I love to break a sweat in the gym. But nothing kills a workout more than training with the wrong sneakers on.
If you’re looking to get fit and avoid injury, having the correct footwear is imperative. And today’s top athletic brands are constantly developing kicks built to withstand any type of workout — even for someone like me, who exercises five or six days a week.
But the amount of training footwear on retail shelves seems endless, and figuring out what pair to buy can be confusing, if not intimidating. As the athletic and outdoor editor at Footwear News, brands make sure I’m well informed about what shoes are on the market and how the consumer will benefit from using them.
With that in mind, I put six pairs of training sneakers through six grueling workouts over six consecutive weekends. Here’s what happened.
Nike Metcon DSX Flyknit
Nike designed its Metcon DSX Flyknit with two of CrossFit’s toughest workouts in mind: Murph and Helen, which are brutal combinations of calisthenics and running. The brand also noted, when it unveiled the shoe, that it’s great for its Row Down and The Big 4 workout plans, which are available on the Nike Training app.
To wear-test these sneakers, I opted to do a mix of all four — a decision that left me sore, and rendered me physically useless for the rest of the day.
My plan consisted of three circuits, separated by squats and deadlifts; I started with running, box jumps and pull-ups. This shoe could easily be featured in the brand’s running category; the cushioning is plush and they are very light, which also helps during box jumps.
If you’re just lifting and avoiding cardio, plyo or HIIT, there’s no need to wear something different; this shoe still performs well during heavy lifts. I felt locked in and had the proper support for barbell squats, trap bar deadlifts, goblet squats and single-leg kettlebell deadlifts.
Nobull White Camo Trainer
I’m not a CrossFitter, and I have never ventured into a box for a workout of the day, referred to as a WOD. But the CrossFit community loves Nobull, so I made sure to incorporate things synonymous with the sport in my workout.
The shoe’s SuperFabric upper makes it durable but doesn’t weigh it down, so performing box jumps and burpees was easy.
But the shoe’s best trait is its stability.
When I interviewed Brooke Ence in December 2016, she mentioned that the Trainers performed well, even during her heaviest lifts. After adding more plates to the barbell than I’m used to for barbell squats and deadlifts, I saw why. These shoes are super stable; no matter how much I was lifting, I always felt screwed into the ground.
New Balance Minimus 40 Trainer
If a Vibram sole is on a shoe, I immediately think of the outdoors. So before I went to the gym, I brought the Minimus 40 to the local high school track. I ran the stairs, hit the turf football field for suicides and did some running on the surrounding grass. The grip did not disappoint on any surface.
What I also liked was its comfort when running. Right away I could tell New Balance’s running background influenced its construction; they are cushioned (but not overly plush), and you could easily knock out a few miles in them. If you incorporate running into your workout, you won’t be let down.
When I got to the gym, I went total-body with some lifting and plyo. The sneakers are light, which helps get good elevation on box jumps, and I felt locked in and secure during heavier lifts (barbell squats and deadlifts). I was most impressed when I did a standing row, which targets the middle of your back. During the row, my feet often move when I lift heavier weight, but the outsole’s traction helped keep them in place.
Under Armour Charged Ultimate 2.0
I typically avoid TRX when I go to the gym; it’s just not my thing. But since Under Armour works with the training company, I made sure to incorporate bodyweight movements using the bold yellow TRX suspension ropes into the workout.
The shoe has a TPU overlay on the toe box, which made getting in and out of the TRX handles easy.
Before getting into my workout, I warmed up with a fat-burning circuit I found on Instagram (jumping jacks, side lunges and push-ups). I was most impressed with how good I felt with the lateral movements; the shoe cradled my foot, and the traction helped keep it in place.
The Charged Ultimate 2.0 has a low profile. I felt very close to the ground and stable, which made kettlebell snatches, step-ups, kettlebell swings and battle ropes more comfortable and effective. And they are super lightweight, which helped me fly through everyone’s most hated exercise: burpees.
Under Armour Charged Ultimate 2.0 (Men), $99.99; amazon.com
Inov-8 All-Train 215
I’ve worked out in Inov-8 sneakers before, and they performed well with everything. So for my second pair from the brand, the All-Train 215, I made sure I did a little bit of everything in my workout.
I started with a circuit consisting of front lunges, side lunges and a farmer’s walk (if you’ve never done them, it’s just walking with heavy weights). My foot felt secure throughout all of the lateral movements, and the cushioning helped when I firmly planted my feet on the ground while carrying the weights.
My second circuit consisted of box jumps, battle ropes and kettlebell snatches. This shoe is one of the lighter of the six styles I worked out in, which helped knock out three rounds of jumps. And I felt like no matter how much energy I expended, my heels weren’t ever going to come off the floor through the ropes and snatches.
Reebok CrossFit Nano 7
The Reebok Nano 6 was my go-to gym shoe for a while, and I rarely had a bad lift in them, so I was eager to work out in the Nano 7.
My first workout in the Nano 7 was on a day I focused on my back, which I ended with a battle rope and kettlebell swing superset. The shoe held up when extra stability was required, especially for a standing row; I felt locked in at all times, with my heels screwed to the floor.
What should be noted is how versatile the Nano 7 is. I wore these after a rest day to hit legs, and aside from squats, I also put them through lunges and box jumps. The shoe’s upper is durable, but that doesn’t hinder the flex when doing lunges, and the traction is great — I felt like my feet were glued to the box whenever I landed on it.