7 Best Gym Shoes in 2023

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo on
7 Best Gym Shoes in 2023
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Wearing the right shoes for gym workouts is a game-changer. A running shoe with plenty of cushioning may not be a wise choice for lifting heavier weights or CrossFit training. So be sure to pick the ideal pair of gym shoes that’s more targeted to the type of workout routine you’ll be doing.

Popular gym shoe brands include Nike, Reebok, and Adidas. But we’ve also added to our repertoire pretty good brands that deliver similar high-level performance such as Altra, Under Armour, ASICS, Inov-8, and New Balance.

Whatever types of workout routines you have on your calendar, we have a perfect pair for your gym footwear needs. To help you save time when searching for the right fit, we’ve tested and reviewed 100+ of the best gym shoes available in the market. Check out our top picks.

Best gym shoes overall

What makes it the best?

The Nike Free Metcon 5 takes the seat as the best gym shoe in our arsenal because it was relentless in delivering key advantages during our workout sessions. Its heel-to-toe drop allowed us to perform a variety of exercises with ease. From weightlifting to short sprints, this gym shoe got us covered! We are also floored by its immense flexibility and amazing lightness.

The Free Metcon 5 has a 6.3 mm drop based on our caliper readings. Our data suggest that a drop that falls within the 4-8 mm range provides a nice balance of plushness and firmness. No wonder we were able to enjoy a lot of functional versatility while wearing this shoe.

The average gym shoe needs 22.5N to be bent at a 90-degree angle. Amazingly, the Nike Free Metcon 5 did not even need half of that force. According to our digital gauge in the lab, this Nike trainer needed only 8.8N. Given this much flexibility, the shoe was able to follow the natural flexions of our feet.

Weighing only 10.5 oz or 298g, this shoe is a bit lighter than the average trainer (11.2 oz or 317 g). Because this shoe did not weigh us down at all, we were amazed at how we were able to run faster and jump higher when we wore the Free Metcon 5.

Registering 17.4 (against the 27.0 average) on the HA durometer, the midsole is indeed soft. Because of this, we felt it bottoming quite easily after a few intense uses. This tendency is definitely something to keep in mind when using the Nike Free Metcon 5.


  • 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


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

Best gym shoes for weightlifting

Nike Romaleos 4

What makes it the best?

Out of all the gym shoes that we worked out in, it was the Romaleos 4 from Nike that helped us the most during weightlifting. It had quite a supportive fit care of the thick tongue and its two-strap design. This shoe also had a wide base that surely helped with stability. We were also impressed by the stiffness of the heel counter, making it quite effective in locking down the rear foot.

Compared to the 5.6 mm average, the padding in the tongue of the Romaleos 4 is a bit thicker at 7.4 mm. Together with the two in the midfoot, the thick tongue contributed to a comfortably snug fit.

Our caliper measurements in the lab revealed that the midsole platform is 111.5 mm wide at the forefoot while it is 91.3 mm wide at the heel. Given these figures, the Romaleos 4’s midsole is therefore 4.4 mm and 4.2 mm wider than average.

The heel counter felt quite dependable no matter how heavy the plates that we cleaned and jerked with. We did a manual assessment on it in the lab through squeezing, and the heel counter easily got a perfect 5 for stiffness.

We were a bit disappointed with the results of our smoke test for breathability. We saw how challenging it was for smoke to pass through the upper material. Hence, this shoe only got a 2 out of 5 for ventilation.


  • Phenomenal stability
  • Sturdy platform and sole
  • Better lockdown with two straps
  • Comfortable for a lifting shoe
  • True to size
  • Efficient traction
  • Appealing looks


  • Upper lacks durability
  • Not for narrow ankles
  • Not breathable
Full review of Nike Romaleos 4

Gym shoes with the best comfort

Reebok Nano X3

What makes it the best?

Among all the gym shoes that we exercised in, it was the Nano X3 from Reebok that gave us the best experience comfort-wise. Not only was its cushioning softer, the whole midsole delivered a good energy return as well. We were able to do more with less effort because of this benefit. Our experience of comfort was completed by the immense breathability of the upper.

We assessed the cushioning system in the lab, and we found that it’s a lot softer than average. Our HA durometer pegged its softness at 20.5 while the average goes as high as 27.0. When used for workouts, the soft midsole kept pain at bay while running and jumping.

Speaking of running, we were able to run faster because of the bounce that we got from the midsole. The technology embedded in it truly worked wonders for us. Because of this, we never had to beat ourselves up just so we could cover more distances or jump higher.

Aside from having such a nice-feeling inner sleeve, the upper also allowed our feet to breathe so well. Our socks were always dry when we took them off after a session, no matter how long it was. In the lab, we gave the shoe a score of 4 out of 5 for ventilation.

We just wish that this shoes were lighter. At 12.4 oz or 352g, this shoe is indeed heavier than average, which weighs only 11.0 oz or 313g.


  • Awesome fit
  • Extremely comfortable upper
  • Cloud-like cushioning
  • Good stability for moderate lifting
  • Nice bounce for jumps
  • Great for rope climbing
  • Scene-stealing appearance


  • Break-in needed
  • Heavier than average
  • Not for heavier weightlifting
Full review of Reebok Nano X3

Best gym shoes for speed

What makes it the best?

We hoist the Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 as the speediest gym shoe in our arsenal simply because of its amazing speed-oriented design. Aside from having a low-to-the-ground profile, this shoe also had a fairly stable platform. We also commend its cushioning system for keeping us pain-free throughout our runs.

Through our caliper measurements, we learned that the midsole is thinner than average by 1.7 mm at the heel and 3.1 mm at the forefoot. Having the midsole this way allowed us to feel the gym floors more, increasing our surefootedness and making it easier to accelerate. 

Stability was another highlight of this shoe. Our caliper showed the platform to be 112.0 mm (ave 109.6 mm) wide at the forefoot and 88.9 mm (ave 87.0 mm) at the heel. This setup afforded our feet more surface area, which was very useful not only when we ran but also when we started lifting light to moderate weights.

Running can be quite harsh on the feet, but we didn’t have to worry because the cushioning was so soft it was able to keep pain at bay all throughout our sessions. Using an HA durometer, we learned that the cushion is indeed softer than average, 22.4 against 27.0. 

It’s just too bad that the Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 is not the sturdiest shoe out there. Quite on the contrary, this shoe only got a 1 out of 5 from us after we performed our standard Dremel test for durability on it.


  • 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


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

Best minimalist gym shoes

What makes it the best?

Among all the minimalist shoes that we’ve tried, the minimalist Nike Flex Control 4 is surely the best in its league. Aside from its lightness, this shoe also delivered a lot of ground feel, which allowed us to be more in control of our movements. The shoe’s flexibility, which allowed us to move with much more ease, is also worth an honorable mention here.

The moment we wore the Nike Flex Control 4, we already admired its lightness. The lab confirmed our observation when the weighing scale reported that this shoe weighs only 9.8 ounces or 277 grams, which is lighter than the 11.2 ounces or 317 grams average.

Readings from our digital caliper revealed that the shoe’s midsole is thinner than usual. To be more precise, it is 5.6 mm thinner than average at the heel and 2.7 mm thinner at the forefoot. Because we are closer and much more able to feel the gym surface, not only did we gain more control, we became more agile as well.

Both the heel counter and the base of the shoe moved quite smoothly with our feet, especially when we did agility workouts. When we assessed these features in the lab, we learned why. After multiple squeezes, the heel counter got a score of 2 out of 5 for stiffness. The base, for its part, also got a 2 out of 5 for resistance after aggressively twisting it.

While a lot of flexibility was good for athletics, it spelled doom for serious lifting. Gym rats whose regimen is lifting-based should look for a better alternative.


  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Lighter than average
  • Very flexible
  • Foot feels planted
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good grip
  • Simple aesthetics
  • True to size


  • Durability issues
  • Not for serious workouts
Full review of Nike Flex Control 4

Best budget gym shoes

What makes it the best?

A good gym shoe should offer enough cushioning and deliver a good deal of breathability. It must also be light. Not only does the Legend Essential 3 excellently deliver all these aspects, it is also sold at such a low price of £70 (average price is £100). There should be no question to it; this amazing gym shoe offers the most value for every cent.

In the lab, our HA durometer readings yielded a 26.3 score for the midsole. This number makes the cushion slightly softer than the 27.0 average. When used in the gym, this shoe gave us just enough cushioning for jumps and other landings.

Breathability is another highlight of this gym shoe. In the lab, we watched in awe as the smoke that we pumped into the shoe easily escaped through the forefoot and tongue. That was a good indicator that the upper is porous enough to let air in and out of the shoe without issue. This shoe got a 4 out of 5 for ventilation from us.

At only 8.78 ounces or 248 grams, the Legend Essential 3 is a lot lighter than the average trainer (11.18 ounces or 317 grams). This significant reduction in weight was something we enjoyed so much. It allowed us to persist in several workouts without feeling any pain or fatigue in our feet. 

It’s just sad that the Legend Essential 3 is not made of sturdier stuff. Our 12 seconds of Dremel-drilling already poked a hole in the upper. The heel counter padding is a lot weaker. The upper and heel counter padding got a 2 and 1 out of 5 for durability, respectively.


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


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

Best gym shoes for Crossfit

Nike Metcon 9

What makes it the best?

We tested the best gym shoes in and out of the lab and found Nike Metcon 9 the best for CrossFit. We repeated bursts of lifts, squats, and jumps AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). Metcon 9 powered through with its supportive base, flexible structure, and reliable traction.

Among all our WOD exercises, we’re most confident in weightlifting. From split jerks to snatches, Metcon's wide and sturdy base keeps us planted to the ground. Upon checking with our caliper, we have a vast 116.9/95.0 mm platform. This large contact area with the surface stabilizes our form. Our toes can splay naturally, while the raised sidewalls ensure stability. We can’t help but notice the extra support given by the non-compressible Hyperlift under the heel — giving us the balance we need for all types of lifts.

Metcon 9 shows it's versatile enough as we feel comfortable and stable during box jumps, wall balls, lunges, and other plyometrics. It also delivers excellent traction on our rope climbs and sprints around the box. We remain in control since the midsole is unresisting. Our bend test confirms it’s 15.0% more flexible than the average trainer.

The padded upper feels protective and soft to the touch. Yet, unfortunately, it feels too stuffy for humid indoor sessions. Metcon 9 works best in cool weather.


  • 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


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

Comparison of the 7 best gym shoes

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If you take your workouts seriously, you simply cannot afford to compromise when it comes to your gym shoes. Wearing the wrong shoes not only impedes your performance but also increases your chance of injury.

With so many brands and models, though, finding the right gym shoe for you can be a pretty daunting task. That’s why we’ve broken down everything you need to know to make the smartest buying decision. Read on for your complete guide to buying gym shoes.


What are gym shoes?

The gym shoe category is an all-encompassing one that covers a range of different types of athletic shoes. They offer the support, cushioning, and stability needed for a variety of activities.

The following specific types of training shoes come under the gym shoe umbrella:

Cross-training shoes: Also referred to as cross-trainers, are made for all-day wear and are appropriate for a variety of workouts, including aerobic, weightlifting, and cross-training. Their enhanced level of cushioning, support, and traction allows you to carry out a variety of workouts comfortably and safely.

Weightlifting shoes: Weightlifting shoes offer a firm, steady foundation because they are made exclusively for weightlifting.  Common features include a raised heel, a hard sole, and straps that tightly secure your feet are common features. These features can help improve your lifting technique and lower the chance of injury.

Crossfit shoes: Crossfit shoes are created for workouts that combine weightlifting, cardio, and gymnastics-type movements. They offer the stability and support needed for lifting, as well as flexibility and cushioning for plyometric and agility training.

Factors to consider before buying gym shoes

With the abundance of choices on the market, finding the ideal gym shoe for your workouts can be quite overwhelming.  Fortunately, there are a number of things you can take into account to help you reduce your options and locate the ideal pair of gym shoes for your needs:

  1. Type of shoe
  2. Preferred heel height
  3. Amount of cushioning
  4. Balance of flex and stability
  5. Level of breathability
  6. Fit of the shoe

Types of gym shoes

The first step is to match your search to the type of training you’ll be doing. Here are the four main types of gym shoes, along with their differentiating features:

Cross-training shoes

The most versatile in the bunch, cross-training shoes are designed to be adaptable enough for a wide range of workout types. They provide support and cushioning for various exercises like lifting weights, plyometrics, and running.

Cross-training shoes are equipped with:

  • shock-absorbing cushioning
  • support for side-to-side motions
  • flexibility to do lunges and similar moves
  • durability for high-intensity workouts
  • traction for stability while training

Cross-training shoes include Crossfit shoes.

Crossfit shoes

CrossFit shoes are specifically made to accommodate CrossFit training, which may encompass lifting, running, jumping, and more.

Shoes made for Crossfit have very similar features to cross-training shoes, such as:

  • flexibility for various exercises
  • lateral assistance for side-to-side motions
  • sturdy design to handle demanding workouts
  • traction to enhance stability for lifting and jumping

Here is what makes Crossfit shoes different:

  • less cushioning
  • lower heel-to-toe drop (0-5 mm) for a more grounded feel
  • added protection for rope climbs

Weightlifting shoes

Weightlifting shoes are made to keep your feet secure and supported when you lift.

They've got the following attributes:

  • elevated heel (15-21 mm) for improved squatting depth and form
  • strong, non-compressible sole for enhanced power transfer and a stable foundation
  • velcro straps to ensure a snug fit and prevent slippage
  • minimal padding to enhance stable bases
  • robust design to withstand heavy use

Heel height in gym shoes

The heel of your gym shoes is a crucial factor to take into account when making your purchase because it can influence your overall comfort and workout performance.


Here are the key considerations to take into account:

Heel height

The heel heights of gym shoes range from absolutely flat to several inches high. Your personal tastes and the kind of training you do will determine the appropriate heel height for you.

Lower heel Higher heel
creates a more grounded platform for Crossfit, deadlifting, 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

in lifting shoes translates to a more efficient posture when squatting and lifting heavy

  • beginners choose lower heels
  • higher heels are favoured by seasoned athletes

Heel-to-toe drop

The distance between the heel and the toe of a shoe is referred to as the heel-to-toe drop. A shoe with a higher drop may feel more sturdy and supportive, whereas one with a lesser drop may feel more flexible and natural.

Heel drop is NOT the same as heel height

For example, NOBULL Trainer and NOBULL Trainer+ have the same heel-to-toe drop - 4 mm. However, the heel height is different:

  • Trainer: 18.6 mm
  • Trainer+: 23.6 mm

The added cushioning in the Trainer+ gives more impact protection for jumps and runs as well as comfort for daily wear.

Heel counter

The portion of the shoe that wraps around the rear of the foot and offers support and stability is known as the heel counter. You want a strong, well-constructed heel counter that is snug without being too tight. A good heel counter will help avoid ankle injuries and offer a firmer foundation for workouts requiring balance and lateral motions.

Amount of cushioning

The amount of cushioning in the midsole can influence how comfortable a shoe is.

Too little cushioning can make the shoe feel stiff and uncomfortable. Excessive cushioning can make the sole seem shaky and make it difficult to feel the ground or other objects beneath your feet, which will impair your balance and stability.

The optimal amount of cushioning will vary depending on your own tastes and the kind of workouts you intend to do.

You might want a shoe with greater padding to absorb shock if you're doing high-impact exercises like jogging or leaping. More cushioning also helps to relieve strain on the joints and lowers the risk of injury.

Balance of flex and stability

The sole needs to be flexible and adaptable enough to let your feet naturally move. Additionally, it should bend where your foot naturally flexes to give you the best possible mobility and comfort.

Exercises like lunges, squats, and others call for a full range of motion in your feet. This is provided by a flexible sole.

Weightlifting, on the other hand, calls for a stiffer sole. Too much bending will make you feel shaky under heavy loads.

The midsole needs to offer enough support for your feet to shift laterally or alter course. A sturdy midsole can also help prevent ankle injuries by lessening the possibility of your foot moving inward or outward during exercise.

That's why, in top-rated cross-trainers, you often see the following setup:

  • firm and stable heel
  • supportive sidewalls in the midfoot
  • flexible forefoot

Level of breathability

Look for gym shoes with a breathable upper to keep your feet dry and cool while exercising.

For breathability, knit or mesh uppers are fantastic choices because they enable air to flow freely. A permeable upper also helps lessen bacterial growth and reduce foot odour.

Fit of the shoe

A gym shoe's upper should be comfortable on your foot without being too tight. Look for footwear with a wide toe box and sufficient area for your foot to flex freely. The upper should also provide enough support during lateral movements or changes in direction.


The toebox width in training shoes ranges from 96 mm to 106 mm in the widest part of the forefoot. Nike Metcons and Reebok Nanos top this range with their 100+ mm toeboxes.


Frequently asked questions about gym shoes

How frequently should I buy new gym shoes?

Gym shoes have different lifespans depending on usage, the intensity of activity, and shoe quality. A reasonable rule of thumb, though, is to switch out your gym shoes every six to twelve months, or if you detect substantial wear and tear, a loss of support, or discomfort.

Can I work out at the gym in running shoes?

While gym shoes and running shoes may have a similar appearance, they are made for different forms of activity. Running shoes may not offer the support and stability required for lateral movements or weightlifting because they are designed solely for forward motion.

It is much better (and safer!) to select exercise footwear made specifically for the workout you intend to perform.

Can I wear my gym shoes outside of the gym?

Yes, as long as they are comfortable and acceptable for the situation, you can wear your gym shoes outside of the gym. Just keep in mind that repeated wear on hard surfaces like concrete will hasten wear and tear. Some gym shoes might not be appropriate for activities like hiking or trail running.

How we test training shoes

Identifying the gym shoes that truly deliver genuine value requires a serious data-driven selection process. That means spending hours of wear testing the shoes for specific workout routines. We also check and analyse the materials or technologies used in the shoes.

To ensure the 100% objectivity of our assessment, we perform the following:

  • Buy the shoes using our own money for wear tests.
  • Make an in-depth review of the shoes that we’ve tested ourselves. We wear the shoes going to the gym and executing actual workouts such as lifting weights, skipping rope, squatting, or running on the treadmill. Okay, you get the idea: we base all our reviews on real-life performance tests that include CrossFit workout sessions.
  • Finally, we subject the shoes to various lab tests for us to bring you the shoes' features and functions that are concluded from the lab results.

In the end, after writing the qualitative descriptions of each shoe, we feature our favourite picks in various categories.

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.