The importance of proper exercise shoes is often underrated. People talk about doing exercises right, planning out a routine, eating properly, and hydrating properly, among so many other workout tips, but seldom talk about appropriate footwear.
Consider these: Aerobics classes don’t require gym shoes. Since routines are done on a padded mat, wearing shoes is actually discouraged if not outright banned from the room for the sake of preserving the floor. But for many other exercises (with swimming and a few others excepted) proper workout shoes are a must not just to protect the feet but safeguard total well-being as well.
The type of shoes worn depends on the workout regimen. If you are a serious runner, you need to get running shoes. These are lighter than other kinds of workout shoes where padding is concentrated on areas runners need. They are not for playing tennis, for example, as they provide very little lateral ankle support. For tennis, or most other exercises that involve more than just moving in a straight line, you need a different kind of shoes: cross trainers or tennis shoes. Basically, both of these shoes are about the same thing – the modern version of the gym shoe, with plenty of padding, but still a low top to allow some flexibility and movement at the ankle.
If you play basketball, you need bigger sturdier shoes to adequately protect your ankle. These are called high tops, and they come up all the way to the top of the ankle. These shoes are great for this sport, because of repeated high jumps, bursting into sudden sprints in different directions, and doing many other things that can damage the ankle. They protect wearers from injuries much better than any other kind of exercise shoes, as almost all basketball players wear them. The same are not good for the kinds of sprints that tennis entails, however, so these are rarely worn by tennis players.
For cross country, a different pair of shoes is needed altogether. They are sort of a combination between tennis shoes and light hiking boots, with a fairly light build and plenty of traction on the bottom.