Difference Between Sneakers And Running Shoes

Step into the world of footwear and you’ll find yourself tangled in a web of choices, each claiming to enhance your performance in ways you’ve never dreamed possible. From sleek and stylish sneakers to the high-tech wonders of running shoes, the battle for supremacy on our feet is more intense than ever before. But what sets these two titans apart in the fiercely competitive realm of footwear? Join us as we venture into the untrodden territory of sneakers and running shoes, unraveling their secrets, dissecting their distinctive features, and discovering the difference that lies in every stride. Whether you’re a casual walker, a seasoned marathon runner, or simply a curious observer seeking enlightenment, get ready to immerse yourself in the intriguing world where comfort, functionality, and style collide. Because, my friends, when it comes to the battle between sneakers and running shoes, both sides are vying for your allegiance – but only one can emerge victorious. So, lace up your shoes and take a leap into this captivating journey where we explore the wondrous and subtle disparities that lie between sneakers and running shoes. Let the quest begin!

What Are Sneakers?

A lot of people often wonder “what is considered a sneaker?”, so let’s get that out of the way before we dive into the difference between sneakers and running shoes.

Sneakers are generally soft shoes. The original purpose of this type of footwear is to be worn for athletic and physical activities.

But with time, the comfort and support provided by sneakers along with their laid-back appearance shifted their use to casual settings and everyday life.

Also referred to as trainers, sneakers nowadays come in an extensive variety of styles and designs with widely varying levels of padding, cushioning, and support depending on what you want to use them for.

While all sneakers are built to provide comfort, stability, and support, different designs are better suited than others for walking, occasional jogging, exercising, playing sports such as volleyball, and doing outdoor activities such as hiking.

Some sneakers feature rubberized soles to improve traction and prevent slipping on polished or sandy surfaces, while others feature additional cushioning for absorbing impact against hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.

What Are Running Shoes?

Running shoes are a type of footwear designed specifically to meet the physical needs of runners when it comes to foot/leg support, cushioning, stability, and comfort.

They’re manufactured to be lightweight and shock-absorbent to eliminate any maneuvering issues and reduce the risk of sustaining injuries while running.

Difference Between Sneakers and Running Shoes:Grey sport shoes on blue background

Sneakers vs Running Shoes

Now that you better understand what sneakers and running shoes are, let’s take a closer look at the differences between them and the aspects that make each type of footwear unique.


One of the most notable differences between sneakers vs running shoes is the performance they allow you to produce.

Sneakers are built for casual use and low-impact athletics where you’d move side to side.

This includes events like walking, occasional jogging, gym exercises, playing sports such as badminton and tennis, and outdoor activities such as hiking.

On the other hand, running shoes are specifically made to provide the support, cushioning, and comfort required for running.

Their design helps runners move forward with greater momentum while absorbing shocks to prevent injuries.


Flexibility is an important aspect in designing sneakers and running shoes as it factors in the level of comfort and support that each type of footwear offers.

On one hand, sneakers typically have their flex positioned between the heel and midfoot sections. This is to accommodate the different movements required for various activities such as moving side to side and going back and forth.

On the other hand, running shoes bend only at the arch section. This is to accommodate the fact that runners hit the ground with their toes first.


No matter the activity you’re doing, your shoes should provide enough cushioning to provide protection and keep you comfortable for as long as possible. The level of cushioning required depends on how high-impact the activity you’re doing is.

Casual outings, walking, jogging, outdoor activities, and gym exercises are all examples of low-impact activities where you hit the ground with a maximum weight of 1.5 times your body weight. As such, sneakers can be suitable in these scenarios because they feature less cushioning.

On the other hand, running is a high-impact activity that causes you to hit the ground with a maximum weight of 3 times your body weight. In this case, your forefoot and heels take the greater stress, so running shoes are more appropriate as they feature more padding and plenty of cushioning to absorb such shocks.

Heel Height

The heel height is different in sneakers compared to running shoes since they address different activity requirements.

In sneakers, heels are designed to be nearly flat because users don’t need special support for certain parts of their feet.

In everyday use and low-impact activities, your entire foot hits the ground at the same time, so the pressure is mostly distributed evenly. As such, there’s no point in raising the heel height.

On the other hand, running causes you to hit the ground with your toes first then all the weight shifts to your heel to give you the momentum needed for moving forward.

This sequence means you need ample flexibility and cushioning in the arch, as well as extra height in the heel to give the extra push required for the next step.

Breaking In

Breaking sneakers in doesn’t require any special measures. The whole process should be over within a couple of days and with minimal risks.

However, running shoes are a different story.

If you’re trying to break in new running shoes but they’re the same model as an old pair you already own and have been using, then the new shoes will likely require a break-in period no longer 3 or 4 days of everyday runs or 3 to 4 runs over several days.

This is because your feet will already be accustomed to the shoes’ design, including the level of cushioning, support, and stability they offer.

As such, your running posture, stride, and gait shouldn’t differ that much when you run in the new shoes of a model you’re used to.

That said, keep the following points in mind:

  • Your first run with your new but familiar running shoes should be of moderate mileage to make up for any tweaks that may have occurred in the new version of the same model compared to the last one.
  • Be on the lookout for any changes in the feel of the shoes while you run as the new shoes may include some upgrades even if they’re sold under the same model. From there, you’ll be able to make adjustments (such as wearing thinner or thicker running socks) if needed.

But what if you bought new running shoes in a different model than you’re used to?

In this case, breaking your new running shoes will take the usual period of around 2 to 3 weeks. The frequency of running in the new shoes can shorten or prolong the process.

That said, your first couple of runs in your new running shoes should also be of low to moderate mileage to avoid injuries resulting from the unfamiliar design.

Difference Between Sneakers and Running Shoes:Pair of pink sneakers isolated on white background

1. “Stepping into Style: Unraveling the Distinction Between Sneakers and Running Shoes”

Sneakers and running shoes – two popular footwear choices that often prompt debates on their differences and similarities. As we step into the fascinating realm of footwear, an exploration of the fine line between these two styles becomes imperative.

At first glance, one might assume that sneakers and running shoes are interchangeable. However, a closer examination reveals distinct characteristics that set them apart:

  • Design: Sneakers tend to focus on style and fashion, featuring vibrant colors, bold patterns, and innovative designs that make a statement. In contrast, running shoes prioritize functionality, emphasizing comfort, support, and performance-enhancing features.
  • Outsole: Sneakers often boast a flexible rubber outsole that provides versatility and ease of movement for various activities. Running shoes, on the other hand, place emphasis on stability and grip, incorporating advanced treads and materials to optimize traction on different surfaces.
  • Cushioning: While both sneakers and running shoes offer cushioning, their purposes differ. Sneakers often prioritize shock absorption for casual wear, whereas running shoes focus on impact reduction to safeguard joints during high-impact activities.

2. “From Pavement to Podium: Unveiling the Unique Characteristics of Sneakers versus Running Shoes

What is the difference between sneakers and running shoes?  

Depending on which English-speaking country you’re in, you may hear sneakers be referred to as athletic or training shoes, meaning they are used for the rapid movement of sports, such as regular gym-going, walking, or any other athletic activity not including running.

Running shoes, on the other hand, are specifically designed for high-impact, long-distance running. The speed of your jog and your weight press the front and back of the shoe, absorbing 4x your body weight than sneakers. Because of the level of strain and impact, running shoes are lighter and internally more spacious.

See my other articles on whether running shoes should be tight or loose or too big for more of my thoughts on this.

Are Sneakers the Same as Running Shoes? 

While there is some overlap between sneakers and running shoes, the function and design are not the same. The table below showcases the distinct differences between the two.

Running Shoes Sneakers/Training Shoes
Function  Long-distance running Any kind of intense athletic trainingCushioned
Design Low-top Low-top & high-topBreathability

Sneakers are designed to maximize cushioning, as rapid movement between the front, back, and midsole is frequent and can negatively affect the medial longitudinal arch, or the mid section of your foot.

Athletic training shoes are designed for maximum cushioning to help ensure motion control, whereas running shoes are designed for maximum breathability.

Key difference between sneaker and running shoe

The main difference between the design of sneakers and running shoes is the shape of the midsole.

The midsole is the most functional portion of the running shoe. Unlike the intense cushioning of a sneaker, the midsole is not only designed to soften impact but to conform to different foot shapes, as well.

What Makes a Sneaker a Running Shoe? 

Because running shoes serve a different function than sneakers, they vary in arch support.

The Midsole

As mentioned, midsoles in running shoes are important. Running shoes need to bend and conform to the runner’s foot and the speed, which affects impact.

Yet they also need to be thick enough to protect the arch of your medial longitudinal arch, the first area of the foot that begins to ache for long-distance runners. When negatively affected in that region, you may develop plantar fasciitis, an inflammatory condition that affects low-arched and high-arched people.

While running shoes may not have as much cushioning, the midsoles are still very stiff. The stiffness is the only significant cushioning of the running shoe and is meant to protect you from injury and ease discomfort.

The midsole is stiff yet flexible. When considering a new pair of running shoes, try to bend the shoe from the toes to see if the sole is flexible and aligns with the shape of your foot.

While it may be difficult to know the exact level of midsole stiffness (since manufacturing companies do not provide this information), it’s still an important factor to consider.

The variation of thickness between the length of the midsole is also important.

For example, the midsole beneath the rear foot is thicker than the midfoot for added protection against heel trauma.

Runners with a low arch tend to purchase stiffer midsoles, while runners with a high arch often buy more flexible midsoles.

Arch Height

Midsoles are important because of the way they affect your arch, or the medial longitude arch, of your foot. You’ve probably heard the phrase “flat feet” being used to insult someone who’s clumsy.

The human foot can be categorized between one of five accepted shapes in our species: Greek, Roman, Celtic, German, and Egyptian.

These five shapes refer to different curvatures of our arch.

Thus, runners will experience different injuries based on their arch height and width.

As far as manufacturing for various foot types, companies have narrowed down three general categories to measure arch height: low, neutral, and high arch. Or Square, Egyptian, and Greek.

If you are a low-arched individual, or someone with “flat feet” like me, then less cushion is necessary. However, if you have a high arch or a “Greek” foot, then more cushioning is required for shock absorption.

Someone with a neutral arch, Egyptian, which is about 70% percent of the population, should get semi-curved cushioning that supports the end of your heal to the ball of your foot.

Can Sneakers be used for Running? 

As a general rule, no. While many people assume more cushioning is the best, the pressure of running can negatively impact your foot. Running shoes are designed to enhance your landing and strides.

As you run, your feet hit the ground with the force 4x your weight. Therefore, more cushioning can hurt your feet on impact or as time goes on. Instead, opt for space and breathability with a sturdy, yet flexible, midsole.

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