Athletic shoes is a very generic term used to group many different styles of shoes. When most people hear the term athletic shoes, the words tennis shoes, or running shoes, or basketball shoes come to mine depending on your background and the types of sports that interest you, but at the same time, you are probably envisioning in your mind a pair of cross trainers. Men’s athletic shoes as a category is confounded by the diversity of different styles and the convoluted way in which people refer to the different styles. For example, while a person may be wearing a pair of generic athletic styles shoes, they would probably say to their friend that they’re wearing an old pair of tennis shoes.
So why are there so many different types of men’s and even women’s athletic shoes? Fundamentally, it is because athletics is a competition. Because competition is inherent in all sports we seek to have a competitive advantage. Even if the completion is past personal performance, we are always seeking to improve and be better. Thus footwear for each sport has evolved to provide maximum performance for that sport, and with so much diversity in the nature of each sport, you can expect to find great diversity in athletic shoes.
For example, basketball shoes have evolved to have maximum traction on a perfectly flat surface. Hence, you will find very shallow tread and lots of surface area. Basketball shoes also tend to have more advanced compression in the heel and are more often than not high tops, because the constant jumping associated with the sport demands more protection from compression, and the constant changes in direction brings a greater need for ankle support. None of these features would be ideal for a football player, or a runner for that matter.
While this may all seem rather obvious, realizing this has big implications for the person deciding on a new pair of men’s athletic shoes. The vast majority of individuals looking to buy a new pair of athletic shoes are not looking to be ultra competitive in sports, they just want something comfortable to wear to the gym, or they can play a game in should their friends decide to get a game together. Thus, when deciding on a new pair of shoes, you need to decide what you are realistically going to be doing in your shoes, how frequently you plan to wear them, and how many pairs of shoes you want to own.
The avid sportsman should plan on having multiple pairs of shoes (one for the major sports they play) while the general person just looking for one pair of athletic shoes should generally focus either on a pair of comfortable cross trainers or on the one sport they want to focus on.
If you really just want the look of athletic shoes but don’t plan on competing, the best categories include cross-trainers, running shoes, walking shoes, and trail runners. All of these shoes have good cushioning in the heel, breathe well, are lightweight, and have decent traction. The key features of any well rounded athletic shoe.