Your gym trainers could be working harder. It's a conclusion we've reached after years of testing out running shoes, trail running shoes, and training footwear – all of which have been precisely engineered for their individual pursuits. In short, if you'll be getting in 5kms, treadmill dashes and marathons, you'll be needing one of the best running trainers. If it's dumbbell lifts, box jumps and CrossFit sessions you need shoes for, however, this is the compendium for you.
While many gym regulars remove their shoes when dipping down to complete a set of deadlifts, there are plenty of options available to turbo-boost your lifting sessions. The right gym shoe will support your heavy lifting aims, and make sure your feet are locked in place, no matter how abruptly you switch direction in your next Hyrox competition.
If you're on a strict no-cardio regime, there are shoes built for lifting only, but if you want to throw in a spot of cross trainer action or even some light runs on the gym treadmill, there are also gym trainers that have been optimised for every area of your local. Ever in development, the best gym trainers are also pretty fly, too: no need to compromise on looks for the sake of a perfect sumo squat. They come from a diverse range of brands, too, including On Running and Inov8.
If your existing gym kicks are looking a little worn out, or not fit-for-purpose, it's definitely time to treat yourself to a new pair. Read on to find your favourite among our picks of the best gym trainers available today.
What's the best gym trainer to buy?
Those cloud-like sole bubbles don't just make these kicks some of the best-looking shoes available right now: On Running's gym training hero is ideal for flitting between the weight room, the treadmill and the HIIT class.
Ticking sustainability boxes as well as style and substance ones, Nike's SuperRep Go 3 is crafted from recycled materials that are bolstered against even the heaviest of lifts.
With a pinch of late ‘80s and early ’90s gymwear stylings, these Reebok trainers have got the build and stamina to go through even the most punishing of gym sessions.
- Best gym shoes: On Cloud X Shift 3, £150 at on-running.com
- Best sustainable gym shoes: Nike Metcon 8, £124.95 at nike.com
- Best cheap gym shoes: Reebok Flexagon Force 4,
£45£31.99 at sportsdirect.com
- Best running shoe for the gym: Hoka Kawana, £125 at hoka.com
- Best barefoot gym shoes: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III, £130 at vivobarefoot.com
- Best gym shoes for weightlifting: Adidas Powerlift Weightlifting Shoes, £90 at adidas.co.uk
SKIP TO: How we test the best gym trainers | Are trainers at the gym worth it? | What sneakers should I wear to the gym? | Is it fine to wear running shoes for gym workouts? | What are some of the most popular brands making gym shoes?
How we test the best gym trainers
Where feasible, we prefer to personally wear each pair of gym trainers we recommend in order to gather real-world experience on them. That means wearing them several times to the gym over at least one month, trying them out in the weight room, on the treadmill and in HIIT and CrossFit-associated movements. Elsewhere, we use anecdotal advice, customer reviews and specification — particularly spaciousness, comfort, versatility, weight, cushioning and looks — in order to choose the gym trainers we think are worth your hard-earned cash.
Are trainers at the gym worth it?
“Yes, 100 per cent," says Eliot Simmonds, a CrossFit Games Athlete and Nobull Athlete. “The shoe you wear to workout can dictate the success of your workout, and therefore the progress that you make in the gym. Plus, the better the shoe, the longer it's going to last you.
“If you want to get the most out of your workout, you should invest in shoes that support that modality,” adds Gus Vaz Tostes, a trainer on fitness app Fiit. “When it comes to training shoes, they are now not only designed to support your feet, but also to respond to particular ways of training.”
“Choosing the correct shoe for your needs will support your performance and prevent injury,” says Emily Hall, Head of Performance at Sports Direct. “Training shoes tend to have more surface area compared to running shoes. This means there’s more floor contact, making them sturdier and help with balance when doing things such as weight-lifting.”
What sneakers should I wear to the gym?
“This depends on the individual as everyone has different feet, but comfort should be a must for everyone,” says Simmonds. “For training specifically, you should look for stability and support so your foot feels secure when you're moving around. A gym shoe should also be versatile, allowing you to perform different exercises. For example, a good training shoe should be sturdy enough to keep you steady whilst lifting, but breathable and flexible enough for you to move around in.”
“The most important thing to look for is whether the shoes have specific features that support the stimulus or activity you're using the shoes for,” says Tostes. “If lifting a heavy barbell, I'd suggest investing in weightlifting shoes. Often with an added toe strap, they will 'lock' your foot in position, giving you added support with minimal cushioning.
“If your session is more functional, you need a more versatile shoe; one that is stable enough to offer support in certain lifts, whilst also slightly cushioned if you're incorporating any jumping or small amounts of running."
Is it fine to wear running shoes for gym workouts? If not, why?
"In general, no,” says Tostes. “Depending on how you train, you should be looking for shoes that support you in those movements, allowing you to optimise that session. Just as there is a shoe for every type of runner, whether it's long or short-distance runners, there is a shoe for every type of training.
“A running shoe will not give you the added stability and support you need when lifting heavy. Nor will it translate to a multidimensional functional training session where you can change direction quickly, mixing between cardio and dumbbell conditioning elements.”
What are some of the most popular brands making gym shoes?
“There are some amazing training shoes in the market, which support your fitness needs,” says Emily Hall, Head of Performance at Sports Direct. “Nike has a great selection from its Metcon and SuperRep franchises, and both Reebok and Under Armour have a strong roster to support your performance.”
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