There are 9 basic types of running shoes, and it’s useful to own pairs from at least a few different categories.

First, you want two different styles to give your feet a little variety. Even if you are going out for just a random training run, it does not hurt to use different kinds of shoes. The shoes may belong to the same category of shoes, or they may belong to different categories. But, you should try to rotate at least two different makes or models.

Second, you will want to use different shoes for different occasions. A Sunday run might call for trainers, but a 1 mile race on the track probably calls for some sort of racing shoe such as spikes or flats while trail shoes will help keep you on your feet when running among rocks and roots. Having a few different styles lets you choose a shoe appropriate for the race or workout that is on order for the day.

Here are the 9 basic styles of running shoes:

  • Trainers: Heavier shoes with plenty of cushioning. These are all-around every day use running shoes. Most of these shoes are designed to correct the running gait of people who pronate or supinate too much.
  • Lightweight Trainers: These are trainers that might not offer as much padding, but they weigh a few ounces less than regular trainers and for some people make a good alternative for every day running. They tend to be more neutral and don’t cater specifically to pronaters or supinaters.
  • Trail Shoes: Some trail shoes are little more than a way to give your feet an aggressive tread and don’t provide much support, and others tend to support your ankles a little better than the average trainer. Most trail shoes have a more aggressive tread on them than the average road shoe. These shoes are ideal for running through puddles and navigating around roots and rocks.
  • Cross Trainers: These shoes tend to be heavier than trainers, and usually provide much more support for your ankles. These shoes are ideal if you want one pair of shoes for running in and playing basketball or tennis in.
  • Racing Flats: Lightweight shoes that weigh sometimes half as much as the average trainer, these shoes are ideal for road races and can be used on the track. If you prefer more of a minimal approach, they can be used in place of trainers.
  • Spikes: Spikes are similar to racing flats but with metal teeth in the soles that can grip a track surface or grass and earth on a cross country course. These shoes are lightweight like racing flats, but usually have threaded holes in the bottom that you can screw in a variety of different spikes and plugs. These shoes are perfect for a fast track race, and for maintaining your footing during a cross country race. They are especially useful in cross country races when it is raining. They can be uncomfortable to wear if you have to run on roads or other hard surfaces, and doing so will dull your spikes very quickly. The spikes should be removed and cleaned after every race.
  • Waffles: Similar to spikes and racing flats, these lightweight shoes have a little bit more tread on them and might have rubber spikes in the same patterns as spikes. These shoes are best suited for cross country racing, especially if you will need to cross or run along any roads. If a course is flooded or very wet, you may prefer the traction that spikes offer, however.
  • Minimalist Shoes: These are any type of shoe that is designed for running but is meant to mimic barefoot running as closely as possible while providing a small measure of protection for your feet. Vibram Five Fingers are a brand that have articulated toes and are worn similar to gloves except on your feet. Huaraches are another type of minimalist shoe that resembles a sandal. They consist of a thin sole attached to your foot and ankle by a thong.
  • Walking Shoes: These shoes can be of any variety. They might be sneakers, they might be boots, they might be dress shoes, or sandals; these can be any shoe that is not meant for running. It is becoming surprisingly popular among the barefoot crowd to find flat shoes that offer as little support as possible and convert them into running shoes.

Personally, I do most of my training in trail shoes or using as lightweight a shoe as I can among racing flats, minimalist shoes, or even running barefoot.