Choosing the right gym shoes isn’t just about style and comfort — it’s also important to make sure that they’re going to provide stability and support in a range of movements.
There is so much variety when it comes to choosing gym shoes and training shoes. Choosing the right shoe will not only make your workout significantly more enjoyable, but you’ll also be able to perform, focus, and protect yourself better as well.
There is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to training shoes, so it’s a good idea to understand what you are looking for in a shoe before buying.
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable, very versatile, good for running
Cons: Less suited to lifting
Why we chose them: The On Cloud X is a neutral shoe for all types of workouts. It features precision-moulded cushioning pad technology for soft landings and a speed-heel-cap to lock your heel in place. The On Cloud X is more running focussed than other shoes on our list but still provides enough support and stability HIIT workouts and light weightlifting.
What do other people say? Jake Boly from That Fit Friend names the On Cloud X as his “top hybrid training shoe for anyone that plans to use their model frequently for treadmill running. This could be the athlete and lifter that likes to tack on a few miles pre or post-workout or do entire treadmill-focused days.” He says it is best for “Treadmill Running, Light Lifting, HIIT, Agility”.
Pros: Good all-round training shoe, multiple colour choices
Cons: Less suited to running or heavy lifting
Why we chose them: The UA Apex 3 is a versatile training shoe with a cushioned and supportive upper, flexible outsole, and responsive UA HOVR foam that reduces impact. The shoe offers an energy return for explosive movements and features a durable layering system. Its lightweight mesh upper provides support while the strap construction keeps the foot locked in place. It’s a great choice for workouts that require a combination of agility, speed, support and stability.
What’s changed from the UA HOVR Apex 2? The UA Apex 3 features a couple of notable improvements from its predecessor. A firmer EVA midsole enhances balance and comfort and a new lightweight mesh upper is both comfortable and durable.
Pros: Versatile, responsive, stable, comfortable
Cons: Not a pure weightlifting shoe
Why we chose them: These shoes are built for weight training but are versatile enough to be used for cardio thanks to their flex. The inner plate distributes weight from edge to edge for stability, while the Nike React foam provides a responsive cushioned base. The tab locks down your laces and the rubber grip from all angles makes them suitable for CrossFit rope climbs.
What’s changed from the Nike Metcon 6? The Metcon 7 has been redesigned with an improved rubber wrap. The shoe is also tougher and more stable than previous versions. Finally, the Metcon now features Nike React foam that improves comfort—so you can train harder and longer.
Pros: Minimalist design, lightweight good for lifting, 4mm heel-to-toe drop
Cons: Less suited to quick sideways movements
Why we chose them: The New Balance Minimus Prevail is a lightweight cross-trainer with a solid lightweight midsole for stability. The 4mm heel-to-toe drop helps your stance for weight training, and the asym collar with molded foam provides a natural heel fit. This shoe is engineered with an innovative REVlite midsole, external TPU heel counter, and Vibram outsole for durability and grip.
What do other people say? Brian Erickson from Ruin Your Knees likes this shoe for weight training and treadmill running but says it feels less suited to quick lateral movements. He says this shoe is “excellent for doing squats or forward and backward motions, but it feels wrong going side to side.”
Pros: Running focussed, durable, stable, updated model
Cons: Only really suitable for running, can be tight around the midfoot for people with wide feet
Why we chose them: The Asics Kayano is a popular running shoe with a great legacy. In fact, this is one of the longest-running shoe series with this being the 28th version of the Kayano. This shoe looks great making it suitable for everyday wear and the features make it ideal for running and walking. These shoes are well balanced and comfortable.
What’s changed from the previous Gel-Kayano? The new Gel-Kayano has seen a few big changes from previous versions including a new Flytefoam Blast midsole foam that is lighter, bouncier and more comfortable than the previous foam. Another noticeable difference is the upper which now features an improved memory-foam lined external heel clutch. The gel midsole gives a layer of cushioning and shock absorption, reducing the impact felt with each stride.
Pros: Very versatile, secure and stable, good for weight and strength training
Cons: Less suited to running
Why we chose them: The Reebok Nano X2 is an incredibly versatile gym shoe that can be worn for almost any activity. The soft and durable upper is made from a Flexweave knit, which is comfortable and breathable. The supportive heel clip helps to keep the foot secure in the shoe, and the durable rubber outsole provides traction on all types of surfaces.
The Nano X2 has a responsive and flexible forefoot that provides you with better control during your workout. The Floatride Energy Foam in this model provides responsive cushioning without feeling too squishy or unstable underfoot.
What do other people say? Ryan Flugaur from Doctors of Running says “the Reebok Nano X2 shines in its ability to perform high level strength and balance exercises. However, this takes away from its functionality as a running shoe.” He also appreciates updates from the Nano X1, noting that the “more rigged heel clip and the newly updated rubber strips in the X2 add structure to the midfoot during cutting and jumping tasks.”
Pros: Dedicated lifting shoe, lightweight and comfortable, raised heel provides a solid base and enhances stability
Cons: Expensive, fairly narrow fit
Why we chose them: Nike’s version of the weightlifting shoe comes in the form of the Romaleos 4. The Romaleos line has been very popular with weightlifters since its inception and their latest, updated model continues to provide stability, durability and style.
What’s changed from the Romaleos 3? Nike has made a bunch of updates to this shoe from the previous version. These include a redesign of the outsole construction, the addition of a second strap, and a wider heel for extra stability.
Types of training shoes
There’s a wide range of training shoes out there, and each pair is designed for a different kind of workout. Depending on your sport or activity, you may need something that has extra ankle support or shock absorption.
You want to make sure your shoes are comfortable and lightweight so they don’t weigh you down during a workout, but also durable enough to stand up to the wear and tear of a gym routine.
If you spend a lot of time on the treadmill, a running shoe could be the best option.
Running shoes are designed to support your feet and ankles, provide stability and cushioning, and absorb shock in order to keep you comfortable during long runs.
They are also lightweight, breathable, durable and comfortable. Running shoes come in various shapes and sizes depending on the type of runner you are.
Lifting shoes are designed to be stable and provide a good amount of support. They are built to offer you maximum comfort and protection when doing weightlifting exercises.
Lifting shoes often have a slightly wider toe box than other types of athletic shoes. This helps prevent injury by allowing your toes to move freely during exercises where you need to hold your foot in place, such as deadlifts or squats.
They’re usually made of materials that are durable, including leather, with a solid construction. The sole will either be flat or have a heel lift, depending on your lifting goals.
Generally, a heel wedge will lead to more knee dominant squats, and squatting with a flat shoe or foot position will lead to more hip dominant squats. – That Fit Friend
Common supportive features found on lifting shoes include an adjustable strap across the top of the shoe for extra stability.
Barefoot shoes are designed to allow your feet to move naturally and strengthen the muscles in your feet, ankles and legs.
A barefoot shoe offers a more natural approach for lifting weights because it focuses on strengthening your muscles instead of isolating them through compression or added resistance like other types of training shoes.
Crossfit shoes are designed to be lightweight, flexible and have a low heel-to-toe drop. They also have a wide toe box so you can spread your toes out comfortably when squatting.
The overall design of Crossfit shoes is meant to provide stability while still being able to move quickly as needed during a workout routine. They are more stable than running shoes but more versatile than dedicated lifting shoes.
Durability is another key feature of Crossfit shoes and they will often have a rubber sole that will wrap up the side to assist with rope climbs.
Breathable mesh uppers are another feature that helps cross-fitters maintain comfort while they train because they allow air to flow through the shoe’s upper material so your feet don’t get too hot or sweaty during intense workouts.
What to look for when choosing gym shoes
In addition to deciding on the type of shoe, there are several other things to consider:
The first thing you’ll want to do is determine the size of your foot, both length and width.
Sports shoe stores have devices that can assist with this. Most shoes come in a D (standard) width but there are also many available in E (wide) widths. For women, B is considered standard and D is considered wide.
Next, consider the heel-to-toe drop (the difference between the heel height and forefoot height). The best heel-to-toe drop for you will depend on what exercise you will focus on and what else you will use the shoe for. Running shoes usually have a heel drop of around 10mm while barefoot shoes have a 0mm drop.
Next, figure out if you have high or low arches and determine whether you need a shoe (or insole) that caters specifically to your arch type.
Last but not least: consider a shoe with a wide toe box. This allows your toes to spread out and keep the foot in place during exercise. It also reduces the chance of blisters if you have wide feet or bunions.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing the right gym shoe. The best gym shoes are those that suit your specific needs and help you perform at your best.
With this in mind, we hope that our list of considerations can help you determine which type of gym shoe is perfect for your training routine.