10 Best Workout Shoes in 2021

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo on
10 Best Workout Shoes in 2021

Workout shoes, also called cross-training shoes or cross-trainers, are engineered to accommodate a wide range of training activities. This guide will present the best workout shoes on the market and what to look for when buying a pair of workout shoes.

Some shoes come with a wider, more stable platform to accommodate weightlifting. Others are much lighter and help you feel more nimble for agility training. Depending on your priorities, you may look for different features in your next gym shoe.

Having tested over 100 workouts shoes, we have selected our top picks in five different categories.

How we single out the best workout shoes 

  1. We gather and read reviews. In this case, it’s reviews from 134 experts and 145,951 users
  2. We aggregate them, eliminate spam, add extra weight to the reviews of proven experts
  3. Rank shoes on a 1-100 scale
  4. We do all that thanks to our CoreScore system, which also allows us to 
  5. Create a database of more than 200 workout shoes 

This collection of workout shoes can be sorted and filtered according to your personal preferences (discount, price, popularity, ratings,...). 

Best overall

A champ at everything, choosing the Nike Free Metcon 4 as our best pick for workout shoes is a piece cake! It’s a generalist that does everything excellently! 

Whether you’re in the gym to lift, carry out dynamic workouts, or do light jogs, this is THE training shoe! 

If we had to pin-point the most notable feature of this shoe it’s the all-around comfort it offers! From top to bottom, it just screams plush! 

But don’t get us wrong, it’s not sink-in soft that’s going to punish you during squats and lifts. Nope. On the contrary, the wide heel and the narrow forefoot just creates a solid foundation to keep your weight grounded. 

In other words, it’s SUPERBLY stable! 

Add in the shoe’s form-fitting upper and effective lacing system, lockdown can’t get better than this! 

We really like to stretch out our shoe’s abilities and this was no exception. We did everything we could in it - strength training, box jumps, sled pushes, running stairs, and more. And this shoe smashed everything! 

Not only does it keep the feet and legs feeling fresh, it also makes every workout feel like a breeze! 

During some runs, the constant sensation this shoe provided was surefooted! Thanks to its high-traction outsole, we never experienced any slips or wobbling.

Even better, it’s built to last! 

At $120, the Nike Free Metcon is nowhere near cheap. But with all its qualities, it’s a premium price worthy of all the bucks spent!

See our full review and facts

If it’s efficiency and support you’re after, we just couldn’t recommend the Reebok JJ IV enough! It’s light and it’s big on energy return, workouts are made easy! 

And hey, it’s a serious stunner too! Turning heads and catching eyes in the gym is an easy feat with this one. 

First off, it’s the most comfortable workout shoe on our roster. Yes, it’s MIGHTY comfortable, it almost felt like we were walking on air! The fluff-like cushion was just superb! 

And for a shoe filled with so much padding, it doesn’t necessarily forgo support. It’s still got some rigidity to keep the feet nice and anchored. Even better, it’s got some heel cage and rubber reinforcements that kept us stable, especially during lifts! 

On efficiency, you ask? It’s extremely responsive! So much so, it eats up all the agility workouts we throw at it! 

And to really cement its swift performance in the gym, it also keeps weight at an absolute minimum! It’s almost completely weightless, we forgot we were wearing anything! 

Because it skimps on weight and it’s extra cushy, you might think this workout shoe lags behind in durability. Well, the Reebok JJ IV is here to prove you wrong. 

It’s a solid shoe that’s built to last! And even better, it doesn’t break the bank too!

See our full review and facts

Best for weightlifting

Comfort may reign supreme in the Under Armour Project Rock 3, but it sure didn’t disappoint us in stability! 

It’s a certified killer when it comes to support - the reason why it sits on top of this list! The shoe’s heel is very wide, allowing a very planted squat and stance during lifts! 

Even more, the midsole only makes things better! It’s got a great mix of stiffness and softness to create a well-supported yet comfy feel. Add in the midfoot cage, the feet are just locked nicely in place! 

No excess movements, no wobbling.  

These are not the only reasons why this workout shoe is a total standout. In this shoe, comfort is king! It’s super plush, it can’t get cozier than this! 

And this trainer only gets better and better! It might be HUGE on comfort, but it also doesn’t hold back on energy return! In agile workouts, this made us efficient. During jump ropes, this made us leap higher. And when it was time to do some runs, it paced us! 

Seriously, it’s a darn solid shoe! And it’s a rockstar in the style department! 

The Under Armour Project Rock 3 is not a budget-friendly shoe. But if you’re looking to improve your lifting form and get one hell of a stable shoe, this is THE shoe!

See our full review and facts

The Under Armour HOVR Apex 2 is EXTREMELY supportive. To us, it almost seemed like a heel-raised powerlifting shoe! 

Yes, it’s a fantastic lifting shoe, but the stability it provides is just as sterling in other workouts too! 

We love to abuse our shoes (to really test out its limits), and this one is no excuse. We went beyond weightlifting, of course! And it didn’t disappoint! 

It’s hard to deny that support is the key focus of this trainer. Even in plyometrics, it stabilized our jumps and gave ample flexibility and balance for dynamic exercises! 

And we didn’t have to worry about slips either! They’re NOT in this shoe’s vocabulary. The grip was excellent. As in, it latched onto the ground, keeping us steady and surefooted! 

Even in speed training, this shoe was a star! 

And for a shoe that’s massive on stability, it doesn’t really lose track of comfort. The midsole is NOT brickish hard, no. It’s got some give to keep the feet well-cushioned and protected, especially from impact during landing. 

If we had to describe the comfort this shoe gave us, it’s exemplary

And if you’re planning to step-up your workout style, you won’t go wrong with the Under Armour HOVR Apex 2! 

Probably the only hiccup we have with this shoe is its flimsy lacing system. And because of this minor fault, it stands second best to the Under Armour Project Rock 3!

See our full review and facts

Best for HIIT

HIIT is everything challenging, but with the Nike SuperRep Go, we were unfazed throughout the paces! 

First, this shoe is an A-lister when it comes to impact protection. Despite all the repetitive jumps we performed, the shoe just swallowed everything! There’s ZERO feeling of strain or pain. 

Even better, the midsole is bouncy and springy, it’s easy to get into the next step! And if you want to be efficient, this shoe won’t disappoint! 

When it was time to do some mountain climbers, burpees, and planks, we were awestruck with the shoe’s grip! It kept us steady, we only had our minds focused on the workout itself! 

It’s plenty stable too! The lateral support it provides is just chef’s kiss. Through all the side-to-side movements we executed, we had ZERO issues with slips and wobbling! 

Yes, it’s got the makings of an agile trainer, but it only gets better with its weight. It almost has none, making fast workouts, well fast and easy! 

And don’t worry about comfort. This shoe is not only cushy, but it’s also very breathable! Despite the grueling HIIT exercises we put it through, our feet felt fresh and sweat-free! 

If we had one issue with the Nike SuperRep Go, its deficiency of strength! But with that aside, it’s a great HIIT workout shoe that will keep the feet safe and protected!

See our full review and facts

Lateral movements? The Nike Air Zoom SuperRep will eat them all up! And some HIIT exercises later, we’re here to tell you, it does so FLAWLESSLY! 

In mountain climbers, burpees, and skater jumps, this shoe was just insane! We never felt unsteady, nor did we feel like our ankles were rolling. 

And when it came to jump ropes, the shoe was very efficient in rocking us forward. And because this shoe is a ball of energy, it made our hops higher! 

Even better, it’s everything we hope for in an efficient training shoe! 

And because HIIT workouts can be strenuous to the feet, this shoe is designed to give ample protection. And having paced this shoe, we just couldn’t disagree! Every pound on the floor, this shoe just muted every impact! 

ZERO pain and our legs felt fresh! 

The shoe is also a superstar in the comfort department. It’s well-padded underfoot, it only upped the overall protection. So kudos to Nike for creating such a top-notch workout shoe! 

And of course, it wouldn’t be a true Nike without its eye-catching style. We’re telling you, this is what futuristic looks like! 

Despite all its perks, it also has its fair share of weaknesses. And one that’s hard to write off is its lockdown issues. When cinching down the laces, they cause pressure on top of the foot, which is both annoying and uncomfortable!

See our full review and facts

Best for agility

After testings tens of workout shoes, we didn’t want to pass up on the Nike React Metcon Turbo! And hands down, this is the best agility trainer we’ve ever put our hands (or feet) on! 

If there was a standout in this shoe, it’s easily the React Foam! It’s soft and cushy, it’s great at keeping the feet cozy and at home. But on the one hand, it’s also got loads of energy and spring! 

What does this mean? It’s one heck of an efficient shoe! 

It’s clear as day that it’s everything fast. The snappy midsole is not the only culprit here. We got to blame it on the weight too (or the lack thereof!) 

It’s CRAZY light, we didn’t feel like it was dragging us down! We have been long-time Metcon loyalists, and this version is the lightest among its siblings (which are already featherlight training shoes!) 

Even better, it also doesn’t save on stability! During speed-oriented lateral movements, squats, and lifts, this shoe was an all-star! It kept us anchored and steady, we didn’t have to worry about slips or rolling ankles! 

And don’t worry about foot jamming and sweaty feet in this shoe. This is a shoe that breathes! As in, it doesn’t get hot! 

Metcons are generally pricey workout shoes, and the Metcon Turbo is no exception. So, we don’t really have to punish it too much on that. 

But we do see some flaws in it though. And one that really boggles our mind is its lack of traction, making it inferior in rope climbs. 

Ultimately, if it’s fast that you want, you can’t get faster in the Metcon Turbo - whether it be in your speed workout or in your runs! 

See our full review and facts

It’s comfortable, fast, and light, we just can’t get our feet off the Inov-8 F-Lite 235 v3! It’s easy to say that this is the lightest workout shoe we’ve ever tested. 

It’s INSANELY light, it felt like we had barely anything on! This is also the reason why this shoe makes it to this list. For agility training, having lightweight shoes is always great news! 

But the party is just starting. The shoe’s goodness doesn’t stop there. Apart from its clear-cut focus of weight reduction, it also places a highlight on protection! 

In high-impact sessions, it kept our feet well-cushioned, and it attenuated all the impact we got from each pound on the floor! Seriously, our feet and legs were as fresh as the moment we put this baby on! 

And it’s a flexible shoe you’re after, you can’t go wrong with this trainer! 

Want to do some rope climbs? It’s a breeze with the Inov-8 F-Lite 235! Not only is it protective, but it’s also very sticky, it just bites into rope! 

It’s also a hit in the stability arena! No cap, we were as surefooted and supported as ever in our deadlifts and squats! 

The Inov-8 F-Lite 235 v3 is a shoe that’s built to perform, and perform, it did! Even more, it’s a workout shoe that can take a beating! And if you’re out to get a do-it-all trainer that won’t fail you, we can’t recommend it enough!

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

For such an affordable price, we weren’t expecting the Reebok Speed TR to be this good of a versatile workout shoe. 

When we say versatile, we mean “hit every station in the gym, and this shoe will deliver!” Yep, we mean it that way. 

From climbers, presses, treadmills, squat rack, rowers, and cycles, it’s not merely as jack-of-all-trades. It’s a master of all! 

It’s even got what it takes to go against the more expensive workout trainers on the market! To back this, we just have to tell you how much performance-ready features this shoe has! 

To start, it’s got a TERRIFICALLY supportive upper! It’s got solid wrap around the contours of the foot, at no point did we have to worry about rolling ankles and wobbly feet! 

If we had to pick one great-value trainer, this is it! Even outside the gym, this shoe is just brilliant! It packs so much comfort for 5K runs and brisk walks! 

And it’s just as great in the gym! Through our jump rope hops, this shoe kept us on our toes, and made us leap higher!

At 8.5 oz, it’s unbelievably light! On average cross-training shoes are 10.4 oz. More importantly, this is something we felt during our workouts. 

The shoe didn’t burden our feet at all! If anything, it kept us fast in our agility-oriented exercises. 

And for so little price, the Reebok Speed TR is surprisingly tough! We put it to the test, and by test we mean serious hammering inside and outside the gym. And like a true champ, it came out unscathed!

See our full review and facts

Apart from its wallet-friendly price, it’s just hard not to love the Nike Legend Essential 2! Making it go through the wringer, this shoe is proof that cheap training shoes don’t always mean low quality. 

It’s the complete and utter opposite of cheap! As a matter of fact, it’s got the build that’s even better than the high-end trainers on the market! 

To put it plainly, it’s plenty durable. 

Yes, it’s tough, but it’s not tough on the feet! Meaning, it’s got some plushness going on underfoot, keeping the feet well-cushioned. Even better, the midsole is not the kind of soft that will make you roll your ankles. Nope. 

It’s got a touch of stiffness that gives the feet enough support for surefooted steps. And that’s exactly what we got during our lifts and squats! 

You might think that it’s built sturdy, the outsole is also solid. This shoe will surprise you, though. It’s got some serious flex going on in there! It doesn’t inhibit foot motions at all! 

And if you want to be efficient in your workouts, worry not. This shoe has all the pop and spring you want! 

Rope climbs? Sure, why not? This trainer has all the grip you could ever ask for!

See our full review and facts

What to look for in workout shoes 

Workout shoes are meant to keep the foot supported for multi-directional movements and protected during high-impact activities. Features to look for depend on the type of exercise. 

In general, workout shoes should be: 

  1. Lightweight 
  2. Breathable
  3. Have a firm midsole
  4. Have a grippy outsole 

However, it’s more relevant to show these features in comparison to other shoes that are usually used in the gym. This way, you’ll know what to look for based on the main exercise of your choice.

Short runs
(< 5km)

HIIT & Agility training Weightlifting
moderate heavy
Comfort-stability-meter.png

Everyday workout shoes

Everyday-workout-shoes.png

Best for: moderate gym workouts; can double as casual wear

cushioned sole

high impact protection

lightweight (~200 - 300 grams/shoe)

Weightlifting shoes

Weightlifting-shoes.png

Best for: Olympic weightlifting

very durable

non-compressible platform

elevated heel (15 - 25 mm)

heavy (~400 - 500 grams/shoe)

Cross-training/CrossFit shoes

CrossFit-shoes.png

Best for: intermediate to advanced gym sessions

flat and firm sole

more durable than workout shoes

better ground feel

low drop (0 - 4 mm)

protection for rope climbs

Workout shoes vs. running shoes 

Generally, you should NOT use a pair of running shoes for a gym session. But if your workout primarily consists of running on a treadmill and doing some light bodyweight exercises, then it’s okay to use runners.

Here are a few reasons why dedicated trainers are a better option for gym use:

Workout shoes

workout-shoes-illustration.png

Running shoes

running-shoes-illustration.png

support multi-directional movements

only support linear forward motion

firmer midsole provides a stable base for side-to-side movements and weight training

cushioned sole compresses easily under heavy loads which results in wobbling

thinner sole and lower heel-to-toe drop helps to feel the floor better and allow for better control of foot movement

thicker cushioned midsole and higher drop can get in the way of foot sensitivity

generally have a wider platform, especially in the heel and forefoot, to keep the wearer sure-footed

foot has a higher chance of rolling over the edge of the platform if moves laterally

due to their versatile design, they can be used for more activities, including short runs & sprints, casual walking, dancing, work (spending work time on your feet)

mostly appropriate only for running, walking, and athleisure

FAQ about workout shoes 

Are shoes necessary for working out? 

Depends on the type of the workout. Some people enjoy exercising barefoot or in socks. It certainly helps with building foot and toe strength and with proprioception. However, depending on the type of exercise, people look for certain stability and support features.

And sometimes it’s dangerous to workout barefoot - the risk of injury is high when it’s crowded (someone can step on your feet), people drop the weights when lifting, etc.

If you’re looking for a barefoot experience, you can try shoes that offer barefoot features - minimal or zero heel drop, minimal cushioning (flat soles), minimal support and stability features. Protection-wise, they might come in handy, especially for planks, rope jumps, rope climbs. 

Why do people workout in All-Stars? 

It’s usually the weightlifters that do so. They look for a flat surface (zero heel drop) and full contact with it for better weight distribution throughout the feet and no fancy cushioning: rubber offers stability, unlike wiggly foams. However, when you look at them competing, most will ditch the Chucks and get in the lifting shoes

Are Vans/Converse/(any_brand) shoes good gym shoes? 

The shoe is good for your chosen exercise if it’s comfortable and if it has a set of features needed for you to optimally train. This means shoes should help you perform certain activities more accurately/freely/stable/safely and lessen injury risk. “What to look for in workout shoes” section will help you get started. If you want to start shopping, our selection of gym shoes is the way to go.

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.