Community Can you call running shoes sneakers?

Can you call running shoes sneakers?


Sometimes, as the editor of iRun, I review shoes. And sometimes, like the start of spring, there tends to be lots of them. Reviewing a slew of new running shoes recently, I dropped a word that was considered offensive: sneakers.

“Sneakers???? I’ve been wearing RUNNING shoes all my life. Why would I switch to sneakers?” wrote one reader.

“If I want reviews on “sneakers,” I go to Sneaker’s World or Canadian Sneaker Magazine or maybe iSneaker,” wrote another.

Confused, I took the question to Facebook, where our audience considered the word. Responses varied. “I have sneakers and running shoes, and they are for separate purposes,” a reader opined.

Another one said: “I wouldn’t read an article about sneakers because I don’t wear sneakers.”

“I don’t run in my sneakers, but I have sneakers. I run in my running shoes,” went a very good reply.

After Facebook, my next best source for anything running is Canadian marathon great and running coach Reid Coolsaet. Coolsaet first shared this post from Citius magazine to describe his feelings:

Coolsaet also said: “I’m fine with the word “jogging.”  I often go for a jog, and enjoy it. But when I’m running fast, please don’t call it “jogging.”

Usually what Reid says is a good barometer of morality in our sport. Dayna Pidhoresky, currently training for the Tokyo Olympics, also weighed in.

“I use the words trainers, training shoes (when referring to a daily mileage shoe), as well as runners and running shoes (for any and all running shoes). Sneakers is funny,” she said. “Makes me think of a cartoon character sneaking around in loud-sounding shoes—definitely not as atrocious as saying 5K marathon!

Often I’m a guest on Mark Sutcliffe’s iRun podcast and every time I drop the s-word, he corrects me. I’m American, he’s Canadian and perhaps that’s the difference. Oftentimes Americans use different terminology than Canadians. John Stanton, the running great and iconic founder of the Running Room, agrees.

“Running shoes or sneakers is truly a Canadian thing, parts of Canada proudly refer to their shoes as “sneakers,” while other areas are equally proud of their “runners” or referred to as “running shoes.” Both apply equally to our foot covering equipment used in our sport.”  

So is it OK to call running shoes sneakers? Plenty of iRun readers said yes.

“If you are a good runner, you can call them any damn thing you want!” one reader wrote.

Another one said: “Only running snobs who run in “tribes” give a sh!t what you call your shoes. Call them whatever you want and have fun.”

Don’t get hung on the “sneakers” word, you could call them “kicks” for all that matter,” said someone else.

I was feeling pretty good about my word choice and ready to call it a day until I reached out to one more running hero, Krista DuChene, Olympian, Marathon Mom, legend.

When asked if I could call running shoes sneakers, she offered a one word reply: “Nope,” and when Krista talks, runners listen—19 runners liked her response.


  1. Wow- I find it sad to hear that the name of a pair of shoes matters to anyone- let alone an elite athlete. I have been running for over 45 years. I hope to run for the next 45. I like to think that running is an inclusive sport – and that age, sex, socioeconomics, or ability do not matter- we can all be a runner. The conversation about calling a shoe a sneaker and elite athletes having an objection to that completely goes against my definition of running being an inclusive sport. If that is a worry for people in the world in which we find ourselves today, then I question priorities.

  2. Wow, I call them whatever. I bought three pairs of whatever you prefer last weekend. I certainly did not by flip flops, heels or rain boots to run in. I bought sneakers to run in. My sneakers are my running shoes not my ballet flats for running to the shop.

  3. When I took up running at 77, I heard the word sneakers for the first time outside of a British comic book or magazines. It seems to be a term found only in some running magazines but never used when shopping for running shoes in Toronto. Is it a regional term or is it some kind of in word by a select category of runners? Personally, I think it is wonderful that we can focus on this issue while the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket. I am content to wear whatever can get me through my daily (almost) 5K ( personal marathon!).

  4. Now let’s have a similar debate over ‘running’ and ‘jogging’. As a former semi-serious age group runner I hated being asked if I was a jogger. However, with advancing age I will admit to going for the occasional jog 😉

  5. I guess it’s just what you are used to. I think it’s a regional thing for sure. Americans seem to call all sport’s type shoes, sneakers or tennis , and the British call them “ trainers”. I thought all Canadians called spurts shoes “running shoes”. Key thing as that if you are talking about a shoe for running in a Running Magazine you should have been specific. You wanted to talk about a shoe for running then call it a running shoe. No matter where we live we should know what you mean. I would not read an article about sneakers. I have running shoes or court shoes or walking shoes that basically look like a running shoe.

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