This guide to the best gym sneakers of 2020 covers the best shoes for weightlifting as well as mixed-use options.
When it comes down to it, so to speak, shoes can make or break your gym-going experience. And no matter your fitness goals, 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 the gym. 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.
Get the Right Fit
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 weightlifting and mixed-use gym shoes, it’s best to avoid unnecessary space in the toe box. You want the sneaker to snugly fit so that there’s support for your feet during unilateral moves. The more space between your toe and the end of the sneaker, the harder your body has to work to balance, which is unnecessary. Go with an exact fit.
Best For Weight Lifting
Nike Metcon 5
The Nike Metcon is always a top contender in the gym space — the fifth iteration of this sneaker is pretty darn close to the perfect weightlifting shoe. If CrossFit is your workout of choice, or you like to hit the gym and only lift weights, this is the shoe for you. The grip is tough and will help you crush sled pushes and pulls without slipping. There’s not much cushioning between your feet and the ground, so there’s more of a stable launch point for tuck jumps and power cleans — and the sneakers are a breeze to tighten with an added sixth lace loop option. If you’re heading out to just lift, you can also add the included Hyperlift insert under each heel.
Reebok Crossfit Nano 9
Reebok’s Nano is synonymous with CrossFit. Last year’s award-winning update includes a Flexweave material upper that is breathable, stable and durable. This year’s Nano For All asked the CrossFit community what updates they’d like to see and implemented them. You’ll find a CrossFit specific outsole design with MetaSplit grooves for better traction and grip. A wider-than-average toe box gives your feet room to breathe and enough toe spread for improved balance and a stronger base to push off. The unchanged minimal drop outsole keeps you close to the ground.
Nobull Clay Trainers
The speckled outsole adds a bit of personality to these otherwise minimalist sneakers. A super-durable upper paired with a perforated microsuede tongue is breathable and comfortable for all-day wear, if you need them to last that long. High-carbon lateral and medial guards add balance support and help during rope climbs and deadlifts. The lighter colors can get dirty very quickly — especially in the weight room — but there are loads of colors and designs to pick from that likely won’t have the same problem. Similar to the Nike Metcons, these shoes feature a 4mm drop.
York Athletics The Henry Mesh
These unisex sneakers felt light for the amount of support they provided — they weigh in at 8.3 ounces despite having the highest offset with 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. At $99, this is (narrowly) the most affordable option on the weight lifting list — plus it looks good enough to wear all day long.
Under Armour TriBase Reign
The Under Armour TriBase Reign features a full rubber outsole that wraps around the edge of the shoe to help your grip during rope climbs. The foam midsole is firm and built for lifting, not running. We don’t recommend wearing these on the treadmill for even short sprints. But as long as there’s little to no running involved, the abrasion-resistant upper makes for a durable shoe that’ll hold up to even the toughest of WODs.
Mizuno TC-01 Training Shoe
The TC-01 is Mizuno’s first foray into gym sneakers, and they hit the mark. Our tester found them to be perfect for heavy lifting given the 4 mm drop and 11.8-ounce weight. These are the sneakers to pull out when you’re heading into the weight room to do squats or Olympic lifts. A knit upper and soft midsole feel comfy from the first step.
APL TechLoom Pro
These sneakers are priced more like running shoes, and they lean that direction, but they are not as supportive as Asics or Hokas and not intended for long runs. The dual-layered woven upper is reinforced with a sock liner and has a neoprene-feeling tongue. The tongue is attached, so there’s no easy way to move it around, and the laces tie underneath — a feature introduced with aesthetics in mind — but you can pull them out and re-lace if you prefer a more traditional style. The 8mm drop is slightly more than the other shoes on this list, but there were no performance issues when completing squats, reverse lunges, mountain climbers and even spider planks.
Adidas AlphaBounce Plus
The cushioning on these sneakers is what sets them apart from the others on the list. They’re comfortable enough to handle miles on the treadmill, yet also geared for multidirectional movement. The grippy Continental rubber outsole means they’ll work just as well in the grass as they will on the mats at the gym, while the breathable mesh upper keeps your feet cool. We highly recommend these for HIIT classes like Barry’s Bootcamp, as well as for your day-to-day gym trips.
Altra Solstice XT
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.
New Balance 40v1 Minimus Cross Trainer
These cross trainers are run-friendly and up for your everyday weightlifting challenges — like a HIIT or strength class, or a day on the machines. Easily tackle the TRX or ski erg with these 10.2-ounce breathable sneakers that feel stable and have adequate grip on the otherwise thin sole. The synthetic and mesh upper keeps your toes happy — even if you hop on the treadmill between reps and sets.
Reebok HIIT TR
If you’re looking for something less stiff than the Nano 9s, 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.