Best Shoes for HIIT Reviewed & Rated
Traditional workouts are no longer either “strictly cardio” or “strictly resistance workouts”; in fact, today’s workouts are now involving a combination of the two to help further maximize results and in turn, helps keep you motivated longer. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is the driving principle behind today’s popular workouts such as Tabata, Crossfit, and Beachbody’s Insanity, and is characterized by its cycling between bursts of activity at high intensity and subsequent recovery periods.
Think of Bootcamp-style workouts where you’re sustaining one type of exercise for a good minute or so, working towards your next break. And just when you feel like you’ve only got a good few breaths in, the class instructor is barking out orders to commence the next round, and on it goes, until the class is done. Thus, these workouts hybridize cardiovascular and resistance training together to create a challenging workout that gets you moving in all sorts of ways.
- PUMA Tazon 6 FM
- EcoOrthoLite sockliner
- EVA heel pod
- Ryka Influence
- Cushioned midsole
- Lateral Support
- Adidas AT 360.2 Prima
Unlike a running workout where the motion is perpetually forward, most movements in HIIT workouts are lateral, forward, backward, up, and down. Just from the difference in movement between the two, it’s obvious that a running shoe will not fit the bill for blasting through your favorite class. Where running shoes are engineered with extra cushioning in the soles for endurance runs and for arch support, that extra padding can actually hinder your responsive movement during quick changes in direction during a workout.
Looking for a pair of cross-trainers ideally suited for your workouts should have the following factors considered:
- The right fit
With the above in mind, you’re equipped with the essentials needed in your HIIT workout shoes.
From burpees and sprints to box jumps and quick turns, your cross-trainers should measure up against the beating you put them through. Reading on, you will find our top ten shoes meant to withstand the rigors of training in this list. Just as you would wear a work outfit specific to the job you are performing, so would you wear workout shoes that are exercise specific and that help you perform well with minimal risk and injury.
10 Best Shoes for HIIT
1. PUMA Tazon 6 FM
At a shipping weight of about three pounds, this shoe weighs in heavier than the ASICS Gel-Fit Sanas. Despite its heft and its construction to look like a running shoe, it maintains a stable fit during your repetitions of clean and snatch. Cushioning is placed where your foot requires maximum shock absorption: through the heel and in the midfoot by way of EVA foam cushioning and use of a midfoot saddle.
Better Load Bearing = Stable Ride
The outsole of the Tazon 6s contains a thermoplastic polyurethane shank, strategically placed between the insole and outsole for stability during load-bearing exercises. Think of how running up an incline increases the load borne upon the feet and calves. This TPU shank helps prevent any overturning of the joints while your feet are working hard at keeping you upright on uneven surfaces. The more stability you have, the stronger and more efficient your muscles become at keeping you upright and balanced.
Cost and Value
As the cheapest shoe on this list, you will find the Puma name upholding its reputation as a leader in global athletic wear. In other words, you get a bigger bang for your buck with the Tazon 6s in terms of value.
- Incomparable stability
- Stylishly sharp
- Its raised heel is beneficial to those with Achilles tendon issues
- Rigid material reported by some
- Runs narrow
2. Ryka Influence
With high impact exercise, you’ll need footwear that helps absorb impacts from jumping, while keeping you stabilized for the next rep or movement. The Influence accomplishes this with Ryka’s Flex-Foil and Direct-Fuse technology, providing ample support while you pound away jumping or lunging. The footprint designed sole helps give ample traction and mimics what barefoot training would accomplish in terms of stability.
Inside the Influence lies a dual density foam to cushion each foot strike or landing. N-Gage EVA help absorbs higher impact movements, and help return energy to you for your next step. It also helps keep the shape of the shoe during wear and tear expected with high impact sports, so you won’t need to buy new shoes in just a couple months!
Cost and Value
Moderately priced for a quality pair of sneakers, the Ryka Influence brings aggressive styling to a quality constructed pair of shoes for high impact sports. With its support technology and cushioned shock absorbance, you may find yourself going the extra round during your next HIIT workout!
Flex Foil Tech
N-Gage EVA Midsole
3. Reebok CrossFit Nano 4.0
Along the sleek upper lines of the CrossFit Nano 4.0 is lightweight open weave mesh, keeping ventilation high for hot sweaty sessions at the gym. Duracage synthetic overlays help provide lateral support, as well as help to maintain the structure of the shoe over time. And, should you find yourself doing laps of rope climbs, a RopePro wrap helps protect the shoe from wear, as well as help you get wrapped up quicker to climb.
With a minimalist style sole, measuring only a 4mm drop differential, the stability of the Nano 4.0 is beyond supreme for landings, pistol squats, and also helps you to better utilize muscles of the foot and Achilles by keeping the heel lower. Forefoot and heel pods add cushioning and shock absorption, all keeping you comfortable to the last second of effort.
Cost and Value
The CrossFit Nano 4.0 is one of the older versions of the Nano, but still packs a punch, and costs less than newer models. Great for stability with its minimalist drop, and maintaining sneaker integrity over time due to the Duracage, as well as providing lateral support, it’s truly well designed. Great for CrossFitters, but also for those who enjoy high impact workouts!
4. ASICS GEL-190 TR
To reduce overpronation, this uses a firm sponge material in the midsole, which is wedge-shaped to provide you with the support you need to promote normal pronation.
Rearfoot GEL System
This shoe comes with their patented rearfoot GEL system, which is designed to absorb the shock from a hard workout and protect your heel from injury and pain.
Cost and Value
This shoe can be found in the low-to-middle price range, which is quite affordable for a shoe that offers so much support and comfort for your high-intensity interval training workouts.
- DuoMax Support System
- Rearfoot GEL System
- SpEVA Midsole
- Trusstic System
- Supportive Overlays
- Rubber Sole
- Sizing runs narrow
- Poor forefoot cushioning
5. Nike Free TR Fit 5.0
When participating in an intense physical activity, it can become pretty hot in your shoes, but breathable uppers allow air to flow through the shoe to cool and dry your feet.
Washing Machine Safe
Shoes will eventually get dirty, no matter how careful you are and how odor-resistant they are. Another great thing is that this shoe is completely washing machine safe for your convenience.
Cost and Value
This stylishly comfortable athletic shoe from Nike can be found in the low-to-upper price range. It’s well worth the investment but shop around for the best deal before you buy.
- Breathable Mesh Upper
- Washing Machine Safe
- Polyester Upper
- Water Resistant
- Lightly Padded Interior
- Poor arch support
- Only comes in narrow sizes
6. Nike Flex Trainer 5
HIIT requires a lot of sudden changes in direction and you need a shoe that offers great traction. The hexagonal traction pattern in this Nike athletic shoe has great grip.
A properly fitting athletic shoe is essential to a safe workout and the Nike Flex Trainer 5 comes with forefoot cables to provide you with a secure but flexible fit.
Cost and Value
This athletic shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. It provides excellent traction and some great lightweight cushioning, but shop around for the best and most reasonable price.
- Hexagonal Traction Pattern
- Forefoot Cables
- Breathable Mesh Upper
- Padded Mesh Tongue
- Flexible Grip Outsole
- Injected Unit Sole
- Back may be stiff
- Sizing runs small
7. Adidas A.T 360.2 Prima
The mesh upper is breathable in order to reduce odor development and heat and is seamless, stretchy, and flexible for a comfortable, cool fit.
To prevent injury during intense lateral movement, the outsole has grooves and lateral support built into it. The grooves help you grip the ground and the lateral support stabilizes you.
Cost and Value
This trainer can be found in the upper middle price range. This style of shoe offers support and temperature control for a reasonable price.
- Mesh Upper
- Outsole Grooves
- Rubber Sole
- Textile and Synthetic Construction
- Sole Wraps Onto Upper
- Thin sole
- Inconsistent sizing
8. PUMA Cell Riaze
With this shoe, you will experience all-around cushioning that can be found in its midsole and heel, as well as in its padded tongue and collar. Comfort is clearly the goal here, but you will not feel as though your foot is being swallowed by pillowy softness. Instead, the cushioning is meant to garner support for where you need it most during your most grueling activity, be it squat jumps or jump knee tucks.
If you’re going hard during your HIIT workout and you’ve passed the thirty-minute mark, chances are your feet are sweating as hard as the rest of you. The Cell Riaze’s have a breathable textile upper meant to manage moisture, as is evidenced by its use of the Eco Ortholite sock liner. These shoes work hard to keep your feet cooler, drier, and healthier so that you can work hard at making a higher box jump than last week.
Cost and Value
While being close to one of the more expensive shoes on this list, your money will be well spent with this shoe. This is a pair of cross-trainers that maintains its reputation as a worthy contender for most supportive and stable shoe for HIIT workouts.
- Snug, comfortable fit
- All-over cushioning without the bulk
- Great for a variety of workout activities
- Tight fit reported for some
- For wider feet, size up by two sizes
9. Ryka Tenacity
The Tenacity incorporates a high-top design to better support the ankle, and the lace-up closure wraps high to give you the snug fit and support you need. It pulls together reinforced synthetic layers atop breathable mesh, so you can push through lateral moves without harm. Add to this the Pivot design on the sole, for quick toe turns, and you’ll be killing your next workout!
As with many of Ryka’s footwear, Flex-Foil and Direct-Fuse technology gives incredible support for high impact absorbance. The Precise-Return footbed helps provide energy response back to you, and the responsiveness back to shape helps maintain the sneaker’s integrity. Rubber outsole gives grippy traction for quick darting moves without slippage.
Cost and Value
Similar to other Ryka sneakers, it’s quite reasonably priced and gives an extra bit of support to the ankle. If you’re in search of something high impact related, but really require ample ankle support, it’s the perfect option to consider. Aggressive look and color options add to the attractive nature of this go-getter!
Tie and Velcro Closure
Direct Fuse Tech
Lack Arch Support
10. Nike Metcon 3
Metabolic Conditioning, or metcon, usually involves some heavy cardio, HIIT, or quick bursts of speed to better increase cardiac and muscle endurance. With the Metcon 3’s lightweight breathable uppers, you’ll be able to focus on getting the job done, rather than thinking about how heavy your feet feel from your footwear. Molded flex grooves found in the forefoot help increase natural flexibility for jumps and other explosive movements.
Traction and Grip
No one wants to run suicides sliding across the lines, wasting precious energy! The Metcon 3 boasts of firm rubber and an external heel counter to keep you stable, and also stickier rubber in the forefoot to improve traction for those sudden stops. The outsole is protected against rope climb abrasions with the rope wrap.
Cost and Value
Minimal drop, abrasions resistance, super traction, and lightweight breathability come at a slightly more expensive price tag than others on our list, but it’s still quite reasonable when compared to a quality pair of running shoes. Built for specific functions of jumping, HIIT, and lifting, the Nike Metcon 3 is a perfect option for those who love going hard and pushing it to the max effort.
Molded Flex Grooves
External Heel Counter
Best For Indoor Use
While trying on a multitude of cross-trainers is time-consuming and not an ideal way to find your perfect pair, this list was created to help narrow your list of choices down to a select few. You just need to look for a shoe that:
- Allows you to move in all directions while keeping your foot stable.
- Is somewhat flatter to the ground; in other words, arch support is not as crucial as it would be in a running shoe.
- Has support at the rear and sides of the shoe for backward and lateral movements.
- Is only moderately cushioned to support jumping.
- Fits true to size. A slightly bigger shoe can only promote risk for injury in situations where you are participating in multi-directional activities.
The above recommendations come highly regarded by people like you, looking to get the most out of their workouts with the best shoe possible. As intense as some HIIT workouts can be, you will want a shoe that delivers the right fit, the right amount of cushioning, and the most stability. Choosing a pair of cross-trainers that don’t perform well will only increase your risk of injury and prolong recovery before your next workout. Having a workout shoe that’s activity-appropriate can only maximize the results you want for your body while maintaining safety and protection for you and your overall health. Workouts should be fun and motivating, so why not do them with shoes that keep you going hard until the end, ready for the next workout?
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Shoes for HIIT
High-Intensity Interval Training is popular and provides a number of health benefits, but if you aren’t prepared with the right footwear, you could seriously injure yourself. Wearing a traditional running shoe or other athletic footwear while you do it could result in knee, hip, and ankle pain. If the shoe isn’t designed for intense lateral movements and sudden shifts in direction, then you could even develop blisters!
We will now cover exactly what features you should look for in a shoe you intend to wear for HIIT so you can make an educated decision for yourself about which shoe will be best for you and your needs. You need to consider safety features, such as stability, support, and traction first before considering weight and flexibility. Make sure you know your exact shoe size for a properly fitting shoe, too. Finally, you need to consider the temperature managing features as well as the cushioning and overall value of the shoe before you make the investment.
Stability and support features are the most important aspect to consider because the intense movements and shifts in direction can result in a rolled, sprained, or even broken ankle or any number of other injuries to your legs, hips, and back. If you roll an ankle or otherwise lose your balance and fall, you may instinctively throw your hands out to catch yourself, which could result in broken wrists! As such, it’s best to avoid falls altogether by investing in a good pair of supportive shoes for your workout.
- Supportive Outsoles
Look for shoes that offer supportive outsoles which are designed to flex with your foot’s movements. There are a number of such supportive outsole technologies from shoe manufacturers that are designed specifically for HIIT and CrossFit activities to allow for your foot to move as necessary in a workout without making you fall.
- Arch and Heel Support
You need arch and heel support because these supportive features will reduce your risk of a fall or injury from the intense activity. You especially need these support features if you do not have normal pronation, as your over or underpronation makes your feet roll more than they are supposed to. The extra lateral movements and sudden direction changes will intensify any pronation problems you may already have, so you need a shoe that will compensate as needed to give you as close to normal pronation as possible. This can reduce your risk of developing plantar fasciitis and a number of debilitating injuries originating from pronation problems.
- Supportive Uppers
Flexibility is of great importance, but a plain mesh upper would not provide enough support for high-intensity interval training activities, because meshes are light, flexible, and aren’t designed to offer support. The best shoes have supportive overlays of some form to overlay mesh uppers if they have mesh uppers at all. This provides you with the extra support that you need to prevent an injurious fall. Supportive uppers made with overlays are also more durable than plain mesh uppers, as the breathable mesh is usually thinner and could tear.
The second most important feature to look at in a shoe is traction. As you will be participating in those sharp, quick movements, you need a shoe that won’t slip under you when you lunge or jump. Slipping and falling during such intense activity could result in injury, so you need to find a shoe with good traction and grip. Shoe manufacturers provide this in a handful of creative ways, but we will discuss the one most commonly found in shoes that are best for HIIT, which is the tread and groove pattern.
- Tread and Groove Pattern
Outsoles which provide the best traction for HIIT do so because they have an efficient tread pattern which allows the shoes to grip the ground well to prevent injury from a fall. The depth and frequency of the grooves in the tread pattern vary from model to model and from manufacturer to manufacturer, but as a rule of thumb, the more grooves, the better the grip, as long as the grooves aren’t too thin and close together. Too many shallow and thin grooves can reduce the traction the shoe offers. As a whole, manufacturers all use different patterns, but they all have sufficiently deep and wide grooves and treads to promote the best grip.
When doing HIIT activities, you need a lightweight shoe which provides the support, stability, and traction that you need in the amounts that you need. Minimalist shoes are not usually best for this type of workout, so you need to be sure and pick a good shoe that isn’t too heavy but also offers the above-mentioned features. A neutrally cushioned shoe works best, as well, as a shoe with a lot of cushioning can limit your flexibility and be a hindrance to your workout. The lighter your shoe is, the less foot fatigue you will feel at the end of your workout, but be sure not to sacrifice important safety and comfort features to get a lighter shoe; your feet are too important to risk injuring, as they are generally our primary mode of transportation.
Even though it’s not in the top three characteristics of importance, flexibility is of paramount importance. If the support the shoe offers results in a firm, unyielding prison for your foot, then you’ll increase your likelihood of getting hurt due to poor shock-absorption and could be more likely to break a bone. You need to temper that firm support with the flexibility to allow natural foot movement and there are a few ways that manufacturers do this.
- Flex Grooves
One of the most important ways that shoe manufacturers promote flexibility in their shoes is through flex grooves. The flex grooves which are best are neither too deep or too narrow. If the grooves aren’t deep enough, they won’t make a difference in the flexibility of the shoe, but if they are too deep, you risk losing all of the supportive benefits that the outsole offered before the grooves were cut.
- Flexible Uppers
The most common kind of flexible upper that is found in shoes is a mesh upper. Mesh uppers offer a plethora of benefits, but when you are doing HIIT, you must have supportive overlays of some kind to provide your foot with the extra support it needs. A mesh upper with no supportive overlay is a recipe for disaster.
Properly Fitting Shoes
Another aspect of paramount importance is less to do with the shoe design and more to do with your foot size and shape. Wearing shoes which are too tight or too loose will result in injuries. Too-tight shoes can lead to serious deformities and other medical conditions in your toes while shoes that are too loose will result in blisters from your foot slipping and sliding in your shoe.
The too-loose shoes are actually more hazardous because there are a lot of sudden changes in speed and direction. Too-loose shoes allow your feet to slide around in them, which results in blisters at best, but can also result in a loss of balance from the shoe slipping or even flying off!
You want a shoe that allows plenty of space in the toe box for your toes to spread out naturally, but one which is narrow enough to limit free space so you don’t have your feet slipping and sliding all the time. Your shoe should not slip off the back of your heel, but your toes should not be pressed against the front of the shoe.
In an intense workout or athletic activity, you need a shoe that provides the right amount of temperature management to keep your feet cool and dry, but this is especially true of high-intensity interval workouts. Wearing shoes which lack breathability features is a surefire way to turn your shoes into a sweat-drenched swamp of a sauna, which could result in foul odors and painful blisters.
- Mesh Upper
The most common way that shoe manufacturers provide temperature management and breathability is by using a mesh upper in the shoe’s design. Mesh uppers allow more airflow in and out of the shoe, which in turn cools and dries your feet. Mesh uppers have the added benefit of being flexible and stretchy, as well, which are also features needed in a good shoe.
Cushioning is low on this list of features to look for because too much of it will hinder the shoe’s ability to flex and bend with your foot as you go through those intense movements. Cushioning is important, though, for shock-absorption and to prevent painful rubbing, so you will still need to consider it when you are shopping for your new pair of shoes.
Effective, lightweight padding can make an otherwise firm and supportive shoe comfortable to wear when it would otherwise be an uncomfortable environment for your feet. Look for shoes which offer light padding on the interior of the shoe, as well as on the tongue and collar. Be careful to find a shoe which promotes breathability through the padding, though, or you’ll have a new problem on your hands.
The insoles of your shoe need to be cushioned enough to absorb the shock from the hard impacts that result from intense activities, but thin and lightweight enough to not hinder the shoe’s ability to flex with your foot.
Midsole units can compensate for extra thin insoles by providing an extra interior layer of cushioning and support at the same time. Shoes which don’t have a midsole or have a midsole which does not meet your support and cushioning needs are not good.
The outsole cushions your feet more than you may think. The outsole is your foot’s first line of defense against painful bumps and environmental hazards. The shoes which are best have rubber or synthetic outsoles and do not have crepe or leather outsoles. The outsole should be flexible and supportive, but it should also be cushioned enough to provide shock absorption to counter the hard impacts characterized by HIIT workouts.
You want to get the most value out of your dollar, so you want your shoes to be durable, convenient, easy to use, and easy to maintain. If your shoes fall apart after wearing them for a month or two, then you’ll probably feel like you lost money on your investment into the shoes you just purchased. So to make sure that you find a good shoe that you’ll be satisfied with, check the reviews of the shoe in question and do some research into the model of the shoe you’re looking into. If the brand is using some of their patented shoe technologies in the shoe, learn exactly what those technologies do and how they are helpful. Then, decide which features are the most valuable to you.
You want a shoe that will last you awhile, so look for shoes with durable rubber outsoles and synthetic or leather overlays which protect the more fragile parts of the upper in your shoe, such as a mesh upper. Shoes which have crepe outsoles are the least durable, so it’s for the best that you avoid them. Rubber and synthetic outsoles are generally water resistant and the most durable outsole materials. Leather or synthetic overlays on your shoes upper can increase both the durability and the supportiveness of your shoe.
- Convenience & Ease of Use
Shoes which are easy and convenient to use are worth more just the same way that fast food and food at a restaurant are worth paying more than cooking food at home. So, look for shoes which offer removable inserts for your convenience to increase the longevity of your shoes. If you can replace the insoles, then you can get twice the life out of your HIIT shoes, but that doesn’t mean that shoes without removable inserts are not good. It’s just a bonus to be able to remove a worn-out insole.
Shoes which are hard to clean and require a lot of timely maintenance are a pain. You buy a shoe so you can workout and be healthier, not so you can spend more of your free time cleaning, treating, and otherwise maintaining your shoes. To get the most value out of your shoes with maintenance in mind, it’s best to avoid shoes with leather overlays unless the overlays are pretreated and water resistant, as water can damage leather.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are Nike, ASICS, PUMA, Adidas, New Balance, Ryka, and Reebok the only shoe manufacturers that make good shoes for HIIT?
A: No! Nike, ASICS, PUMA, Adidas, New Balance, Ryka, and Reebok offer the top ten best shoes, but there are plenty of other shoes from other brands which provide everything you need for high-intensity interval training.
Q: Can I use my HIIT shoes for running and other athletic endeavors?
A: Technically, you can. However, it is not recommended for two important reasons. First of all, HIIT shoes are specifically designed for intense lateral movements and sudden changes in direction. There are some athletic activities and workouts that these shoes would be good for, but for running and using exercise equipment, you would be better off investing in a good running shoe.
Q: Can I wear my HIIT shoes on a walk?
A: You can, but HIIT shoes were not designed for sustained forward motion, so the supportive features may become painful if you wear them to walk or run for prolonged periods of time. They are also not recommended to wear to the office or a job that requires you to be on your feet all day, as these are purely athletic shoes with a specific purpose in mind.
Q: Can I use running shoes for my workout?
A: You can, but it’s definitely not recommended. Running shoes are designed to be lightweight and minimalistic to make it easier to propel yourself forward. Running shoes are not designed for the intense lateral movements and sudden changes in direction which characterize these workouts. Choosing to wear running shoes could result in injury.
- ASICS, DuoMaxTM
- New Balance, Cardio Comfort
- Shoes Obsessions, New Balance Technologies, October 14, 2008
- Quora, Can you do HIIT training barefoot or with minimal shoes?, October 31, 2008