When it comes down to it, so to speak, shoes can make or break your gym or home workout experience. Training ill-equipped can leave you disinterested, uncomfortable and, worst case, injured. To get the most out of your exercise regimen, it’s best to have a go-to pair of gym shoes.
But which shoe is best for your routine? Which features should you look for to give your workouts some traction? From CrossFit to running and every discipline in-between, we’ve traversed the landscape to determine the best gym shoes for every fitness goal. Let’s lace up and get into it.
Running Shoes vs. Gym Shoes
If your main fitness activity is running, or if you frequent the treadmill more than the weights, there are some great running shoe options available to fit your needs — we’ve included a handful below. Kind of like how different sports have different cleats, running shoes and training shoes are designed for their specific activity.
Training shoes often offer a lower heel drop to keep your feet closer to the ground. This can help add stability to your frame, especially when lifting heavy weights. Running shoes, on the other hand, are designed to cushion your steps as you move forward, returning your energy in an efficient manner to propel you forward.
To keep your feet comfortable and your progress on the right path, it’s best to have separate shoes for training and running. Plus, having separate kicks can help preserve your running shoes for more cardio-focused endeavors, like say, taking off for your fastest mile.
How Your Gym Shoes Should Fit
Unlike buying your favorite pair of sneakers, you want your gym shoes to be snug and ready to perform. A common practice for other types of sneakers is to leave a little space in the toe box to allow your feet to splay out. While this may be helpful for running shoes, you want your training shoes to support your feet during unilateral movements. A snug, locked-in fit is the better choice for your workouts.
How We Tested
As fitness enthusiasts ourselves, we’ve taken to training in our fair share of gym shoes. Across multiple regimens and specialties, we’ve tested a number of these kicks to their full potential, highlighting how well they felt under the bar, across the agility field, atop the treadmill and beyond. There’s practically a gym shoe for every exercise imaginable, but these footwear phenoms stood out the most when it came time to perform at our best.
Nike Metcon 7 Training Shoes
Nike's Metcon is always a top contender in the gym space, and the latest iteration is the most feature-packed yet. The Metcon 7 boasts a breathable mesh upper and minimal drop for high stability during heavy lifts. The wide, flat heel and interior plate were a welcomed perk during squats and deadlifts, and the updated React foam midsole provided plenty of energy return when sprinting. Would we recommend taking on a marathon in the Metcon 7s? Absolutely not. But for any other training endeavor, these kicks are an easy top pick.
APL TechLoom Tracer
We’ve covered APL’s innovative designs before, so it’s no surprise that the TechLoom Tracer piqued our interest. Boasting the familiar TechLoom fabric for superb breathability, the Tracer reinforces the upper for non-stretch construction. This helps keep your feet centered on the footbed for improved stability. And as you trudge through your training, the Propelium midsole is there to provide a nice blend of cushioning and energy return, all in a low-profile silhouette.
Puma Fuse Training Shoes
Keep your workouts on track with this wallet-friendly training essential. The Puma Fuse boasts a wide toe box for ample stability, while the high tensile mesh upper is capable of withstanding any movement you throw at it. A 4 mm heel-to-toe drop keeps your feet close to the ground, creating a great base for squats, presses, kettlebell swings and more. And don’t worry about losing traction, either. The PUMAGRIP outsole and rubber wrap-ups help ensure your paws are locked in for optimal grip when grinding through your workout.
Best Gym Shoes for CrossFit and HIIT
Reebok Nano X2 Training Shoes
We’ve been big fans of Reebok’s Nano lineup for quite some time, and the latest Nano X2 carries the torch well. The more defined heel clip helps provide plenty of support for intense training in the box. The lightweight Floatride Energy Foam provided a nice ride through weighted exercises as well. The Nano X2 is not an all-around all-star, however. The stiff sole, while great for HIIT training, left a little to be desired in agility or running exercises.
Nobull Black Gum Trainer
Along with eye-catching looks (in numerous colors), the Nobull Trainer boasts a number of features to keep you shining at your local CrossFit box. A SuperFabric upper gives these kicks exceptional durability while still remaining breathable. Do note, however, that the rigid upper does take a few workouts to fully break in. A flat sole and minimal, 4 mm heel-to-toe drop combine for plenty of traction and support, too. And for those outdoor training sessions, the outsole lug pattern transitions easily between environments for boosted flexibility, traction and support.
Inov8 F-Lite G 300
If durability is a top concern for you, the F-Lite G 300s should definitely be on your radar. These lightweight gym shoes come in at just 300 grams — hence the name — and are constructed using one of the world’s strongest materials, Graphene. A resilient knit upper is breathable for comfort but can still withstand normal training wear and tear without flinching. Extended Rope-Tec protection along the midfoot improves grip for climbs, as well, which made them an easy favorite for rope climbs in our list of the best CrossFit shoes.
Best Gym Shoes for Status
Few brands make more eye-catching footwear than Switzerland’s On, and the Cloudswift is nothing short of a shining example. There’s plenty of function to match the attention-grabbing 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.
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 3 Training Shoes
Building off the successes of the SuperRep 2, the latest Nike kick tackling HIIT training is still a looker. Featuring two Air Zoom units at the forefoot for maximum energy return in every step, the SuperRep 3s also feature a midfoot bridge that give this silhouette a truly unique vibe. There’s also a divide at the natural flex of your toes, allowing you to effortlessly hold those pesky planks or bust out endless burpees.
Adidas Ultraboost 22
These sneakers put the “athlete” in “athleisure.” With a lighter profile than the previous UB 21s and a revised Strobel lasting underneath the insole for improved comfort, the Ultraboost 22s are just as comfortable in a weeknight training session as they are at a weekend get-together. The BOOST midsole is energetic enough to power your workouts, and the plethora of colorways ensures you’ll be able to find the right pair for any stylish fitness fit.
Best Gym Shoes for Weightlifting
Do-Win Weightlifting Shoes
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 0.75-inch (about 19 mm 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 the double metatarsal strapping system creates a secure, lockdown fit ready to crush those PRs.
Adidas Adipower Weightlifting II Shoes
Support those big-time lifts with these colorful clogs from Adidas. A firm TPU midsole provides a great platform for stability and stance, while a flexible forefoot gives your toes the room they need to splay for added comfort. We enjoyed the lockdown feel of the Adipower Weightlifting IIs, thanks to the reinforced upper, lacing system and midfoot strap. But for more powerlifting movements like deadlifts or the bench press, we didn’t feel as much feedback as we would have liked.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Top Sneaker
Yup, you read that right. Despite its persona as a go-to street shoe, the Converse Chuck Taylor is still one of the best weightlifting shoes you can lace up. Chucks are cheap, provide a flat sole and are durable enough to withstand plenty of static lifts. While the lack of an elevated heel can be a negative on some movements, if you’re just getting into weightlifting and testing how your shoes play into the equation, Chuck Taylors are an easy entry point.
Best Gym Shoes for Running
Hoka One One Mach 4
Looking for a bit more spring in your step out on the road? The Hoka Mach 4 can be the perfect pair for daily jaunts and jogs. 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 keep the miles rolling by.
On Cloud X
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, superfoam outsole, raised sidewalls that bolster multidirectional movement and just enough bounce to keep you ripping through short distances. Flexible and resilient, the Cloud X is sure to be with you for the long haul.
Saucony Peregrine 12
Blending speed and comfort, the Peregrine 12 is an exceptional option for taking your training to the trails. At just 9.7 ounces, the lightweight frame floats across the terrain, aided by the aggressive PWRTRAC outsole. A contoured EVA sock liner gives that personal feel to every step, and an all-new protective rock plate improves ride flexibility while also wicking moisture more effectively.
Best Cross-Functional Gym Shoes
Altra Solstice XT 2
These training shoes are built to help you tackle compound lifts and cardio routines with equal aplomb. The dual-purpose Solstice XTs are stable and durable thanks to a foot-friendly toe box and full rubber outsole, although these might be better suited for solely indoor training. Meanwhile, the abrasion-resistant mesh upper features a liquid rubber cage to keep your ankles safe during lateral movements.
Under Armour Project Rock 4
Looking to lay the smack down on a myriad of training disciplines? Tag in the UA Project Rock 4s and unleash your “hardest worker in the room” persona. Featuring a medial-lateral TPU midfoot strap for a locked-in fit, these Under Armour cross trainers can help you stay ready for any training task. HOVR cushioning in the midsole and a TriBase outsole add comfort and stability, as well. We can’t all train with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but these gym shoes can be a solid substitute, indeed.
Hoka One One Kawana
The Kawana is a great do-it-all option that can help your fitness truly take flight. A reactive CMEVA midsole keeps every step energetic while still providing plenty of plush and the modified crash pad with SwallowTail geometry creates a broader surface for smooth stepping. We enjoyed the Kawana in normal training sessions, but the lightweight upper does leave us cautious about tackling intense agility movements. Best save these for training days that aren’t going to put a ton of strain on your feet.