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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.