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.
Reebok Nano X
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. Its successor features a similar wide toe box, minimal drop and split outsole that is simultaneously stable and flexible enough for sprints. But it also boasts a more breathable Flexweave upper and the most immediately noticeable upgrade: a beefed-up, high-density foam collar that cradles and supports the ankle, decreasing the odds of a twist or sprain during sideways shuffles and box jumps. Oh and it may be about to get even better: the next evolution, the Nano X1, is due out early next month.
APL TechLoom Pro
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.
Puma Fuse Training Shoes
Released earlier this month, the Fuse 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 Metcon 6
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.
Nobull Radial Trainer
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.
York Athletics The Henry
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 Weightlifting
Adidas Powerlift 4
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.
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 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.
Under Armour TriBase Reign 2
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 Mixed Use
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.
Reebok HIIT TR
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.
Hoka One One Hupana Flow
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.