Best workout shoes 2019: safely and effectively squat, leap and lift your way to fitness with the best gym shoes

More support for lifting weights, improved grip for greater HIIT intensity

The best gym shoes – or best workout shoes if you are American – offer improved grip and support so you can workout more safely and with greater effectiveness. An inappropriate pair of shoes can completely ruin a workout and we're not merely talking about flexing some Havaianas in a hotel gym, only to drop a set of dumbbells on your digits, forcing an early exit for the Marbella package holiday.

Nope, even this humble health and fitness writer can attest to almost causing a catastrophic knee injury when a pair of roly-poly running trainers decided to give way at the heel during a particularly (read excessively) weighty squat routine. The fact of the matter is, many modern workouts now incorporate much of the old school Olympic lifting theory and therefore require the best shoes for workouts; ones that offer a stable surface through which to push maximum pooooowwwweeer.

Some will advise you to simply kick off the shoes and tackle the squat rack barefoot, but we'd rather enlist the help of a new breed of workout trainers that neatly blend elements of a lifting shoe (flat sole, sturdy heel etc.) with all of the performance trickery of a the best running shoes.

Hence why we've collated some of our favourite workout trainers, which will get you through everything from a rowdy CrossFit session, to some old school Gold's Gym power lifting. 

How we picked the best workout shoes

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes

Modern workouts require a modern trainer

I like to suffer for my art and if I'm not in the gym sampling the latest workout app, I enjoy being shouted at by a personal trainer in my so-far only partially succesful quest for a Chris Hemsworth body.

I laced up a variety of workout shoes that are specifically designed for bossing the gym, or nailing an intense bout of high intensity interval training, and hand-picked the kicks that best blended performance, comfort, price and, at least to a certain extent, style.

Overall, the Nike Free X Metcon 2 trainer offered the most enticing package, with a super stable heel for better balance during squats and big lifting movements, as well as an exceptionally flexible sole for greater confidence during split squats or more explosive exercises. They also proved light and breathable – perfect for a chap with particularly sweaty feet – while the bootie inner and supportive ankle bar proved excellent for support during sprints and interval training. 

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the list that follows is roughly in an order of preference, although the look and fit of certain models will very much be down to personal tastes. Please note that while these gym shoes were tested by a man, they are largely also suitable for women's workouts.

How to buy the best workout trainer

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes

Get grip where it's needed 

In general, a good workout trainer will have a relatively flat sole, especially at the heel (where it should also be wide). Unlike running shoes, which tend to feature a curve from heel to tip to mitigate heel strike, a workout shoe offers a stable platform for lifting weights.

Some models even have a wider and reinforced heel area, which copes with the excess pressure when tackling a really heavy deadlift or squat and avoids any ankle rolling, while others will be more geared towards explosive movements and high intensity workouts.

Keep in mind what you plan to do, as a shoe that's designed purely for heavy weights probably isn't the most suited to those thinking of incorporating plenty of jumping jacks, box jumps and sprints into their workouts.

Most important of all is fit, and I found that most brands differ in terms of the width and snugness of their offerings. So here's some obvious advice: try them on before you buy. Or buy online and return them within 20 days if the fit doesn't agree with you.

The best shoes for gym and workouts, in order

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: Nike Free X Metcon 2


1. Nike Free X Metcon 2

Supports the ankle for explosive training

Specifications
Best for: The person working hardest in the gym
Reasons to buy
+Lots of ankle support+Really breathable +Plenty of grip
Reasons to avoid
-Looks like a squash trainer-Very snug around the ankle

Support, flexibility, a stable platform and good connection with the ground below: these are all attributes that make a great workout trainer and the Nike Free X Metcon 2 features all of these in droves.

Nike's Metcon range is also relatively diverse, spanning those shoes aimed at pure power lifting (see the Adidas model below) to these, slightly more versatile kicks. We prefer these, simply because you'll be able to perform a greater spread of exercises without changes shoes.

A TPU mesh upper encourages plenty of airflow around the foot, which will appeal to those thinking of adding some high intensity efforts to their workouts, while the bootie construction offers lots of support around the ankle, which is great for rapid direction changes, side steps and sprint training.

Arguably not the most handsome shoe on the market, the Metcon range seems to favour function over form. But that's OK, because everything in the Free X 2 , from the grippy flat sole to the locking mid-foot cage structure, is geared towards offering maximum support for explosive workouts and gets our seal of approval after a series of mixed workouts in the gym. A solid all-round option. 

Buy direct from Sportsshoes.com

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: Under Armour TriBase Reign


2. Under Armour TriBase Reign

It's got sole (suitable for heavy lifting routines)

Specifications
Best for: Feel and power transfer through the gym floor
Reasons to buy
+Maximum ground contact+reinforced toe+Cool design
Reasons to avoid
-Sole not supportive enough for running

Fitness fads come and go, but one regime that stands the test of time is proper old-school, Arnie-style weight lifting. The basic act of pushing and pulling a heavy barbell works almost every muscle in the body and is key to building overall strength.

These Under Armour beauties might not be as power-lifting focussed as the Adidas model mentioned later in this article, but they have been designed to maximise ground contact and grip during big exercise movements.

There is an external heel support, for a more 'locked-in' feel, while a Strategic rubber build underneath the toe box allows for improved grip in that area. Plus, these are constructed from tough 'ripstop' material and a durable mesh, meaning they won't give out after the first couple of sessions.

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: Nike Varsity Compete


3. Nike Varsity Compete

One of the best all-rounders money can buy

Specifications
Best for: Middleweight lifting and explosive workouts
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of grip+Light and airy feeling+Supportive sole
Reasons to avoid
-Look a bit bland

One of our favourite things about Nike's simple but excellent Varsity Compete offering is the sole, which features a rubber stud pattern that seems to grip the soft surface of your average gym floor like a vice covered in Gorilla Glue.

This is great for setting the feet before a weighty squat manoeuvre, while the nice wide and flat sole offers a brilliantly stable platform to push power through the heels during big Olympic lifts.

Despite its indoor-friendly set-up, the cushioned sole of the Varsity Compete can still cope with sprints, explosive leaps and short bouts of running, thanks to its supportive nature.

The woven mesh fabric of the outer looks pretty neat and its hardy structure feels like it would last plenty of sessions before giving up the ghost. As gym trainers go, it is priced slap-bang in the middle of the range, making it easy on the wallet, too.

 

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: Reebok CrossFit Nano 8 FlexWeave


4. Reebok CrossFit Nano 8 FlexWeave

A lightweight shoe for high-octane classes

Specifications
Best for: CrossFit, obvs
Reasons to buy
+Reinforced toe+High abrasion rubber sole+Really flexible
Reasons to avoid
-Crossfit wannabe stigma 

CrossFit incorporates numerous athletic disciplines into its foundations, meaning it requires a fairly versatile shoe to ensure the fitness movement's followers don't end up with battered and blistered feet.

Reebok has long supported the sport (yeah, CrossFitters claims it is a sport) and its latest Nano shoe packs plenty of technology into its slim, lightweight frame, including new heel bootie construction that works alongside a moulded midsole and sockliner for greater ankle support during heavy lifting. 

Reebok's "Toe-Tection" adds extra durability at the front of the shoe, where some participants find digits end up popping through the outer after a few months of flipping tyres etc. Plus, a high abrasion rubber sole grips the floor as you lift and forefoot flex grooves give greater flexibility and enhance balance during split squats and lunges.

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting


5. Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting

Heavyweight heel support for big lifters

Specifications
Best for: The one rep max brigade
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and secure fit +All the bouncy Boost foam you could wish for
Reasons to avoid
-Overly chunky for fast training and short races

There is a school of thought that suggests the art of lifting eye-poppingly heavy weights deserves its very own shoe. After all, you wouldn't head onto the football pitch in a pair of tennis shoes, so why commit a similar faux pas when approaching the squat rack?

The steep decline from heel to toe and beefed-up torsion bar system at the rear of this Adidas brute allows for a much more stable platform through which to push some serious power.

A single instep strap provides additional rear-foot support and can be quickly and easily adjusted on the fly, mid-set, so there's nothing to stand in the way of a one-rep max attempt.

Alas, these beefcake-makers aren't particularly good for anything else other than heavy lifting, so if you plan to throw a little treadmill time into your workout, you'll likely have to pack a separate pair of running shoes in your gym bag... or risk looking a bit silly

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: New Balance Fresh Foam Roav

6. New Balance Fresh Foam Roav

One for the treadmill junkies

Specifications
Best for: Running support and bodyweight exercises
Reasons to buy
+Empty List
Reasons to avoid
-Empty List

New Balance is one of the top dogs in the running shoe game, but it has also branched out into other areas of physical fitness. The Fresh Foam Roav is arguably the most fashion-led trainer on this list, but it still features a few design tricks that make it a good gym buddy.

The signature Fresh Foam cushioning offers a nice, airy ride when running, while Ultra Heel technology aim to keep the heel locked into place when lifting weights or performing explosive moves.

Unlike many other NB shoes, the sole does away with the usual 'banana' design and instead offers a nice flat platform for setting feet and digging in heels during deadlifts, squats and other powerful exercises.

There is probably still a little too much foam in the sole for our liking, as it limits foot feel on the floor and can cause a little ankle rolling if not careful, but it's a great looking shoe and perfect for those into their classes and aerobic fitness. 

Best workout shoes/best gym shoes: Puma Jaab XT


7. Puma Jaab XT

A boxing-inspired shoe for fleet-footed fitness fanatics

Specifications
Best for: Sprint training and fast, powerful movements
Reasons to buy
+Light and cushioning+Stylish enough to wear daily
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most resilient shoe on the list

Inspired by boxing boots, these slightly whacky looking Pumas feature of a sort of slip-on bootie construction that feels a lot like wearing a slipper, but offers a lot of stability and support for rapid, multi-directional movement.

We have to say, these don't feel as solid as a lot of the other trainers on this list, while the flimsy elastic laces feel like they could give way with a little punishment. Still, they great and sport a chunky, flat heel, which is great for lifting weights.