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.
BEST OVERALL GYM SHOENike Metcon 8 Read More
BEST UPGRADE GYM SHOETYR CXT-1 Read More
BEST BUDGET GYM SHOEPuma Fuse 2.0 Read More
Reebok Nano X3 Read More
Nobull Trainer+ Read More
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-
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 8
Each Nike Metcon iteration is sure to bring attention, and we’re really happy with the latest rendition of this quality gym shoe. Boasting a reworked upper with textured overlays, these kicks proved to be plenty durable for all the trials we put them through. Also, these sneakers are surprisingly efficient at rope climbs, despite the brand’s decision to forgo a medial rope guard. While the Metcon 8 falls short for running circuits — the heel clip is still rigid and uncomfortable at longer distances — this remains our go-to silhouette for training purposes.
TYR burst onto the scene at the 2022 CrossFit Games, and after training in these shoes for multiple weeks, it makes sense how the brand earned so many top 10 finishes with its first training sneaker. We love how stable the CXT-1s feel underfoot, creating a rigid base for heavy squats and deadlifts. The only problem with these sneakers? Supply. Because demand is so high for the latest CrossFit sneakers, it can be difficult at times to find a pair online.
Puma Fuse 2.0
Puma’s original Fuse Training Shoes were a blessing to our workouts, offering up plenty of stability and support at less of a cost than other silhouettes. The all-new Fuse 2.0s carry on that tradition, bringing plenty of stability and traction to each training session at a reasonable cost. We like how Puma upgraded the midfoot construction, allowing for more room and less constriction. Plus, the PUMAGRIP outsole gives you that desirable grip in every stance. We do recommend, however, that you swap the insoles if you don’t want to experience a lot of compressions, especially if your workouts involve heavy presses or pulls.
Best Gym Shoes for CrossFit and HIIT
Reebok Nano X3
We’ve been big fans of Reebok’s Nano lineup for quite some time, and the latest Nano X3 carries the torch well. The all-new Lift and Run Chassis System allows the heel to change rigidity depending on your activity, which was a welcome perk according to our tester. Whether sprinting through a session or loading up for a big clean and jerk, these sneakers were more than ready to perform. The reworked FlexWeave upper also improves upon previous iterations, creating a fit that’s less prone to stretching and wear over time. Seriously, these might be the best Nanos to date, which is saying something considering the brand’s maintained dominance in the CrossFit realm.
Editor’s Note: If you fancy taking your WODs into the wild, consider opting for the impressive Nano X2 Adventure silhouette, boasting outdoor-ready features like a reimagined outsole and durable, nylon ripstop upper.
Nobull sneakers have cut a worthwhile lane in the CrossFit community, offering up plenty of performance and style with each available silhouette. For our needs, though, we often lean toward the Trainer+ lineup, boasting a more traction-ready outsole and improved comfort over the brand’s flagship stable. If you want more ankle support and coverage, Nobull also recently expanded the Trainer+ collection to include high-top silhouettes, which we’ve found are exceptional for static lifts. While the subdued, minimalist profile might not be for everyone, these kicks make grabbing fitness by the horns much easier — and better looking, in our opinion.
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
Athletic Propulsion Labs McLaren HySpeed
If you can’t afford a supercar, these all-new sneakers from APL are a fantastic compromise. With McLaren-inspired notes throughout the profile, these kicks can take any gym wardrobe from lacking to luxe in one fell swoop. While we like the midsole for its cushioning and energy return, the geometry doesn’t lend itself to every exercise. In the same sense that you save your supercar for nice driving weather, it’s best to save these kicks for running or accessory work — no squats or deadlifts in these bad boys.
Reebok Nano X2 Froning
If you want to take your workouts to the next level, why not train in a pair of sneakers designed by one of CrossFit’s most decorated athletes? The Nano X2 Fronings are some of our favorite gym shoes not just for the Froning co-sign, but also their performance across a multitude of modalities. At just 10.4 ounces (for a unisex size 9), it's the lightest shoe in the Nano X2 stable, ideal for cardio-heavy circuits. We do suggest wearing grippy socks when training in these race car-inspired sneakers, though. You can experience some heel slippage with the lightweight collar.
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.
Lifting clogs are intended to provide the perfect amount of heel lift and stability for pushing and pulling major weight, but the lockdown fit can sometimes limit natural toe splaying. Thankfully, however, TYR’s other all-new silhouette gives your digits plenty of space within the toe box, allowing you to create that perfect stance for pushing toward higher PRs. We also really like the traction provided by the impressive outsole, and the clean aesthetics are a nice touch to any serious lifter’s silhouette.
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 Mach 5
Released this past summer, the latest iteration of the impressive Mach silhouette showcases a welcome boost underfoot thanks to the dual-density ProFly+ midsole providing that extra snap of responsiveness. While Hoka lists the Mach 5 as a race-ready sneaker, we think this best fits under the daily training umbrella. The lightweight, plush ride felt great for daily runs, but anything longer than 15 miles left us wanting a little more cushioning to finish off those extended jogs.
Under Armour UA HOVR Phantom 3
Do your workouts often mix strength training with treadmill running? To get the most out of each modality, it helps to have a gym shoe that can do it all, and we think we’ve found the perfect solution in Under Armour’s UA HOVR Phantom 3. The updated profile gives each step a hearty dose of cushion and support, which can be plenty welcome when pounding atop a treadmill belt. Plus, we like the breathability baked into the IntelliKnit upper. We do recommend, though, that you save these kicks for indoor workouts, as pacing across pavement leaves something to be desired in terms of comfort.
Merrell Vapor Glove 5
Barefoot running has a faithful following, but for those versed in the zero-drop lifestyle, jumping from flat runners to elevated training shoes can be a bit of an uncomfortable chore. Thankfully, there are some barefoot sneakers out there that are just as comfortable on the deadlift platform as they are on the road, like the Merrell Vapor Glove 5s. Our top pick for barefoot running shoes features a stretch collar, making it feel like you're wearing a tread-heavy sock. Plus, the zero drop nature of this barefoot runner means you can achieve maximum ground contact, whether striding toward the finish line or setting up for a max squat. While the barefoot movement isn’t for everyone, for cross-training athletes involved in the movement, these should be your go-tos.
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 5
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. We really like the updates made to the midsole design, as there’s a break at the back of the forefoot that allows for better flexibility and bend when toeing the line for sprints or working through an agility ladder gauntlet. Plus, we felt plenty of room in the profile, which means those with wider feet can also enjoy their training in these versatile kicks. While there is some weight and clunkiness when using these gym shoes for longer-distance running scenarios, these sneakers can help you achieve that championship physique in no time.
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.