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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 100+ of 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. Get a first-hand look at our list with their in-depth reviews.
This Nike trainer is the king of all cross-training shoes 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 runs protected from impact.
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!
The Metcon series is once again making waves with the Nike Metcon 9. This workout shoe is loved by many gym rats, especially CrossFitters and others who love to incorporate a lot of lifting in their programs. This shoe is also functionally and aesthetically versatile enough to be worn in non-workout settings.
We loved the Reebok Nano X3 as a cross-trainer because it was supportive enough to allow us to lift well and firm enough on the forefoot to allow us to be more agile. It also gave us the most comfortable experience among all the cross-trainers that we have worked out in.
In the lab, we identified two factors that contributed to the supportive but non-restrictive clasp of the Nano X3 on our feet. After squeezing and pulling it, the heel counter got a score of 4 out 5 for stiffness. We also twisted the shoe to gauge its resistance to torsional pressures, and it fared moderately well and got a 3 out of 5.
Compared to the heel, the forefoot is a lot firmer. The HA durometer gave a 27.6 reading for it, while it gave a 20.5 for the heel. The firmer forefoot not only allowed us to be quicker, it also gave us more control over finer footwork.
When it comes to comfort, no other cross-trainer comes close. The Reebok Nano X3 reigned supreme through its breathability, which we scored a 4 out of 5, and lush cushioning right under the heel. The well-aerated upper and soft heel allowed us to run and jump without feeling any pain.
Wide-footers, unfortunately, cannot enjoy this shoe as much as we did. The caliper showed that the toebox is only 100.2 mm at its widest, and this number clearly does not do any better for wide-footers than the 100.5 mm average.
As the name suggests, the Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 is a speedy addition to the Metcon family. We found it to be more flexible and agile as well as more cushioned for treadmill runs and high-impact cardio sessions. It is also amazing how the shoe manages to remain stable for lifting! Even though it's not as light as we expected from a shoe of this kind, it certainly didn't feel heavy on our feet.
The Nike Flex Control 4 rose to the top as the best minimalist cross-training shoe because it allowed us to perform several types of exercises with much ease. Its low-to-the-ground structure gave us more control, so our jumps and other plyometric movements became more precise. Its firm midsole enhanced the shoe’s springiness, allowing us to sprint more efficiently. Finally, its wide footprint gave us the stability that we needed for light to moderate lifts.
In the lab, we learned through our caliper measurements that the stack height of the heel is 19.0 mm while the forefoot is 15.6 mm. Compared to the average, these figures are thinner by 5.6 mm and 2.7 mm.
The average midsole softness is 27.0, yet the HA durometer pegged the softness of the Flex Control 4’s cushion at 32.0. Aside from additional springiness, the firm also helped with stability.
Speaking of stability, we also felt that the shoe’s wide footprint contributed a lot to it. Using a caliper, we learned that the forefoot is 111.0 mm (average is 109.6 mm) wide while the heel has a width of 89.2 mm (average is 87.0).
We just find it too unfortunate that the upper was not really as durable as we would have wanted. After our test workout sessions, we saw that the upper already suffered considerable damage.
A versatile shoe that faces the challenges of the outdoors is how we describe the Reebok Nano X2 TR Adventure. This trainer owes much of its outdoor cross-training excellence to its pretty supportive heel counter, amazingly firm base, and fit-enhancing tongue.
Upon wearing it, we already felt the stiffness of the heel counter. It’s definitely 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 2.6) after a good squeeze in our lab.
The firmness of the outsole and midsole 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 85.5 HC outsole and the 32.0 HA midsole. Based on readings on our durometers, the averages are 84.4 HC and 27.0 HA.
Just by looking at it, anyone would already know that the tongue is quite full. We confirmed this with our caliper which measured the tongue to be 9.9 mm thick while the average is only 5.8 mm. Not only did the thick tongue help with fit, it also tightened the shoe’s clasp on the foot; and this resulted in more confident runs, jumps, and leaps.
Being roughly an ounce heavier than average surely made this shoe feel clunky. The more nimble exercisers among us needed some time to get used to the Nano X2 TR Adventure’s weight.
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.
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.
Is there a difference between cross-training shoes and 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 cross-training shoes may not have the same level of stability for weightlifting exercises.
Cushioning: They often have minimal cushioning to promote a more natural feel for weightlifting and gymnastics movements.
Traction: Crossfit shoes have an extra-sticky sole that provides excellent traction on rubber gym floors; in addition, these shoes are reinforced with grippy sidewalls that help with rope climbs
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.
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:
Cross-training shoes typically provide adequate stability and support for weightlifting exercises, including squats, deadlifts, and other strength training movements.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
Cross-training shoes are designed to handle high-impact activities, making them well-suited for HIIT workouts that include a combination of cardio and strength exercises.
Cross-training shoes are often equipped with good cushioning and support, making them suitable for running, jumping, and other high-impact cardiovascular activities.
Cross-training shoes can handle the various types of movements involved in circuit training, including weightlifting, plyometrics, and bodyweight exercises.
Cross-training shoes are often equipped with good traction and support, making them suitable for sports that involve running, jumping, and cutting movements, such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball.
Overall, cross-training shoes are a good option for individuals who engage in a variety of different physical activities and need a shoe that can handle a range of movements.
5 things to consider in cross-training shoes
Aside from the shoe aesthetics, there are at least 5 essential characteristics that you should pay attention to when choosing a pair of cross-trainers:
Flexibility of the shoe
Breathability of the upper
Often 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:
better for weightlifting
better for cardio, HIIT, aerobics, treadmill, etc.
The shoe should be flexible enough to allow for natural movement during various exercises like jumping, running, and lateral movements. However, some trainers are made significantly more flexible than others.
better for stability and weightlifting
better for lunges, agility training, treadmill runs, and exercises that require maneuverability
Cross-trainers 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.
But 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)
not gum rubber
Breathability of the upper
A breathable midsole can help keep your feet cool and comfortable during intense workouts.
The toe box is the front part of the shoe that provides room for the toes to move and helps protect them from injury. A good toe box should provide enough room for your toes to move freely and comfortably, without feeling cramped or restricted.
Frequently asked questions about cross-training shoes
Can you do a cross-training workout in bare feet?
Yes, you can do a cross-training workout in bare feet. In fact, some experts believe that doing exercises without shoes can improve balance, stability, and strengthen the muscles in your feet. However, it's important to be cautious when performing certain exercises, such as weightlifting or jumping, as bare feet may not provide enough protection and support for your feet.
Additionally, some gyms and training facilities may have rules or regulations regarding barefoot workouts, so it's important to check with them before attempting a barefoot cross-training workout.
If you prefer to have some protection and support while doing your cross-training workout, it's recommended to wear shoes that are appropriate for your foot type and the activities you will be doing. Look for shoes with good cushioning, arch support, and stability, as well as a proper fit and comfortable feel.
Are cross-trainers suitable for running?
Cross-training shoes can be used for running, but they are not designed specifically for running. Cross-training shoes are designed for a variety of activities and provide support, cushioning, and stability for activities like weightlifting, jumping, and other high-impact movements.
Running shoes, on the other hand, are specifically designed for running and provide features such as extra cushioning, a firmer midsole, and a more flexible sole to help absorb the impact of repetitive foot strikes and provide a more efficient stride.
While cross-training shoes can be used for running, they may not provide the same level of support and performance as running shoes. 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.
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.
How we test training shoes
To separate the footwear phenoms among hundreds of models, we put each one of them to meticulous performance tests. That means subjecting all of the shoes to a variety of cross-training regimens from low to high-intensity workouts.
Our selection protocols include the following:
Buying the 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.
Clocking up 10-20 hours of training usage for each model to determine their real-world feel, durability, traction, and overall value.
Taking notes of our initial assessments for all the shoes that we’ve tested ourselves.
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 their different characteristics, including durability, stability, and cushioning properties.
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.