A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist US.
While we might be reaching peak streetwear sneaker, sometimes you need a bit more — technology, support, strength — in a shoe you’re going to work out in. But not all workout sneakers are created equal: Wear the wrong type when you hit the gym, and your performance may be seriously impacted. To find the best workout sneakers for any sort of exercise, we spoke to 16 fitness-minded cool women. Read on for their picks, which include workout sneakers for doing double-dips at Barry’s, traversing 18 miles of asphalt, and practically every other way you can work up a sweat.
Best workout shoes for running
When it comes to outdoor running, On Cloud Trail Shoes are a favourite of yoga teacher and author Shona Vertue, who says that after trying quite a “few trail-racing shoes in my lifetime, these are by far my favourite.” The sneakers are lightweight and breathable enough to carry you through long distances, while their “Missiongrip” outsoles provide traction to keep you from slipping on wet and uneven terrain.
For running indoors on a treadmill, Vertue prefers Nike Joyride sneakers, which combine the brand’s popular Flyknit material with new cushioning technology. “The beads in the shoe act like a beanbag and support your foot where it’s most needed, according to your gait,” she explains. This allows the Joyrides to adapt to a variety of runners and their specific support needs. Rachel Lapidos, a beauty and fitness editor at Well + Good, agrees. “I feel like I’m bouncing when I wear them,” she says.
The Strategist’s resident running expert and senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson loves the “lightweight and generously cushioned” Saucony Triumph ISO 4, which she credits for getting her back to a regular routine after a nagging hamstring strain. “My hamstring is thankfully feeling better, but I’ve been sticking with the Triumph just because it’s a well-constructed shoe that feels great on the foot.” Adelson notes that while these sneakers will work for all types of running, they’re especially great for outdoor distance runners because the added cushioning protects your joints from a lot of impact.
Caitlin Carlson, the deputy editor at Equinox’s digital magazine Furthermore, says that while she was initially skeptical of Adidas’s UltraBoost sneakers when they first came out, they “actually do feel like clouds on your feet, and I’ve never felt faster.” She’s since run three marathons — in Boston, Berlin, and New York City — in different versions of the UltraBoost, and used the sneakers to train for other competitive runs. Carlson adds that these are “one of the most stylish workout-shoe options out there,” saying that she tries to keep one pair “just for running and another for the gym and for walking around.” Personal trainer Bari Lieberman is also a major fan: “They’re comfy, springy, and have been my go-to option for anything from just a few miles to half-marathons.”
“When I was training for an Ironman (after coming back from knee surgery), a friend who had done the race a year before recommended I check out Hokas,” says Jen Ator, editor-in-chief of Women’s Running magazine, who runs both on treadmills and outdoors. “After going to the gym and doing a five-mile run in them, I was hooked.” She says that while they may look big and bulky, they actually feel very light when running. The toe box is also slightly wider than a standard running shoe, which gives a “noticeably more comfortable and relaxed fit” without having your foot slide or shift around. “And thanks to the ample amount of cushioning packed into the outsole, I have far less aches and pains in my knee compared to other sneakers when running long distances.”
Yoga teacher Maggi Warner says that when she first discovered the “incredibly lightweight” New Balance 860v9 sneakers, she wore them to all of her workouts, including running at the gym, for cycling classes, and on hikes. She now uses them on “frantic trips between my office and the yoga studio,” because they have enough “sturdiness and shock absorption to support my busy city life (and tired arches).”
Best workout shoes for cross-training
For cross-training, Vertue likes shoes that are “varied in flexibility and stability” to adapt to the different types of motions those workouts usually require. The Nike Metcons — which she calls her “go-to all-around shoe” for working out— fulfill both requirements because “they’re flexible at the front of the foot, which allows for good movement through things like lunges or running” while also having a “stiff heel, which creates stability in movements like heavy deadlifts and squats.” Miracolo also loves the Metcons because they have a “sleek design, incredible fit, perform great, and stabilize your foot when doing any cross-training workout.”
While Lapidos says she digs “the futuristic style” of these shoes, she promises that they “don’t just look cool.” There’s a carbon-fibre plate within the cushion that “literally springs you forward more nimbly as you move” and gives “cloud-like support” when doing strength training, or even running, she explains. If you don’t like the jazzy colours (ocean blue, bright pink) that the Zoom Fly 3 sneakers come in, Nike also offers the option to customize them to your taste.
These Nikes, which have a bit of a throwback look to them, are “one of the most comfortable sneakers on the market,” according to Miracolo, who says that they get her through some of the toughest cardio classes she takes. The shoes are “as unique and stylish” as they are cozy and supportive, she says, with a “chunky design that is an updated version of a sneaker you probably wore in the ’90s.”
Best workout shoes for high-intensity interval training
Lapidos says that these “dependable” shoes are very popular in the Well + Good office, and that she and a handful of her colleagues wear them “because they’re consistently that good.” They have a light, responsive cushioning that provides a smooth, supported landing, making them versatile enough to wear on runs, at boot camps, and for strength and weight training, she says.
Both Lieberman and freelance TV producer Brooke Lessinger love APLs for their stylish look and comfort. Lessinger told us she “had been looking for a sleeker pair of sneakers to wear to some of my favourite classes, like Fhitting Room and Rumble, when I came across this pair.” She says they will definitely fit the bill if you’re looking for a pair of workout shoes that have the right support to “comfortably do burpees and box jumps,” but still want a “more fashionable look” that you can wear throughout the day. “My feet feel secure and — bonus — they look so cute.” According to Lieberman, they are a “go-to pick when a workout class includes a mix of everything.”
Samantha Flax, an account manager at Pinterest, says that she wore trendy lightweight running sneakers for years — until she started experiencing knee pain. After switching to Asics, however, her “knee pain completely vanished.” The added benefit of these Asics, she explains, is that they’re “super lightweight and flexible, making them perform well in high-intensity training classes where there is a lot of jumping and other activities that put stress on my knees.” And although she admits that “they’re not the best-looking sneakers,” she favours support over style when it comes to workout shoes.
Best workout shoes for weight lifting
For weight lifting, Lieberman loves the “versatile and durable” Nobull training shoes, which she initially told us about when we investigated the next status gym sneaker for women. The Nobull shoes have a flatter sole, Lieberman explains, which allows you to stay more “grounded and stable during heavy lifts.” Well + Good style and fitness editor Zoë Weiner agrees: “I fell in love with these shoes before I actually put them on because of how sleek and minimalist they looked, so I was very happy to discover that they are also the most comfortable shoes my foot has ever become acquainted with.” She says they have great traction so they can be used for lots of different workout styles. “It feels like I’m standing on a cloud.”
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