Recently I found myself at Midas asking my mechanic if quality really matters when it comes to tires. You can guess that I was secretly hoping that he would nudge me toward the discount rack.

He responded with complete surprise at my question. The mere thought of me trusting my car and my family with anything but the best tires was complete insanity to him. “It’s your tires, man.”

Needless to say, I bought the premium tires.

The same goes for the quality of your fitness footwear. Yeah, you could save a few bucks by digging up an old pair of kicks from your glory days, or digging through the discount bin at Kmart, but at what cost? Not all footwear is the same, and if you have the wrong gear it won’t be long before your performance in the gym hits a wall.

The truth is that the shoes do make the man (or woman). Here’s why:

In fitness, the shoe is your contact point with the ground and the place where the rubber truly meets the road. If the shoe is too squishy or cushioned, you’ll lose your balance during drills or be unstable during a lift. If you don’t have enough lateral support you’ll lack agility with quick movements. If you can’t feel the floor through your sneaker, how can you expect to move naturally?

The ideal footwear offers protection for the foot without sacrificing proprioception, which is the sensory input telling your brain where your foot is in space. Without it you can’t balance, and balance is one of the most important functions that we need to work on. Remember, you need to use or lose it.

You might be thinking that you need the extra padding for shock absorption, and ordinarily I would agree with you; however, for indoor training in our facility the extra padding isn’t necessary. The flooring we have in the gym has a unique honeycomb pattern that gives it enough flexibility to provide adequate joint protection. If you are running outdoors (like, if someone is chasing you) that’s when you’ll need the extra padding that traditional sneakers offer.