Best cross-training shoes 2021 for intense CrossFit and HIIT workouts

T3's rundown of the best cross-training shoes for functional fitness or high-intensity exercise

CrossFit GOAT Mat Fraser running outdoors shirtless
(Image credit: Nike / Mat Frazer)

One particular type of trainer that’s grown popular in recent years is the cross-training shoe. Undoubtedly commercialised by the proliferation of functional fitness and CrossFit-style training, cross-training shoes are a hybrid type of athletic trainer designed to allow wearers to move in different directions while offering the support needed to limit injury.

Usually, a good pair of cross-training shoes will boast some decent ankle support, a flexible and breathable upper and high levels of comfort to see you through even the most intense exercises. If this is the type of fitness shoe you’re in the market for, read on to find out which we think are the best cross-training shoes money can buy right now.

Speaking of shoes: if there’s one thing the fitness market is saturated with, it’s shoes. There seems to be a pair of trainers for just about every different type of exercise these days, from the best running shoes and best women's shoes to the best workout shoes and even best trail running shoes – you name it, there’s a shoe for it, and if there is, we have a buying guide that can help you choose the right one for your needs.

Best cross-training shoes to buy in 2021

Nike Metcon 6 on white backgroundT3 Best Buy Award badge

(Image credit: Nike)

Best cross-training shoes overall

Specifications
Weight: 360g
Heel to toe drop: 4mm (with removable 8mm insert)
Reasons to buy
+Excellent grip and flexibility+Perform well across training disciplines+Great ankle support
Reasons to avoid
-Design not to everyone’s tastes

Now in its sixth iteration, Nike’s Metcon series (a portmanteau of 'metabolic' and 'conditioning’ in case you were wondering) is by far the best all-rounder when it comes to cross-training shoes.

Nike has not only managed to make these shoes more weightlifting-friendly over predecessors with a lightweight and more breathable upper but ensured they perform well in more standard high-intensity interval training workouts, such as those filled with jumps and sprints.

Being some of the most comfortable gym shoes you’ll ever wear, the Metcon 6’s design is pretty sweet, too, featuring a special abrasion-resistant rubber sole that wraps up around the shoe for gripping ropes while climbing.

There’s also a removable Hyperlift insert that adds an additional 8mm to the shoes’ 4mm heel to toe drop, to help with mobility when it comes to heavy lifting.

Reebok Nano X1 Vegan shoes on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Reebok)

Best cross-training shoes for versatility

Specifications
Weight: 343g
Heel to toe drop: 7mm
Reasons to buy
+Super versatile +Strong yet lightweight thanks to Floatride Energy foam+Breathable Flexweave Knit upper material
Reasons to avoid
-Lacking the extra support for heavy lifting

The Nano series was the first official athletic shoe specifically designed for CrossFit. That didn’t work out so well in the end, but the range is still going strong, nonetheless, and the X1 is a credit to that. Past Nano shoes were more focused on providing support for heavy lifters, however, that’s all changed with the X1 Nano Vegan.

Now, they’ve been created with all areas of the gym floor in mind and built to support fast-paced impact activities, such as HIIT, jumping and sprinting. Offering exceptional flexibility and sustainability, these vegan cross-training shoes are a great choice if you’re a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type of athlete.

Puma Fuse cross-training shoes on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Puma)

3. Puma Fuse

Best cheap cross-training shoes

Specifications
Weight: 400g
Heel to toe drop: 4mm
Reasons to buy
+Cheaper than most competitors +Nice and stable midsole and outsole+Good solid construction
Reasons to avoid
-Narrow midfoot means sizing is a little off-Design and colourways aren’t great

Despite a design that will make minimalists wretch in horror, Puma’s first foray into the functional fitness shoe market is a success. The Fuse cross-training shoes retail for just £80, which represents brilliant value for money, if you ask us.

They might have a narrow midfoot that can throw you when it comes to sizing, but the plus is that they have a versatile design that delivers an all-rounded approach to fitness.

There’s stability where you need it for lifting, and a good level cushioning that should give you the support you need for short sprints or jumps. Apart from an attractive design, these bargain-priced cross-training shoes pretty much have it all.

Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 cross-training shoes on a white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Under Armour)

Best cross-training shoes for jumping

Specifications
Weight: 340g
Heel to toe drop: 8mm
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight mesh upper with 3D print for added protection +HOVR foam offers great bounce-back energy
Reasons to avoid
- Bulky design

By the time we’ve reviewed one pair of Under Armour fitness shoes, the company has released another - we can’t keep up! The latest release by the firm is the HOVR Apex 3, a multidisciplinary cross-training shoe that’s exceptionally cushioned - providing the support you need for those explosive cross-training workouts.

We welcome the more slimline design over previous versions of this shoe, especially the original. Still, they’re able to soften hard landings while boosting your energy return thanks to the HOVR foam sole, which helps eliminate the impact.

This makes them especially useful for jumping exercises or quick sprints. The Apex also features UnderArmour’s Tribase tech in the outsole, which maximises ground contact for the foot, allowing for a better grip during lifts.

On Cloud X on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: On Running)

Best premium cross-training shoes

Specifications
Weight: 226g
Heel to toe drop: 6mm
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant all-rounder+Lightweight but strong design+Outsole design for added comfort 
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Design is an acquired taste

Based on the same tech that’s found inside On’s running shoe line-up, these cross-training kicks have been redesigned to provide support for activities such as weightlifting, functional fitness and CrossFit.

They boast the same lightweight construction that we’ve come to know and love from On, thanks to a knit-weave upper and those iconic CloudTec sole that’s built from the form’s Zero-Gravity foam to keep weight to an absolute minimum. The Cloud X are not only super comfortable, but they’re strong where it matters, making them ideal for high impact training. At full price, though, this comfort doesn’t come cheap

How to choose the best cross-training shoes for you

Finding the right pair of cross-training shoes is hard enough as it is. But since boutique fitness is all the rage and nobody commits to just one type of exercise anymore, finding the pair that’s perfect for all your workout needs can feel near impossible. The fact of the matter is: it’s probably best to buy a pair of shoes for each fitness discipline that you dedicate yourself to.

For example, you might be bogged down with questions like: “I do a lot of running but I love the occasional hit class, so what shoes do I go for?”. In this instance, we’d recommend purchasing a pair of cross-training shoes for those HIIT classes you do, but only if they’re regular, and - if your budget can stretch to it - buy a pair of trainers specifically for running so that you’re best supported in each discipline. No one shoe is perfect for every occasion.

You’re not going to want the stiff heel support in a running shoe as it could cause injury and, conversely, you’re not going to want that overly bouncy and flexible design when you’re throwing dumbbells around in the middle of a CrossFit class. This is why cross-training shoes are crucial. They’ll give you the right balance of support and flexibility to ensure you’re comfortable and safe during functional workouts. 

But what else should you look out for?

Construction 

It helps to know how the shoe is constructed so you can be more informed when it comes to making a decision, and know what features of the shoe are best suited to your needs.

Start with the basics, for instance, that the sole of the shoe is divided into three parts: the insole, midsole, and outsole. The insole is the part that makes physical contact with your feet inside the shoe. The outsole is the part of the shoe that comes in direct contact with the ground, and the midsole is the part in between where most of the cushioning is. This is usually made of a foam-based material. 

All designs differ and so can be suited for different needs and users. For example, those mostly partaking in weightlifting will benefit from a flatter outsole, whereas those that prefer fast-paced mobility activities like HIIT will probably prefer an outsole with some decent grip and made from some kind of durable carbon rubber material.

Price

The price of a cross-training shoe depends completely on the brand and the technology as well as the materials used. Still, you can pick up a great, versatile pair of trainers without spending a bomb. We’d suggest going to the upper end of your budget to ensure you get something that lasts, but anything above £120 probably isn't necessary. On the other hand, anything below £80 probably won’t possess the quality you’d expect to stand the test of time.

Lee Bell
Lee Bell

Lee Bell is a freelance journalist & copywriter specialising in technology, health, grooming and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space. From national newspapers to specialist-interest magazines and digital titles, Lee has written for some of the world’s most respected publications during his 11 years as a journalist.