The Major Differences Between a Functional Fitness Training Shoe and a Running Shoe

The Major Differences Between a Functional Fitness Training Shoe and a Running Shoe

We have all heard the saying, if the shoe fits, wear it. This may be true in our lives from a social point of view, but this is not the case when it comes to wearing shoes for exercise. It isn’t about the one-size-fits-all formula, instead, it is important to pick the correct shoe based on the exercise you do.

What are the main differences between functional fitness training and running shoes?

There is a big difference between the two. As the name suggests, running shoes are designed for running and training shoes are intended for a range of different movements. The design of each shoe is tailor-made to benefit and enhance the type of exercise taking place. Knowing the reason for these differences will help you make a more informed decision. These differences take place in numerous ways.

Flexibility & Stability

Running is about going forward, and shoes designed for this are more flexible to allow for a smoother heel-toe transition. Functional training requires more multidirectional and lateral movements and therefore these shoes have a more flexible midsole to hold up better whilst doing side-to-side exercises.

Heel-to-toe drop

This term is used to describe the thickness in the sole of the shoe in the heel versus the toe. Running shoes generally have a higher heel drop, meaning the difference in height between the heel and toe is much greater to allow for better cushioning and more support when running, whereas shoes for functional training will have a lower heel drop for a better range of movements.


Running shoes are more lightweight than their functional fitness counterparts which rely on shoes with more structure and support to endure the weight of the athlete and the equipment being lifted.

Traction & Protection

As runners usually run on surfaces that offer fairly good traction, shoes of this nature are only partially covered by grippy rubber. A functional training shoe will have more of this rubber extending to other parts of the shoe to boost traction and allow for safe and quick movements. Shoes designed for trail running are designed to offer more protection from the elements and provide added stability on uneven surfaces. Functional training shoes incorporate similar features.


This is important in any shoe. Due to the higher heel drop in running shoes, more cushioning in the heel is provided leading to better shock absorption for each step. This is especially true for athletes who require shoes for long distance running. For the functional fitness shoe, a happy medium is best. Too much cushioning will make you less aware of the floor when lifting weights but too little will not make for a comfortable landing in jumps. Cushioning in a shoe designed specifically for functional fitness will undoubtedly be found in the heel as well as the front portion of the shoe. This is to help absorb impact from movements, such as burpees and box jumps, leading you to land on your forefoot rather than your heels. Training shoes also feature a wider toe box (the area of the shoe where your toes and forefoot are positioned) to allow the toes to splay better during heavy weight training or weightlifting.


All shoes, regardless of their use, should offer basic support. A running and training shoe is no different. Running shoes are most commonly neutral, offering a typical amount of support but can be tailored to fit a specific foot. For example, shoes designed to help offset excessive pronation. Functional fitness training shoes are built with a particular objective in mind. The main support can be found in the upper, to reinforce the foot during multidirectional and lateral movements, and in the heel for squats and other weighted exercises.

Whether you are running or doing functional training, understanding key differences between the correct shoe are very important. Selecting a fit for purpose shoe will assist you to train better, minimise the risk of injury and help you perform at your peak in every race or competition.

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