The best workout shoes will make you look good in the gym and offer improved grip and support, so you can work out safely and with greater effectiveness. Wearing specialised footwear for HIIT workouts, heavy lifting or cardio classes can support and help you achieve your fitness goals faster and more safely.
Even the best running shoes aren't fit for gym workouts – unless you spend most of your time on the treadmill, that is. No, for exercising, you need footwear meant to be used in the gym and is tailored for the type of workout you do.
We tirelessly tested, reviewed and ranked shoes from every major workout shoe brand, including Under Armour, Inov-8, Nike, Reebok, Adidas and more, so you can choose one that fits your workout style the most. Need workout shoes for cross-training? Check out our best cross-training shoe guide now!
How we test the best workout shoes
There are as many different types of workouts as stars in the sky – have you heard about Happy Intensifying Interval Training yet? Is it possible for one workout shoe to be perfect for all of them? No, it isn't.
In most cases, manufacturers will tell you which workout their shoes are best suited for, but this doesn't mean those shoes can't be used for other purposes, something we're always keen to find out.
Some of the essential criteria we check are step-in comfort, ergonomics, padding, cushioning, technology involved, design, aesthetics, and, of course, workout performance.
Of course, your feet are shaped differently from ours, so when we say particular shoes feel snug on our wide feet, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll feel the tightness yourself, so bear this in mind when reading our verdicts.
Read more about how we test at T3 by clicking on the link.
Best workout shoes to buy right now
We weren't particularly blown away by the Metcon 6 (find the review below) as it was more of a slight update of the otherwise excellent Metcon 5. On the other hand, the Nike Metcon 7 is a significant update and a good one at that.
The Metcon 7 uses React, Nike's most resilient foam, making the shoes better suited for sprinting and general cardio. Make no mistake: the Metcon 7 is not a running shoe but it won't have trouble tackling sprint sessions.
The thick rubber sole provides extremely stable footing, ideal for heavy and Olympic lifts, while the grooves at the front of the sole allow the Metcon 7 to bend; basically, you get the best of both worlds.
The upper has also been revamped and is said to tougher than ever. Additionally, the tongues feature a lock tab under which you can hide the laces if you prefer them to be tucked away.
Awesome workout shoes overall.
Browse our Nike discount codes to snap up a saving.
The Under Armour TriBase Reign 3 won in the 'Best Workout Shoes' category at the T3 Awards 2021!
Under Armour didn't switch things up too much with the TriBase Reign 3 but that's completely understandable as these shoes were already the best workout shoes on the market as is. Nevertheless, the new TriBase Reign 3 offers more breathability and better grip than its predecessor.
The Reign 3 inherits most of the best qualities of its predecessor and improves on some to make it even more appealing than ever before. Although these shoes are not the most aesthetically pleasing, they are comfortable to wear, provide plenty of traction and get the job done pretty much perfectly.
At the end of the day, you'll need workout shoes to enable you to perform better in the gym and won't fall apart after a more intense workout session, and the Under Armour TriBase Reign 3 does just that. It's robust, comfortable and damn resilient: just buy them already. Or, if you need even more encouragement, read our full Under Armour Tribase Reign 3 review now.
You can read the review of the Under Armour TriBase Reign 2 here.
Not everyone needs cutting edge technology in their workout shoes. The majority of people need cheap, reliable gym shoes that can be worn on the gym floor and on the road, too.
The New Balance MXTRNRV1 are designed to perform on any surface, for any sport, anytime. And although these shoes don't excel in any sport, the responsive and plush Dynasoft midsole will help you move forward nevertheless, whether you're on a treadmill or doing a HIIT class.
The MXTRNRV1 comes in two colourways, navy with white and grey with neo flame, and these look... fine. No one's going to stop you on the street to compliment your shoes but that's okay. You don't have to stand out all the time.
If you need a pair of reliable gym trainers that do the job just fine, it's the affordable New Balance MXTRNRV1 you need.
We fell in love with the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 while testing them; our 5-star Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 review is proof of that. They are great for strength workouts, however, for jumpy HIIT sessions, use the Under Armour UA TriBase Reign 2 instead, which is a great all-around workout shoe.
Is the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 for everyone? We wouldn't think so. It's great for workouts that doesn't involve a lot of moving around (e.g. running/jogging) and/or jumping around. If you aren't used to barefoot shoes, running or even just jogging might take some time to get used to.
That said, it doesn't take long to get used to the BARE-XF 210 V3, and once you did, you won't want to take them off again.
We weren't sure what to expect of the Goruck Ballistic Trainers (retailer link) before we gave them a try. They look robust – rigid, even – and we were slightly concerned about the shoes not being flexible enough. Mid-top, non-flexible CrossFit shoes might be great for specific exercises (primarily heavy lifts), but they won't be great for running or cycling.
To our relief, the Ballistic Mid-Top Trainers are flexible and comfortable to wear for workouts. Goruck claims the updated design provides three times the support and stability in the three arches of the foot (the medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch and the anterior transverse arch).
And indeed, the Ballistic Trainers feel supportive – sometimes a little too much. Especially in the heel area, some might find the TPU heel counter's guidance obtrusive. Weirdly enough, though, we wouldn't call it uncomfortable – you're just strangely aware that the heels are being cupped by the heel counters almost all the time.
That said, we didn't experience chafing in the shoes, even when we wore them all day to test out the heel counter. The upper is comfortable enough, and the Cordura panels lend a sense of durability without making the shoes too rigid. The toe box, in particular, feels generous, even for people with wide feet.
If you need rugged, military-style workout shoes for CrossFit and hybrid workouts, consider the Goruck Ballistic Mid-Top Trainers!
Support, flexibility, a stable platform and a good connection with the ground below: these are all attributes that make a great workout trainer and the Nike Free X Metcon 2 (link to our full review) features all of these in droves.
Nike's Metcon range is also relatively diverse, spanning those shoes aimed at pure powerlifting (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 changing 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-around option.
The On Cloud X gym shoes are not only unique in terms of their versatile and comfortable yet supportive design, but they deliver on performance, too, offering some impressive responsiveness.
Okay, so they might lose points for failing to have the same level of support and robust fit that a gym shoe like the Nike Metcon range has, but these kicks excel in the fact they are light, stable and offer a good, balanced and natural feel to move around in.
If you’re looking for a pair of workout shoes that have your back no matter what kind of workout you’re doing, the On Cloud X are the ones for you. Want to know more about these excellent trainers? Read our full On Cloud X review today.
Building off the design of the mega-popular Reebok Nano X1, the Nano X1 Adventure Shoe was designed specifically for outdoor use. Imagine a proper CrossFit workout shoe but with a lot more padding and weather-proofing and bags more style.
As Tal Short, Senior Product Manager at Reebok, explains, “More than ever, we’re seeing a huge surge in outdoor fitness and exploration from consumers of all ages and fitness levels." This is probably because, for a year, one of the few reasons people could get outside their homes was to exercise.
It seems the habit of outdoor exercising is here to stay, so understandably, sports apparel manufacturers are trying to fill the gap in the market with their products. The Nano X1 Adventure is Reebok's take on this, and it's a good one.
So, what's new in the Nano X1 Adventure compared to the X1 Nano? The former has an updated rubber lug outsole to help maximum traction outdoors. The flat, less lugged outsole of indoor workout shoes might not perform all that well on grass or gravel, unlike the Nano X1 Adventure, which enjoys quite much on those terrains.
The upper is different, too: it's made of a stretch ripstop material to protect your feet from the elements better. It's also well-padded and provides plush cushioning but can get warm after a while when the weather is hot. On the plus side, the toe box is roomy and allows the foot to expand.
I personally found the laces too long, but you can easily tuck them under so they aren't in the way. Also, despite what Reebok is trying to claim, the Nano X1 Adventure is not a running shoe, so the lengthier laces won't be too much trouble for most. Just make sure you tuck them in before you do your box jumps.
And now for something a little different... where most of the other trainers on this list pile on the features, the Primus Lite III - from eco-friendly brand Vivobarefoot -does the opposite. The third iteration of the Primus Lite is very similar to its predecessor but uses fewer material sources as well as better and more sustainable materials to reduce the impact this footwear has on the planet, without changing the workout experience of the shoes too much (or at all).
Fully vegan-friendly and fashioned from recycled PET plastic waste, they allow for the most natural-feeling workout there is, with the thin, puncture-resistant sole allowing the important nerve endings in the feet to feedback to the brain.
Admittedly, we were sceptical at first, but performing big deadlifts and squats in these is better than going barefoot, or slipping around the gym in socks. The wide shape allows the big toe to stabilise (like it should), while the sole allows the user to make micro-adjustments for the perfect platform during big lifts.
Better still, they are stupidly flexible, so assist in reducing potential toe cramps and discomfort when performing split squats or lunges, where the toes curl with every rep or movement.
Weirdly, the latest Metcon shoe has lost the neoprene-esque ankle support of the model we previously adored, but it still retains the broad flat sole, which makes it great for powerful lifting moves.
Updates include firmer foam under the heel for a more supportive platform, as well as additional cushioning for high impact moves. According to its makers, this shoe is 18% more breathable than the Metcon 5 it supersedes, using an improved lightweight mesh for most of the upper.
There's even a removable Hyperlift insert that lets you adjust the height under your heel from one set to the next, transforming these versatile shoes from a proper lifting platform to a more energetic workout trainer in an instant.
Read our full Nike Metcon 6 review today.
Xero Shoes might be less talked about than Vivobarefoot but its shoes are almost equally as capable, if not more in some cases.
The Xero Shoes HFS – "Highly Flexible Shoes" – is a good example of the craftsmanship Xero applies to its shoes. The HFS is very similar to Vivobarefoot's Primus Lite series but has a sportier upbeat look. Despite the funky looks, the HFS uses vegan-friendly materials only.
Although Xero Shoes advertises the HFS as a minimalist road running shoe, I think doesn't serve justice to these shoes. Sure, you can use the HFS for running – I'd recommend taking it slow, though – but you can also use it for a range of different workouts too. As long as the workout doesn't involve any wet surfaces.
You see, the HFS might have a "tyre tread-inspired sole", in practice, it gets rather unstable when you step on wet surfaces, whether it's tarmac or that weird, rubbery stuff they use under playground swings these days.
Another reason why you might want to avoid working out outside in the HFS is the fact that the upper gets stained very easily. I appreciate workout shoes don't need to be kept box-fresh, but the mesh upper of the HFS will attract stains like a magnet. Way to ruin your pretty shoes.
If you're happy to put up with these issues, you will be rewarded with a pair of workout shoes that are super comfortable to wear and allow your feet to expand properly, unlike most trainers.
If you’re after a versatile pair of all-around workout shoes, the Apex 3 will have you covered. They’re particularly good for HIIT workouts or other workout classes, and indoor gym workouts mixed in with short sessions of treadmill running.
Weight could be an issue for some despite the fact that they are lighter than the Apex 2, and perhaps the higher price might put some off (although you can find discounted models online), but they also double up well as a casual pair of trainers outside of the gym as well as making you feel like you’ve just walked off the set of Back To The Future II.
Read our full Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 review today.
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
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.
How to buy the best workout shoes
Generally speaking, a good workout trainer has a relatively flat sole, especially under the heels (where it should also be a bit wider). Unlike running shoes, which tend to feature a curve from heel to toe to help you transition from one step to the other, workout shoes best serve their purpose when they are able to provide a stable platform for lifting weights.
Some models have a wider, reinforced heel area, which copes with the excess pressure when tackling a really heavy deadlift or squat and avoids any ankle rolling. In contrast, 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 heavyweights probably isn't the most suited to those thinking of incorporating plenty of jumping jacks, box jumps and sprints into their workouts.
However, the most important factor to consider is fit. Most brands differ in terms of the width and snugness of their offerings, so make sure you do your research before you buy a discounted pair online.
What are the best shoes for gym workouts?
Gym workouts, especially heavy lifts, require a stable platform: we strongly advise steering clear away from running shoes – instead, use workout shoes with a flat sole. Most CrossFit-style shoes are great for this purpose, including the Nike Metcon 6 and the Under Armour TriBase Reign 3, but for the more adventurous, we would also recommend the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 or the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III minimalist gym shoes.