The best gym shoes transform your workout, whether you're into weights or cardio. Find your ideal shoe with our top picks
Don’t assume that any old footwear will do in the gym. The best gym shoes are carefully designed to fit your workouts as well as they fit your feet, with the right combination of support, cushioning and grip to help you get the best out of your gym time – and the money you’ve invested in membership!
There are all-rounder gym shoes that do a good job of covering all the bases, and include some extra support and cushioning for short stints on the treadmill. However, if you find that you spend most of your workout time on a particular type of activity, it’s worth investing in shoes whose features are designed for that sport, such as additional heel support for lifting weights or extra cushioning for the treadmill.
Read on to find out more about which types of gym shoes best suit different types of activity, and more advice on finding the best gym shoe for you. Or, if you know which type of shoe you need, skip down the page to our recommendations.
Best gym shoes: At a glance
How to buy the best gym shoe for you
What type of gym shoes do I need?
The best gym shoes are designed to improve your workouts and prevent injury, just like shoes designed for running, cycling or football. A couple of our recommended gym shoes are great all-rounders, but if you spend most of your time lifting weights or doing bursts of high-intensity cardio (HIIT), you’ll want a shoe with the right level of support, cushioning and flexibility.
Weight lifting, for instance, requires a shoe with a stable base and heel support. Weightlifters might also look for a raised heel, to help you drop deep into exercises such as squats. In our recommendations below, ‘offset’ refers to the difference between sole and heel height; the greater the offset, the more raised the heel.
HIIT and agility workouts require a flexible shoe with multi-directional traction on the sole, and cushioning to protect your body from the impact. Not too much cushioning, though, or the shoes may lack the stability needed for a varied workout.
All-rounder gym shoes aim to cover all the bases, with some extra support for short stints on the treadmill. CrossFit enthusiasts will need a versatile shoe that can handle heavy lifting, HIIT and treadmill sprints.
Can I just wear running shoes?
If you’re just sticking to the treadmill, sure. But not if you’re into weights. For lifting, you’ll need a shoe with much firmer support than the soft cushioning you find in many running shoes. For HIIT, cushioned running shoes lack the lateral stability that you’ll need for a really agile workout. However, you’d be OK with special stability running shoes, which are designed to reduce injury risk in people who overpronate while running.
How much should I spend?
The best gym shoes often cost £100 or more. Most sports shoe companies release new versions of their shoes every year, so look out for the previous version to pick up a bargain. You can get gym shoes for under £20, and indeed one of our top picks is a budget shoe, but only spend this little if you’re not a big gym-goer. If you work out more than a couple of times a week, the support and cushioning in a cheap shoe will wear out too fast for comfort.
The best gym shoes to buy
1. Nike Metcon 7: Best all-round gym shoe
Price when reviewed: £44 | Check price at Sports Direct
For the latest in its popular Metcon series, Nike has worked with leading CrossFit athletes to devise a gym shoe with the perfect mix of stability and flexibility. That’s a tough balance to achieve, but essential for anyone who likes to combine weights work with high-intensity exercise.
In addition to the breathable upper and lightweight, well-cushioned sole, the shoe is brilliantly supportive for weightlifters. New edition 7 has an integrated stability section, made from Nike’s specially-designed foam, which dissipates force to the widest part of the shoe to offer superb stability without feeling stiff. The rubber tread on the outsole and extending up the side of the shoe have always been nicely grippy, but the new edition adds special rubber inserts to aid grip and flexibility on ropes and walls. In short, this is the shoe to inspire a break out of your gym comfort zone.
Key features – Best used for: All gym activity; Offset: 4mm
2. Adidas Powerlift 4: Best gym shoes for weightlifting
Price when reviewed: From £75 | Check price at fight Equipment UK
If you’re hitting the gym purely to lift heavy weights, stick the Adidas Powerlift 4 at the top of your shopping list. The raised heel and firm midsole are both designed with one thing in mind: to provide you with as much stability as possible during your workout. The narrow design and strap system also helps to lock the foot in place, again creating a strong base for your lifts.
The canvas upper is lightweight and breathable, and also pretty durable, but it should be said that the Powerlift 4 won’t hold up as well as a dedicated cross-training shoe if you’re constantly leaping around. The Powerlift 4 also comes in an impressive range of colours and is definitely one to look out for in sales, especially as the line is updated annually.
Key specs – Best used for: Weightlifting; Offset: 28mm heel height
3. Brooks Launch 8: Best for the treadmill
If running is more your thing, then you’ll be pleased to hear that we have a list dedicated entirely to running shoes for you to check out. In general, running shoes with high stacks of soft cushioning aren’t ideal for a gym session where you’re doing a mix of treadmill and weights, because they can be unstable during your lifts. However, the Brooks Launch 8 strikes a good balance between a cushioned running shoe and a lightweight gym trainer.
The midsole provides enough protection for many miles of running, and it has both enough comfort for long runs and plenty of pop in it when you want to up the pace. The foam is reasonably firm, though, so you won’t sink deep into it when lifting weights, and the outsole grips well during workouts with fast lateral movements as well.
Key features – Best used for: Running; Offset: 10mm
4. Reebok Nano X1: Best gym shoe for interval training
Reebok might no longer be the title sponsor of CrossFit, but that hasn’t changed the fact that its Nano line of gym shoes remains ideally suited to the varied demands of CrossFit workouts. These can include lifting heavy weights at speed, agility sessions with plenty of fast moves in all directions, and straight up sprinting.
The Nano X1 has a heel clip to increase stability during quick, lateral movements, and the breathable upper also has reinforced sections for increased support. The outsole offers multidirectional grip, and the Floatride Energy Foam in the midsole adds cushion and bounce when you’re running or doing plyometric moves without being so mushy as to be unstable when lifting heavy weights.
Key features – Best used for: CrossFit; Offset: 7mm
5. Domyos Fitness Shoes 100: Best budget gym shoe
Spending £100 on a pair of gym trainers might not be the most worthwhile investment if you’re not committing to regular gym exercise. To that end, these Domyos fitness shoes – designed primarily for cardio workouts – are just £15, making them the perfect choice if you’re prone to short-lived health kicks.
Despite the comparatively cheap price, you still get reliable support from the shoe’s thick cushioned sole, and the multidirectional flexibility ensures that your movement isn’t inhibited. As Domyos claims: “Wearing suitable shoes reduces the risk of injury by 20% when compared with people who wear running shoes.” At this price, that sounds like a good deal to us.
Key features – Best used for: Occasional cardio; Offset: 4mm
6. Inov-8 F-Lite 235: Best gym shoe for HIIT
This lightweight and incredibly sturdy shoe provides the ideal balance of stability and cushioning. You’ll be protected during high-impact exercises such as running or plyometric movements, while also maintaining the firm base required to lift weights and perform bodyweight exercises at speed during HIIT sessions.
The versatile shoe benefits from enhanced flexibility in the forefoot to improve metatarsal foot splay, while also boasting a cushioned midsole to fight foot fatigue during excercise. HIIT and CrossFit workouts can wear out shoes faster than any other kind of exercise due to the speedy, multidirectional movements that are often involved, so the long-lasting design of the F-Lite 235 will definitely be appreciated.
Key specs – Best used for: HIIT/CrossFit; Offset: 3mm
PUMA Fuse 2.0 x WIT: Best gym shoes for CrossFit
Price when reviewed: £66 | Check price at WIT Fitness
The WIT x Puma Fuse 2.0s are a special edition of the original Puma Fuse 2.0. With a sleek white and gold upper featuring the WIT logo and training motto on the back – “Training Obsessed” – they’re a sharp-looking pair of training shoes. I tested the Fuse 2.0s during two HIT CrossFit sessions at WIT HQ.
The 2.0s are both comfortable and supportive. The toe box is nice and wide, providing added stability for workouts – whether that be body-weight or with weights – and the reinforced heel clip keeps the foot nicely in place, allowing for a no-slip fit. Although the midsole is narrow, the rubber outsole rises at the midfoot to prevent the foot from rolling, increasing the support when fully planted or at a wider stance – useful for squats and dumbbell/power snatches. Underneath, the soleplate benefits from vertical grooves at the forefoot for improved flexibility in the transverse arch, and in tandem with the wide toe box, gives room for improved metatarsal foot splay.
Although the 2.0s are purpose-designed for CrossFit, they fall short in the running department. Understandably, most sessions won’t require anything more than 400m at a time, however, during my runs, the Fuse 2.0s felt flat-footed and lacked a bit of bounce. That being said, if your focus is directed toward circuit training and lifting, the WIT x PUMA FUSE 2.0s are more than up to the challenge.
Key features – Best used for: CrossFit; Offset: N/A