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If you’re doing it right, nothing needs to make working out harder than it already is. Maxing out your lungs and pushing muscles to failure? Fine. Skipping a sprint because your shoes are giving you blisters? No need.
There are one million types of workouts to do and just as many workout shoes to do them in. This can be completely overwhelming, or it can be a source of curiosity in what kinds of movement you actually like doing and what you like doing them in. It helps to know a bit about how the workout shoes you choose can work with or against you.
“If you use the improper shoe or it’s not fitted properly, you’ll start getting blisters and infections and you can lose your toenails,” says Mark Mendeszoon, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon based in Ohio. It’s important to get workout shoes that are meant to handle the type of force you’re putting on them.
“Different types of movements put different kinds of strain on your body,” he says. “Running sneakers, for example, don’t make for great weightlifting shoes.” These shoes are designed for different types of impact. Running shoes are more reactive when they hit the ground, where weightlifting shoes are meant to keep you stable and secure on the ground.
Running at the same distance and speed in the same shoe over time causes stress to be concentrated in particular areas of the body, which can lead to injury over time. One way to prevent this is variability with your footwear. That means not only wearing running sneakers for running and lifting sneakers to lift, but also changing up your running shoes for different types of runs.
This will help distribute force differently and can also provide support for different muscle groups, depending on where and how you’re running.
For example, “you’re using different muscle groups when you go uphill than if you’re going downhill,” says Dillon Caswell, DPT and writer and content creator at The Prehab Guys.
The same applies for HIIT workouts. Consider swapping in another sneaker into your rotation with a slightly different structure to distribute force differently.
When shopping for the best workout shoes, consider whether you have any concerns like high arches, wide feet or bad knees. Although any shoe is not a panacea, the right shoe can help minimize pain. The best way to find your fit, says Mendeszoon, is to go to a local shoe store. Not only can you get a second opinion on different levels of support or stability details, but you can also try on the shoe and see how your foot feels in it first. Both Mendeszoon and Caswell emphasize this: If you’re not comfortable in your shoe, it’s not the shoe for you.
Another must for reducing and preventing foot pain is replacing your sneakers. “Shoes are only good for about 500 miles,” says Mendeszoon. “I often recommend the taco test: Take your shoe and try to fold it. If it folds up like a taco, it’s dead.” A shoe that’s worn down won’t give your foot support and is a recipe for overuse injury.
There’s not one sneaker that can do everything, and there’s not one sneaker that works for everyone, says Caswell. It really comes down to how your foot feels in the shoe during movement. But, we can help by telling you what to look for in the best workout shoes for men and women and which styles deserve your attention. Start here.
Asics Gel Kayano 27
Best Stability Shoes
Asics’ Gel Kayano 27 is one of the most popular running shoes around for amateurs and running vets alike. (Peep the footwear the next time you see a marathon happening. We’ll bet you run into a few pairs of these.) They’re super stable, expertly cushioned and designed for runners who tend to overpronate.
Nike Metcon 7 Training Shoes
Best Workout Shoes for Crossfit
Metcons are truly one of the best workout shoes Nike has ever made. They’re also Caswell’s shoe of choice for CrossFit workouts. “You need a shoe that you can run, jump, lift and climb in,” he says. “I tend to have a higher arch and narrow foot, and these are perfect for that.” You don’t need to start CrossFit to wear them, though. Any workout where you’re doing more than one type of movement works.
Nike Free Metcon 4
Best for HIIT
If that workout is heavy on quick movements, Nike’s Metcon 4 is one of the best shoes for HIIT exercises. These have a bit more cushioning for running but still have the lateral support for jumping or side-to-side movements. “The support is designed to take on this type of stress to the body,” says Medeszoon.
Nike Zoom Pegasus
Best Running Shoe for Narrow Feet
Nike’s Zoom Pegasus is one of the best running shoes for medium-to-long distance runs. They’re responsive but don’t feel too bouncy. These are especially good for folks with narrow feet. They have a bit of a snugger fit throughout, which helps secure your foot as you move, but might feel constricting to a naturally wider foot.
Adidas Ultraboost 21
Best for Walking and Running
There’s no one shoe that scientifically speaking makes the best gym or workout shoe. However, if we’re talking about anecdotal evidence, Adidas Ultraboosts are hands-down one of the most beloved Adidas sneakers of all time. They feel as light as a pair of socks and are perfectly supportive. These work in the gym, but they are also a solid go-to walking shoe for men and women.
York Athletics All-Terrain
Best for Hiking
When you’re hiking, your everyday running sneaker is not going to cut it. Look for something that has a durable sole that is heavy on traction abilities, like this style from York Athletics. This will stop you from slipping or sliding somewhere you really do not want to be.
Nike Wildhorse 7 Trail Running Shoe
And trail running, specifically, is the kind of activity that requires shoes with extra grippy soles and responsive support. Nike’s Wildhorse sneakers have both of those, as well as notable ankle support and an outdoor-friendly upper. The overlays are welded shut to keep dirt and debris out.
Lane Eight Trainer AD 1
Most Eco-Friendly Workout Shoes
Lane Eight sneakers were designed to work for different types of movement, so they’re great for any reason you might be hitting the gym. They’re also made with eco-friendly materials and have a cool, minimalist design to them. This makes them a favorite for wearing on walks or while exploring a new city. They offer all the support and none of the pain.
Hoka One One Clifton Edge
Best Plush Workout Shoes
Hoka One One shoes are part of the “maximalist” shoe category, meaning they offer a ton of support and cushioning. Many love to wear them for cardio — especially those dealing with back and knee pain. The cushioning divert some of the impact away from those painful spots to the rest of your body. They take a bit of getting used too, though. They sit a bit higher than your standard running shoe.
Adidas 4DFWD Pulse Sneakers
Best Tech-Driven Workout Shoes
Adidas’s 4DFWD shoes are a feat of engineering and one of the best Adidas workout sneakers to date. The cool lattice structure on the sole is not just for show: its 3D-printed design is made specifically to push movement forward despite downward impact. This makes them great for quick runs and any workouts that involve jumping or quick reaction times.
Under Armour Project Rock
Best for Weightlifting
When it comes to the best workout shoes for weight training and cardio, Dwayne The Rock Johnson has you covered. Johnson’s Project Rock collaboration with Under Armour is optimal for in-gym training. The shoes are made to keep your feet secure and stable and offer plenty of traction to prevent slippage.
Reebok Legacy Lifter 2
Also Consider for Weightlifting
Weightlifting shoes are made for lifting heavy and not for any activities that are bouncy. “Lifts in weightlifting shoes are really helpful when you’re trying to reach a certain level of depth,” says Caswell. The heel is raised, which means they do some stability work for you. But like any shoe, don’t over-rely on these pairs to give you proper form. “You want to make sure you’re squatting through a full range of motion outside of those shoes, too,” he says. “They can be super helpful for training but they shouldn’t be a crutch.”
Best Workout Shoes for Wide Feet
If you ever thought your feet might be swelling during a workout, you’re not wrong. This is often why you might hear people recommend a shoe that’s roomy or has a wide toe box. Altra sneakers are a favorite for the latter. There’s extra room around your toes so they can stay in a neutral position for as long as you run.
Best for Speed and Agility Work
The best sneaker for speed and agility work is something lightweight that won’t pull you down as you move. Mizuno’s trainers are made to keep you feeling light on your feet, with some built-in support for preventing rolled ankles. These don’t have a ton of cushioning you might crave for a run, but they’re great to wear for strength training activities.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
Best Minimalist Workout Shoes
In contrast to maximalist shoes are barefoot, minimalist styles. “Minimalist shoes are going to distribute force differently,” says Caswell. “They will place more force on the foot and ankle.” If you’re used to working out in a more cushioned shoe, take some time to prep for wearing these. Start slowly and build capacity, Caswell says. It’s easy to go too hard too fast in a shoe with minimal support — but they also bring you back to the natural pattern your foot moves in.
On Cloud X
Also Consider for HIIT workouts
On Cloud’s shoes are most noted for their signature foam outsoles, which are meant to provide a responsive feel through any range of motion — up and down, side to side, forward and backward. They’re super lightweight and generally easy to wear. If you’re stocking up on shoes that are good for HIIT workouts and other forms of strength training, we suggest adding this one into your rotation.
New Balance 796 V2 Hard Court Tennis Shoe
Best Tennis Shoes
Not all forms of fitness happen inside a gym, and sneakers work double time here. Tennis sneakers, for example, minimize risk of injury and maximize performance by supporting tennis-specific movements. With these types of footwear, like the New Balance 796 V2, it’s all about lightweight cushioning underfoot — which absorbs some force but allows you to cut back from a sprint quickly, too. You’re not going to get this kind of specific force support in any old standard workout shoe.
Converse Chuck Taylors
For heavy lifting, Mendeszoon points to shoes that are as flat as possible. This is because when you’re lifting something heavy, you want stable contact with the ground. One favorite for big-time lifters: Chuck Taylors. They’re as flat as possible and at $55, they’re one of the more affordable shoes you can buy.
Reebok Nano X1
Reebok has done a lot of work in perfecting its multifunctional shoe collection, and it shows in the Nano. It’s perfect for HIIT workouts and circuit training where you want to move comfortably in all directions. In those workouts, heel clips are important. They make sure your foot stays stable in the shoe and doesn’t slip and crease the heel.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 Sneakers
Also Consider for Wide Feet
If you have wider feet, Brooks are one of the easiest shoes to shop. The brand makes one of its core shoes in a wide-fit option. As a bonus, these have earned the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance, which means podiatrists have worn, tested and confirmed these shoes promote good foot health.
Adidas Boxing Hog 3 Shoe
Best for Boxing
You can get away with some light boxing training in your go-to gym shoe, but once you start training more seriously, you’ll want something made to do the job. The number one consideration here for proper boxing shoes is ankle support. It’s as important as it is in basketball sneakers, however boxing doesn’t put the same kind of downward force on your joints as occurs when shooting hoops or running the court. Instead of feeling clunky with ankle support, Adidas’ Hog 3 is light as air.
APL TechLoom Breeze
Don’t sleep on workout shoes for things other than working out, especially if you’re prone to foot pain. “I’m a fan of running shoes for this,” says Mendeszoon. “We could put almost anyone with some foot point into a running shoe just for walking, and they’ll start feeling better.” These might be better than shoes marketed as walking shoes, he points out. That’s because unlike most walking shoes, these aren’t made of leather, aren’t cut narrow and don’t stretch out over time.
Saucony Guide 14
Best Workout Shoes for Flat Feet
For someone who tends to have a flatter foot, Mendeszoon recommends looking for shoes with motion control and durability. These Saucony sneakers are made to do just that: support your foot through a healthier range of motion than your naturally flat foot might allow. Wear them for all types of cardio —running, elliptical work and jumping rope.
Adidas Fluidflow Sneaker
Best Budget Workout Shoes
This Adidas sneaker is a top-rated choice on Amazon with next-level reviews to match. The upper is lightweight and breathable so you can wear them all day long without getting too hot. Priced at under $100, this no-frills style is perfect for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles but require a shoe that will get the job done.
Under Armour HOVR Rise 2 Cross Trainer
Best for Cross-Training
These are maybe one of the best shoes for hitting the gym and feeling bouncy. These are incredibly lightweight, making cross-training feel as minimally painful as possible — no extra weight during jumping lunges or bear crawling across the gym. They don’t have a ton of the cushioning you might want for longer runs, but they are great for quick ones.
Asics Gel-Excite 7
You can bet on Asics to make a good running shoe, and in keeping Caswell’s advice on emphasizing variability, this is one place to do just that. These are the perfect shoe for jogs and medium-length runs. They are responsive and supportive but not so cushioned that you feel weighed down.
Akk Athletic Walking Shoes
Best for Foot Pain
These Akk Walking shoes are a crowd favorite, and come highly recommended for knee pain and plantar fasciitis from Amazon reviewers. They’re lightweight and deflect force away from those pain points without making you feel like you’re wearing heavy orthotics. These are great buys for traveling, too. They fit easily in your suitcase and are just as useful for walking tours as they are for working out in your hotel gym.
Adidas Women’s Edge Lux
Best Woman-Specific Workout Shoe
Sometimes, the best workout shoes are ones that have a low barrier to entry. Adidas’ Edge Lux is affordable, easy to put on and easy to slip off. They’re a great basic gym shoe and one of the coolest-looking shoes on the market, so you won’t feel goofy getting your pain-free steps in.
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2
Nike’s Superrep sneakers are designed specifically for HIIT workouts and circuit training. You can see the bounce ability just in the structure of the shoe — that high heel gives you exactly the kind of rebound you’d hope it would. The arc on the side of the shoe also provides the lateral support you need in side-to-side movements while also making sure your feet don’t feel weighed down.
NoBull Mid Trainers
Best Indoor Workout Shoes
NoBull designed a shoe that’s meant to keep you feeling grounded. These trainers are super lightweight and easy to wear, making them one of the best indoor workout shoes you can get. The mid height here is helpful if you like the feeling of more security around your ankles, which can also help you focus more on your workout.