Best Gym Shoes Reviewed & Rated for Performance

Going to the gym has one thing in common with every other aerobic activity: your equipment has an impact on the quality of your performance. At the same time, it shares another common point: good equipment alone doesn’t make a good athlete.

Best Gym Shoes - woman tying shoes

Some users, especially beginners to the gym, would normally think that weightlifting has nothing do to with our feet. While this finally depends on the kind of training you’re going to perform, chances are your feet will get involved at some point during your workouts. When this happens, you can either be prepared with performance-enhancing footwear technology, or you can hinder your capacity by using casual sneakers (and potentially break your sneakers).

Last Updated: October 30, 2017
By Sergio Bettiol:

We have improved the product listing by renewing old items with more recent and efficient options such as the Inov-8 FastLift 370 and the Adidas Adipower. The update includes updated insight on each product and its features. Additionally, we’ve added the recommended criteria to follow while purchasing or looking for the best gym shoes, as well as the FAQ section.

Top 3 Recommendations

Adidas Adipower
  • Adidas Adipower
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • PU-coated leather upper
  • Weightlifting design
  • Price: See Here
Inov-8 FastLift 370
  • Inov-8 FastLift 370
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • FastLift outsole
  • Support strap
  • Price: See Here
Reebok Crossfit Nano 7.0
  • Reebok Crossfit Nano 7.0
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Forefoot flex groove
  • Minimal drop
  • Price: See Here

There’s a huge variety of exercises that can be done in a gym. This variety covers everything from weightlifting to crossfit, cardio, functional training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), powerlifting, and Olympic lifting. Each practice may consist of independent routines and exercises that achieve different goals, and thus there’s no one pair of shoes for them all.

 

10 Best Gym Shoes

 

1. Adidas Adipower

Adidas provides you with a lifting-oriented engineering complemented by patented technologies in a pair of shoes. The Adipower follows an Olympic shoe design, with an inclined heel to help you drive explosive power and stability through the hips. This makes them the ideal footwear for exercises such as squats, and they’re suitable for being in the gym in general.
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PU-coated leather upper
The upper build of the Adipower is not only very comfortable, but it’s also breathable thanks to precise perforations around areas of great heat accumulation, such as the forefoot, side panels, and heel. The leather upper in combination with polyurethane is very durable and is specially designed to deal with tension and pressure from heavy exercising.

Weightlifting-engineered chassis
The very frame of this pair was carefully engineered to enhance the weightlifting capacity. Injected polymer improves the functionality of the shoe in general, making it more flexible, resistant, and strong without adding any bulk following a very lightweight perspective.

Cost
The Adipower rounds up to the average value of our guide. It’s not part of the most efficient cost-to-performance ratio products, yet our most recommended choice when it comes to achieving the maximum performance in each of your workouts. Within the top-notch products, the Adidas Adipower isn’t amongst the most expensive.
Pros

Polyurethane-coated upper build

Gym-specific frame

Inclined heel for explosive squats

Lightweight

Cons

Requires breaking in for an optimal performance

2. Inov-8 FastLift 370

The Inov-8 FastLift family has been some of the most successful products of Inov-8, and the FastLift 370 reminds us why. The crossfit design makes this shoe suitable for a variety of gym activities, including both heavy lifting and functional exercises that involve much more mobility. They’re not the most efficient for specific exercises, but rather a great shoe for them all in general.
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Adjustable hook-and-loop strap
When it comes to forefoot and tongue support, adjustable straps are possibly the best closure you could get your feet on. On top of the lacing system, the strap allows users to evenly adjust the support of both shoes separately depending on the exercise they’ll perform.

FastLift outsole
The grippy FastLift outsole is strong and stable even under heavy workouts where you need it the most. The outsole acts great under a lot of pressure, and it’s also suitable for aerobic training thanks to its effective traction and non-slippage technology.

Cost
Inov-8 makes quality shoes for a competitive price. It matches the efficiency and effectiveness of the major brands while still beating their values with some releases. The FastLift 370 would be a smart purchase from your end considering its durability and potential.
Pros

Hook-and-loop support strap

FastLift outsole

Ideal for squatting

Supports multiple workouts

Cons

The tongue slides down a couple of inches when not secured properly

3. Nike Metcon 2

The Nike Metcon 2 is all a weightlifter and crossfitter could ask for. This design counts with the stability and responsiveness required to perform heavy lifts and compound movements. At the same time, great feats of flexibility, sprint, and climbing make the Metcon 2 one of the preferred Nike crossfit shoes. Despite the Nike Metcon 3 already being released, the Metcon 2 continue to be the favorite of multiple gym-goers.
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Flywire technology
Mid-foot flywire technology is the perfect addition to a minimalist shoe like the Metcon 2. These super-thin fibers hold the outsole and the forefoot together, creating a much more supportive fit while performing any sort of exercises and forceful aerobic routines.

Dual-density foam midsole
When performing high-impact exercises, traditional midsoles may not be enough protection for your heel. On the other hand, dual-density foam midsoles are much more efficient and diminishing shock while comforting and protecting your feet from exercising tension.

Cost
Luckily, the Metcon 2 is cheaper than the Metcon 3 since it’s simply an older release. However, it’s still preferred over the newer design by a lot of gym-goers that have tried the Metcon series. Regardless, the Metcon 2 offers a solid performance at a fair price – just below the average value.
Pros

Mid-foot flywire fibers

DD Foam midsole

Suitable for weightlifting and aerobics

Often preferred over the Metcon 3

Cons

It optimizes different workouts rather than being especially efficient in one

4. Reebok Crossfit Nano 7.0

4. Reebok Crossfit Nano 7.0
The Crossfit Nano 7.0 is probably the most popular performance shoe by Reebok. The Nano series has been a total success thanks to elements like the Nano Weave, an ultra-light upper build material that is flexible, durable, and breathable. A rubber compound makes the outsole highly resistant to abrasion, sustaining sprinting, jumping, and climbing. The flat outsole makes them ideal for a variety of heavy compound movements and bodybuilding in general.
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Forefoot flex grooves
Reebok enhances the range of flexibility of the Nano 7.0 by implementing technology on the outsole that helps users achieve a deeper flex while running, and thus more powerful gaits. Both the outsole and upper region of the forefoot are acclimated with this technology.

Minimal drop
The 4mm heel-to-toe drop of this model is one of the lowest in the gym shoe market. The minimal-drop outsole keeps you as close to the ground as you need to be while performing heavy motions that require absolute stability and solidness.

Cost
Reebok’s Crossfit Nano 7.0 is unquestionably the most accessible product of the list. When it comes to performance, the Crossfit Nano series is sometimes regarded as the best crossfit shoes available. As if that wasn’t enough, their cost is approximately half of the average value of this list.
Pros

Suitable for both weightlifting and functional movements

Enhanced flex

Minimal drop

Very light

Cons

Hard to break into for runners

5. Asics Gel-Craze TR 2

5. Asics Gel-Craze TR 2
ASICS is famous for its variety of fitness footwear; from wrestling shoes to running, and all-around gym shoes. The Gel-Craze TR 2 makes use of ASICS’ signature gel cushioning technology that absorbs shock in a unique way. The synthetic upper build materials are extremely lightweight and include breathable mesh panels to stay fresh during each workout.
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FluidAxis flex grooves
FluidAxis technology is found on the forefoot of each shoe. This design consists of flex grooves that allow users to achieve a much deeper and thorough flex when performing aerobic motions in general. This ultimately translates into jumping higher, running faster, and so on.

Memory foam PHF
Internal padding made of memory foam is molded by the pressure of your feet during usage. Thanks to this pressure, the padding adopts the anatomical shape of the foot and acts as a customized silhouette for maximum PHF (personal heel fit).

GEL cushioning system
An ASICS shoe wouldn’t be itself if it did not contain ASICS signature gel absorbing technology. The rear foot area of the midsole is equipped with an inner compartment that contains ASICS patented shock-absorbing gel. This gel helps disperse shock much more efficiently.

Cost
ASICS counts with some of the most innovative training technologies, including their signature GEL shock absorption system. These technologies will put you in another level of performance, but professional qualities don’t come in cheap. This model is costlier than the average entry.
Pros

Lighter than the first generation

Very comfortable

Support for both running and training

Great for indoor running

Cons

Not made in wide sizes

6. Reebok Lifter PR

6. Reebok Lifter PR
Reebok is one of the top shoe manufacturers when it comes to gym performance, and thus it’s no surprise to feature multiple of their products in this list. The Lifter PR stays true to its name, supplying you with the technology and qualities you need to push your performance and personal records to the limit. This design follows Olympic weightlifting standards with a slight heel inclination to improve posture and hip power during certain exercises.
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POWERBAX TPU upper
The upper build material consists of a technology based on thermoplastic polyurethane with breathing air mesh panels and perforations on key areas. The surface is both resistant and minimalist at the same time and includes a protective full-grain leather toe.

Heat activated support
A foot wrap is activated by heat during workouts, molding itself to your feet and providing the most optimal fit possible. Thanks to the heat adaptation, the shoe is super easy to fit and break into, furtherly supported with the heel clips that will hold your feet where they belong.

Cost
Yet again another unbeatable cost-to-performance ratio by Reebok. If you’re considering getting serious about your gym training, yet don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a single pair, any Reebok trainer is your way to go. You’ll hardly see offers as good as these.


Pros

Excellent support system

Solid squatting structure

Ideal traction for crossfit

Cons

Sizing runs half a size large

7. Adidas Powerlift 3

7. Adidas Powerlift 3
As the name suggests, this Adidas release targets powerlifting exercises with its design. Although very similar to the Powerlift 3, the 3.1 has an independent engineering. The lockdown fit reinforced by the signature straps hold your feet stable in place during the heaviest of lifts for maximum balance. At the same time, the extra-wide inner design allows you to spread your feet freely without constant compression.
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Olympic lifting design
The standard elevated heel improves everything from your stance to the positioning of your spine. At the same time, the heel features a synthetic compound and specific design that allows you to access the deepest range of motion with a perfect form.

AdiWEAR technology
This technology reinforces the shoe around the areas where it needs it the most. Its abrasion-resistant features and density endure prolonged sessions of heavy powerlifting exercises smoothly without degrading.

Cost
The Powerlift 3.1 is more accessible than most other Adidas trainers. Considering that Adidas technologies are some of the most modern advancements in gym training, having access to these shoes for such a low price is certainly a great opportunity.
Pros

Strap-on support

Excellent stability

Perfect for leg weight training

Firm platform

Cons

Its most optimal performance is limited to powerlifting routines

8. Asics Lift Master

8. Asics Lift Master
Unlike the Gel-Craze, the ASICS Lift Master are more oriented to weighted exercises and heavier movements as the name suggests. The slightly elevated heel makes these shoes act as a steady and sturdy platform while working with the barbell. The Lift Master defines ASICS’ power category, helping you conduct the most energy through each of your repetitions and helping you assume a much more natural stance.
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Ultra-breathable design
The upper build of the Lift Master is thoroughly and strategically perforated and equipped with a layer of mesh just below the outer-most synthetic materials. This results in a super breathable build where air flows freely within regardless of the workout circumstances.

Weightlifting engineered
Every aspect of the Lift Master is optimized for weightlifting specifically. The midsole width is now a wider base platform and the heel is reinforced with TPU mechanisms. The flat forefoot represents the most stability you can get, ultimately improving your body alignment, the range of motion, and biomechanically simplifying movements.

Cost
Although certain other ASICS price tags seem out of reach for some users, the Lift Master is a much more affordable option. Although they’re a bit simpler when it comes to the incorporated technologies, these will stand up to their value in any gym.
Pros

Highly breathable

Seamless construction is comfortable

Stable and resistant

Suitable for crossfit, powerlifting, and weight training

Cons

No width options, may run narrow for anything besides lifting

9. Reebok Legacy Lifter

9. Reebok Legacy Lifter
Reebok has made sure to cover all possible aspects of fitness with an adequate pair of shoes for each. The Legacy Lifter is exactly what you should be looking for if power and strength routines are your thing. These are designed to remain omnidirectionally stable when performing a variety of movements. The synthetic upper is carefully perforated around areas of common heat concentration for increased breathability and comfort.
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Supportive side panels
The stability straps not only reinforce the tongue and laces, but it also increases lateral support thanks to the lateral synthetic panels. While adjusting the forefoot, these straps also pull on the lateral panels; ultimately improving the support on the sides.

Squat enhancement
A slight heel elevation helps you assume the most optimal stance for heavy squatting. By slightly elevating the heels, the positioning of your hips, spine, and legs altogether allow you to access a much more explosive range of motion while maintaining a completely neutral and healthy stance.

Cost
The cost-to-performance ratio isn’t as good as the Legacy Lifter. Although it’s significantly costlier than the other Reebok entries of this list, the Legacy Lifter is just as efficient (or even more so – depends on user preferences). That being said, these are not a bad option at all.
Pros

Great support, including lateral bands

Stable frame

Comfortable for heavy lifting

Corrects lifting form

Cons

They run larger than the Crossfit Nanos

10. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

10. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
Converse’s Hi-Top Chuck Taylors are some of the most popular boots out there for a variety of reasons. Their suitability for certain weightlifting exercises made them a super popular choice amongst veteran gym-goers and bodybuilders. The durability, density, and height of the sole make it ideal for stable and heavy lifts. Lastly, Converse’s Chuck Taylors are simply some of the most popular sneakers in the world.
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Performance stability
Although the Chuck Taylor was not originally thought to be anywhere near a performance shoe, some of its qualities deliver the stability and support necessary for weightlifting. A gusseted tongue prevents lose support on the forefoot while a thorough lacing system efficiently distributes tension across the whole boot.

CONS infusion
The upper build suede leather is infused with CONS rubber, notably augmenting the adaptability of the material as well as its durability. The CONS high-traction rubber ensures a powerful grip that is reinforced even further by the weight being lifted.

Cost
This pair is some of the most affordable footwear in general – even amongst casual shoes. The Chuck Taylors are a simple solution if you don’t want to enter the world of gym technology, they’re durable, reliable, and popular. Do keep in mind that it also means a simpler performance; nowhere near top-notch sports technology.
Pros

Gusseted tongue is comfortable and more stable

Practical and casual

Very resistant soles

The thorough lacing improves the fit

Cons

Pretty basic, not efficient for big lifts

Whether you’re a powerlifter, a strength trainer, or just a gym goer, an adequate pair of shoes will skyrocket the most important aspects of your training.  However, not all of these aspects are necessarily related directly to your performance, but rather your health and well-being.

Some people see gym shoes as equipment that makes exercises easier. While this is valid under certain circumstances, gym shoes are also responsible for protecting your feet. Your feet will be affected by any type of workout you perform unless you strictly sit on the bench and perform upper-body workouts every time (which wouldn’t make any sense).

Even walking can be harmful to our feet if done recklessly. Let alone perform high-impact exercises like the ones practiced in crossfit, or placing significant amounts of weight on a barbell that will push you down all the way through your heels as you train.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Gym Shoes

 

Stability and support

The gym is one of those places where stability marks the difference between an optimal performance and a sloppy, hazardous one. Heedlessly of the type of training you’re undergoing, the gym is not a place for shoes that fail to hold a stable position while under tension.

A shoe’s stability doesn’t depend on a single factor, but rather the joint functionality of multiple elements. The best gym shoes must be equipped with a combination of elements that assist your feet during every exercise. For instance, adequate support is critical in order to execute the proper form of an exercise while remaining steady, as well as a midsole that remains stable while undergoing high tension.

The support of a shoe is what prevents our feet from assuming unnatural postures or pronating improperly. However, your form of executing the exercises will have an impact on the positioning of your feet before, during, and after an exercise. Support helps our feet to stay in a natural position, but this is ultimately affected if the execution of the exercise is incorrect.

Compared to shoes for running and light aerobic activities, a gym shoe requires much more support. At the same time, gym shoes vary widely based on the type of training they’re designed for – thus, different disciplines call for different amounts of support. In olympic lifting shoes, for example, the support should be much more demanding than in a crossfit shoe. The priority of an olympic lifting shoe is support and stability rather than flexibility and mobility, which is why they are considerably stiffer.

The heavier you’re looking to lift, the more stability you should have. A loose and unstable fit is the last thing you want in all training disciplines in general. When performing crossfit or functional exercises, support is key in order to achieve the most efficient performance as well as a clean form. If feet are not adequately supported but rather slip within the shoe and overpronate during exercises, the performance quality decreases considerably – but, more importantly, you’re wide open for injuries.

When looking for functional training gym shoes, select something that will hold your feet stable during each exercise. Support and stability are paramount requirements for perfect jumps and landings through movements like the box jumps.

If you’re more on the weight training side, the amount of support in your shoe must be proportional to the weight you’re lifting. As weight increases (both corporal weight and the one added for the exercise), the frame of shoes will be compressed harder against the surface. The lack of support in this scenario would lead to decreased stability and failure of some shoe elements, ultimately resulting in shaky shoes.

When dealing with a loaded barbell, you want to make sure your feet stay where they must throughout the whole range of motion. We’re not talking about the exterior of the shoe, which of course shouldn’t slide either, but rather your feet – the shoe should support them in a way that they stay in the very same position within the shoe.

Incorrect feet posture within the shoe is bad in general, but when you put a loaded barbell of additional weight, a stable posture is a must. If your shoe assumes a vulnerable stance due to the lack of support, all the tension generated by the amount of weight you’re dealing with may cause an injury – possibly much more severe than a running injury.

Aerobic weight

All footwear manufacturers, in general, opt for a lighter design even for casual shoes. There’s a pretty simple reason behind this; the lighter the shoe, the less effort is required to move it. As you can probably guess, a performance shoe involves much more movement than just casual footwear, thus it’s expected that gym footwear meant for aerobic purposes is lighter.

Now, not all gym shoes are designed for aerobic motions. Powerlifting shoes, for example, don’t need to emphasize in weight as much as crossfit shoes. They’re engineered for very specific movements involved in anaerobic training rather than aerobic one. Powerlifting shoes are meant for steady training rather than moving around with, thus they may not require as much minimalism.

That being said, gym shoes meant for aerobic movements must optimize their design to offer the best performance at the lowest weight. Keep in mind that none of the criteria listed here should affect another factor within the list. For example, as the weight of the shoe reduces, other aspects are hindered, such as protection. Thus, it’s important that gym shoes are minimalized only to a point where they don’t affect other qualities of performance.

When it comes to anaerobic training gym shoes, the builds are generally heavier. Don’t get us wrong, though, anaerobic training shoe manufacturers also optimize the weight of their products. However, footwear designed for heavy lifting requires a much stronger structure than that of aerobic training shoes, as they undertake a lot more tension in a shorter time lapse.

Too much minimalism will affect the ability of a shoe to deal with the tension of heavy weight training, which will result in much quicker deterioration (or even failure during training).

The midsole is generally the part of a gym shoe that represents the most weight regardless of the specification of its design. Unless the upper build consists of a thick a bulky compound, the midsole should be the most substantial piece. Just like the shoe in general, all midsoles should be weight-optimized only to a point where its qualities are not affected by the lack of structure.

There’s some misunderstanding on how weight optimization works on footwear (not only performance footwear but shoes in general). Some users believe that weight optimization consists of removing elements from the shoe that add weight, thus making it lighter. This would indeed be inefficient, as footwear would lose quality and functionality this way.

However, this is not how weight optimization works. In reality, rather than removing parts of the shoe, manufacturers look for a way to apply them in a different manner. Midsoles are the perfect example; instead of using traditional rubber, the best gym shoes use similar compounds that are both lighter and more compressible. The compressibility of these compounds makes it possible for a greater amount of substance to fit within the same space that rubber would normally occupy.

This way, the midsole is not only optimized for weight, but also in performance. Thanks to the compressibility of the new sole compound the result is a denser sole that, without adding any more bulk, contains more material and thus enhances the properties of the compound.

Performance midsole

The midsole is one of the parts of a shoe with the most influence on its design. In other words, midsoles often define the kind of discipline that a shoe is suitable for. Like we’ve previously mentioned, there are multiple categories and disciplines within gym shoes and some of them are quite different from each other. This also means they require a different midsole according to their goal.

Aerobic training midsoles, like the ones found in running shoes, often look very similar regardless of their manufacturer as they share multiple qualities. In a running or crossfit shoe, the main function of a midsole is to absorb shock and reduce oscillation of both muscles and bones. But, gym practices are very diverse, and some disciplines require very specific midsole designs that may not be suitable for any other practice.

Generally, the most important technologies of a shoe lie within the midsole, as it’s the element that deals with the toughest aspects of exercising; impact and stress. When looking for gym shoes, you must look for a midsole that is suitable for the exercises you’ll perform. You may get away with hitting the gym with running shoes, but this may be a terrible idea both for your performance and the shoes.

Gym training places a much bigger amount of stress on footwear than activities like running. Even when performing aerobic exercises or functional training, the training intensity and impact force have a tougher effect on the materials of a shoe, including the midsole. Your shoes must have a midsole that is able to endure the kind of training you endure. Not only for the sake of performance quality, but also for the durability of your shoes and the health of your feet.

Heavy weight training is the most demanding of all gym activities for the midsole. Despite the training intensity not being as rapid when training with weight, the midsole still experiences much more tension and stress during loaded compound movements. If this is your kind of training, you must select shoes with a midsole that is capable of sustaining huge loads of stress within short time frames.

Weightlifting with footwear that lacks a strong midsole is possibly the worst thing you can do when it comes to gym equipment. A shoe that is not designed for weight training will fail to control all the force generated by the weight you’re training with. This comes with a list of consequences.

First off, and most importantly, you’re putting your feet at risk. If the midsole fails to absorb or release the tension generated when they’re compressed against the floor by the weight, your feet will be exposed to this stress.

Secondly, your range of motion will be affected if the midsole is overloaded with more weight than it can handle (which can lead to a shaky sensation). Lastly, the durability of the shoe will be affected considerably. If you’re going to deadlift 300 pounds, for example, you need a midsole that can deal with 300 pounds of pressure. If they can’t, you’ll simply end up squashing the midsole and ultimately ruining the shoe.

Lastly, there’s a joint type of midsole that works well with both impact and compression. This midsole is designed for disciplines like crossfit, which puts together functional training and weight training in the same routine. This is in part possible due to the fact that crossfit exercises generally don’t involve as much weight as an actual weightlifting routine (although some users follow crossfit and weightlifting routines at the same time, which would require weightlifting shoes).

Shock absorption

If you’re planning to do any training at all, whether it’s aerobic or anaerobic, you want gym shoes that can deal with shock. However, aerobic exercises and anaerobic exercises generate different types of shock, and it’s important to know what kind of absorption you need.

Training routines that involve functional exercises would be looking at impact shock. High-impact exercises are those in which your feet consistently strike the surface, applying force against the ground rather than just standing on it. Exercises like jumping jacks, rope jumps, sprints, and box jumps produce a lot of impact energy. There are two key things to consider in this type of exercises; the force of each impact, and the continuity or persistence of it.

For instance, jumping from an elevated surface and landing on your feet will generate a larger amount of force than a running gait. However, running gaits are more consistent; the impact is not as strong, but it happens more frequently. Before buying gym shoes you should consider both the impact force and impact intensity of the discipline you practice, as they have different effects on feet and shock absorption technology deals with each one differently.

The midsole is the part of the shoe that normally deals with shock; any technologies designated to reduce the impact energy usually goes within the midsole, such as ASICS’ GEL cushioning. However, the task of a midsole is not limited to just impact and shock, as there are other ways in which force can affect feet, such as compression.

This is the case of weightlifting shoes. Exercises with weight rarely involve high-impact motions, as motions like jumping, running, or even walking are not normally performed with additional weight. However, this doesn’t mean the midsole is not undergoing any shock during weightlifting – in fact, heavy weight training demands much more from the midsole of a gym shoe.

For weightlifting, the shock absorption system works differently. Rather than responding to sudden shock or impact, the midsole of a gym shoe meant for weight training focuses on the most optimal way to gradually compress the midsole as the total weight pushes you against the floor. Despite all the items on this list are regarded as gym shoes, they are not equally suitable for the gym in general.

Using an impact-absorbing shoe to perform weight training is just as inefficient as using weightlifting shoes to perform high-impact exercises. Weight training will considerably shorten the lifespan of an impact shoe, as it’s simply not designed to deal with heavy compression but rather a sudden shock in a much lighter manner. This is the most common mistake regarding gym equipment, as some users believe that any athletic shoe will do for any gym exercise.

At the same time, performing any high-impact exercise with weightlifting shoes would result in disaster. Unlike the opposite case, users can easily notice that weightlifting shoes are just not suitable for aerobic training, as they are considerably stiffer, amongst other differences. It really only takes one repetition of any high-impact exercise to realize the midsole of a weightlifting shoe is not made for such practices.

Comfortability

This is possibly the most underestimated feature of all footwear in general, including gym shoes. When it comes to performance shoes, the golden rule is pretty basic; you can’t perform properly when using uncomfortable shoes. It’s as simple as that.

The problem about comfortability is that it’s composed of multiple aspects at the same time. However, the absence of one of these aspects is more than enough to make a shoe uncomfortable enough to not be suitable for performance.

In some cases, casual footwear with poor comfortability can still be wearable, although we don’t recommend wearing uncomfortable shoes at all. Aside from simply being annoying, these discomforts often represent a defect of the shoe that may be harming your feet, which is why you should never ignore the comfortability of footwear.

For instance, some users wear shoes that are too tight for their sizing and despite the discomfort, they continue to wear them throughout the day. At the end of the day, it may turn out that the shoes weren’t just uncomfortable, but that they were generating friction against delicate areas of the skin that would now suffer from peeling or irritation. Not to mention that they spent a whole day in discomfort just to force themselves into inadequate shoes.

However, you should always keep in mind that gym shoes (and any performance shoe for that matter) are very different from casual footwear in basically all aspects. Unlike casual footwear, you most likely won’t be able to force yourself into uncomfortable performance shoes. While you may physically be able to slip in the shoes, you probably won’t be able to complete your workout routine in them (and it’d be silly to even try).

Like mentioned above, discomfort is a clear sign that something is wrong with the shoe (not necessarily because of the manufacturing – it may simply be the sizing, or maybe they’re just not suitable for your feet) and this “something” may harm your feet. But, when we’re talking about gym shoes there’s a lot more involved than just walking around doing quotidian activities.

Performing sports, exercise, or weight training in uncomfortable shoes will most likely end with consequences more severe than the ones caused by normal footwear. This is due to the simple fact that you’re putting much more energy into each motion, meaning that any imperfection will bother (or harm) your feet much more intensely as well.

There’s no valid reason to sacrifice the comfortability of a shoe, even if it makes the shoe more physically functional. The best gym shoes are those that provide you with the adequate features for the discipline you practice while still being comfortable.

Comfortability, in general, is a delicate subject as not everyone finds the same features to be comfortable. What works for you might not work for other people and the other way around. Thus, you must evaluate the features of gym shoes and compare them to past footwear experiences along with your personal preferences.

Regardless of your personal preferences, a gym shoe should count with the following comfort features: breathability, cushioning, comforting materials, and flexibility.

Grip & Traction

A decent grip is something that can’t be missing in any type of shoe, let alone anything related to performance. With gym shoes, the grip can be your best friend just as much as it can be your worst enemy. A gym shoe that lacks a firm grip is simply not prepared for the weight room (nor the aerobic training room for that matter).

It doesn’t matter which fitness discipline or training regime you follow, you won’t get too far without a strongly grasping grip. Though, the kind of grip, like every other element of a gym shoe, should be according to your kind of training. The only part of the shoe that has an impact on the grip is the outsole.

The outsole, along with the midsole, is what really determines what activities a pair of shoes can perform optimally. It’s safe to say that the outsole, and the outsole only, is the part of the shoe responsible for the quality of traction and grip. Keep in mind that external circumstances, like the surface, play a role too – but we’re talking specifically about shoe elements.

Depending on what you want to achieve, you should be looking for different types of outsole. For the functional and aerobic side of a gym, you want an outsole that is capable of providing both a partial and a full grip. During certain functional exercises, feet are not supposed to enter in full contact with the ground, but rather a certain region of the outsole only. An example would be rope jumps, which are normally performed on the balls of your feet.

When executing this kind of exercises, the outsole must be able to provide you with a steady performance even if it’s just the forefoot that touches the surface. For this, the outsole would have to feature a certain degree of flexibility too – but this is explicitly for aerobic training. Additionally, the outsole should be able to engage and disengage the surface quickly with quality traction. Non-performance outsoles may slip when a sudden forceful motion is performed.

For weight training, the outsoles vary. The great variety of exercises within the weight training category may call for specific outsole designs and grip styles. For instance, a gym shoe meant for deadlifting should count with a flat outsole; any inclination on the outsole may cause forward or backward tilting when lifting the barbell off the ground.

Squatting shoes, on the other hand, deliver the most optimal performance when the sole is slightly inclined forward (meaning the heel is at a higher point than the toes). This allows users to access a deeper range of motion with total stability, which is hard to achieve without inclination. Additionally, the slight inclination improves your posture by refining the alignment of your legs, hips, and spine during the execution of the exercise.

Now, there’s one last thing you want on your outsoles despite the practice you follow, and that is a non-slipping grip. No matter how you train, how much weight you use, or which discipline you practice, slipping and sliding are not options when you are training – especially if you’re in a gym, where the environment includes a lot of hazardous and heavy objects that will unquestionably cause great harm to your body if you fall on them or they fall on you.

If you’re doing box jumps, the last thing you want is to slip backward when landing. Just like the last thing you want when deadlifting or squatting is to start sliding in any direction as you move with the barbell.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the different types of gym shoes?

A: The most common types of gym shoes are aerobic shoes (crossfit, running), olympic lifting shoes (for very specific exercises like snatches and jerks), powerlifting, and normal weight training. However, these categories may be sub-divided, just like weight training shoes can be for squats, deadlifts, or just regular weight training.

Q: Are these suitable for running?

A: It really depends on the shoe, but we have included multiple entries that are suitable for running as well as for other similar aerobic exercises. Make sure to read the specifications to efficiently tell running and weightlifting shoes apart.

Q: Do I have to buy deadlift and squat shoes separately?

A: If you’re going serious about your weight training, having two separate pairs is the most optimal solution. This may not be efficient due to the cost of two pairs, however. Also, if the weight you lift during these exercises does not surpass 150 pounds, you’re good to go with almost any performance shoe.

Q: How many pairs of gym shoes should I have?

A: This is up to you. If you want to approach fitness in a professional manner, then you’ll need professional equipment for each discipline (if you practice more than one). If you’re getting started at the gym, we recommend you get familiarized with the environment and the discipline before you opt for a second pair of gym shoes.

Q: Where to buy gym shoes?

A: We highly recommend purchasing gym shoes through Amazon. Internet shopping gives you access to a much larger list of products in many different styles, allowing you to check multiple stores in just minutes. Additionally, Amazon policies will fully protect your purchases as long as you follow the terms of service.

Q: How much do gym shoes cost?

A: The cost of gym shoes depends on multiple things. For starters, the branding plays a big role, but the specification of the shoe is usually the determining factor. For instance, squatting shoes tend to be more expensive than running shoes (assuming both shoes have the same quality and branding).

Q: Do these shoes work for crossfit?

A: Multiple items on this list are suitable for crossfit and aerobic training in general. Furthermore, if you want to incorporate heavy weight training into your crossfit routine, the weight training shoes featured on this list are excellent choices.

Q: How long do gym shoes last?

A: Assuming you use them for the right discipline and with the right form, a gym shoe should easily endure at least a year and a half without major damage. The products on this list are guaranteed to be durable, and you can expect to get 2 years or more out of them, but keep in mind your training intensity plays a role in the lifespan of gym shoes.

Q: What gym shoe is better for high arch?

A: When we’re talking about symptoms like a high arch or flat foot, the solution does not lie in the type of shoe but rather in the type of outsole. It’s hard for manufacturers to design a single insole that will fit everyone, especially high arch users. The most efficient solution is to acquire a pair of insoles that are suitable for your feet.

Q: Will deadlifts damage my shoes?

A: If your shoes are not meant to deal with heavy exercises, don’t doubt that a fully-loaded deadlift will damage your shoe. However, users who are getting started at deadlifting may get away with using sneakers without breaking them (assuming they’re starting to lift light) – but it’s not optimal by any means.

Sources

  1. Nike, Flywire Technology,
  2. Squat University, Wearing the Right Squat Shoes,
  3. AAPSM, Athletic Shoe Anatomy,
  4. VeryWell, Types of Athletic Footwear, Sep 27, 2017