Not all sneakers are born equal. That goes for your casual kicks as much as it does for the average workout shoe. With moon landing levels of tech being integrated into ever-more impressive trainers, it’s difficult to sort through the gimmicks and the foam soles.
But worry not, we desire that perfect athletic body as much as the next man – and we’re here to guide you through the best possible footwear to achieve your goals, whether it’s lifting personal bests, sweating through HIIT workouts or tearing up a CrossFit circuit.
Before parting with your hard-earned cash, you should consider a couple of things. Firstly, like with clothing, fit is king. You’re not going to get the most out of your workout if you’re wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit properly.
Shoe sizes that work in different corridors of your life might not be appropriate in the workout or lifting arena. For example, if you’re lifting heavy weight you’ll want a wider shoe to ensure a more stable base and help transfer power.
Likewise, you don’t want to do CrossFit in a shoe that is too small and doesn’t allow manoeuvrability, or pound out cardio in sneakers that aren’t supremely comfortable and light.
Secondly, you may need different shoes for different activities. There are sneakers on this list that are specifically for weightlifting sessions – wide bases, stiffer materials and ankle support built in as well as a tell-tale toe strap are the giveaways.
There’s also all-rounders, with support in the mid-sole and added cushioning for extended periods of movement. Lighter shoes, meanwhile, will allow for better bursts of explosive power in HIIT workouts. If you like to mix up your workouts, we’d recommend having a rotation of shoes that can be called on.
With that in mind, here’s our selection of the best gym trainers with options for different workouts, styles and budgets.
Nike Metcon 8
The latest iteration of a classic, Nike’s Metcon 8 is a great-looking sneaker. The tech and CrossFit input into this model is astounding and includes integrated heel support to stabilise the force on different areas of the shoe when lifting; an inner plate that spreads the weight from edge to edge; rubber added to the sides for more traction on rope climbs; react foam for comfort and added spring on sprints; as well as a tab that locks down your laces so you don’t ever have to worry about them coming untied.
Stiffness and lightness come as standard, with neither sacrificed for the other. A true all-rounder.
On Cloud X 3
Whilst On is very much a running shoe brand, with the Swiss company managing to break into an arena that was previously reserved for sportswear giants, the Cloud X 3 is a sneaker that can hold its own across the gym floor.
CloudTec soles keep things comfortably bouncy when you need to dig in and keep bursting forward, while the dual-density sock liner and knit-weave upper both work together to ensure comfort and wick away sweat.
They’re also extremely light without feeling like they’re going to fall apart.
Reebok Nano X3 Adventure
Sturdy and robust without feeling like every step is a rep, Reebok’s Nano X3 sneakers are for those who prefer their workouts outdoors.
Engineered to be used on differing terrain – be it concrete, grass or even sand – the Vibram sole is reinforced and features raised lugs for extra grip while the Floatride Energy Foam ensures comfort over long periods and a responsive feel that is imperative when dealing with uneven surfaces.
Under Armour Hovr Rise 4
Not the most handsome shoe, we’ll admit. Although we are slightly mesmerised by that strap on the side, which gives increased stability in the heel and unlocks mobility in the forefoot.
The Hovr Rise 4’s lightweight mesh upper provides superior protection and durability, while the UA HOVR foam delivers a ‘zero gravity’ feel that helps return energy with each step while minimising the effects of impact.
This is a real tank of a shoe if you can get over their appearance. But you’re not going to be wearing these with your jeans anyway.
VivoBarefoot Primus Lite III
There’s some interesting brands breaking into the fitness market, one of which is VivoBarefoot. If you’re interested in barefoot training and want the benefits without the heightened injury risk, then this wet shoe lookalike is the one for you.
With just a 2mm solebase, it’s going to feel strange at first but you’ll quickly get used to the sensation. The increased width in the forefoot allows you to spread out your toes for a wider, more comfortable base and they’re inevitably lighter, making it easier to burst in high-intensity workouts.
Inov-8 F-lite 300
Another solid CrossFit shoe with a sturdy and robust upper that won’t get ripped apart on the rope. The F-lite 300 is a sneaker with innovation built in thanks to its use of graphene in the outsole and midsole, which aims to bolster grip and support during workouts.
A surprisingly light sneaker despite their sturdy appearance, the knitted upper and sock liner provide much-needed sweat wicking and strength. These shoes can definitely take a beating.
Under Armour Tribase Reign 3
The Tribase Reign 3 is a true workhorse shoe. Providing superior traction and a solid base for lifting, there’s also added grip for pushing off in HIIT workouts. The knitted upper offers great breathability with the added overlays increasing durability and abrasion resistance while climbing the rope.
Meanwhile, the sole incorporates a number of key features to improve performance, including zonal flex and traction in the forefoot for greater mobility, a full-length Micro G foam midsole for responsive cushioning and low ground clearance for greater feel and power transfer. If you don’t break your PBs in these, you never will.
Nike ZoomX SuperRep Surge
The Nike SuperRep Surge is a beast of a shoe – both visually and practically. A multipurpose sneaker, if you’re a new starter on the gym front and you’re after something that’ll see you through from the rowing machine to the weights room, this is the model to invest in.
Lightweight, breathable, super comfortable and with that ZoomX bounce to help put a spring in your step when you’re feeling drained, they’ll never let you down.
Reebok Legacy Lifter III
What a wonderfully retro-looking pair of lifting shoes. Arnie would be proud. A trainer designed almost entirely for lifting, the big trick in the Reebok sleeve is a 1.9cm heel that has been specially formulated to offer the optimal position for doing squats.
‘Flexcage’ technology meanwhile ensures that your foot is kept firmly in place while supporting both your heel and ankle, further optimising lifting position. If all you do is lift then these are for you. Did we mention they also look great?