The best gym training shoes 2021 | HIIT, lifting, CrossFit and cardio

Fitness footwear for ultimate gains [UPDATED]
The best gym shoes 2021

When it comes to picking the best pair of shoes for the gym the number of options can be daunting, largely because of the variety of exercises and movements that take place.

Those exercises can include anything from static weightlifting and mobility to more dynamic training methods like HIIT, CrossFit and running on treadmills. Pick up a pair of shoes that are designed specifically for moving a heavy barbell up and down and it's unlikely they'll cover you for multi-directional speed work.

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If you're a runner, it's likely that you end up using your road trainers when doing your strength and conditioning work, which is fine to a point but if you're training becomes more focussed you should be looking at something that adds the support and safety you need for the task at hand.

An all-round gym shoe is a great option if you only want one pair and never know what your workouts might look like – but, if you're really serious about a specific type of training, you may want to invest in something a bit more focused.

Best for general training

Nobull Trainer

Nobull Trainer

These trainers wouldn't be out of place with any casual streetwear, but they're more than just good-looking. Nobull makes classically designed shoes with all the key features you'd want in a training shoe, but with no outlandish claims as to what they'll help you achieve.

The one-piece upper is durable, breathable and flexible for ease of movement no matter what your workout is, and since the material is abrasion resistant it should stand the test of time.

The lugs on the sole are textured to suit both indoor and outdoor training, plus the inner sole is designed to grip on those all-important rope climbs.

The 4mm heel to toe drop will help you feel steady on the ground and responsive as you move. If you want one simple investment shoe that'll do you for the gym, pub, and work, it doesn't get much better than these.


On Cloud X

On Cloud X

On is best known for its running shoes, which is why the Cloud X is such a surprising addition to the company's ever-growing range of shoes.

The technology that sits within the Cloud X is identical to the other models that fall under the iconic On umbrella. Although it is still classed as a running shoe, we've found its real strength lies in general training, covering everything from gym workouts to HIIT, CrossFit and shorter runs.

It's a lightweight shoe, coming in at 240g (8.4oz) for men and 200g (7.05.oz) for women, but still maintains a fair bit of cushioning on the outsole – good for high impact training like jumping around or short sprints on the treadmill.

That special outsole design is actually made to handle impact at different angles, which is a big bonus when you're moving around sideways as well as forwards. The newest version is also made using On's Helion superfoam, a soft cushioned material that offers an impressive balance between comfort and responsiveness.

The other thing we really like about On shoes is that they're generally really comfortable as soon as you take them out of the box – we've found ourselves putting on the Cloud X for the gym in the morning and leaving them on all day.


Adidas Ultraboost 21

Adidas Ultraboost 21

Although the Adidas Ultraboost range launched as an industry-leading running shoe a few years back, in the following years it has become the go-to all-rounder shoe.

Whether you're a general runner, a fitness class lover or just like the day-to-day comfort offered from the various designs, it's a great piece of footwear for all your gym activities.

Aside from the eye-catching and popular design for the fashion-conscious, the Ultraboost technology was incredibly advanced when it launched, offering a high level of durability, boost cushioning and energy return. Since then the incremental developments to the design have seen the materials upgraded each time.

The latest version, The Ultraboost 21, includes a new Torsion System in the midsole that's designed to increase forefoot bending stiffness by 15% for added responsiveness, 6% more Boost capsules and it's made Adidas's Primeblue material, a recycled technology that includes recycled Parley Ocean Plastic.

The result is an extremely comfortable, cushioned shoe that offers a high level of energy turn, all of which means it's a great option for any gym activity. You can also pick up the earlier versions of the Ultraboost shoe significantly cheaper if you're on a budget.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

The debate on the benefits of barefoot shoes is one that has been waging for many years now and it's not one we're going to go into depth with here (for our full article on barefoot running click here). However, when it comes to training in the gym there are clear positives to having your feet firmly on the ground, from building natural stability to ensuring your feet have maximum flexibility when performing movements.

The Primus Lite III is a minimalist shoe designed to offer as much freedom as possible when it comes to moving around, whilst still ensuring the foot the grip and protection you would get from a conventional shoe, just in a lean 4mm sole. The wide shape also allows your feet to move freely within the shoe without restricting movement, whilst the thin sole means that your feet can feel the ground.

Another important aspect of the shoe is that it's both vegan and made from recycled post-consumer plastic waste. In addition, when you've finished with the Primus Lite III you can send it over to the team at Revivo where the shoe will be reconditioned instead of sent to landfill.

The minimal size and flexible build also make them a great option for travelling, just scrunch or roll them up and stick them into whatever free space you have available in your bag or suitcase.

Best for CrossFit

inov-8 F-LITE 235 V3

inov-8 F-LITE 235 V3

Although inov-8 has historically been associated with hard-wearing trail shoes, its range of workout trainers contains by far some of the best out there today. From the massive selection of options to choose from, our pick of the bunch is the F-LITE 235 V3.

The focus here is all-natural movement. Think functional fitness exercises like climbing, crawling, jumping and sprinting. The shoe is designed to allow that natural movement as easily as possible whilst still offering a level of support and protection. That protection is not only from shock absorption in the midsole, but through the clever ROPETEC material upper – designed to offer increased durability as well as traction.

If you're looking for a shoe for HIIT and CrossFit-style workouts, it's spot on. Light, really comfortable and exceptionally good at gripping multiple surfaces for when you need to jump around and shift your weight quickly. The 4mm drop means you can use them across multi-disciplines and the mesh fabric upper helps to stop your feet from getting too sweaty.


Reebok Nano X1

Reebok Nano X1

Designed for the demands of CrossFit, the Reebok Nano X1s work just as well for strength training as they do for HIIT, mobility and cardio machines.

The Flexweave upper allows your foot to flex freely as you move through dynamic movements, while the rubber outsole will offer you extra grip for rope climbs. Although the Nano X1 isn't a running shoe as such, Reebok has taken into account the fact that running sometimes features in WODs (and your standard gym session) so the designers have added Floatride Energy Foam in the midsole for responsive cushioning.

There's also a TPU heel clip to help stabilize your rearfoot. All in all, a strong all-round training shoe that lends itself well to a wide range of classes and workouts.


Nike Metcon 7

Reebok Nano X1

There aren't many products out there with the functional fitness credibility of the Metcon series. Now on its seventh iteration, it's truly a force to be reckoned with for anyone looking at all-purpose training shoes.

Designed to offer a range of benefits across the whole span of functional training disciplines, the Metcon 7 (a blending of 'metabolic' and 'conditioning', if you were wondering) has some nice features added to it.

As well as updated rubber wraps on the arches for intense grip during rope climbs, the shoe features tab locks on the laces to keep them secure whilst training hard and there's a lightweight mesh upper that includes textured overlays in key places for added protection.

This recent addition to the range also has a good balance between stability and flexibility, incorporating Nike's React foam into the midsole. It'll cover you for more static movements like thrusters and wall balls, whilst still allowing you the freedom to jump around and crawl across the floor.

New Balance Minimus Prevail

New Balance Minimus Prevail

New Balance has been making some major waves in the running world over the past year. As a result, it's easy to forget that it also delivers an extremely credible CrossFit style shoe in the form of the Minimus Prevail.

Coming in at 284g (10oz) for men and 243g (8.6oz) for women, it's one of the lighter functional fitness shoes you'll find on the market with a lot going for it in terms of durability and features.

The perforated knit upper allows a high level of breathability for sweaty workouts whilst the 4mm drop outsole has been developed by Vibram. That means that not only do you get a tough, hard-wearing build but there's also an impressive level of grip that's especially noticeable with lateral movement.

Overall, you get a very nicely balanced shoe that's comfortable whether you're lifting weights or tackling a killer WOD.

It also features a TPU External Heel Stabilizer and comes in a range of attractive colorways. If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, the previous models are often available at a lower price and are well worth a look if you don't mind losing some of the more recent design features.


Best for HIIT

Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2

Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2

Yes, it may look like something from sci-fi film but this shoe offering from Nike has been specifically designed for people doing HIIT and interval workouts.

How does it work? Well, the alien design is made to offer a high level of both cushioning and support, two things that Nike believes are fundamental to HIIT and interval training but aren't found together in the majority of training shoes.

That wide chunky forefoot incorporates Zoom Air cushioning to take the brunt of the impact when you're landing, while the thicker heel adds stability for lifting movements.

Nike has also added a snug ribbed upper on the front of the shoe to keep your foot held in tight as you move around as well as something called a 'Burpee Break' which lets your foot bend naturally when you're doing things like a plank, mountain climber or, as you've probably guessed, a burpee.


Best for lifting

Reebok Legacy Lifter II

Reebok Legacy Lifter II

If you're serious about lifting weights, you'll need a serious weightlifting shoe – and Reebok's Legacy Lifter II is just the thing. With a 22mm drop, these shoes raise your heels above your toes to aid your ankle mobility when doing squats, deadlifts and snatches.

It may not sound much in the grand scheme of things, but considering most running or training shoes feature a drop of 4mm to 12mm, it's a significant difference. The Legacy Lifters feature a Velcro strap so you can feel as secure as possible as you shift those weights, plus they have rubber soles for traction on smooth lifting platforms.

If you like to vary your training and can only afford one pair of shoes, these might not be the best shout for you as they're so specialized to weight lifting, but if you've got the budget and need to boost your mobility then the Legacy Lifters are perfect.

Adidas Power Perfect 3

Adidas Power Perfect 3

Another great option if you're looking for a solid all-round shoe that'll suit beginner to intermediate lifters –especially if you're aiming for something significantly more cost-effective.

The Power Perfect 3 is designed for a nice balance between comfort and support. At the front, there's extra width, a high level of flexibility and impressively breathable mesh. For support, there's a reinforced heel, an updated hook-and-loop strapping system and a stiff EVA midsole.

The 19mm heel height should be more than enough for most weightlifters and the outsole grip means you won't be sliding around when you're trying to hit those PBs, especially when you're training on a less than perfect gym floor.

If you want to modify you're training with a lifting shoe but don't want to fork out the big bucks, then the Power Perfect 3 is a great option, especially if you're a beginner.


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