When it comes down to it, so to speak, shoes can make or break your gym or home workout experience. And no matter your style, this list has an option for you. While it can be tempting to use the same pair of sneakers for all your walking, running, jogging and gym-going, it’s ideal to have a pair of shoes that you use just for workouts.
Beyond extending the life of your running shoes, swapping out that pair for a gym pair does a lot for your workouts. Shoes designed for that purpose are closer to the ground, lending more support to your muscles and joints, giving you better stability during unilateral (one-sided) moves and providing a reliable platform for lifting heavy weights.
Note: when purchasing true running shoes, people often leave space in the toe box for toe splay. It makes sense and can improve your running form and performance. But with gym shoes, it’s best to avoid unnecessary space in the toe box. (Many shoes featured here already have wide toe boxes, so you won't need any additional room.) You want support for your feet during unilateral moves, so go with a snug fit — and one of these winners.
Best Overall Gym Shoes
We were already huge fans of the Nano 9, which we included in 2019’s GP100 as one of the best fitness products of the year. The latest iteration features a similar wide toe box and minimal drop, providing super stable base for big lifts. But it also boasts a more breathable Flexweave upper, a beefed-up foam collar to support the ankle and the brand's signature Floatride Energy Foam in the forefoot for a bit of extra flexibility and bounce during sprints and agility drills. Those qualities add up to a shoe that can help you dominate every facet of your workout — and make its claim to be "the official shoe of fitness" not feel like hyperbole.
Best Upgrade Gym Shoes
The breathable woven upper of these shoes is reinforced with a foot-hugging sock liner and stretchy attached tongue, while the handy pull tab at the back makes them easy to don and doff. The 8mm drop is slightly more than some other shoes on this list but amply supports squats, reverse lunges, mountain climbers and even spider planks, especially in conjunction with the springy Propelium midsole. So what really makes this shoe worthy of the step-up badge? A rather subjective quality: the well-crafted yet seamless style simply pops, wears well outside the gym and is available in more than 20 colors.
Best Value Gym Shoes
The latest fitness shoe from Puma sneaks much of what the industry has learned makes an ideal workout shoe into a unique-looking package with a wallet-friendly price tag. We’re talking minimal drop (in this case 4mm) and a wide toe box for stability when going heavy; a grippy sole and TPU heel clip for traction and support during high-intensity moves; a tough mesh upper that stands up to rope climbs and floor work. Bonus: Alongside the Fuse’s launch, Puma announced partnerships with a diverse group of wellness-first organizations, including AfroBrutality, Barbells for Boobs and The OUT Foundation.
Best Gym Shoes for CrossFit and HIIT
Nike's Metcon is always a top contender in the gym space, and the latest iteration is the best yet. Like its predecessors, the Metcon 6 boasts a grippy rubber outsole, targeted cushioning (firmer in the heel, softer in the forefoot), and a wide, flat, minimal drop heel with a removable Hyperlift insert that allows you to raise the heel for heavy lifts. The big breakthrough for this version, though, is its all-mesh upper; it's 18 percent more breathable than the Metcon 5, helping your feet stay cool under pressure.
Along with eye-catching looks (in black, navy and cabernet), this shoe boasts a number of features to support your dominance of the plates, bells and boxes. The one-piece SuperFabric upper is tough and breathable, while the outsole lugs, sidewall guards and minimal drop (4mm) provide plenty of traction and support during big lifts, rope climbs and lateral moves. Meanwhile, the molded, anatomical sockliner keeps your feet comfy, and the reflective logo keeps you safe when you step outside the gym.
These unisex sneakers felt light for the amount of support they provide — they weigh in at 8.3 ounces despite having a 9mm drop. Originally designed for fighters, the Henrys feature a mesh upper that is exceptionally breathable whether you’re box jumping, pistol squatting or throwing punches. There’s not much support underfoot, but there is enough to get through sprints and a boot camp class. The high heel pull tab didn’t rub during squats, lunges or mountain climbers, either.
Best Gym Shoes for Status
Few brands make more eye-catching footwear than Switzerland’s On, and the Cloudswift is a shining example. There’s function to match the form, too: The mesh upper, quarter cage and plenty of superfoam underfoot ensure a perfect fit and plenty of support and bounce for urban runs, gym sessions and post-sweat hangs.
Two huge Zoom Air units in the forefoot provide massive energy return from every step or jump, while the natural flex point supports dynamic moves like mountain climbers and burpees. Such qualities make the SuperRep 2 fantastic for circuit training and HIIT workouts — it just so happens to look like nothing else out there.
Ideal for cardio-centric WODs, this offbeat training shoe boasts a cool, comfortable Primeknit upper on top of a lightweight platform. The most noticeable distinction is that one-of-a-kind footprint, which is wider at the forefoot and heel for added stability — and optimal conversation piece optics, of course.
Best Gym Shoes for Weightlifting
In both its name and its appearance, the Powerlift 4 announces itself as an unapologetic iron mover. Designed for a snug fit, reinforced by the laces and Velcro strap, these shoes provide a locked-in feel. The lightweight canvas upper is light and tough, while the raised heel (28mm) and rubber outsole ensure an incredibly stable base when the deadlifts come calling.
You may not be familiar with Do-Win, but if you favor Olympic lifts and have wide feet, it’s time to get acquainted. These shoes feature a three-quarter-inch (about 19mm for you metric types) hard plastic heel — the optimal height for Olympic lifting — and the brand is notable for its width, intended to improve comfort and stability. The leather and mesh upper provides a nice mix of durability and breathability, too.
While this shoe looks more like a traditional gym shoe than the others in this section, it’s not short on weightlifting chops. The minimal drop and substantial flat base ensure reliable ground contact and signal its intent to support lifting, not running. The full-rubber outsole wraps around the foot to provide additional toughness, while the bigger-than-average heel counter and collar keep the back of your feet locked in, a critical factor when the plates get heavy.
Best Gym Shoes for Running
Looking for a bit more spring in your step out on the road? The latest in Hoka's Mach series is its liveliest yet. Blending two different foams — a soft, light one on top supported by a rubberized one beneath — provides a winning combo of cushy comfort and energy-boosting bounce. A refined collar eases Achilles pressure, while Hoka's classic rockered profiles keeps the miles rolling by.
Considering how well it makes running shoes, it is no surprise that On's gym-specific offering is a pretty capable runner as well. Weighing in at just under 8.5 ounces, the Cloud X boasts a tough but breathable mesh upper, a superfoam outsole and raised sidewalls that bolster multidirectional movement and just enough bounce to keep you ripping through short distances.
Jumping off the beaten path, two factors take precedence: traction and protection. This beloved trail runner tackles both, courtesy of aggressive lugs that hug all kinds of terrain and a no-nonsense rock plate to shield your toesies. While it's not necessarily the cushiest ride, the 10 oz. Peregrine 11 also features an air mesh upper to keep you cool and comfortable when Mother Nature gets muggy.
Best Gym Shoes for Mixed Use
These training shoes are built to help you tackle compound lifts and cardio routines with equal aplomb. The dual-purpose sneakers are stable and durable thanks to a foot-friendly toe box and full rubber outsole. Meanwhile, the abrasion-resistant mesh upper features a liquid rubber cage to keep your ankles safe during lateral movements.
If you’re looking for something less stiff than the Nano Xs, Reebok’s HIIT TR is a stellar all-around sneaker that’s particularly adept at high-intensity interval training (as the name implies). The outsole boasts bifurcated high-performance rubber to optimize multi-directional movement, while the midfoot support cage and beefy, cushioned collar keep your feet locked-in and secure during explosive exercises.
Don’t let its casual good looks fool you: the Flow can sweat it out with the best of them. The knit upper is breathable and comfy, with double eyelets to give you extra lockdown when you wanna go big. Meanwhile, the Meta-Rocker and Hoka’s trademark foam cushioning provide a bit of extra bounce during running and plyometrics. And considering how much we love this shoe for running errands around town, it takes “mixed use” to a whole new level.