7 Best Cross-training Shoes in 2024

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo on
7 Best Cross-training Shoes in 2024
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Lift heavy, jump higher, and strengthen those targeted muscle groups with a new pair of cross-training shoes. Yes, you can do all those workout regimens wearing just one dependable hybrid training kick. This is great for athletes and enthusiasts alike who want the best value for their money.

Hundreds of cross-training shoes have been introduced to the market to meet the growing demands of the fitness community. Giant brands like Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, just to name a few, are producing new and improved models with the latest techs for cross-training style workouts.

To help you save time, we’ve rounded up the best cross-training shoes that we've scrutinized. After testing all of them to their full potential, we’ve highlighted our top picks in different categories.

How we test training shoes

To filter out the best cross-trainers among hundreds of models, we put each one of them to meticulous performance and lab tests.

Our selection protocols include the following:

  • Buying cross-training shoes from different brands for our wear tests. We invest our own money for this to ensure our 100% objectivity and bias-free approach.
  • Taking each model through a series of workouts to assess its on-foot feel and performance.
  • Testing the shoes in our lab. We slice the shoes into pieces to not only dive deeper into all of their elements but to carefully measure different characteristics including stack height and drop.

Best cross-training shoes for weightlifting

Nike Metcon 9
81
Good!

What makes it the best?

We’ve rounded up over a hundred of the best cross-training shoes and discovered the shoe most targeted for weightlifting — Nike’s Metcon 9. Our lab results and actual workouts confirm its wide base, supportive build, and grippy outsole support all types of lifts.

Despite the absence of the typical raised heel of weightlifting trainers, Metcon 9 offers unwavering stability. It has a vast platform and wide toebox where our toes can splay naturally for more control and better balance. Our caliper shows the midsole is 6.9/7.7 mm wider than average in the forefoot and heel, while the toebox has an extra 8.1 mm space. Such a large area of ground contact stabilizes our form.

Paired with raised sidewalls and a protective upper, it delivers a strong and secure lockdown that keeps us in place. Under the heel is a sturdy and non-compressible Hyperlift plastic that avoids wobbles when lifting heavier loads.

Further enhancing our stability is the excellent traction on gym mats, avoiding slips during jumps and jerks. This is crucial in activating the right muscle groups and avoiding mishaps and injuries.

What Metcon 9 lacks is ventilation for humid days. We found it a good place to be in on cooler days.

Pros

  • Exceptionally stable for weightlifting
  • One of the most durable cross-trainers
  • The best shoe for rope climbs
  • Reliable foot containment
  • Very comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Nice grip on gym floors
  • Accommodates wide feet (finally!)
  • Surprisingly flexible

Cons

  • Heavier than average (and previous Metcons)
  • Not great for cardio workouts and rope jumps
  • So-so breathability
Full review of Nike Metcon 9

Best cross-training shoes for HIIT

What makes it the best?

This Nike trainer is the king of high-intensity training (HIIT) because it delivers a good deal of stability and lockdown and is great for lifting; its flexibility is also crazy, making exercises like push-ups and burpees a lot easier to execute; and it also offers one of the softest underfoot feelings ever, keeping our feet protected from the impact of repeated jumps.

The shoe’s stability and foot containment were the result of a number of factors, but a wide base and good ankle support were the standouts. The platform is noticeably wider in the heel area. The caliper measured that part to be 95.1 mm wide when the average is only 87.0. The additional surface area helps prevent slippage while the generously padded collar securely keeps the rearfoot in place at all times.

In the lab, we saw that the Free Metcon 5 only needed 8.8N of force to reach a 90-degree bend. The average trainer needs way more than that: 22.5N. This flexibility was most felt at the flexion point in the forefoot, which was usually engaged during push-ups and other similar exercises.

Upon wearing it, we already felt that the shoe is definitely soft underfoot. When assessed using an HA durometer, the cushion registered only 17.4 while the average is as high as 27.0. If you want to practice walking on clouds, then this shoe is a good place to start!

We are bummed to learn that this shoe can be a bit too roomy, especially for those with narrower feet. The widest part of the toe box is measured by the caliper to be 107.9 mm. Given that the average is only 100.5 mm, this shoe has 7.4 mm of extra space!

Pros

  • Impressively stable
  • Noteworthy ankle support
  • Awesomely close-fitting
  • Roomy toebox
  • Nice and airy upper
  • Comfortable for all-day wear
  • Quite cushiony
  • Notably lightweight
  • Exceptionally flexible
  • Stylish design and overall look

Cons

  • Not for long runs (2-3 miles max)
  • Upper lacks durability
Full review of Nike Free Metcon 5

Best cross-training shoes overall

Reebok Nano X4
85
Good!

What makes it the best?

A star performer across our various workouts is the Reebok Nano X4. It seamlessly blends comfort for jumps, support for lifting, and agility for dynamic exercises all in one shoe—making it our ultimate cross-trainer in the lab. When it comes to versatility, no other shoe comes close.

The platform strikes the balance between ground feel and cushioning. Our durometer shows the forefoot is notably firmer at 30.0 HA compared to the softer 27.0 of the heel. The former enhances agility and provides finer control over foot movements, while the latter dampens the impact of repetitive jumps.

Besides the balanced foam, Nano X4 has excellent foot containment with the Lift and Run Chassis firmly embracing our heels. Stiff in the right places, we felt confident to go all out during lifts and intense bursts of exercises knowing we’d remain stable. Our lab tests show a firm heel and a high level of torsional rigidity, both with a 4/5 score. 

Balancing off the stiffness is a bendable shoe that allows us to easily perform lunges, planks, and burpees. Our bend test confirms a similar flexibility score vs. the average trainer, proving its free-flowing nature.

Unfortunately, those with wide feet can’t enjoy the same comfort we felt because the midsole is slightly narrower than average. Those who prefer more breathing room can explore alternatives.

Pros

  • Fantastic wear resistance
  • Great balance of cushioning and stability
  • Feels grounded and supportive
  • Secure foot lockdown
  • A fully-gusseted tongue (finally)
  • Nice breathability
  • Lighter than the X3
  • Great grip on gym floors

Cons

  • Not for heavy lifting
  • Not for wide feet
Full review of Reebok Nano X4

Best cross-training shoes for speed

What makes it the best?

Out of all the cross-trainers that we worked out in, it’s the Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 that impressed us the most when it comes to speed. Aside from the truly dependable bounce that its forefoot delivered, we were also left in awe by the softness of its cushioning system and the amazing breathability of its upper.

Our sprints were made a lot more efficient and fun by the springiness that we experienced in the forefoot. In the lab, we cut the shoe in half and saw that it was the well-implemented Zoom Air unit that gave us all the energy that propelled us to the finish line.

Measurements made using an HA durometer revealed that the midsole is indeed on the softer side. The Zoom Metcon Turbo 2’s cushion got a score of 22.4 when the average could go as high as 27.0. Pain became alien to us during our sprints because of this softness.

When it comes to breathability, this Nike cross-trainer is definitely up there. Smoke and light didn’t have issues passing through the upper material during our in-lab breathability tests. This shoe easily got a perfect 5 for ventilation.

The rigidity of the base is one thing that raised serious concerns. Earning only a 1 out of 5 in this aspect, we never felt confident doing other exercises such as heavy lifting while wearing the Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 from Nike.

Pros

  • Bouncy Zoom Air in the forefoot
  • Good for short runs
  • Perfect for jumps and aerobics
  • Stable for moderate lifting
  • Excellent flexibility
  • Amazingly breathable
  • Durable outsole

Cons

  • Upper is not durable rope climbing
  • Heavy for a "speed-oriented" trainer
Full review of Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2

Best minimalist cross-training shoes

What makes it the best?

With an almost barefoot feel, the New Balance Minimus TR clinched the top minimalist cross-training shoe title, offering versatility across various exercises. Our lab reveals its light and flexible build makes it a great agility trainer. Meanwhile, its low-profile design provides enhanced control, improving stability and precision in jumps and plyometric movements.

During our workouts, we didn’t feel like we had any shoes on. Minimus TR feels extremely weightless and our scales confirm it’s a feathery 7.3 oz (207g), making us feel nimble and quick on our feet.

Adding to its lightness is its unresisting build from all directions. Whether we needed to bend or twist our feet in lunges, planks, or stretches, Minimus TR freely surrendered to our movements. Our manual assessment awarded it the lowest torsional rigidity score of 1/5, while our bend test confirms it’s 64.8% more flexible than average. These insanely low figures prove the shoe’s emphasis on versatility and freedom of movement.

The shoe feels flat and grounded, which our caliper confirms with 13.7/10.6 mm. This gives us a stronger ground connection for a higher level of control and stability. 

However, we don’t recommend this pair for outdoor use because its tightly woven material will feel too hot outdoors. Our lab proves its insular nature with a 1/5 breathability score. 

Pros

  • Feels really minimal and light
  • Good for agility training
  • Flexible materials
  • Stable construction
  • Reliably grippy
  • Stylish
  • Lasts long

Cons

  • Poor ventilation
  • Needs to be broken in
  • For the gym only
Full review of New Balance Minimus TR

Best cross-training shoes for outdoor workouts

What makes it the best?

A versatile shoe that faces the challenges of the outdoors is how we describe the Reebok Nano X3 Adventure. This shoe owes much of its outdoor cross-training excellence to its fairly supportive heel counter, amazingly firm base, and durable structure. 

Upon wearing it, we already felt the stiffness of the heel counter. It’s stiffer than many of the cross-trainers that we worked out in. True enough, the shoe received a 3 out of 5 for stiffness (ave 2.8) after a good squeeze in our lab.

The firmness of the outsole definitely helped keep our feet safe from being poked by inevitable debris on outdoor surfaces. Pressure from pebbles and other small objects couldn’t get through the 89.4 HC outsole. The average is 84.0 HC.

Our Dremel was no match for the upper of the Nano X3 Adventure. Twelve seconds of drilling barely left a mark on the toebox. No other rating but a perfect 5 for this one.

Being heavier than average surely made this shoe feel clunky. The more nimble exercisers among us needed some time to get used to the Reebok Nano X3 Adventure’s weight, which is 12.45 ounces or 353 grams (average is 10.79 ounces or 306 grams).

Pros

  • Perfect gym-to-trail shoe
  • Dependable traction
  • Provides good impact protection
  • Offers enough court feel
  • Super durable upper
  • Just enough stability for exercises
  • Feels light
  • Fairly flexible structure

Cons

  • Poor breathability
  • Pricey if not used outdoors
Full review of Reebok Nano X3 Adventure

Best budget cross-training shoes

What makes it the best?

We crown the Nike Legend Essential 3 as the most bang-for-the-buck pick among all cross-training shoes not only because of its compatibility with several types of exercises but also because of its insanely low price of $65 (average price of cross training shoes is $95). It also had immense breathability and dependable stability to boot.

During our test workouts, we perform several exercises: from the typical push-ups and sprints to the more rigorous weighted squats and jumping lunges. Not once did the Legend Essential 3 falter! Hence, we conclusively say that this shoe is indeed suitable for a wide array of workouts.

In our lab, we literally dissected this shoe. To see if the upper is breathable, we place the upper material on top of a light source. Logically, the parts that let the most light through would be deemed the most breathable. In the case of the Legend Essential 3 from Nike, it was the forefoot mesh that let the most light pass through. During our actual tests, our feet never felt overheated even by a bit.

Our caliper measurements revealed that the midsole platform is 112.2 mm wide at the forefoot and while it is 90.7 mm wide at the heel. These figures add 2.6 mm and 3.7 mm to the average numbers, respectively. Because of the extra space, wobbliness was taken care of when we were lifting.

The Legend Essential 3 would have been a better shoe if not for its overly flexible heel counter. After manually twisting, pushing, and pulling on the shoe in our lab, this part of the shoe only got a score of 2 out of 5 for firmness. We were just not so confident with the support that this shoe gave the rearfoot, especially when we started lifting heavier weights.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Super lightweight
  • Breathable upper
  • Enough cushioning for jumps
  • Wide platform
  • Flexible
  • Good grip

Cons

  • Lacks durability
  • Not for heavy lifting
Full review of Nike Legend Essential 3

What is a cross-training shoe?

A cross-training shoe is a type of athletic shoe designed for multi-disciplinary workouts and activities. Cross-training shoes are versatile and can be used for a variety of exercises, including weightlifting, running, jumping, and other high-intensity workouts.

These shoes are designed to provide support, stability, and comfort for the feet during intense workouts. They typically have a cushioned yet stable sole to help absorb shock and reduce the impact on the joints.

Type of workouts handled by cross-training shoes

Cross-training shoes are designed to be versatile and support a variety of different physical activities. Here are some of the types of workouts that are well-suited for cross-training shoes:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and cardio

Most cross-training shoes have enough cushioning, lateral support, and flexibility to handle high-impact exercises like jumps.
Circuit training Cross-trainers are versatile enough to handle the various types of movements involved in circuit training, including weightlifting, plyometrics, and bodyweight exercises.
Weightlifting* Cross-training shoes typically provide adequate stability and support for weightlifting exercises, including squats, deadlifts, and other strength training movements.

*For heavy Olympic weightlifting and squats, you may want to consider a dedicated pair of lifters. The elevated heels and non-compressible platforms of these shoes promote the most efficient posture for lifting heavy.

Can you run in cross-training shoes?

While cross-training shoes can be used for running, they do not provide the same level of support and performance as running shoes. But most cross-trainers can handle short runs of 1-3 miles.

If you're a frequent runner, it's recommended to use shoes specifically designed for running to reduce the risk of injury and improve your performance.

The difference in cushioning, energy return, and even midsole design is striking.

If you're only an occasional runner or do a variety of activities, cross-training shoes can be a suitable option. Ultimately, it's important to choose shoes that fit well, provide the right level of support and cushioning, and are comfortable for the type of activities you will be doing.

Cross-training shoes vs. Crossfit shoes

Cross-training shoes are a broader category of gym footwear that includes CrossFit shoes. So, in a way, they are the same.

But here is what characterizes Crossfit-oriented shoes:

Stability: These shoes provide extra stability for weightlifting exercises, especially during heavy lifting, while other cross-training shoes may not have the same level of stability.

Cushioning: They often have minimal cushioning and a low profile to promote a more natural feel for weightlifting and lateral movements.

Durability: Crossfit shoes have sturdier and more abrasion-resistant materials to match the higher demands of this workout regimen. In particular, these shoes have reinforced sidewalls to protect the upper during rope climbs.

Nike Metcon 9 protection

Example of a protective side overlay on the Nike Metcon 9

Ultimately, the type of shoe you choose will depend on the specific demands of your workout routine and the types of activities you engage in. If you are primarily engaged in weightlifting and CrossFit-style workouts, a CrossFit shoe might be the better option, while if you participate in a wider range of activities, a more general-purpose cross-trainer might be more appropriate.

How to choose the right cross-trainer for you

Aside from the shoe aesthetics, there are several characteristics that you should pay attention to when choosing a pair of cross-trainers:

  1. Heel stack and drop
  2. Midsole firmness
  3. Flexibility of the shoe
  4. Lateral support and stability
  5. Durability of the shoe
  6. Breathability of the upper
  7. Shoe size and toebox fit

It may seem overwhelming at first but getting these parameters right will make your future trainer feel like it's been fine-tuned to your feet.

Adidas Dropset 2 lab test

Heel stack and drop: how to choose

Heel stack refers to the amount of material stacked underneath your heel (insole, midsole, and outsole combined). As for the drop, it indicates how much the heel is elevated above the toes inside the shoe.

Low heel stack (<24 mm) and drop (<8)  High heel stack (>24 mm) and drop (>8 mm)
creates a more grounded platform for Crossfit or any other exercises that call for a stable basis offers more support and impact protection if you're engaging in lots of jumping or running

Nobull-trainer-cut-in-half

Heel stack: 18.6 mm, Drop: 4 mm (NOBULL Outwork)

reebok-nano-x3-inside.JPG

Heel stack: 27 mm, Drop: 7.6 mm (Reebok Nano X3)

 

Midsole firmness in cross-trainers

Made of foam, midsoles provide cushioning and support for the feet. In cross-training shoes, it is typically firmer in the heel and softer in the forefoot. This difference in density provides a balance of stability for weight training and responsiveness for jumping.  

And yet, some midsoles are overall firmer than others which makes them better for certain types of exercise:

Firmer midsole (>28 HA*) Softer midsole (<28 HA)
better for weightlifting better for cardio, HIIT, aerobics, treadmill, etc.

Nike Metcon 9 Midsole softness

*We use an HA durometer to measure the firmness of each cross-training shoe. The higher HA reading stands for firmer foam.

Example of a firmer midsole in a Crossfit shoe (Reebok Nano X1)

Example of a softer midsole in an HIIT shoe (Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 3)

Flexibility of cross-training shoes

A cross-training shoe should be flexible enough for exercises like jumps, runs, lunges, and planks. However, some trainers are made significantly more flexible than others.

Example of a stiffer Crossfit shoe (NOBULL Impact)

Example of a highly flexible cross-trainer (Nike Free Metcon 4)

We use a gauge to measure how much force it takes to bend a shoe to a 90-degree angle

Lateral support and stability

Whether you are squatting with a heavy barbell or moving forcefully side-to-side, a good pair of cross-trainers will never make you feel wobbly.

In our lab, we measure a few parameters that indicate a highly stable trainer:

  • midsole firmness
  • torsional rigidity
  • heel counter stiffness
  • midsole width in the widest parts (both forefoot and heel)

Nike Metcon 9 Midsole width in the forefoot

Checking the durability of cross-training shoes

Cross-training shoes must be able to withstand the various types of physical activity that you engage in during your workouts. Their uppers should not easily rip or tear and the rubber outsole should be resistant to abrasion.

We put each cross-trainer through a series of demanding durability tests with a Dremel.

We assess each shoe's toebox and heel padding durability on a 1-5 scale based on the damage.

We evaluate outsole durability based on the depth of the dent created by the Dremel.

*Outsole durability: a lower number means more durable. It refers to the depth of the dent left by the Dremel.

Under Armour TriBase Reign 5 Outsole durability

Planning to wear cross-trainers outside? Check the outsole

And if you plan to wear your future cross-trainer outside the gym, you must be especially demanding in the durability department. Asphalt and other abrasive outdoor surfaces can eat through the outsole much faster. Thus, you should look for the following:

  • a full-length rubber outsole
  • a thick layer of rubber (at least 4 mm)
  • a hard rubber compound (at least 80 HC)

reebok-nano-x1-outsole.JPG

Consider breathability

A cross-trainer with sufficient ventilation will keep your feet cool and comfortable during intense workouts.

We use a series of tests with a smoke-pumping machine, a flashlight, and even a microscope to assess each shoe's ventilation capacity.

Adidas Dropset 2 microscope

We rate breathability on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the most breathable.

Shoe size and toebox fit in cross-trainers

In most cases, getting a cross-trainer in your regular athletic shoe size works just fine.

But if you are ordering online and it's been a while since you last purchased a pair, then we recommend taking the following steps to ensure the right size:

Reebok Nano 2.0 laces

Getting the right size length-wise is great but you must also consider the toebox space provided in a given cross-trainer.

A toebox is the front part of the shoe that provides room for the toes to move and helps protect them from injury. A good toebox should provide enough room for your toes to move freely and comfortably, without feeling cramped or restricted. Being able to splay your toes is essential for feeling stable when lifting or balancing on one foot.

Reebok Nano 2.0 Toebox width at the widest part

We measure the toebox of each cross-trainer in both the widest part and at the big toe. This gives a better idea of a shoe's dimensions and whether its toebox is tapered or not.

Reebok Nano 2.0 Toebox width at the big toe

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo
Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.