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Best gym shoes 2021: The best gym trainers for men and women

Gareth Thomas
17 Jun 2021

Whatever your favourite workout might be, we've got the ideal gym shoe for you in this roundup

When you first start out on a fitness kick it’s natural to try and get by with the kit you have – especially if you’ve already splashed out on a gym membership. However, as you get more into your exercise, it’s worth investing in some dedicated gear for your training, and at the top of your list should be a pair of gym shoes.

While most of us would never question the idea of buying dedicated shoes for sports such as running, cycling and football, it’s a common mistake to assume that any old footwear will do in the gym. In reality, the right pair of gym trainers is nigh-on essential if you want to maximise your training time.

You’ll find our favourite gym shoes for a range of different exercises below, but first check out our buyers' guide to help ascertain what kind of gym kicks will suit you best.

Get a pair of Brooks Launch 7 for just £70

If you’re the type of person who heads straight for the treadmill when they go to the gym, then the Brooks Launch 7 might be the perfect shoe for you, striking a good balance between racing flat and lightweight gym trainer. Right now, Brooks is selling these for just £70 - down £30 from their retail price.
Was £100
Now £70

How to buy the best gym shoe for you

What type of training am I doing in the gym?

Given the range of activities you can do at the gym, there’s no one shoe that’s perfect for everything, so it’s important to consider what exercise you actually do. If you’re a weightlifter, you’ll want a shoe that has a stable base and heel support, and it might also have a raised heel to help you drop deep into exercises such as squats.

If you prefer HIIT workouts and other exercises where a lot of jumping is involved, you’ll need multi-directional traction on the sole and some cushioning to protect your body from the impact.

There are all-rounder gym shoes that do a good job of covering all the bases and include some extra support for short stints on the treadmill. If you’re keen on CrossFit, in particular, you’ll need a versatile shoe that can handle heavy lifting, HIIT and treadmill sprints.

Can I just wear running shoes?

If you’re sticking to the treadmill, sure. However, if you plan on lifting heavy weights, running shoes are not ideal because the large stack of cushioning that helps protect your body from the impact of pavement-pounding can make for an unstable base for exercises like squats and deadlifts. When you’re looking to drive through your feet to lift weights, the last thing you need is for your heels to sink into the soft cushioning of a running shoe. The lack of lateral stability also makes them less well-suited to HIIT and agility workouts than a dedicated gym trainer.

How much should I spend?

Flagship gym shoes usually have an RRP of somewhere around £100, ranging from £80 to £120 or so. But it’s usually possible to find them in the sales if you look around. Many of them are also updated each year and, as the changes between generations can be fairly minimal, it’s worth looking at the previous version of the shoe to see if you can pick up a bargain.

There are also budget gym shoes costing less than £20. For the occasional gym-goer who’s not going to be squatting 100kg or knocking out 90 minutes on the treadmill, these can do the job, but they might start to fall apart a little quicker than a premium pair if subjected to heavy use.

READ NEXT: Run further and faster with the best running shoes on the market

The best gym shoes to buy

1. Domyos Fitness Shoes 100 2.0: Best budget gym shoe

Price: £18 | Buy Men’s | Women’s from Decathlon

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: Cardio; Offset: 4mm

Buy Men's from Decathlon Buy Women's from Decathlon

2. Nike Metcon 6: Best all-round gym shoe

Price: £115 | Buy Men’s | Women’s from Nike

The latest trainer in Nike’s Metcon line, this shoe has the edge on its predecessor for its extra breathability – a whole 18% extra, according to Nike – keeping your feet cool during periods of intense exercise.

The Metcon 6 is the ideal all-rounder: Lightweight, flexible and well-cushioned, it’s suitable for weighted exercises (thanks to the flat, wide heel shape and a removable “Hyperlift” that lets you adjust the height accordingly), as well as high-intensity movement. The rubber tread on the outsole and extending up the side of the shoe also provides decent grip on the ground – or on a rope.

Key features - Best used for: All rounder; Offset: 4mm

Buy Men's from Nike Buy Women's from Nike

3. Adidas Powerlift 4: Best gym shoes for weightlifting

Price: From £60 | Buy Men's | Women's from Adidas

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

Buy Men's from Adidas

Buy Women's from Adidas

4. Inov-8 F-Lite 230: Best gym shoe for HIIT

Price: £110 | Buy Men's | Women's from Inov-8

This lightweight, exceptionally hardy shoe offers the perfect balance of stability and cushioning. You’ll be protected during high-impact exercise such as running or plyometric movements, while also having the firm base required to lift weights and perform bodyweight exercises at speed during HIIT sessions.

Inov-8’s graphene-enhanced outsole is the key to the shoe’s durability, with the material used being thin and lightweight, while still providing plenty of traction and resisting wear and tear more effectively than standard rubber soles. 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 230 will definitely be appreciated.

Key specs – Best used for: HIIT/CrossFit; Offset: 3mm

Buy Men's from Inov-8Buy Women's from Inov-8

5. Reebok Nano X1: Best gym shoe for CrossFit

Price: £100 | Buy men’s | women’s from Reebok

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 stats – Best used for: CrossFit; Offset: 7mm

Buy Men's from Reebok Buy Women's from Reebok

6. Brooks Launch 8: Best for the treadmill

Price: £100 | Buy men’s | women’s from Brooks

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

Buy Men's from Brooks Buy Women's from Brooks