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Health & Fitness

How to find the right pair of gym shoes

You might think that any shoe will do, but selecting the right pair is key to keeping you comfortable, strong, and healthy.

A woman putting a pair of white running shoes on. Credit: Getty Images / Drazen Zigic

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Whether you run, lift weights, cycle, or climb, it's important to invest in the right shoes for your favorite workout. In addition to providing adequate cushioning and support, wearing footwear specifically designed for your activity of choice is crucial for proper mobility and injury prevention. But what shoes should you wear to the gym, where you might be doing several activities in one workout session? The answer: It depends on how you spend most of your time there. Read on to learn more about common types of gym shoes you may want to consider.

What should I look for in a gym shoe?

Two women squatting in the gym.
Credit: Getty Images / kovaciclea

What shoes you wear to the gym will depend on how you like to exercise.

They might appear equally comfy and supportive, but sneakers designed for different activities, such as running versus lifting weights, are made that way to keep your footing stable and/or agile as you move and help you avoid injuries

If you exercise regularly and perform the same activity at least twice a week, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommends wearing sport-specific shoes to protect your joints and muscles. Depending on what activities you enjoy at the gym, you’ll want to consider a shoe that will support you in those movements. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk for injuries that could require ongoing physical therapy—or worse, an extended break from working out entirely—including tendinitis, sprains, plantar fasciitis, or stress fractures.

To keep your body performing at its best, let’s take a look at the differences between a few common types of gym shoes.

What are cross trainers designed for?

Two pairs of cross-trainers from Hoka One One and Nike.
Credit: Hoka One One / Nike

Cross-trainers are meant to hold up during various activities.

Cross-trainers are versatile shoes designed to be worn during multiple activities. The footbed is flat enough to provide firm stability while you lift weights, but flexible enough for cardio activities and studio classes that may have you moving in any direction. They're great for studio classes, HIIT workouts, and days when you're performing a mix of activities such as a short strength training workout followed by a cardio session.

Hoka One One Arahi 5

The Arahi 5 cross-trainers are a great option for gym-goers who want more stability. Though they’re less flexible than some other cross-trainers, the supportive sole allows you to plant your foot firmly during floor movements like lunges. They’re also lightweight and breathable, so your feet won’t get too sweaty while exercising. Reviewers say these shoes are ultra comfortable, perfect for everything from intense circuit training to a studio HIIT class. They come in full and half sizes ranging from 5 to 12 in women’s and 7 to 15 in men’s, and are available in various colors, including black, cobalt blue, pastel blue, and lavender.

Nike Zoom X SuperRep Surge

The Nike Zoom X SuperRep Surge sneakers are designed for exercise classes, and are well-suited for a variety of moves. They offer adequate stability during bodyweight strength training movements like lunges and squats, and mobility during quick-paced movements like mountain climbers and lateral hops. Reviewers say these shoes are perfect for circuit training, and are extremely comfortable during studio classes. They come in full and half sizes ranging from 5 to 15 in women’s and 6 to 15 in men’s, and are available in energizing colors like neon orange, mint green, and bright blue.

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Puma Fuse

Designed to be comfortable during various activities, Puma’s Fuse training shoes are designed for strength training, cross training, and HIIT. Their wide soles made of “Pumagrip” rubber are intended to keep your feet stable as you zip through your workout, and reviewers say they live up to this promise. Satisfied customers say these shoes are comfortable and sturdy enough for HIIT workouts, strength training, and studio classes, though they get uncomfortable quickly on the treadmill or track. They come in full and half sizes ranging from 5.5 to 11 in women’s and 7 to 13 in men’s, and are available in monochromatic black and white styles.

Nike Metcon 7 X

Designed for weight lifting, the Nike Metcon 7 X training shoes offer serious stability. The rubber traction helps your feet grip the floor to avoid any slipping or sliding, and the shoes are designed to distribute weight evenly through your heel. The foam interior keeps your feet comfortable, especially during cardio intervals where you’re moving quickly. Reviewers say they feel ultra stable in these trainers and love using them for strength training workouts. They come in full and half sizes ranging from 5 to 16.5 in women’s and 3.5 to 15 in mens, and are available in a variety of multicolor combos.

Get the Nike Metcon 7 X Men’s and Women’s for $140

New Balance WX608V5

With a foam interior and added support through the midsole, these New Balance trainers are both cushioned and supportive for a range of activities. Reviewers say the padding and wiggle room in the toes makes them a comfortable choice for strength training, HIIT workouts, studio classes, and more, while the arch support makes them great for light jogs or walks on the treadmill. They come in full and half sizes ranging from 5 to 12 in women’s and 6.5 to 18 men’s, and are available in white with a pop of color on the New Balance logo.

Nike Free TR8

Nike Free TR8 cross-trainers are a lightweight, flexible option well-suited for an array of exercises. I’ve owned these shoes for nearly two years, and as Reviewed’s health and fitness writer, can attest to their comfort and durability. They’re flat enough to wear lifting weights, but supportive enough to transition to a quick jog on the treadmill. Reviewers agree, and say these shoes are extremely comfortable during various activities and provide just the right amount of support. They’re black with a white logo and sole, and come in women’s sizes ranging from 5 to 15.

Get the Nike Free TR8 Women’s for $100

New Balance Minimus TR

The New Balance Minimus TR cross-trainers are a basic option for anyone looking for a lightweight shoe. These trainers have a mesh exterior, which keeps the shoes breathable and your feet cool and comfy. Reviewers say they love how light these shoes feel on their feet, and how much stability they provide while lifting weights. However, many warn these shoes run snug, so they may be better suited for narrow feet. They come in full and half sizes ranging from 5 to 12 in women’s and 7 to 15 in mens, and are available in a gray profile.

How do running shoes work?

Two pairs of running shoes.
Credit: Hoka One One / Brooks

Running shoes are designed to move you forward while providing some cushion and support.

Though you can buy a neutral or motion-control shoe specifically designed to support your body’s unique gait, all running shoes are designed to absorb the impact of your feet repeatedly hitting the ground while they propel you in a forward direction. Many running shoes are intended to provide adequate cushioning and stability to keep your feet comfortable, though some runners prefer a minimalist-style shoe that’s designed not to interfere with their natural stride.

Brooks Ghost

The Ghost is one of Brooks’s most popular pairs of running shoes. The Brooks Ghost 14 shoes are cushioned to provide comfortability and a smooth transition in your stride. Reviewers say these shoes are comfortable and supportive, perfect for runs on the pavement or the treadmill. These shoes come in full and half sizes from 5 to 13 in women’s and 7 to 15 in men’s, and in colors and designs that will suit any taste, from a purple and turquoise marble to a neon green to a classic all-black.

Hoka One One Clifton 8

The Clifton 8 running shoes provide soft cushion alongside arch support so your feet feel comfortable and secure along your running route. Reviewers love these sneakers, and say they’re lightweight, comfy, and flexible, but still supportive. They come in full and half sizes from 5 to 12 in women’s and 7 to 16 in men’s, and a variety of fun, bright colors like magenta, peach, and aqua to liven up your feet.

What’s different about walking shoes?

Two pairs of walking shoes from Brooks and Hoka One One.
Credit: Brooks / Hoka One One

Walking shoes provide more cushion and stability than running shoes, particularly around the heel.

Though they look similar to running shoes, walking shoes often have a rounder, stiffer heel to cradle and support your foot as it hits the ground heel to toe, which is the usual footstrike associated with walking. A flexible sole allows your foot to move comfortably as you get your steps in. That said, you may prefer running shoes even if your main activity is walking because they’re generally designed to be more durable for impact and will therefore last you for more miles on your walks—and if you decide to up your pace to a jog.

Hoka One One Bondi 7

The Bondi 7s provide extra cushion for comfort with every step. The plush and memory foam interior is designed to mold to your foot for the utmost comfort and support, while the mesh panels provide lightweight breathability. Reviewers say these shoes live up to their promises, and are some of the most comfortable out there for long-distance walks. They come in full and half sizes from 5 to 12 in women’s and 7 to 16 in men’s, in colors such as baby blue, red orange, and neon yellow.

Brooks Addiction Walker 2

The Brooks Addiction Walker 2 sneakers are designed to give you maximum support and cushion with your steps. Reviewers say these shoes help them stay balanced and supported while walking, and they’re comfortable for long walks or all-day wear. They come in full and half sizes from 5 to 12 in women’s and 7 to 15 in men’s, as well as narrow, wide, and extra wide fits. Both the men’s and women’s sizes come in monochromatic black or white styles.

So, what gym shoes should you buy?

A close up of a woman's feet as she runs on the treadmill.
Credit: Getty Images / skynesher

Find the right shoes for you from brands like Hoka One One, Nike, or Brooks.

If you spend most of your workout time running or walking, you’ll want to get yourself a pair of running or walking shoes. But if you mix it up by lifting weights, taking studio classes, or enjoying a mix of cardio and strength training, a pair of cross-trainers is your best bet. If you like to split your time between two activities—for example, spending one day running and one lifting weights—you may want to invest in two pairs of shoes, one for each respective activity.

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Flipboard for the latest deals, product reviews, and more. Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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