How to Choose the Right Gym Shoes
Written By: SportsShoes
If there’s one piece of gym kit you need to get right, it’s your training shoes. Those trendy fashion shoes just won't cut it. The right shoe helps you to get the most from your workout and at the same time reduces your risk of injury.
We know it’s easy to get lost in all the different kinds of gym shoes available. So, whether you cross-train, lift, pound the treadmill or smash HIIT workouts, discover how to choose the right gym shoes with our SportsShoes guide.
WHAT DO YOU NEED YOUR GYM SHOES FOR?
First things first, which gym activities are you mainly going to be doing? Will you be mostly working out in the weights room, on the treadmill, in a studio class, or doing a bit of everything? Will you need agility for high intensity training, or a stable base for lifting weights?
Once you’ve nailed down what kind of activity you’ll be wearing your shoes for the most, you can start to narrow down your choices.
BEST ALL-ROUNDER GYM SHOES?
If you’re doing a broad mix of activities and you want an all-rounder that will do them all, then you’re best to wear a cross trainer that provides some shock absorption and stability for the majority of gym activities, including treadmill and spinning. Don't forget to make sure they have non-marking outsoles (you'll thank us for this when you see what a mess shoe marks can make on an indoor surface).
On the other hand, if you’re looking to focus on one or two areas, or wanting to boost your performance in a specific area, then it’s probably worth investing in a shoe specific to that activity and changing your footwear depending on your workout. So, if your programme involves strength training one day, and a cardio workout the next, switch up your footwear to get the most from both workouts.
A fantastic all-rounder is the Reebok Nano made for anyone who loves to train hard. This shoe excels at everything... from Cross-Training, to HIIT workouts, to running, it's built for all movements.
Pictured: Reebok Nano X3 Training Shoes
BEST GYM FOOTWEAR FOR HIIT WORKOUTS
High Intensity Interval (HIIT) Workouts which incorporate explosive multi -directional movements, box jumps and weight bearing activity like squats and lunges, mean that your shoes need to absorb impact, be light and agile, yet have a stable base for power and continuous, fast lateral movements. Look for cross trainers with the following features:
- Strong lateral support to help stabilise the foot
- Cushioning to absorb shock,
- A firm and low profile for stability
- Light as possible for agility
- Generous, flexible forefoot for natural foot flexion and to let your feet splay
We recommend the Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 4 Training Shoes, designed for circuit training, HIIT, sprints and other fast-paced exercises. It features layers of support team up with Zoom Air cushioning to keep your foot locked in and comfortable as you lunge, jump and push your way through every rep.
Pictured: Nike Zoom SuperRep 4 Training Shoes
BEST SHOES FOR HIIT + WEIGHT LIFTING
If you're adding weights into your workouts, it's worth taking a look at the newer hybrid designs on the market. The inov-8 F-LITE G 300 features a firmer, more stable heel for lifting weights (more on this later) and lightweight, cushioned agility for fast paced performance workouts and agility drills. That makes them ideal for CrossFit WODs (Workout of the Day) and other HIIT sessions incorporating weights.
Pictured: inov F-Lite G 300 Training Shoes
BEST FOOTWEAR FOR MAINLY WEIGHTLIFTING & STRENGTH TRAINING
If your gym haven is the weights room, your priorities are going to be stability, grip and power to optimise lifts.
Some lifters prefer to go barefoot and allow the foot to provide natural stability, other people prefer a shoe that delivers a firm, flat grip on the ground for a stable base and to prevent slipping and sliding. If you’re doing a lot of Olympic-style lifts, look for weight lifting shoes with the following features:
- Raised, high density heels, allowing better ankle mobility for a deeper squat and an upright torso for optimum power.
- Hard, dense soles which maximise your ability to drive force into the ground for powerful lifts
- Stay away from cushioned soles that compress
- Seriously supportive uppers
One option is to go for zero drop natural shoes which have firm soles, supportive uppers and a wide forefoot to allow the foot to splay for stability.
Dedicated weight lifting shoes are less mobile and there’s also less shock absorption, meaning that these models won’t cross over to other gym activities. But if clean and jerks and snatches are your big thing, then it’s well worth investing in a proper pair.
Providing stability, support and safety, the inov-8 FASTLIFT 360 is the perfect weightlifting shoe.
For more info on strength training footwear, check out our guide to choosing the best shoes for weightlifting.
Pictured: inov8 Fastlift 360 Training Shoes
BEST SHOES FOR SPINNING
Generally, for spinning classes, your usual cross trainers will do the job. As you progress you might want to consider indoor cycling-specific shoes to help boost your performance. These feature rigid hard soles which transfer energy directly to the pedals, allowing you to pedal more efficiently while also reducing levels of fatigue. Clipping into the pedals, these shoes allow an efficient, smooth transition from foot to bike.
We recommend the Nike SuperRep Cycle 2 shoes which feature an outer plate compatible with SPD and Delta cleats, making them the ideal choice for any type of pedal-driving indoor cycling workouts.
BEST GYM SHOES FOR THE TREADMILL
If you’re only running for short periods and combining this with a lot of other activities, then it’s ok to wear your cross trainers on the treadmill. If you’re putting in a lot of minutes and miles, you’ll need a running specific shoe to properly support and protect your feet.
The type of running shoe you’ll need will depend on your running gait, which ultimately comes down to your level of pronation. This is the inwards rolling of the foot through your footstrike, and the body's natural way of absorbing shock. So, it’s helpful to know whether you’re a neutral runner, an overpronator, or an underpronator. You can find this out by looking at your arch type through the wet footprint test or through gait analysis. The right shoe will help you run more efficiently for better performance and - importantly - helps reduce your risk of injury.
Check out our best shoes for Overpronators here.
Check out our best shoes for Underpronators here.
Look for cushioning technology in the rear and forefoot to help absorb impact, and if you’re an overpronator, go for a support shoe with additional support on the medial (inside) of the shoe to help slow down the rate of excessive inwards rolling.
For the Treadmill, we recommend the Under Armour HOVR Machina 3, which provide tons of energy return and also coach you in real-time to help you become a better runner.
Find out more about Under Armour Connected Running Shoes and the Under Armour MapMyRun App here.
BEST FOOTWEAR FOR DANCE-BASED STUDIO WORKOUTS
For Zumba and other dance-based workouts you’ll need agility and sure-footedness for fast multi-directional footwork and spins. To start with, it’s a good idea to wear a dance-specific studio shoe with good shock absorption and a supportive heel counter to help protect and support your feet.
The downside to this means less “ground feel” and less freedom of expression. As you get more advanced you can change up to a lighter shoe with thinner soles and less cushioning and support, which will give you more flexibility and allow you to move more fluidly.
Try and also avoid using shoes with excessive grip on the outsole, as it’s important to be able to twist, slide and turn during Zumba or dance-based workouts.
BEST SHOES FOR YOGA & PILATES
Bare feet are pretty common on both the mat and apparatus. If you hate having cold feet or you're worried about hygiene, a pair of Pilates socks are a great option. These have an ergonomic design to allow your feet flex naturally and have a rubberised grip to help prevent slipping.
We recommend the BARE-XF 210 V3, a super lightweight, close to the ground design to ensure the shoe moves freely with the foot in motion. This zero-drop shoe is perfect for a wide range of functional movements, bare-foot walking/running, yoga and more.
Pictured: inov8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Training Shoes