Shoes are one of the oldest forms of clothing and apparel - if not the oldest. Over the years, more and more different types of shoes have emerged, which has essentially resulted in a shoe type available for pretty much anything.
It can be a little hard to keep up with all of the different types of shoes currently available. If you are in search of a specific type of shoe for a certain use, it may be difficult to determine what you actually need.
The best buyer is an informed buyer after all, so we offer this guide as a way to learn and distinguish between many of the most utilized types of shoes, along with materials, sizing, styling, and more.
Over time, the uses for shoes have changed. While shoes were initially created for foot protection from the elements and rough surfaces, they have been expanded to offer uses for things such as sports, hiking, dancing, kitchen and restaurant work, and much more.
The drastic evolution of shoes has resulted in footwear that is made specifically for one activity or lifestyle. Purchasing the proper shoe to meet certain needs is crucial for proper comfort and function.
While the thought of specific men’s and women’s versions of shoes may seem like a marketing ploy.
The fact is that men and women have different foot shapes and sizes, along with some other physical characteristics that require different shoe builds.
The differences depend on the type of shoe, but the following three examples are fairly common.
There are dozens of different types of shoes available for a variety of purposes. The following types are among the most commonly used.
Not to be confused with running shoes, walking shoes are designed to accommodate casual walking on normal surfaces, and are one of the most commonly used shoe types for everyday wear.
Walking shoes are very versatile, and can sometimes be used for running as well, albeit not for long distances. Many choose to use walking shoes as their casual shoe choice when not wearing work shoes, or formal footwear for the workplace.
When walking, your weight rolls from the heel, through the ball and continues to the toe in one foot after the other. Walking shoes ensure that your body's weight is distributed more evenly on the foot than when in a running motion.
These shoes are made to cater towards specific body mechanics and walking paths.
They are designed to offer greater flexibility in the ball of the foot in order to allow a greater range of motion through the roll of the forefoot.
They also a large amount of arch support to protect where the downward force is heaviest on your foot.
Walking shoes often look like running shoes, or just generic “tennis” shoes that have a sort of athletic look to them. They favor plush cushioning on the inside, are almost always laced up, and have plenty of ventilation to allow the foot to breathe.
The outsoles of walking shoes have deep grooves that allow for greater flexibility, and are fashioned from rubber to provide solid grip on a wide range of smooth surfaces.
Walking shoes can vary greatly in terms of style, but the majority of them tend to have a sort of athletic appearance. This means a slightly aggressive stance, with some sharp, angled detailing to go along with textured outsoles and coordinated color schemes.
Many walking shoe models are available in multiple colors to allow for a more customized look. While some walking shoes are unizex, many have specific men's and women’s models of the same shoe, with the main stye differences being the color schemes.
Walking shoes have a snug fit, and are not overly tight unless the wearer chooses to pull the laces tighter. These shoes have enough room above the toes to allow for some wiggle room as well.
When walking, the foot should remain firmly in place, with no lifting or movement inside. The snug fit is often surrounded with added cushioning from both the insole and tongue of the shoe.
Running shoes are specifically designed to allow for optimal support and cushioning for running.
They can often resemble some other types of athletic shoes in appearance, but contain vastly different engineering that is more conducive for a running motion.
Like walking shoes running shoes are versatile as well, and can usually be utilized for everyday purposes. This makes them a favorite for casual use.
Running shoes are made to support at least 2-3x your bodyweight, which begins with your heel striking the ground first with each step. The result is more cushioning and stability in the hee, and less in the midsole and ball of your foot. This allows a natural flow of force from your heel to your toes with each step.
Running shoes are the lightest type of shoe available. The lighter weight results in less stress on your legs, and even a slight increase in speed. This lower weight amount also adds to the overall comfort level of the shoe. Top tier running shoes often weigh only a few ounces, while still maintaining rugged durability and ample cushioning.
Running generates a lot more heat inside your shoes than when walking or sitting. Because of this, running shoes have lots of mesh material, with plenty of added ventilation and heat-dumping features to keep the foot cool and as moisture-free as possible. This allows for better comfort, and helps guard against blisters.
Running shoes can vary in their overall style, but they almost always have a certain aesthetic that makes them recognizable. They front comes to a tapered point, and the toe section will curve slightly upwards when standing flat-footed.
The color schemes and design of running shoes are all over the place. Some models have a flashier look that involves bright colors and prominent brand placement, while others favor a minimalistic look that doesn’t draw much attention.
Either way, running shoes have a certain style to them that gives off a sort of fast, aggressive appearance.
Running shoes have a very snug and tight fit to them, which is made more comfortable because of their lighter weight. The tighter fit is intended to keep the foot more in place when running, which creates a better stride. This optimized stride ensures a more efficient running style, while also helping to avoid injuries over time.
By far one of the more broad types of shoes, dancing shoes are for exactly what their name implies. These shoes are designed for various forms of dancing, and can come in many different looks, styles, materials, and more.
Although many dance shoes look similar to formal shoes and dress shoes, they are almost never worn off of the dance floor or stage. This is due to both a desire to preserve them, and because of materials that are more fragile than those found in casual shoe types.
There are numerous styles and subgenres of dance shoes, but they can generally be placed into two main categories: Ballroom and Latin.
Ballroom dance shoes for men often look like a standard dress shoe, and may have a slight heel.
Latin dance shoes for men will have a higher arch, and a much more pronounced heel.
For the ladies, the differences are very similar. Women’s ballroom shoes take on numerous styles, and can include any number of shoe types. Latin dance shoes will have an open toe look, a much higher heel, and a higher number of straps.
The raised heel in Latin dance shoes helps to emphasize the waist movements found in this style of dancing.
Dance shoes vary depending on the type, but they do have some common features that are shared. First and foremost, they are very durable, with reinforced stitching and quality materials that ensure the shoe stays together and withstands heavy wear and use.
The uppers dancing shoes include many different materials or combinations of materials. With men’s shoes, the uppers are almost always leather. Women’s' shoes are often leather, satin or even suede.
Soles of dancing shoes can vary as well, but one thing you won’t find nearly 100% of the time is rubber soles. Dancing shoes opt for leather, suede, lambskin, and other soft materials for the sole. This gives a better amount of flex, along with proper grip that can provide a bit of slide when needed.
There really is no set style for dancing shoes, as their looks depend on what they are being used for. Men’s dancing shoes are usually oxford, with the heel size dependent on whether they are for Latin or ballroom dancing.
A proper fit is crucial with dancing shoes. The fit will be tight and very snug, and for some shoes, intentionally too small. This gives the dancer improved stability for quick maneuvering.
While there isn’t an official type of shoes for nurses, the term “nurse shoes” commonly refers to specially designed clogs that are made for and marketed towards nurses.
The overall goal with nurse shoes is comfort and protection. Nurses spend a good portion of their long shifts on their feet, so it’s important for them to have shoes that will give them the proper cushioning and support needed to get through each shift without any ill effects on their feet, legs, and back.
Nurse shoes have many features that are shared among models. Clog nurse shoes cover the entire foot, and don’t have any laces, velcro, or anything that leaves the foot exposed. The foot is entirely covered, which is important due to nurses sometimes coming into contact with messes and hazardous materials.
The closed-foot format protects the foot, and also makes the shoes easier to clean off in the event of a mess. The insoles have a high amount of cushioning to prevent foot pain, blisters, and more. The outsoles are almost always some sort of rubber that offers a firm level of grip on tile surfaces. Like restaraunt shoes, ideal nurse shoes are completely slip-free.
Styling can vary with nurse shoes, but the most common look is solid colored shoes with little to no decoration. Nurse shoes can come in an endless amount of colors, allowing nurses to match their shoes to their scrub colors.
Nurse shoes don’t require the tight fit that athletic shoes and dance shoes require, but they are still snug. They are easy to slip on, but should easily keep the foot grounded and stable when walking or standing.
Orthopedic shoes are used as a corrective measure for a wide range of foot and health issues. Although many associate these shoes with elderly people, the truth is that all ages can benefit from orthopedic shoes.
While the uses for these shoes depends on what problem they are intended to address, the most common uses are for bunions, calluses, plantar fasciitis, and diabetes.
The exact design for the shoes will vary, as they are dependent upon on the particular health problem of the person wearing them. However, there are some aspects that is shared by nearly every orthopedic shoe.
These shoes are noticeably wider than ordinary shoes, allowing the foot to rest as it should without any interference. An increased measure of arch support is present as well, along with lots of room within the toe box. All of these work together to provide a shoe that prevents that foor from being crammed.
Orthopedic shoes also have removable insoles that allow the wearer to use customized insoles that better cater to their condition, whether it’s improved arch support, stabilizing a leg that is shorter than the other, or targeted cushioning for specific problem areas.
Outsoles are almost always made from rubber, in order to provide better grip on smooth surfaces.
Orthopedic shoes were once considered bland and blocky, but newer designs and types have emerged to provide image-conscious wearers with a much better style. Traditional orthopedic shoes are notoriously simple, and usually have velcro straps instead of laces. The simplest versions are slip-ons.
Orthopedic shoes avoid being too tight, as that would defeat their purpose. Still, they are snug enough to provide a secure fit that prevents the foot from moving around during walking.
Fitness shoes are a very broad category that encompasses a number of specific designs and uses. They can be for anything from exercise to certain sports, and outdoor activities as well.
These shoes are among the most versatile available, as they can almost always be worn for everyday wear, in addition to whatever activity they were designed for.
Sometimes referred to as “cross-training” and “aerobics” shoes, training shoes are made to handle a number of physical activities, including weight-lifting, aerobics, running, yoga, and general gym and exercise usage. They often resemble running shoes, but have some added weight and reinforcement.
Most training shoes are lace-up, and have plenty of cushioning and support in the heel and midsole. The outsole is made from rubber, and has plenty of grooves and flex in order to provide a firm amount of grip and traction on nearly any surface.
Training shoes should be fit to your exact foot length and width in order to prevent foot issues and other potential health problems from repeated use over time.
Basketball shoes are a specific type of fitness shoe that provides the grip, stability, and support needed for the movement associated with basketball. These shoes are among the most iconic athletic shoes you’ll find, also also the most stylish.
Shock absorption is a huge aspect with basketball shoes. Some have air pockets, while others rely on gel and other forms of cushioning to help soften the blow when landing from a jump. Ankle support is a big key as well, as nearly every basketball shoe is considered a form of a high-top shoe.
Since basketbal relies on quick lateral and vertical movements, the outsole is very flexible, while still offering maximum grip on a basketball court. The overall fit with basketball shoes is very tight, from the toe box to the ankle area.
Soccer shoes (without cleats) are made for play on both indoor and grass surfaces. They are often very minimal in appearance, as well as their overall design.
These shoes have a low rise on the ankle, and are usually made from leather and canvas, with a longer tongue. The outsole is very flat, and has little in terms of grooves or tread. This provides a better surface to run on, and also a more ideal shape for striking a soccer ball.
The look and style of soccer shoes makes them popular as a casual shoe as well, and some prefer to use them when at the gym.
While boots were initially considered the most ideal for trekking and hiking, there are actually numerous hiking shoes that have come out that offer a great amount of functionality for hiking, especially in less harsh conditions.
Hiking shoes are very rugged, and are often made from durable leather that has been treated to resist water and moisture. The insoles have plenty of cushioning, while still offering the right amount of rigidity that gives the wearer better stability when traversing over rough terrain.
The outsoles are the most rugged part of the shoe, and have very deliberate tread patterns that are made to grip uneven and slick surfaces. A proper fit is crucial with these shoes, as getting a size too big or small can result in foot issues that are not very conducive for hiking.
Shoe sizing is widely measured in one of two ways: US, and European.
US sizes often have variants in width, especially for athletic shoes. These are referred to as narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide. Euro sizes are rarely available in different widths.
Shoes come in all sorts of different styles and types, but the actual materials used are commonly restricted to just a handful of different ones.
Leather is the oldest shoe material, and still responsible for the bulk of shoes made today, especially for more formal varieties. Suede leather is often used for casual shoes, which includes microfiber as well. In many cases, a mix of leather and and synthetic materials are used when making the out parts of a shoe.
Canvas is made from cotton, linen, and sometimes hemp. It is a top choice for athletic shoes, and usually has the appearance of leather. It is a bit cheaper than leather, and still possesses much of the same durability and pliability.
Mesh can be made from a number of different materials. It is used for several different types of shoes, as it provides a better way for the foot to breathe, while still being covered. Many athletic shoes have strategically placed mesh for ventilation and flexibility.
The most popular choice for outsoles, rubber is the most common material due to its flexibility and ability to provide firm grip. Some shoes may have more tread than others, but rubber is almost always the final layer on the bottom of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground.
Certain shoe accessories can help with everything from maintenance, to fit, cushioning, and overall style. Here are some of the most popular accessories.
While all lace-style shoes obviously come with their own set of laces, sometimes you may wish to have a different color, or go with a skinnier or flatter style. In this instance, you would choose to purchase the laces you’d like to use instead.
Leather and canvas shoes can be prone to damage from the elements. Exposure to water over the long term can do everything from stain the shoe, to causing it to warp. Shoe sealant allows you to provide a barrier between moisture and your shoe’s materials, making them last longer, while extending that new shoe look.
Hey, sometimes certain shoes can be a bit difficult to get on. Other times, you may wish to only undo the top lace, or loosen up the laces slightly. Shoe horns are a quick and easy way to slide your foot into the shoe without having to put up a fight.
Shoe inserts serve a variety of uses. In most cases, they add an extra layer of cushioning to a shoe that is either wearing down, or didn’t come with a satisfactory amount.
For others, they may be used to give the shoe a better fit, or position the shoe to facilitate better posture and walking strides.
You should now have a much better understanding of all the various shoe types, materials, and other information that can help steer you towards the shoe that is best for you and your particular needs.