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Ask 10 people what constitutes cross-training, and I’d wager you’d get at least five different answers. Now, I bet if you were to ask those same 10 people what shoes they wear to cross-train, you’d get an even more varied response. This makes sense, since cross-training covers a wide spectrum of activities.
HIIT, CrossFit, running, jump roping, weightlifting and even walking are all forms of cross-training. The truth is, not all shoes are ideal for cross-training. For example, the majority of running shoes make horrible CrossFit and HIIT shoes because they lack much-needed stability, support and grip for these exercises.
So, how do you find the best cross-training shoes? Great question. Let’s dive in.
Activity-specific shoes vs. cross-training shoes
Workout shoes can typically be placed into two categories: specific and multi-faceted. Activity-specific shoes like running, rock climbing, hiking and walking shoes are easy to identify. Their purpose is very clear and they’re primarily designed for one activity.
Multi-faceted shoes are a little different. These are the “jack of all trades” shoes and can be classified as true cross-training shoes. They’re more versatile and capable of handling a broad range of activities and movements.
“A good cross-training shoe includes lateral support and heel lockdown for multi-directional movements, so that your foot is kept in place and secure,” says Grace Wentzien, project line manager for women’s train footwear at Under Armour. “Flexibility and cushioning are also key, so that your foot can move naturally and freely, which helps when quickly changing directions or balancing.”
When shopping for your perfect pair, it’s important to consider the types of cross-training activities you’ll be doing.
“Cross-training involves lifting, running, jumping, climbing and a range of other functional movements, so the shoe needs to be stable, flexible, durable and responsive all at the same time,” says inov-8 Training Marketing Manager and competitive CrossFit athlete Fran Calvert.
Do cross-training shoes make a difference?
The answer is yes, depending on the type of cross-training you do. If you occasionally run or workout on the elliptical or weight machines, any running shoe will suffice. However, once you start getting into more intense activities like HIIT classes, CrossFit and Olympic-style weight training, owning the right pair of cross-training shoes for each particular activity is key.
“Cross-training shoes are built specifically to provide lockdown, stability and support that other types of footwear are not able to throughout the various exercises and movements you may encounter in a workout,” Wentzien says. “They’re versatile, just like cross-training in itself.”
Can you use walking or running shoes for cross-training?
Generally speaking, you should avoid even using the best walking shoes or the best running shoes when cross- training. Walking is a unidirectional activity, meaning it moves in one direction, whereas most cross-training activities are multidirectional. Walking shoes just don’t have the support and stability needed for most cross-training movements.
Wentzien adds, “Cross-trainers also tend to be a little firmer when it comes to cushioning and shock absorption, as running shoe foam compresses over time when repeatedly absorbing weight. Cross-trainers, on the other hand, are able to withstand the weight absorption that cross-training requires without compromising stability or longevity.”
According to New York-based podiatrist and Vionic Innovation Lab member Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, “these shoes should be less flexible, because they’re designed to keep the foot stable within the shoe,” she says.
What to look for in the best CrossFit shoes
Important characteristics in a good cross-training shoe include heel cushioning to help absorb shock when jumping, lateral support for side-to-side quick movement and heel support to aid in coming up from squats and jumps.
According to Wentzien, the best types of shoes for HIIT workouts keep your feet locked in throughout various movement. They should also provide cushioned support to absorb impact and “send the energy right back to power you through your training,” he says.
And if you suffer from particular foot conditions, you’ll want to look for additional support features to help you stay comfortable and healthy. “People with heel spurs and plantar fasciitis should avoid shoes with thin, flat insoles and outer soles,” Dr. Sutera says. “Look for styles with a deep seated heel cup, arch support and a cushioned insole [for proper structure and support].”
People with bunions should look for “mesh sneakers or any styles with a forgiving material,” Dr. Sutera says. “Oftentimes, going up a wider size, if necessary, is also more comfortable. Avoid stiff, pointy and narrow toe boxes if you have bunions.”
For a simpler shopping experience, we’ve compiled the best cross-training shoes for women based on expert recommendations, user reviews and product testing. Don’t let the wrong sneakers hold you back from a happy, healthy workout. Shop any of the 20 styles ahead to find the best cross-training sneakers for your feet.
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Top Cross-Training Shoes for Women of 2023
- Best CrossFit Shoes: Nike Metcon 7 Cross-Training Shoes
- Most Versatile: Under Armour Project Rock 4 Cross-Training Shoes
- Most Trusted: Reebok Nano X1 Cross-Training Shoes
- Most Stylish: APL Ascend Cross-Training Shoes
- Best Heel Support: On Cloud X Cross-Training Shoes
- Best for Narrow Feet: New Balance Minimus TR Cross-Training Shoes
- Best Budget: Adidas Fluidflow 2.0 Cross-Training Shoes
- Best Running Hybrid: Brooks Levitate StealthFit GTS 5 Cross-Training Shoes
- Most Durable: inov-8 F-Lite G 300 Cross-Training Shoes
- Best with Arch Support: Asics NovaBlast 2 Cross-Training Shoes
- Also Consider Most Stylish: York Frank Cross-Training Shoes
- Best for Shock Absorption: Puma Lqdcell Optic Cross-Training Shoes
- Best for Hiking: Salewa Ultratrain 3 Hiking Shoes
- Best for Wide Feet: Altra Solstice XT Cross-Training Shoes
- Best Minimalist: Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Cross-Training Shoes
- Best for Agility: Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 Cross-Training Shoes
- Best for HIIT: Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Cross-Training Shoes
- Best for Weight Lifting: Reebok Legacy Lifter II Cross-Training Shoes
- Best Cushioned: Under Armour Hovr Apex Cross-Training Shoes
Nike Metcon 7 Cross-Training Shoes
Best CrossFit Shoes Overall
Nike’s Metcon series has long been the gold standard for weight training and CrossFit shoes. And despite some pretty significant updates to the line over the years, its status remains. For the seventh iteration, Nike changed the shoe’s midsole to include React foam — a soft yet responsive material used in the brand’s running shoes. The new midsole is a bit more forgiving for cardio and sprints, however the shoes still offer a firm platform and sturdy heel — which means no power is lost through the shoes during squats, deadlifts, cleans and snatches.
What reviewers say: “These are so amazing I bought a second pair! They have great arch support and cushion. My favorite feature is the molded part around the bottom that stabilizes all your lateral movement. You couldn’t roll an ankle if you tried! They do run a half-size small, so size up.”
Under Armour Project Rock 4 Cross-Training Shoes
Ideal for just about any cross-training activity, the Under Armour Project Rock 4 features the brand’s highest energy-returning foam — called Hovr — in the midsole. I’ve personally been a huge fan of Hovr ever since Under Armour released it. It’s not only super responsive but also over-the-top comfortable to support you through any run. The engineered mesh upper is highly breathable and fits like a sock. Gold TPU overlays provide medial and lateral support for any type of lateral movements.
What reviewers say: “I like that the shoe is wide at the top, which allows the toes to sit naturally without being smushed while you work out.”
Reebok Nano X1 Cross-Training Shoes
Whether you’re a competitive CrossFit athlete or weekend warrior, the Reebok Nano is one of the most trusted fitness shoes for just about any form of training. Rearfoot stability is top notch. A lightweight heel clip keeps the foot locked in and prevents unnecessary movements.
To note, the firm, deep heel cup did receive mixed reviews, though. Some shoppers praised it for keeping their heels in place, while others found it to be too hard and noted that it irritated their Achilles. For that reason, most reviewers agreed these shoes shouldn’t be worn with ankle socks.
What reviewers say: “I absolutely love these shoes! Perfect for workouts! Very comfortable and roomy!”
APL Ascend Cross-Training Shoes
On Cloud X Cross-Training Shoes
New Balance Minimus TR Cross-Training Shoes
Best for Narrow Feet
The Minimus TR has long been a New Balance favorite as an all-around great cross-training shoe. To call these a true minimal shoe would be somewhat misleading. While they’re minimally cushioned with high sensitivity, they also offer some extra underfoot protection for those who want it.
Even so, they’re extremely lightweight. Weighing just six ounces, they’ll help you crush those short sprints and agility drills with ease. “These are the best cross-training shoes for my workout routines,” wrote one reviewer. “The soles of these shoes are thin and grip the floor and platform well during both weight training and HIIT.”
Just a heads up on sizing — a majority of reviewers agree they tend to run small and very narrow.
What reviewers say: “I find these to be super lightweight and comfy. I am usually a size 7.5 to eight and I heard that these fit small, so I purchased a size eight to be safe and they fit fine. They are listed as a wide shoe, but I really don’t find that they are wide, and they have relatively high arches. This was fine for me as I have a narrow foot.”
Adidas Fluidflow 2.0 Cross-Training Shoes
Adidas styling is classic. It’s eye-catching, but doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me.” The Adidas Fluidflow 2.0 gives you that classic Adidas look in a functional, well-priced training shoe. The soft and stretchy knit upper allows for excellent airflow for those stuffy gym sessions, while the midsole gives you a perfect balance of cushioning and stability. If you’re looking for something a bit softer underfoot, I highly recommend the UltraBoost 22, but for squats, deadlifts and agility drills, they’re going to be too squishy.
What reviewers say: “These shoes are great. My feet are on the wider side and feel comfortable. They are a firmer shoe and not super bouncy, so I like them for my gym shoes not my running shoes. I would say they run about a half size big.”
Brooks Levitate StealthFit GTS 5 Cross-Training Shoes
Best Running Hybrid
If your cross training involves running, look no further than Brooks’ Levitate StealthFit GTS5. While technically a running shoe, it doubles nicely as a cross trainer due to its stability. A firm piece of plastic cradles your heel to help eliminate excess movement and provide added support. The midsole is on the firmer side, making it better than most running shoes for side-to-side movements and cut-and-stop drills.
What reviewers say: “Great shoes that fit like a glove and give great support for my high arches!”
inov-8 F-Lite G 300 Cross-Training Shoes
Cross-training can be brutally rough on shoes. Between all the jumping, sprinting and climbing, you need a shoe that’s durable enough to withstand forces from all angles. Meet the inov-8 F-Lite G 300, aka “the world’s toughest training shoe,” according to the brand. It’s the only shoe that’s infused with graphene, which is 100 times stronger than steel, meaning you won’t wear through the rubber soles on these shoes. In addition to be extremely rugged, the style also offers unmatched grip for box jumps and stop-and-go sprinting.
What reviewers say: “These are amazing! I’ve had all the other CrossFit shoes and these are by far the best. Seriously, the most versatile CrossFit shoe.”
Asics NovaBlast 2 Cross-Training Shoes
Best Cross-Training Shoes with Arch Support
People who have high arches tend to underpronate, meaning their feet roll inwards as they walk or run. These individuals need a shoe with lots of cushioning to disperse force and reduce the chance of lower leg injuries. While technically a running shoe, the Asics NovaBlast 2 is one of the most comfortable cross-training shoes you can buy. If you’re struggling with lower leg pain, these may help, as they’re well-cushioned and ultra-comfortable. Just be aware that for heavy lifting and agility work, the extra cushioning in these reduces stability.
What reviewers say: “I was looking for a sports shoe that I could wear for all activities to help alleviate heel pain. I trusted the Asics brand, and the heel height/support was unlike that of any other product I had reviewed. Now that I’ve worn the shoes for several weeks, I’ve been nothing but satisfied, comfortable and happy with my purchase!”
York Frank Cross-Training Shoes
Also Consider Most Stylish
York may not have the same name recognition as some of the others listed here, but don’t let that deter you. Besides being ultra-comfortable, the brand’s Frank shoes are capable trainers. Their leather overlays not only look sharp, but offer built-in support for lateral movements in conjunction with internal and external molded heel counters for rearfoot stability. The outsole is flexible and crafted with slip-resistant gum rubber.
What reviewers say: “Don’t sleep on Frank! These shoes are great. The leather cage holds the foot well and comfortably. The look is slick; the feel is great.”
Puma Lqdcell Optic Cross-Training Shoes
Best for Shock Absorption
The combination of stability and cushioning earn Puma’s Lqdcell Optic sneakers a spot on this list. You get shock absorbing technology that springs you higher with each jump while fully keeping the foot and ankle supported. The hybrid tread make these appropriate and safe for indoor and outdoor workouts and the stylish design makes them suitable for any street style outfit. Pro tip: Wear a sock that acts as a barrier around the ankle. The sturdiness of these sneakers brings exceptional support, but they can also rub along the skin when they aren’t quite broken in.
What reviewers say: “Perfect for HIIT workouts — provides stability and cushion for squats and jumping. They are very cute with iridescent coloring.”
Salewa Ultratrain 3 Hiking Shoes
Best for Hiking
If your idea of cross-training involves anything in the mountains, this Salewa shoe is for you. This lightweight hiker will keep your feet glued to the ground and give you the traction and confidence needed to crush those day hikes.
What reviewers say: “A serious shoe for passionate outdoors people. This is a privately-owned company, and it doesn’t make crap. The shoe fits like a glove and comes with a two-year guarantee. Will be buying Salewa for now on.”
Altra Solstice XT Cross-Training Shoes
Best Cross-Training Shoes for Wide Feet
Altra shoes have long been a fan-favorite for runners with wide feet. The brand’s famed FootShap toe box allows for full, natural toe splay. Grooves in the midsole and outsole give the shoe a good amount of flexibility, which extends into the upper as well.
While this offers peak comfort, it also means that these shoes are much less secure and stable than most dedicated cross-training shoes. If you value comfort and toe space, though, these are the best.
What reviewers say: “This is my third pair in many years and they are wonderful. They truly feel like slippers that you can wear out. I like how the shoe allows my foot to spread as if I’m barefoot.”
Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Cross-Training Shoes
For those who would go to the gym barefoot if it was allowed, try Merrell’s Vapor Glove 5. As one of Merrell’s top minimalist shoes, the Vapor 5 gives you just a touch of cushioning and arch support while maintaining exceptional ground feel and flexibility. The Vibram EcoStep outsole is both tough and grippy.
These aren’t for everyone, but if you’re curious about a more natural-feeling shoe, these are a great place to start.
What reviewers say: “This is my first time wearing a minimalist shoe and I am hooked. They’re lightweight and have traction on every terrain I have been on so far. I would buy them again for sure.”
Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 Cross-Training Shoes
Best for Agility
Agility training, like stop-and-go sprints, is tough on the ankles. All the abrupt change of direction and pace places extreme amounts of force on your feet and ankles. No shoe offers better foot and ankle support than Under Armour’s Hovr Apex 3. External overlays around the ankle provide just enough stability, while Under Armour’s most energetic midsole gives you a snappy pop off the ground. The consensus is that these run a tad small, so if you’re between sizes, consider the smaller size.
What reviewers say: “These shoes are my favorite! I get so many compliments on them. I love the look and comfort of them.”
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Cross-Training Shoes
Best for HIIT
Taking cues from the world-famous Nike Alphafly NEXT% carbon-fiber running shoe, these flashy HIIT-focused shoes will keep you energized all class long. Dual Air Zoom bags in the forefoot give a rather uniquely cushioned and bouncy experience, one that’s perfect for burpees. Despite a visible cutout at the midsole, the SuperRep 2 features a full-length plate with plenty of arch support that most shoppers agree gives the shoe a stable and supportive feeling.
A word to the wise: These run a little small.
What reviewers say: “They are fantastic for high-intensity gym classes. They take a wee bit of getting used to because they’re very different from regular trainers, but they’re worth the perseverance because they’re the best shoes I’ve bought for exercise.”
Reebok Legacy Lifter II Cross-Training Shoes
Best for Weight Lifting
What sets these Reeboks apart from all other weightlifting shoes? The firm, stable platform and raised heel puts your feet and body in proper stance for lifting. A raised TPU heel clip stabilizes your heel so all forces are directed upward to eliminate excess side-to-side movement.
There’s no doubt these are pricey, but if you’re serious about weightlifting, there’s no better shoe.
What reviewers say: “These are my first weightlifting shoes, and boy do they make a difference! And I can tell you you won’t want to go back once you use them. They’re a game changer! Comfortable, good quality and stylish!”
Under Armour Hovr Apex Cross-Training Shoes
Under Armour’s Hovr Apex cross trainers have two notable features that make them a great option for people with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and bunions. The first is a foamy footbed that molds to the shape of your foot for custom support. It provides enough cushion to fully support the arch, without disrupting your balance. The next is flexible mesh uppers that allow feet to breathe. Plus, Hovr technology provides “zero gravity feel” to ward off foot fatigue and keep you moving with ease.
Meet the Author
Cory Smith has been a runner and running coach for over 25 years. He is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners tracking distances from 800 meters to 100 miles hit personal records. Smith holds a USA Track & Field Level 1 and 2 Endurance Certification, three Maryland State records and is a two-Time NCAA Division National championships qualifier — plus holds a personal best of a 4:03 mile and 8:05 3k. Additionally, Smith is a running and fitness journalist whose work has also appeared in publications including Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, Muscle & Fitness, Outside and Trail Runner.
Meet the Experts
Grace Wentzien is the project line manager for women’s train footwear at Under Armour. She’s been in the tole since 2020 and has been with the company since 2016.
Fran Calvert is the UK-based training marketing manager at inov-8 and a competitive CrossFit athlete. She has competed at the CrossFit Games Meridian Regionals on several occasions. Prior to joining the inov-8 team, she worked in sports nutrition and was the communications manager for British Weight Lifting.
Dr. Jacqueline Sutera is a New York-based podiatrist specializing in the prevention and treatment of foot pathology. She is a Vionic Innovation Lab member, as well as a Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons and a member and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association and the New York State Podiatric Medical Society.