It is the post-festive period, you’ve probably got a few quid kicking around from grandma’s Christmas card and you have vowed to get fit for summer. With that in mind, it’s time to invest in a dedicated pair of kicks to get the job done.
The best gym shoes – or best workout shoes if you are American – offer improved grip and support so you can workout more safely and with greater effectiveness. An inappropriate pair of shoes can completely ruin a workout and we’re not merely talking about flexing some Havaianas in a hotel gym, only to drop a set of dumbbells on your digits, forcing an early exit for the Marbella package holiday.
Nope, even this humble health and fitness writer can attest to almost causing a catastrophic knee injury when a pair of roly-poly running trainers decided to give way at the heel during a particularly (read excessively) weighty squat routine. The fact of the matter is, many modern workouts now incorporate much of the old school Olympic lifting theory and therefore require the best shoes for workouts; ones that offer a stable surface through which to push maximum pooooowwwweeer.
Some will advise you to simply kick off the shoes and tackle the squat rack barefoot, but we’d rather enlist the help of a new breed of workout trainers that neatly blend elements of a lifting shoe (flat sole, sturdy heel etc.) with all of the performance trickery of a the best running shoes.
Hence why we’ve collated some of our favourite workout trainers, which will get you through everything from a rowdy CrossFit session, to some old school Gold’s Gym power lifting.
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- How we picked the best workout shoes
- How to buy the best workout trainer
- The best shoes for gym and workouts, in order
- 1. Nike Free X Metcon 2
- 2. Under Armour TriBase Reign
- 3. Nike Varsity Compete
- 4. Reebok CrossFit Nano 8 FlexWeave
- 5. Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting
- 6. New Balance Fresh Foam Roav
- 7. Puma Jaab XT
- 17 Best Training Shoes for Less Than $100 Out Now
- Reebok Flexagon Force 2
- Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
- Nike Varsity Compete TR 2
- New Balance Minimus 20v7
- Puma Lqdcell Hydra
- Adidas Powerlift 4
- Nike Flex Control 4
- Puma Tazon 6 Fracture FM
- Nike Air Monarch 4
- Whitin Cross-Trainer
- Whitin Cross-Trainer With Bungee Lacing System
- Reebok Dart
- New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Trainer
- Adidas Solar LT
- Nike Renew Fusion
- Under Armour Commit TR EX
- Nike Renew Retaliation TR
- Gym Shoes Buyer’s Guide
- Slip-On Sneakers
- Women’s Sneakers and Athletic Shoes
- GEAR UP!
- CUTE SNEAKERS FOR WOMEN
- WOMEN’S SPORT SHOES
- ATHLETIC KICKS AND TENNIS SHOES
How we picked the best workout shoes
Modern workouts require a modern trainer
I like to suffer for my art and if I’m not in the gym sampling the latest workout app, I enjoy being shouted at by a personal trainer in my so-far only partially succesful quest for a Chris Hemsworth body.
I laced up a variety of workout shoes that are specifically designed for bossing the gym, or nailing an intense bout of high intensity interval training, and hand-picked the kicks that best blended performance, comfort, price and, at least to a certain extent, style.
Overall, the Nike Free X Metcon 2 trainer offered the most enticing package, with a super stable heel for better balance during squats and big lifting movements, as well as an exceptionally flexible sole for greater confidence during split squats or more explosive exercises. They also proved light and breathable – perfect for a chap with particularly sweaty feet – while the bootie inner and supportive ankle bar proved excellent for support during sprints and interval training.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the list that follows is roughly in an order of preference, although the look and fit of certain models will very much be down to personal tastes. Please note that while these gym shoes were tested by a man, they are largely also suitable for women’s workouts.
How to buy the best workout trainer
Get grip where it’s needed
In general, a good workout trainer will have a relatively flat sole, especially at the heel (where it should also be wide). Unlike running shoes, which tend to feature a curve from heel to tip to mitigate heel strike, a workout shoe offers a stable platform for lifting weights.
Some models even have a wider and reinforced heel area, which copes with the excess pressure when tackling a really heavy deadlift or squat and avoids any ankle rolling, while others will be more geared towards explosive movements and high intensity workouts.
Keep in mind what you plan to do, as a shoe that’s designed purely for heavy weights probably isn’t the most suited to those thinking of incorporating plenty of jumping jacks, box jumps and sprints into their workouts.
Most important of all is fit, and I found that most brands differ in terms of the width and snugness of their offerings. So here’s some obvious advice: try them on before you buy. Or buy online and return them within 20 days if the fit doesn’t agree with you.
The best shoes for gym and workouts, in order
1. Nike Free X Metcon 2
Supports the ankle for explosive training
Best for: The person working hardest in the gym
Reasons to buy
+Lots of ankle support+Really breathable +Plenty of grip
Reasons to avoid
-Looks like a squash trainer-Very snug around the ankle
Support, flexibility, a stable platform and good connection with the ground below: these are all attributes that make a great workout trainer and the Nike Free X Metcon 2 features all of these in droves.
Nike’s Metcon range is also relatively diverse, spanning those shoes aimed at pure power lifting (see the Adidas model below) to these, slightly more versatile kicks. We prefer these, simply because you’ll be able to perform a greater spread of exercises without changes shoes.
A TPU mesh upper encourages plenty of airflow around the foot, which will appeal to those thinking of adding some high intensity efforts to their workouts, while the bootie construction offers lots of support around the ankle, which is great for rapid direction changes, side steps and sprint training.
Arguably not the most handsome shoe on the market, the Metcon range seems to favour function over form. But that’s OK, because everything in the Free X 2 , from the grippy flat sole to the locking mid-foot cage structure, is geared towards offering maximum support for explosive workouts and gets our seal of approval after a series of mixed workouts in the gym. A solid all-round option.
Buy direct from Sportsshoes.com
2. Under Armour TriBase Reign
It’s got sole (suitable for heavy lifting routines)
Best for: Premium touches that make the difference +Maximum ground contact+reinforced toe+Cool design -Sole not supportive enough for running
Fitness fads come and go, but one regime that stands the test of time is proper old-school, Arnie-style weight lifting. The basic act of pushing and pulling a heavy barbell works almost every muscle in the body and is key to building overall strength.
These Under Armour beauties might not be as power-lifting focussed as the Adidas model mentioned later in this article, but they have been designed to maximise ground contact and grip during big exercise movements.
There is an external heel support, for a more ‘locked-in’ feel, while a Strategic rubber build underneath the toe box allows for improved grip in that area. Plus, these are constructed from tough ‘ripstop’ material and a durable mesh, meaning they won’t give out after the first couple of sessions.
3. Nike Varsity Compete
One of the best all-rounders money can buy
Best for: Middleweight lifting and explosive workouts +Plenty of grip+Light and airy feeling+Supportive sole -Look a bit bland
One of our favourite things about Nike’s simple but excellent Varsity Compete offering is the sole, which features a rubber stud pattern that seems to grip the soft surface of your average gym floor like a vice covered in Gorilla Glue.
This is great for setting the feet before a weighty squat manoeuvre, while the nice wide and flat sole offers a brilliantly stable platform to push power through the heels during big Olympic lifts.
Despite its indoor-friendly set-up, the cushioned sole of the Varsity Compete can still cope with sprints, explosive leaps and short bouts of running, thanks to its supportive nature.
The woven mesh fabric of the outer looks pretty neat and its hardy structure feels like it would last plenty of sessions before giving up the ghost. As gym trainers go, it is priced slap-bang in the middle of the range, making it easy on the wallet, too.
4. Reebok CrossFit Nano 8 FlexWeave
A lightweight shoe for high-octane classes
Best for: CrossFit, obvs +Reinforced toe+High abrasion rubber sole+Really flexible -Crossfit wannabe stigma
CrossFit incorporates numerous athletic disciplines into its foundations, meaning it requires a fairly versatile shoe to ensure the fitness movement’s followers don’t end up with battered and blistered feet.
Reebok has long supported the sport (yeah, CrossFitters claims it is a sport) and its latest Nano shoe packs plenty of technology into its slim, lightweight frame, including new heel bootie construction that works alongside a moulded midsole and sockliner for greater ankle support during heavy lifting.
Reebok’s “Toe-Tection” adds extra durability at the front of the shoe, where some participants find digits end up popping through the outer after a few months of flipping tyres etc. Plus, a high abrasion rubber sole grips the floor as you lift and forefoot flex grooves give greater flexibility and enhance balance during split squats and lunges.
5. Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting
Heavyweight heel support for big lifters
Best for: The one rep max brigade +Comfortable and secure fit +All the bouncy Boost foam you could wish for -Overly chunky for fast training and short races
There is a school of thought that suggests the art of lifting eye-poppingly heavy weights deserves its very own shoe. After all, you wouldn’t head onto the football pitch in a pair of tennis shoes, so why commit a similar faux pas when approaching the squat rack?
The steep decline from heel to toe and beefed-up torsion bar system at the rear of this Adidas brute allows for a much more stable platform through which to push some serious power.
A single instep strap provides additional rear-foot support and can be quickly and easily adjusted on the fly, mid-set, so there’s nothing to stand in the way of a one-rep max attempt.
Alas, these beefcake-makers aren’t particularly good for anything else other than heavy lifting, so if you plan to throw a little treadmill time into your workout, you’ll likely have to pack a separate pair of running shoes in your gym bag… or risk looking a bit silly
6. New Balance Fresh Foam Roav
One for the treadmill junkies
Best for: Running support and bodyweight exercises +Great for aerobic exercise+Looks kinda sexy -Too much sole, man
New Balance is one of the top dogs in the running shoe game, but it has also branched out into other areas of physical fitness. The Fresh Foam Roav is arguably the most fashion-led trainer on this list, but it still features a few design tricks that make it a good gym buddy.
The signature Fresh Foam cushioning offers a nice, airy ride when running, while Ultra Heel technology aim to keep the heel locked into place when lifting weights or performing explosive moves.
Unlike many other NB shoes, the sole does away with the usual ‘banana’ design and instead offers a nice flat platform for setting feet and digging in heels during deadlifts, squats and other powerful exercises.
There is probably still a little too much foam in the sole for our liking, as it limits foot feel on the floor and can cause a little ankle rolling if not careful, but it’s a great looking shoe and perfect for those into their classes and aerobic fitness.
7. Puma Jaab XT
A boxing-inspired shoe for fleet-footed fitness fanatics
Best for: Sprint training and fast, powerful movements +Light and cushioning+Stylish enough to wear daily -Not the most resilient shoe on the list
Inspired by boxing boots, these slightly whacky looking Pumas feature of a sort of slip-on bootie construction that feels a lot like wearing a slipper, but offers a lot of stability and support for rapid, multi-directional movement.
We have to say, these don’t feel as solid as a lot of the other trainers on this list, while the flimsy elastic laces feel like they could give way with a little punishment. Still, they great and sport a chunky, flat heel, which is great for lifting weights.
17 Best Training Shoes for Less Than $100 Out Now
If you’re looking to buy a solid gym shoe but don’t want to spend a lot of money, there are plenty of options on the market for less than $100. Regardless of the workout, whether you’re doing heavy weightlifting or high-intensity interval training, there’s something out there for you.
Below, consider 17 options that are in stores now.
Reebok Flexagon Force 2
The least expensive option on this list, the Reebok Flexagon Force 2 was designed with minimalism in mind. The shoe features a breathable upper, shock-absorbing cushioning and overlays for optimal support.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
The iconic shoe isn’t necessarily built for the gym, but since cushioning often has an adverse impact on heavy lifts, bodybuilders often lace up a pair of these.
Nike Varsity Compete TR 2
If heavy weightlifting and working on explosive movements is your thing, this shoe may be for you. It features a durable mesh and synthetic upper that’s reinforced to resist abrasion, laces that integrate with the mid-foot straps for support and a rubber outsole made to grip all surfaces.
New Balance Minimus 20v7
This cross-training sneaker from the Boston-based brand is ideal for the person who does it all in the gym. It features grippy Vibram outsoles, knit uppers and lightweight Revlite midsole cushioning.
Puma Lqdcell Hydra
This is the first training sneaker from Puma to feature full-length Lqdcell cushioning, which was designed to promote stability. It also features EVA and rubber that wraps up the lateral side of the shoe for added stability.
Adidas Powerlift 4
If you’re looking for a lifting shoe that won’t break the bank, the Adidas Powerlift 4 may be the one for you. The shoe is lightweight and built to keep your foot locked in place. It also features a durable Adiwear outsole.
Nike Flex Control 4
This shoe was built with reducing weight in mind, all while staying stable and comfortable. It features a flexible upper, a mid-foot strap for stability and deep flex grooves on the outsole to promote natural movement.
Puma Tazon 6 Fracture FM
This simple and sleek look from Puma is designed with a textile and synthetic upper and a rubber outsole for traction, and it’s ideal for training that involves running.
Nike Air Monarch 4
It’s not just an ironically cool sneaker. The Nike Air Monarch 4 actually has performance features made for working out such as a Phylon midsole paired with full-length Air cushioning, keeping the shoe light and plush underfoot.
This look from the brand sold on Amazon features a zero heel-to-toe drop, an anatomical foot shape and minimalist construction — a simple shoe that doesn’t get in the way of a great workout.
Whitin Cross-Trainer With Bungee Lacing System
This style from the Amazon-sold label is executed with a bungee lacing system, zero heel-to-toe drop and minimalist construction.
Although this shoe has a far cheaper price point than others, the Reebok Dart is still built to withstand grueling high-intensity workouts. The shoe features a lightweight mesh upper, a cushioned EVA midsole and a multipurpose outsole for traction on most surfaces.
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Trainer
This lightweight gym shoe features Fresh Foam midsole cushioning made to give the wearer a plush and natural ride, a stretchy collar and a breathable mesh upper.
Adidas Solar LT
Adidas kept things light with the Solar LT, which is made to tackle all workouts. The shoe is built with lightweight and flexible textile uppers and springy Bounce midsole cushioning.
Nike Renew Fusion
A shoe built for intense workouts, the Nike Renew Fusion features a foam midsole to cushion for the impact from high-paced activities and a midfoot cage to lock your foot in place.
Under Armour Commit TR EX
This versatile look features a lightweight mesh upper, an external TPU heel counter for support and the brand’s acclaimed responsive Charged Cushioning midsole.
Nike Renew Retaliation TR
Made for people who incorporate lots of running in their high-intensity workouts, the Renew Retaliation TR is executed with abrasion-resistant mesh on the upper, and resilient and stable Renew cushioning in the sole.
All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through the links included on our site, FN may earn a commission.
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Gym Shoes Buyer’s Guide
What material is used to make the shoe is important? For any sport or gym activity that you may be undertaking, you want your feet to be well protected and comfortable. Gym shoes are made from a range of different materials from leather to mesh. Again, what you are using the shoe for is the important thing to consider here. If you are running, the mesh is probably your better option. It is breathable, normally makes the feet area sweat less and therefore create less foot odor and is often waterproof as well.
Mesh is also a good option for tennis and acrobatics, though it may not be hardcore enough for more robust sports such as soccer. Whatever the material, it is worth checking out the inside of the shoe as well as the outside. A good gym shoe should provide comfort and cushioning inside so that your feet don’t become injured or tired, and they remain comfortable over prolonged use and periods of intense exercise.
What kind of sole a gym shoe has can have a lot of bearing on whether or not you decide to make a purchase. A strong sole is necessary for sports with high impacts, such as trail running, but it is not so relevant for lighter activities such as tennis. In general, the sole of the shoe should be thick enough to protect your feet from the terrain that you are training on, and strong enough to support your feet if there is a risk of a shock impact.
The fit of a shoe, regardless of whether it is a gym shoe or not, is vital to get right. If the fit is wrong, the shoe is wrong. That is simple math. For a running shoe, you may need to accommodate a bit of extra space for your toes, for example. They also need to fit nicely to support the ankle, again to deal with the shock impact.
This will vary from activity to activity. Weight shoes need to be tight and even more supportive of your ankle. However, if you go to a proper sports store and get fitted, you will receive invaluable advice about how the fit should sit on your foot.
How to wash Gym Shoes?
The majority of gym shoes are handily machine washable. However, this is a fact that you need to make sure of. The manufacturer’s instructions will provide all the necessary details that you require to tell you exactly how you should wash your shoe. Making sure that you follow them is essential so that your shoe remains durable and true to purpose. Waterproof shoes, for example, will require a bit of extra care and looking after and may not be suitable for putting in a traditional wash.
How to Stretch Gym Shoes?
If you feel there is a need to stretch out your new shoes, then there are a variety of ways in which you can achieve this.
Putting on a few Pairs of Decent socks and then Putting on the Shoe: This may feel a bit silly, but it does work. Put on your thickest pair of socks and put the shoe on over it. It might be a bit tight, but the shoe will give after a few hours and start to feel comfier. If you can bear the discomfort, this is a good method for stretching out shoes.
Wearing them as much as Possible While not Doing your Gym Activities: Wear your new shoes all of the time, don’t even take them off for bed. No, that’s a joke. However, wearing shoes in is a sure fired way of breaking them in and stretching them out. They will get used to the shape of your foot and become bespoke to it very quickly with prolonged extended wearing. It is the oldest trick in the book.
Putting Ice Inside the Shoes Overnight: The ice should be, in the first instance, water inside bags, tightly sealed bags, and placed inside the shoe right up to the toe section. Then place the WHOLE shoe in the freezer and leave it overnight. This will enable the water to freeze and expand, and as it does, your shoe will expand right along with it. Therefore, you have as an end result, one stretched out shoe!
Where to Recycle Gym Shoes?
You can give your old gym shoes to charity, but they might not thank you for it. Most recycling plants have a collection point for old shoes and old clothes. This should be your first port of call. There are a large number of organizations that will take your old shoes and recycle them into something great. You just have to research them.
Did you Know?
Gym shoes is a broad term for a lot of different shoes. A more common word for them is sneakers, and they are used in so many different sports. Therefore, they have to be made in lots of different ways to accommodate the diverse needs of different athletes.
The more breathable the material, the comfier your foot will be while wearing the shoe. You might want to consider a mesh material over leather so that your foot has a chance to breathe and not become uncomfortably sweaty.
A trademark of effortless style, THE ICONIC’s range of slip-on sneakers will help you stay on top of your style game. From classic constructions by well-known brands, to the latest trends from emerging designers, our diverse array of sneakers has something for everyone.
A casual alternative to loafers, slip-on sneakers are a versatile addition to any shoe collection. Look to luxe finishes and added embellishments for high fashion appeal, or classic canvas construction and fun prints for a more laidback approach. Add some height to your look with a platform design, or keep your style grounded with a flat sole.
For effortless weekend style, team animal print slip-on sneakers with a chambray shift dress and dainty jewellery. When the weather cools down, match an oversized coat with skinny denim and slip-on sneakers for a cozy winter look. For a contemporary approach, try styling luxe leather slip-on sneakers matched with cigarette pants and a fitted top.
The ultimate blend of comfort and style, THE ICONIC’s selection of slip-on sneakers are suited to any sartorial situation. Sourced from the best local and international brands, our edit of sneakers encompasses a huge range of colours, textures and designs, meaning you’ll always find the perfect pair for you.
Women’s Sneakers and Athletic Shoes
Shoe Carnival’s huge inventory of women’s athletic shoes is designed for maximum performance, traction, and comfort. Find popular sneaker brands like Nike, Adidas, Converse, Vans, and Skechers, all at incredible prices. Our sport shoes for women are ready to grind – for your workouts and your wallet! Shop fresh styles and amazing deals today.
CUTE SNEAKERS FOR WOMEN
Street chic is the name of the game when you shop Shoe Carnival’s selection of women’s sneakers with the fashion-forward style and casual comfort you crave. Whether it’s classic canvas high-top sneakers, sleek slip-ons, or athletic-inspired fashion sneakers, Shoe Carnival has the hottest deals on the coolest kicks
WOMEN’S SPORT SHOES
Whether you’re dressing for the gym, the trail, or competition, you need the right pair of women’s workout shoes to get you from start to finish in comfort. Shop sports shoes for women that are made to keep up, whatever you put them though. Take your game to a whole new level with lightweight shoes from Skechers, featuring impact-cushioning technology and aggressive traction for a range of terrains.
ATHLETIC KICKS AND TENNIS SHOES
High-performance women’s tennis shoes offer style and support for all your high-intensity activities. ASICS and Nike running shoes are built to last when your feet hit the pavement. Nike and Adidas basketball shoes offer stability on the court. For cross-training, look for high-traction options from New Balance, Nike, and Skechers.
Stop into a store near you or shop online today to discover the stylish designs and surprising deals you love!