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Importance of Proper Fitness Clothing and Footwear

Reading Time: 6 minutes 59 seconds

BY: Dominique Groom

DATE: 2022-04-28

As a personal trainer, you do your best to work out your clients and help them meet their goals. You also have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent them from getting injured.

You might do this by assisting with lifts, teaching, and monitoring good form, and encouraging hydration and proper rest. But there’s one other thing you need to be mindful of when training clients (and for yourself): what to wear while working out.

Importance of Proper Clothing and Footwear

Style and looking good in the gym may be important for some of your clients. However, making the right shoe and clothing choices serve an even greater purpose. That purpose is to help prevent injuries. 

For example, research has found that running shoe choice can dramatically raise or lower your risk of injury to the ankle and foot. Since runners are at higher risk of plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, and other similar injuries, reducing the impact on these joints and tissues helps keep them in the sport they love.

It is similar to how a construction worker benefits from wearing safety shoes while on the job. Protective footwear helps reduce injury should something heavy accidentally drop on their lower legs. Safety boots become as important to their feet as hard hats are to their heads or safety goggles are to their eyes.

Studies have also reported that workout attire can impact performance and endurance. This creates a case for wearing proper attire during training sessions. When clients realize that it can boost their results, they’ll be begging for a dress code. They’ll come to you for advice about which sportswear will make them better at their sport of choice. 

Help your clients by educating them as to how to choose the best workout gear for their training sessions. One of the first conversations to consider is the materials in their fitness attire. 

Why 100% Cotton Is Not Appropriate Clothing

Overheating can be a real problem when working out, especially during the warmer months. Moisture-wicking, breathable clothing is best when temps are high and cotton does not meet these requirements.

When you sweat in a cotton shirt, it gets damp, heavy, and clingy. The moisture just stays there. This is problematic because damp clothing can cause overheating or heat injury, like heat stroke. 

Cotton is also not the best for exercising in cold weather. Because it doesn’t wick away the moisture, you’re left wet and cold. This can put you at greater risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

The bottom line is that synthetics or blends are best for workout clothes. These materials help with thermoregulation during a workout in any type of weather.

The choice of fabric impacts performance as well. Synthetic clothes improve heat tolerance while exercising. Breathable, moisture-wicking clothes can help your client keep going longer than in cotton clothes. Here’s what the research says about synthetics as compared to cotton workout gear:

  • Synthetics are more comfortable. Female athletes participating found the polyester (synthetic) clothing more comfortable.

  • Synthetics improve performance. These athletes also performed better in the synthetics than when wearing cotton clothing.  

  • Synthetic workout gear may smell more, but so what? Studies show that synthetic workout gear develops a funkier stink than cotton, but the benefits of synthetic clothing still outweigh that slight stench. Plus, you can now find synthetic workout gear embedded with materials that prevent bacteria from thriving in it, which reduces the odor.

Encourage clients to buy synthetic sports clothing instead of clothes made of cotton. Workout clothes are more advanced these days, so clients should have no problem finding the right clothes. Most activewear contains polyester, spandex, and a moisture-wicking proprietary blend. 

Cotton socks should be avoided too. As with other parts of your body, your feet will sweat when working out. If socks are not breathable and don’t wick away moisture, this can cause friction, rubbing, and blisters. All of these are painful and can lead to training setbacks. 

How Compression Clothing Helps

Wearing compression gear may be great for the figure, but it also offers important exercise benefits. Compression helps improve blood flow and circulation while reducing swelling. This can result in less pain. Many professional athletes use compression sleeves for this reason.

The studies on compression are mixed, but most have found that there is some benefit to wearing it. In one study, researchers found that compression can help improve some aspects of performance and endurance, such as time to exhaustion, running economy, and form.

The word compression can be seen on many pieces of workout clothing, but this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a garment will provide benefits. The compression that you see on the tag for a pair of $20 leggings, for example, is most likely not therapeutic. If your clients want to try compression, they need to use real compression garments.

That said, people with certain medical conditions must be careful when wearing compression. Someone with diabetes, for example, should only wear compression gear if their doctor has approved it, and then it should be seamless and not too tight.

Compression may have some benefits, but you also don’t want to go too far. If workout gear is too tight, it could impact performance in a negative way. The converse is also true, so help clients choose compression clothing that is sized right for them.

Proper Footwear Depends on Workout Type

Shoes are among the most important pieces of workout gear. They are crucial to both performance and injury prevention. There are a lot of things to think about when choosing the proper shoe, but the biggest mistake many clients make is using the same shoe for everything.

Choosing a Shoe for the Weight Room

If your client does a lot of weightlifting, proper shoes can help them lift more and stay balanced. Running shoes are too soft to be used for heavy weightlifting. The cushion can make you feel off-balance and lead to improper form. 

Weightlifting shoes are important for keeping you close to the ground and stable, and therefore for generating more force to be able to do the heavy lifting. The lower to the ground your client is, the better they are set for weightlifting and plyometrics.

The heel in weightlifting shoes can also help you squat deeper because of a bigger range in the ankle. This helps keep the body in better alignment by keeping the chest upright. Cross-training shoes can be useful for clients who will be incorporating some cardio into their lifting workout and need a little more support than a minimal or lifting shoe.

Choosing a Running Shoe

Choosing shoes for running is a completely different task. Not wearing appropriate footwear can result in serious pain and injury. 

Cushioning is important for injury prevention because it protects the joints from impact. Good shoes support the whole foot, ankle included. This is especially important for distance running.  

There are three different categories of running shoes based on this factor:

  • Stability. These shoes have medial support, which helps stabilize runners who tend to overpronate.

  • Neutral. Neutral running shoes are neutral in support, which means they work for runners who supinate a little or over-pronate only slightly.

  • Motion control. These running shoes are for people who severely over-pronate.

Size is also a factor to consider when choosing running shoes. If the shoes are too small, there will be more friction. This can cause blisters. You can also lose a toenail from the excess rubbing. Tight shoes can also contribute to other foot problems, such as ingrown toenails.

You want to have at least a thumb width of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. This helps account for swelling in the feet. 

A somewhat overlooked point when picking the right gym shoes is how much the person weighs. People who carry more weight need more cushioning for joint protection. Their shoes will also run out of cushion faster.

If you’re running outside in the rain or snow, it’s also helpful to select a slip-resistant shoe. This reduces your risk of a slip and fall.

When to Toss Running Shoes

Some people think that if they buy a pair of shoes, they should be good for a few years. Yet, shoes used for training of any type need to be replaced regularly.

Running shoes will last 500 miles at most. This can mean something different to everyone. For some people, 500 miles is three months. For others, it's six months or longer.

Counting miles is helpful, but a good general rule is to listen to your joints. If you start to feel pain while running, your shoes are probably worn out and ready to be replaced. This can be said about most athletic shoes. Also, lighter shoes wear quicker than those with more cushioning.

Wardrobe may seem like a small part of training, yet it can impact your client’s safety and results. This is why it’s helpful to educate them about the importance of choosing the proper gym gear for the right activity. This leads to optimal performance and minimal injuries. 

Ever wish you could get paid to work out? Then becoming a personal trainer may be right for you. But be sure you get the right certification. ISSA will get you certified in just weeks and set you up for success with our job guarantee. Check out our personal trainer certification programs.

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