Gearing Up: Shoes and The Girls

Remember the last time you went to a party, job interview, on a date, or to an event and weren’t wearing the right clothes for the situation? Feel like you didn’t get the memo? Did it throw you off your game, feel as though you wanted to hide, all eyes were on you, wanted to go home, keep your coat on—all of the above?

Put the shoe on the other foot: Remember a time when you had your clothes completely dialed in from head to toe, looking good, perfect fit, stylin’, on top of  the world, felt like a million bucks? Did you notice a boost in your confidence?

Most of us feel better and more confident when we are dressed for the occasion, be it for a fishing trip or a company happy hour.

Gearing up for the gym is no different. In fact, if you’re looking to boost your confidence in a gym setting, wearing the right clothes can be an easy, rewarding and fun place to start, regardless of your current shape. Honor your inner athlete by dressing the part: You’ll feel better, more confident and can leave your coat in the locker.

The Essentials: Shoes and Sports Bra (Dudes, this is for your benefit too)


Arguably the most essential part of your gym gear—and most fun—are your shoes (unless you need a sports bra—see below). But, there are myriad shoe styles, types, colors, brands and monthly design breakthroughs in the footwear industry. Where do you even start?

I see everything from Converse to Dr. Martens in the gym, which suggests it’s a matter of personal preference. However, my experience leads me to choose and recommend shoes that are designed for training in a gym: cross trainers, training shoes, even tennis shoes, which are all shoes that have flatter soles and are designed for the kind of lateral movement and essential, stable contact with the floor you will need for weightlifting or in a circuit, TRX or HIIT class. Think: Flat is good.

What about running shoes? While I see a lot of people wearing running shoes in the gym, this style of shoe is primarily designed for—are you sitting down?—running. In a straight line. On concrete. Miles of concrete. The extra cushy soles are meant to soften the pounding on pavement that so often accompanies running. This extra cushion does little to support the foot or ankle when standing on a BOSU ball, for example, or doing a side lunge and, in fact, may contribute to instability that could lead to injury. I would encourage you to use running shoes for running and invest in stable training shoes for the gym.

Support your magnificent body from the ground up and invest in a great pair of training shoes, designed to keep you grounded. You will be glad you did.

Where to buy:

I’m a big fan of buying local when I can. Turns out that “local” in Portland can mean Nike orAdidas and you can score great deals at their local factory outlets or employee stores. However, for a more personalized local approach to training footwear, try:

Pace Setter Athletic
4203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, OR 97206

The people at Pace Setter have a long history of knowing their shoes and your feet. I had a good conversation with Anita Carley of PSA. She was helpful and is ultra-knowledgeable about athletic shoes. At PSA, they take the guesswork out of investing in athletic shoes and guide you to buying the shoe that is perfect for you and your specific needs. She emphasized that they work with you to find the right type of shoe—read: gym, training, cross training, shoes with lateral support, etc.—in addition to the proper fit.

Foot Traffic
4020 NE Fremont St.
Portland, OR 97212

From Foot Traffic’s Morgan Saltenberger: “Some of our lower-profile options have been popular choices for gym use, classes, and alternative exercise to running and walking. Most running or walking shoes don’t have a ton of lateral control on their uppers, but some of our selections are more evenly balanced from heel to toe, and the lower-profile ones have been popular choices for our gym-use customers.”

Sports Bra

Ladies: Have you struggled to find the support you need for the girls? Have you experienced the frustration of the sports bra from hell that:

  • constricts your movement so you literally cannot breathe
  • is super uncomfortable to wear because it slides all over the place and you can’t get the girls to be in their anatomically correct places
  • is designed to be so tight not even Houdini could escape without a pair of scissors
  • only comes in small, smaller or smallest sizes

How does that work for your confidence in the gym? Not so much.

Please do yourself the ultimate favor and go see Holly at The Pencil Test. She feels your pain and that’s why she carries four different brands of sports bras—including sizes that most stores don’t bother to stock. In the end, she knows that providing comfortable support where you need it most means the girls will be happy.

Gentlemen: If you want to score big points with your lady friend, support her in her efforts to support the girls. It can make the difference between her wanting to go to the gym and work out, or not. Truly. Try a trip to The Pencil Test, a gift certificate, or even just mention that there is a specialty shop in town for her sports bra needs. Help her in her quest to gain confidence and feel more comfortable in attacking her gym routine. She does not need to suffer the suffocation of commercial sports bras any longer. Help her out. Think: enlightened self-interest, on many fronts.

Where to purchase the ultimate sports bra:

The Pencil Test
2407 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211

That’s it for now. In the future, I’ll review other gym apparel options, the latest in gym gadgets and gym etiquette—the dos and don’ts of stylin’ in the gym.

Until then, Go Well!