There are a lot of factors that come into choosing the right pair of shoes for the gym and workout classes. From heel drop to support and grip β there's a huge amount of technical detail involved, and there's a big difference from road running shoes.
The umbrella term of "gym shoes" is an extremely vague way to define an activity that can include hundreds of different movements. For some that might be an intense HIIT class, an hour of powerlifting that only includes a few dozen reps or even just burning a few calories on a cross trainer before work.
We do a lot of different types of workouts at Get Sweat Go and test out shoes across different activities. Some work really well across a range of movements and some are best suited for specialist exercises.
An all-round gym shoe is a great option if you only want one pair and never know what your workouts might look like β but if you're really serious about a specific type of training, you may want to invest in something a bit more focused.
Here we pick our favourite shoes for training in, with specific options chosen for men and women. Those options are based on the reviewer preference but each shoe is available in both male and female versions.
Best for general training
Under Armour HOVR Apex
If you love explosive workouts full of box jumps, burpees, and sprints, you'll need a shoe that will soften the landings and boost your energy return. The Under Armour HOVR Apex is designed just for this β it features layered support, allowing you to move forwards, backward and side-to-side with ease. Though they are best placed for stationary dynamic movements due to the thick outsole.
Under Armour's HOVR foam is designed to rebound back the energy you push into it with each movement, helping to power you back off the ground. With a thick sole and 8mm offset, these shoes are a bit chunkier than your average gym shoe β if you like plush support, cushioning and bounce then these are for you.
Nobull Blush Heather Trainer
These millennial pink 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'll 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 is a brand that most of us would associate with running, that's why the Cloud X is such a surprising addition to the massive range of shoes the company now has available.
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 226g (8oz) for men and 187g (6.6.oz) for women, but still maintains a fair bit of cushioning on the outsole β 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 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 β we've found ourselves putting on the Cloud X for the gym in the morning and leaving it on all day.
Best for CrossFit
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 β 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 getting too sweaty.
Reebok Nano 9
Designed for the demands of CrossFit, the Reebok Nano 9s work just as well for strength training as they do for HIIT, mobility and cardio machines. They feature a midfoot support cage to give you a firm base when you're lifting heavy β it helps prevent your feet rolling in or out, which can lead to injuries and imbalances further up your biomechanical chain.
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. While the Nano 9 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 they've added cushioning for comfort while you pound the streets or treadmill.
There's also a TPU heel clip to help stabilise your rearfoot. All in all, a strong all-round training shoe which lends itself well to a wide range of classes and workouts.
Nike Metcon 5 Black X Gold
There aren't many products out there with the functional fitness credibility of the Metcon series. Now on its fifth 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 5 (a blending of 'metabolic' and 'conditioning', if you were wondering) has some nice features added to it. As well as a special abrasion-resistant material on the upper for gripping ropes on the way up and letting you slide on the way down, there's the inclusion of a removable Hyperlift insert that adds an additional 8mm (taking it from 4mm to 12mm overall) to your heel to toe drop β it won't turn them into a lifting shoe, but it helps makes certain movements easier if you lack mobility.
This recent addition to the range also has a good balance between stability and flexibility. 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.
If you're after aesthetics as well as functionality, then the Metcon range is up there with the most visually appealing, occasionally releasing special editions like this Black X Gold version.
Best for HIIT
Nike Zoom Fearless Flyknit 2
If you've tried a Nike Flyknit running shoe, you'll know exactly what appeals about them β the Flyknit upper is ultra-light and seamless, so much so that you can forget you're wearing it. It's this, and the fact it's highly breathable, that Flyknit lends itself just as well to gym training as it does to running.
The Zoom Fearless blends this upper with Zoom Air cushioning for a bouncy, responsive feel, plus a grooved sole to let your foot flex naturally. Like the Nike Metcons, the Zoom Fearless has a low profile design which helps you feel stable, but with a touch more cushioning to help you power through the dynamic movements of boxing, circuits and dance classes comfortably.
Our favourite bit? This range of shoes is made with recycled materials β the equivalent of six plastic bottles per pair β so you can work out assured that you're doing your bit for the environment too.
Best for lifting
Reebok Legacy Lifter
If you're serious about lifting weights, you'll need a serious weightlifting shoe β and Reebok's Legacy Lifter 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 two Velcro straps 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 specialised to weight lifting, but if you've got the budget and need to boost your mobility then the Legacy Lifters are perfect.
Nike Romaleos 3 XD
Like the Reebok Legacy Lifter, the Romaleos range has long been a favourite amongst the weightlifting community. If you're looking for a well-rounded lifting shoe it has a lot going for it, from great stability in the heel to an impressive level of flexibility in the front foot if you're planning on doing movements aside from static lifts.
Nike made a number of modifications on previous models, from developing it into one of the more lightweight options on the market β something that helps when performing dynamic movements like jumping β to the inclusion of one large velcro strap for a more stable fit.
The shoes come with two interchangeable inserts, a softer one for more functional movements and a harder one if you're planning on focusing your training session on heavy lifting, and the honeycomb rubber grip on the heel plate will keep you from slipping on any surface you're likely to find in a gym.