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From driving them into the floor while doing squats, to gaining full flexion on sprints during cardio workouts, your feet do a lot of hard work while you exercise. So it makes sense you want to care for and protect them by finding the best training shoe you can. To the uninitiated, it might seem silly to buy a special pair of shoes just for working out, but you’ll feel the difference once you put a pair on.
Not every training shoe is suitable for all types of workouts, as one might be better for running and another for supporting you as you power through that third set of burpees.
You don’t have to guess which one’s best for which because the ACTIVE Reviews Team tried on countless pairs to do the hard work for you. All you have to do is read on to find our top picks for the best training shoes for 2021.
Best Training Shoes - Our Top Picks
- Most Versatile Sneaker - NikeZoomX Invincible Run
- Best Training Shoes for Walking and Running - Adidas Ultraboost 21
- Best Shoes for Cross-Training - NOBULL Trainer
- Best Training Shoes for CrossFit - Reebok Nano X1
- Best Max Cushion Running Shoes - HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8
- Best Training Shoes for Weightlifting - Nike Savaleos
- Best Minimalist Training Shoes - Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
- Best HIIT Training Shoes - Under Armour Project Rock
- Best Training Shoes for Stability - GORUCK Ballistic Trainers
Most Versatile Sneaker - Nike ZoomX Invincible Run
Whether you’re looking for the best gym, running or cross-training shoe, the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run can do it all. A soft foam midsole delivers maximum cushioning during long jogs or heavy lifts. Nike’s patented FlyKnit upper gives you maximum breathability, and the curved outsole makes heel-to-toe movements feel effortless. Although they were designed with runners in mind, you’ll find these are by far the most versatile sneakers.
The Nike ZoomX Invincible Run is available in men’s and women’s sizes, with nine colorways available for men and seven for women. The $180 price tag might seem like a lot, but you won’t have to buy a separate pair of shoes for running and training. In other words, these are your all-in-one workout shoes.
- Key Feature: Breathable Flyknit upper
- Drop: 9 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 6 to 15; women’s 5 to 12
Best Training Shoes for Walking and Running - Adidas Ultraboost 21
If running and walking are your preferred training methods, the best pick for you is the Adidas Ultraboost 21. What’s great about this shoe is its increased forefoot bending, so your stride feels more natural as your foot hits the ground. Reviewers also loved its cushioning and likened lacing them up to walking on a cloud. What more could you ask for?
The Adidas Ultraboost 21 is the latest iteration of the brand’s Ultraboost series, and it might be one of the best ones yet. Plus, it’s made with recycled materials, so you can feel good wearing it knowing no new plastics had to be manufactured. Not to mention there’s more than 30 colorways, so you’ll be sure to find a design that works for you.
- Key Feature: Increased forefoot bending
- Drop: 10 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 4 to 14; women’s 5 to 11
Best Shoes for Cross-Training - NOBULL Trainer
A good cross-trainer can elevate your workout regimen, and there’s no better pick in our book than the NOBULL Trainer. It has a flat sole that gives you stability during deadlifts, though it’s still flexible enough to get you through more dynamic movements. We did find it lacked some shock absorption and arch support, so it might not be the best pick for things like box jumps.
The NOBULL Trainer is somewhat minimalistic in design, so if you’re after aesthetics, this might not be the shoe for you. When it comes to functionality, there are few better out there. They do take a while to break in, but your patience will be rewarded.
- Key Feature: Flat sole, comfortable
- Drop: 4 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 5 to 18; women’s 5 to 11
Best Training Shoes for CrossFit - Reebok Nano X1
From lifting heavy weights to climbing a rope and everything in between, your feet go through quite a lot during CrossFit. The Reebok Nano X1 is the best training shoe for CrossFit because it combine comfort and stability to keep you on your feet (literally) no matter how grueling your WOD is. It has a wide toe box, which is great because people with wide feet typically have a harder time finding a good training shoe.
The Reebok Nano X1 has better midfoot cushioning than most other pairs of shoes, so they’ll feel good while you’re doing plyometric movements or lifting weights. The rubber outsole is grippy, so you’ll get plenty of traction every time your foot hits the ground. We also like the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) casing, which helps provide some additional heel support.
- Key Feature: Wide toe box
- Drop: 7 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 7 to 14; women’s 5 to 11
Best Max Cushion Running Shoes – HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8
It can be hard to strike a balance between cushioning and firmness, but the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8 does just that. They’re soft enough so your feet feel supported as you go the distance, but not so much that you feel like you’re sinking into them. Reviewers took them on pavement, dirt and gravel and found it was still the best max cushion running shoe they’ve tried.
The Clifton 8 has an engineered mesh upper to keep them breathable, and the padded tongue gives them a snug fit without making them too tight to the point where they’re not flexible. Add to that the extra padding along the heel collar, which also makes them easy to slip on and off, and you have a shoe that feels good and supports every part of your foot. HOKA has been a leader in the running shoe industry for years now, and these shoes are a perfect example of why that is.
- Key Feature: Comfortable but firm midsole cushioning
- Drop: 5 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 7 to 16; women’s 5 to 12
Best Training Shoes for Weightlifting - Nike Savaleos
Stability, support and comfort are three things you want while weightlifting, and the Nike Savaleos offer all that and more. The outsole is flat and wide, not to mention made of grippy rubber, to give you traction during weight training, whether you’re hitting Olympic lifts or powerlifting moves. Plus, a padded mesh heel mesh inset helps with shock absorption.
The Nike Savaleos come with an elevated heel, which allows for increased range of motion and reduces injury risk. The hook-and-loop strap will keep your feet in place during those heavier lifts as well. These are a bit of a tight fit, and reviewers recommend going anywhere from a half size to a full size up from what you usually wear.
- Key Feature: Rubber outsole for increased traction
- Drop: 12.7 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 5 to 18; women’s 6.5 to 19.5 (sold as unisex)
Best Minimalist Training Shoes - Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
You might forget you even put on the Viviobarefoot Primus Lite III after wearing them for a while, but that’s kind of the point. The midsole and outsole are almost nonexistent, letting you feel everything underneath your feet. Their flexibility is unmatched, which again gives you that barefoot feeling without actually being barefoot. That does mean there’s little-to-no traction, so they might not be the best on wet surfaces.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III earns the title of the best minimalist training shoes in design, too—they’re available in obsidian black or bright white. Women have an additional choice of the blue haze colorway, which is a little more stylish than the other two options. Barefoot style shoes aren’t for everyone, but if you’re curious, there is a 100-day trial period available so you can try them out and return them if you find they’re not for you.
- Key Feature: Barefoot feeling
- Drop: 0 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 7 to 15; women’s 5 to 11.5
Best HIIT Workout Training Shoes - Under Armour Project Rock
High-intensity interval training, better known as HIIT, involves a lot of multidirectional movement. The Under Armour Project Rock collection, designed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, helps you do that with a shoe that’s durable and comfortable. It has a breathable upper, and the HOVR midsole provides shock absorption while still allowing you to perform quick movements.
The Under Armour Project Rock has an extended heel counter, which adds to its stability and makes it easier for you to perform dynamic movements. A full-length rubber outsole gives you more peace of mind by eliminating slips. We do recommend going up at least half a size, though.
- Key Feature: Rubber outsole for increased traction
- Drop: 8 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 7 to 15; women’s 5 to 12
Best Training Shoes for Stability - GORUCK Ballistic Trainers
No matter what you’re doing, you want your feet to be stable at all times. Without a doubt, the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers are the best training shoes for stability because they offer support for all parts of your feet. The Ballistic nylon upper gives shock absorption, the TPU heel counter keeps you in place during dynamic movements, an extra top lace eyelet offers additional heel and ankle support and the wide toe box allows room for your foot to swell while not becoming uncomfortable.
The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers were designed by U.S. veterans, and they know what to look for when creating the best training shoes for stability. You’ll feel secure whether you’re lifting a loaded barbell or carrying a weighted backpack hundreds of miles. So if you’re looking for the best gym shoe that can be used for other heavy-duty activities, these are the ones for you.
- Key Feature: Grippy, durable rubber outsole
- Drop: 8 mm
- Sizes: Men’s 4 to 15; women’s 6 to 17 (sold as unisex)
What to Look for in a Training Shoe
Looking for a training shoe can be overwhelming, especially if you’re browsing through the countless selections offered on Amazon or Zappos. And while you might be familiar with household names like New Balance, Puma or ASICS, a lot has changed in the training shoe world in recent years. Here are just a few of the things you should be aware of when looking for a training shoe that’s right for you.
Training shoes are an investment and should be treated as such. This is a case where if you try to find a bargain, you’ll end up spending more money trying to bring your feet back to good health. So yes, some of these might come with a bit of sticker shock, but keep a few things in mind.
First of all, for many of these you’ll be wearing them during training only. You’re not going to wear these to dinner with friends or while running errands around town (you could, but they might not last as long). A weightlifting shoe will be worn while weightlifting, a running shoe while running and a CrossFit shoe...well, you get the point. That means they’re going to last you longer, or at least they should, so you won’t have to buy another pair quite as often as you do for your everyday kicks.
Width of the Shoe
Think like Goldilocks when it comes to the width of your shoe. You don’t want it to be too tight or too loose but just right, so you feel secure in them without restricting the blood flow to your feet.
Your feet tend to swell as you put them through heavy activity, so make sure they’re a little looser when you first put them on so they have room to expand.
Depending on the type of activity you’re doing, you may want more or less cushioning on your shoe. Cushioning, in this context, doesn’t just refer to how soft a shoe feels on your feet but how well it absorbs impact. For runners, that’s when your feet hit the ground, and you’ll want that cushion so your feet don’t get banged up. Weightlifters, on the other hand, don’t need as much cushion because it makes your feet less stable when you’re driving them into the floor during a heavy squat or deadlift.
For one, you want a durable shoe because you want it to last a while. But durability is also vital in a training shoe because you don’t want it coming apart while you’re running or lifting. Be wary of training shoes with a lot of stitching, as that increases the tendency of wear and tear and makes it more likely that one part will rip off or start to come undone throughout its lifetime.
Some people might not care if their training shoes match their leggings or training outfits, but there are those who do. If you fall into the latter category, be aware some brands put more attention on the construction of the shoe and not the design. On the flipside, there are those who spend more time trying to make a stylish shoe that ends up not being very functional.
We like to advise falling somewhere in the middle. A training shoe can be a conversation starter, especially if it has a unique design to it, but at the end of the day you’re buying a shoe to help you train more efficiently. Don’t spend too much time focusing on how they look, but also don’t opt for a pair that can bring down your street cred.
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