SELF asked hundreds of self reader-testers to put 421 pairs of sneakers through their paces. Four weeks, 6,035 miles, 253 workout DVDs, 418 classes and 766 hours of strength training later, we present our first annual sneaker awards. Pinpoint your perfect pair to step up to your fitness goals.
You need a stable, sturdy shoe for dumbbell workouts.
Winner: Blade-Max Endure, $100; KSwiss.com. Athlete-engineered sliced soles provide traction. And who needs Louboutins? One tester loved the style as much as the function: "They're sexy as hell."
Runner-up: NB Minimus 20v2, $85; NewBalance.com. CrossFit fanatics, these shoes are for you. A low heel lets you sink deeper into squats, generating explosive power. WOD, be warned.
Editor's pick: Free TR Fit 2, $90; Nike.com. "I'm Spider-Woman in my Nikes. They're so agile, my feet practically wall-walk."—Meaghan Murphy, deputy editor.
Cross-Training: Group Classes
Sidestep seamlessly in cross-trainers that help you move in any direction.
Winner: Pumagility, $90; Puma.com. Flex-grooved bottoms welcome lateral moves. Foam compresses and widens to keep feet stable. Testers liked them for "quick changes in direction." That means you, Zumba.
Runner-up: Under Armour Strut, $87; UA.com. These slip-ons are great for agility exercises (think: speed ladder or carioca)—the adjustable Velcro strap lets you customize your heel support.
Editor's pick: Real Flex Transition, $100; Reebok.com. "I have an old knee injury, and the flexible sole kept me in control—even during kickboxing." —Alyssa Longobucco, editorial assistant.
Cross-Training: Minimalist Trainers
Deconstructed sneaks force otherwise dormant foot muscles into action. Make sure you're feet are ready for minimalist kicks with this 4-week strengthening plan.
Winner: Lithe Glove, $125; Merrell.com. Minor cushioning but major flexibility make these the ultimate minimalist multitaskers. Testers wore them to Zumba, on the elliptical and for a run, saying their feet "could really grab the ground."
Runner-up: IsoTransition, $120; PearlIzumi.com. A low profile keeps you closer to the ground, so you're more fleet-footed. Tie-free laces let you pull them on (and off) fast, and the lining wicks sweat. Our testers said, "Socks optional."
Editor's pick: AdiPure, $90; Adidas.com. "They're like gloves for the feet, so it's easy to grip any surface more firmly—and perfect for when you want to feel the turf underfoot."—Tula Karras, contributing editor.