Our expert advice and buyer’s guide will help you find the best workout shoes for hitting the gym. Whether you’re looking for a shoe for a specific sport or an all-arounder, we’ve got you covered.
Over the years, we’ve looked at thousands of shoes for every conceivable purpose, style, foot shape, and price range. Finding the right shoe for your workout can be baffling.
To help narrow down the choices, we’ve tried out dozens of shoes and spent months training in different gym disciplines to find the best shoe for every athlete.
Our team has collectively put in decades of training in a wide variety of fitness disciplines. This gives us a perspective on old favorites as well as which new trends and technologies are worthwhile.
We know that shoes are anything but one-size-fits-all: From utility to fit, the definition of the perfect shoe varies widely from person to person. So we’ve broken the list up to give you the best in a variety of categories so you can find the best shoe for your workouts.
Best Workout Shoes of 2020
It’s hard to know where to start with the F-LITE G 300. The graphene outsole is the grippiest we’ve ever used and has yet to show any wear after months of training. The durable sidewalls are ridged, adding durability and grip on rope climbs. And the tongueless design gives it a comfortable, sock-like fit.
The Best Budget Shoe: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star — Unisex ($55)
Yup, it’s a classic. If you don’t want to spend the money on all the bells and whistles, all you really need is a flat, stable sole, a tough upper, and a minimal heel-toe drop. Chucks have all that, plus the high-top gives you a bit of ankle stability for less than 60 bucks. And they’ll give you street cred with the old-school lifters at your gym.
Best Olympic Weightlifting Shoe: Nike Romaleos 3 XD — Unisex ($200)
A firm, plastic heel provides a stable platform for driving through the heels on Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk and the snatch. And the elevated heel allows athletes with ankle mobility issues to squat to depth. We like the Romaleos for its soft, cushy tongue and Velcro midfoot strap, which gave us a snug, secure fit.
Year after year, athletes praise the Metcons for comfort thanks to the snug heel and slightly wider toebox than Nike’s other offerings, as well as for their comfort on the run as well as in the box.
The newest version features firm heel cushioning and softer toe cushioning for better feeling on the runs without sacrificing stability on lifts, and the added protection on the upper prevents fraying during rope climbs. The directional traction on the rubber outsole provides plenty of grip. And the removable Hyperlift insert improves stability.
Known for its no-frills approach, NOBULL does splurge in one area: The upper is made up of SuperFabric, and industrial-strength reinforced mesh used everywhere from ski jackets to Ferrari interiors.
The mesh upper is covered in thousands of tiny hard-plastic guard plates, resulting in a shoe that combines the durability of a ski boot with the flexibility and breathability of a running shoe.
The Best Deadlift Shoe: SABO Deadlift Shoes — Unisex ($90)
When you’re pulling double your bodyweight, good traction and stability are key, especially with a wider stance (if you deadlift sumo). Russian shoe company SABO’s deadlift shoes are built for the weight room.
They’re grippy, low to the ground, and have bulletproof ankle support. The double Velcro straps lock down the instep and the ankle to keep movement to a minimum, giving you a rock-solid foundation for heavy pulls.
Reebok has had over a decade of research and development, and it shows in its ninth iteration of the original CrossFit shoe. Earlier iterations garnered complaints regarding its feel as more of a lifting shoe, so the brand added more forefoot cushioning and split the sole to add flexibility. The result is a shoe that feels as good on the road as it does on the lifting platform.
On the minimalist side, inov-8’s BARE-XF 210 V2 is our pick for its light weight (under half a pound), zero heel-to-toe drop, and total flexibility. It’s like wearing a sock with a thin outsole, only much more durable.
We’ve used them for everything from CrossFit workouts to heavy squats and deadlifts, and they’ve worked well with all (we like the barefoot feel for metabolic conditioning). One tester found them so comfortable that he used them as his everyday walk-around shoe.
How to Choose the Best Gym Shoes: A Buyer’s Guide
Pick your sport: Many shoes above are built to be versatile for cross training. But if you’re doing a specific sport like Olympic weight lifting or powerlifting, find a shoe that works specifically with your sport, like the SABOs or the Romaleos.
Try before you buy: All the bells and whistles won’t mean a thing if your shoe doesn’t fit your foot. Find a pair of shoes with a good return policy if you can’t try it on in the store. And find brands that tend to fit your foot. Reebok tends to fit narrower feet, while Nike and inov-8 have slightly wider toeboxes.
Price: Most shoes are around the $120 range, give or take. Going cheaper for a current model of shoe will likely cost you in another area, and that usually means durability. You can usually find deals on older models of Nanos and Metcons online, so shop around. It’s not hard to find online retailers who are looking to get rid of old inventory.
Have a favorite workout shoe we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.