A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.
It’s unlikely your regular trainers will cut it when you’re looking for a shoe to work out in. You need something offering support, strength, and technology, whether you’re running your first Couch to 5K or you’re doing HIIT classes at 1Rebel. “A good shoe improves how you exercise, and helps with comfort, too,” explains Dr. Folusha Oluwajana, a GP and qualified fitness instructor. What kind you need will largely depend on what exercises you have planned. Mike Jones, a personal trainer, CFL2 coach, and founder of Better Happy, said the main difference is between running shoes and those used for “mixed movement training” — such as weight training, interval training, or CrossFit.
We asked Oluwajana, Jones, and 18 other experts, from personal trainers to fitness editors, to recommend the best workout shoes for every kind of exercise. Read on for their picks, which include cloudlike running trainers, actually stylish options for weight lifting, and the best shoes for HIIT classes.
Best workout shoes for running
The Adidas UltraBoost trainers were the most-recommended pair overall, with five of our experts speaking highly of them. Caitlin Carlson, the deputy editor at Equinox’s Furthermore, says they “actually do feel like clouds on your feet, and I’ve never felt faster.” She 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 also says that the “comfy, springy” sneakers have become a “go-to option” for anything from running just a few miles to half-marathons. And Latoya Julce, an instructor at 305 Fitness, calls them her “all-time favorite sneaker,” because of their “versatility and support.” Lauren Kleban, founder of L.A.-based (and Busy Philipps–approved) workout studio Lekfit, agrees: “Not only are they the best-looking sneaker, but they provide the most support with very little added weight.” These also came recommended by Oluwajana, who said, “This is a popular shoe for a good reason.”
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.
Amanda Freeman, founder of SLT and Stretch*d, also loves ON for its lightweight designs. She prefers the Cloud X style because it has a molded heel to keep your foot in place, a “zero-gravity” foam midsole, and a breathable knit mesh upper. Lieberman says ON “is a little more under the radar than Adidas and Nike, but they make really solid sneaks.” For running, she likes its “springy” Cloudswift sneakers, which also have “great arch support.”
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.
“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.”
“At Box + Flow, we are barefoot for a smooth transition from boxing to yoga in class, but I run two to eight miles every day to warm up before I teach,” says Olivia Young, founder-owner of fitness studio Box + Flow. She relies on a pair of “durable, breathable, and lightweight” Nike Pegasus sneakers, because “they have just enough support, are balanced between soft and structured, and allow me to run like the wind.”
Best workout shoes for cross-training
These Reebok trainers came recommended by both Jones and Penny Weston, founder and director of Made fitness studio. “These are sturdy yet flexible, and good for both short to medium running and training,” said Jones. Both Jones and Weston said that the knitted upper enables good breathability, with Weston also mentioning the support and foam cushioning. “There’s also a heel clip to add stability for quick movement in all directions,” she said. Jones added that “Reeboks are better for the slightly wider foot,” according to several people he has worked with.
Vertue calls the Nike Metcons her “go-to all-around shoe” for working out 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.” Melanie Miracolo, the head of retail at yoga studio Y7, also loves the Metcons because they have a “sleek design, incredible fit, perform great, and stabilise your foot when doing any cross-training workout.” Jen Romanelli, the co-founder of Trooper Fitness, agrees the Metcons create stability, but says they also allow lateral movement, exactly what she needs for HIIT classes. “It’s a sturdy shoe, yet light enough to change directions and sprint.” Weston called the Metcon a generally good all-rounder shoe. “The tab that locks down laces is really handy to avoid them coming undone mid-workout. They grip really well in all weathers too.”
Jones also spoke highly of the Metcon 7 for its sturdiness and flexibility, and said this shoe “tended to be better for a more narrow foot. A major negative is they can be hard to get as they always sell out.”
Best workout shoes for high-intensity interval training
Lapidos says that Brooks’s “dependable” GTS 20 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. [Editor’s note: The GTS 20s are sold out online, but the newest release, the GTS 21, features the same cushioning technology.]
Brooke Lessinger, a freelance TV producer, told us she “had been looking for a sleeker pair of sneakers to wear to some of my favorite classes, like Fhitting Room and Rumble,” when she 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.” Lieberman calls APLs a “go-to pick when a workout class includes a mix of everything.” Vanessa Chu, the co-founder of Stretch*d, who owns two pairs, says, “I’ll wear my APLs for everyday workouts, strength training, and simply getting to workouts and wearing around town.”
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.
Designed for the variety that HIIT and cross-training workouts offer, these sneakers feature a great deal of traction and a “supportive foam midsole and insoles that can be removed to add your custom orthotics,” explains Freeman. “They offer performance, versatility, and unique design.”
Professional stuntwoman April Sutton says these “have an awesome snug fit, which is helpful for my high-intensity interval training.” But that’s not the only time she’ll work out in them. “I cross-train in them and even wear them for agility and plyometric training, such as box jumps or ladder drills,” she adds.
Best workout shoes for weight lifting
When looking for a weight-lifting shoe, Oluwajana says to look for “a good, heavy base and contact with the ground, because the greater the surface area that’s in contact with the ground, the more force you are able to generate.” Unlike running shoes, which are designed to absorb shock, weight-lifting shoes are designed to be worn carrying heavy loads, “like squats or deadlifts.” Oluwajana recommends Nike’s Romaleos as “a good weight-lifting shoe. These have the benefit of also being quite trendy-looking; Nike have got into the weight-lifting space as it’s becoming an increasingly popular sport.”
“These shoes are perfect for weight lifting because they have a light textile upper,” says Weston. “This allows your feet to breathe, but the raised heel helps to keep you stable on the platform.”
Julce calls these sneakers “awesome lifting shoes,” because they have “a flat surface, which are great for lifting, plus they are very stylish and supportive.” If you don’t like the jazzy colours (lavender, highlighter green) that the Blazer Mid ’77 sneakers come in, Nike also offers the option to customize them to your taste.
Y7 and Harlem Yoga Studio teacher Angela Dawn goes barefoot to teach her classes. However, she also does Olympics-style weight-lifting workouts and wears this pair of Adidas for all of her strength training. “After lifting for a year or so barefoot, the platform makes a difference” when she’s working on deep-loaded squats, deadlifts, and the occasional row, she says. “I also love the bright colours they come in.” [Editor’s note: This product is low in stock.]
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.”
These classic Converse also have a flat bottom, and two of our experts wear them while weight lifting. “When you are powerlifting, you need to feel the ground beneath your toes,” says Romanelli. “This helps to engage your feet, calves, glutes, etc. Thus the flatter the sole, the less the cushion, the better because your feet are connected to the ground, allowing you to become planted.” Philipps also says she feels a “greater and more secure impact on the ground” when she wears them. She’s partial to the traditional colourways, while Romanelli likes to spice it up with an animal-print pair like this.
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