Switch
Swapping out your traditional workout sneaker for a barefoot shoe like the ones from Xero Shoes shouldn’t happen overnight. Instead, Pro suggests making the switch gradually, especially for women over 50.
“After 50-some years of wearing traditional, cramped, thick-soled and high-heeled shoes, switching to the complete opposite can be a little jarring as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet will likely be weak,” Pro said.
To build up that strength in your feet, Pro says to:
- Complete at least one barefoot walk per day for about a week. “Stay barefoot and walk around either outside in the yard or in your house to get the foot used to moving for longer durations while ‘naked’,” Pro says. Even five to 10 minutes can be beneficial, and you can slowly increase the time.
- Walk outside with your barefoot shoes. Once you’ve mastered the indoor walk barefoot, move that daily walk to the great outdoors. “Spend some time moving in your new shoes to let your toes and feet adapt to the new shape,” explains Pro. “Slowly build up the amount of time you’re spending in the shoes.”
- Actively work on strengthening your feet and toes through foot exercises. From toe spreads to picking up objects with your feet, Pro says any kind of stretching can all be helpful in making the switch from traditional workout sneakers to barefoot sneakers.
- Start wearing your barefoot shoes for more than just your daily walks. “Wear them to the gym, wear them to the grocery store, wear them for short hikes,” Pro says. The more you wear your new sneakers, the more your body will get used to them!
Pro concluded with this: “After some time spent slowly exposing your feet to different elements, you’ll find yourself never wanting to go back to a traditional shoe ever again! Goodbye knee pain, plantar discomfort, low-back irritation — hello, happy feet!”
Expert-Backed Workout Shoes for Women
The Prio is Xero Shoes’ bestselling shoe, with more than 13,000 reviews! “Whether you’re out on a run, trying out a new trail, or hitting the gym, the Prio is touted as the most comfortable shoe for anything you do,” Pro reports. “Lightweight and designed with breathable mesh, the wider foot-shaped toe box keeps feet feeling comfortable all day. A grippy, slim 5.5mm rubber sole gives great protection while still getting the ground feedback that your feet love.”
“The Prio Neo is a sleek performance training shoe that’s ready for action and all-day comfort,” Pro says. “A moisture-wicking lining keeps your feet cool.“
“The Forza Trainer is made for weight lifting with the bootie-style construction and instep strap that provides a more custom fit, ensuring you stay stable and secure,” Pro says.
Want more comfortable shoe recommendations? Keep reading!