Different shoes have different purposes and the shoe you choose for one type of exercise differs from another.
A useful test you can use to help choose your shoe is the wet test.
Find a piece of brown or dark paper. Wet the foot and step on the paper.
Neutral arch – a distinct curve along the inside
Low arches or flat feet – an almost flat print with no curve on the inside. If your shoes wear on the inside you may be prone to over-pronation.
High arches – only a portion of front foot and a narrow connection between the two. You are prone to under pronation.
Neutral – a shoe with a balance of cushioning and support
Low arches – maximum support and motion control
High arches – a cushioned shoe with a soft mid-sole
Footwear buying tips
Bring your own socks – the ones you will wear to the gym or any orthotics you need. A thick pair of socks can make shoes uncomfortable. Beware when wearing trainer socks. Often they are lower than the back of the trainer. This can lead to rubbing.
Shop toward the end of the day. As your feet swell over the course of the day your shoes should fit your feet when they're at their largest.
Don’t be fooled by the special features.
Often these are just gimmicks to get shoes of the racks. If a trainer has been around for some time then the technology is probably good.
Replace them when you need to.
The average pair of running shoes should be replaced after about 350-400km. Also they will probably stink by now.
Much has been made recently about running patterns and which shoe to wear for a particular kind of exercise. Let’s keep it simple.
Running shoes – obviously good for running or forward motion. Little or no lateral support.
Tennis shoes – great for lateral support and a firm sole.
Barefoot shoes – not great for running unless you are in perfect physical shape and balance. Also not great if you drop a 20kg dumbbell on your toe either.
Fashion trainers – good for looking good but not much else.
In summary - If you are going to run wear a running shoe. If you are going to do a lot of cross training then wear a flat, firm sole with good lateral support.