Not All Gym Shoes are Equal

Not All Gym Shoes are Equal

If you’re like a lot of guys, you probably throw on a pair of sneakers before launching into some exercise. And often, they’re some variation on running shoes. But what kind of training are you doing? After all, preparation is the key to success and what you wear on your feet will definitely impact your performance—be it at the gym, on the track or just in your garage. 

Because, as we’re sure you’re aware, not all gym shoes are created equal. Your training footwear should be comfortable, with plenty of cushioning to keep you feeling light on your feet, along with ample support to keep you safe and securely grounded to prevent any injuries. Which means that depending on your workout routine, your shoes may need to change. If you like exercises that require a lot of lateral movements, like boxing or HIIT workouts, you’ll want different shoes than if you mostly lift weights. Even running on a treadmill is different than, say, trail running, so switching up your sneakers might be necessary.

To round up the most reliable men’s gym shoes, we researched dozens of pairs from top brands. We asked around at the gym, road-tested several options and consulted some bonafide fitness and athletic experts. For us, it all comes down to durability, performance, design and price.  Here are some solidly recommended options to make you faster and stronger, not to mention more stable and coordinated.

Best All-Around

Honestly, the Metcon has been our go-to for years. And it just keeps getting better. The cross-trainer has great support, it's well balanced and it's practically indestructible. It's about as versatile as a training sneaker can get. The new 9th iteration has been reworked with a larger Hyperlift plate and added rubber rope wrap, which improves the all-around shoe by boosting comfort and grip, along with a roomier toe box for added stability. Plus, it comes in eight colors and can be customized to your personal style.

Metcon 9, $150 by Nike

Best for HIIT/Cross Training

Much like Nike's Metcon, each successive Reebok Nano keeps getting stronger. Kenny Santucci, trainer and owner of The Strength Club, swears by them and often recommends them to clients. He says they’re versatile and lightweight for any type of high-impact training, and really appreciates the stable sole with ample cushioning (good for plyometrics, multi-directional movements, or strength training). The latest evolution is designed for pro-level training. A dome-shaped heel piece compresses under load when lifting to create a stable platform, then softens when you push off to run.

Nano X3, $140 by Reebok

Best Weight Lifting

When it comes to lifting, you want simple shoes with flat soles. Nathan McCallum, trainer and director of Milestone Strength, often wears the no-nonsense canvas low-tops to the gym when he lifts. And Dr. Monara Dini, who specializes in sports medicine at UC San Francisco, gives the simple shoes a green light as well, saying that the flat rubber outsoles are especially great for squats, bench presses and deadlifts.

Chuck Taylor All Star, $60 by Converse

Best for Treadmill Running

If you’re more of an indoor runner, take some advice from personal trainer Dan Castillo, who is also the chief of talent and content strategy at Sole Treadmills. He recommends On's Cloudswift running shoes. The shoes, now on their 3rd iteration, have even better cushioning and a smooth forward-rolling sensation, perfect for a treadmill. The sock-like fit constructed with an engineered knit material is both breathable and lightweight while the flexible sole prevents cramping and pinching on long run sessions.

Cloudswift 3, $159.95 by On

Best for Outdoor Runners

Well-cushioned, responsive, and stable, Hoka's Clifton range is not only recommended by running coach Matthew Luke Meyer, but it’s also a lightweight sneaker that also outperforms in the gym. As one tester put it: They’re the training shoes you need “if you’d rather not think too much about your shoes.” The latest Clifton 9 is lighter and even more cushioned than ever and has also earned the American Podiatric Medical Association's Seal of Acceptance. This means a panel of podiatrists has officially deemed these as beneficial to overall foot health.

Clifton 9, $145 by HOKA

Best Outdoor Adventures

Looking for a shoe that can serve double-duty for both a gym shoe and one that can withstand outdoor adventures, Asics' Gel-Venture series is one of our favorites. And bonus, it’s an affordable choice as well. The rugged sneaker has excellent shock absorption and impressive traction, making an ideal pair for everything from hikes and nature walks to jogs and even tennis or pickleball. 

Gel-Venture 9, $80/$64.95 by Asics

* Wash Your Sneakers: 

If your shoes smell or have gotten dirty, you can just wash them in the washing machine.

  1. The night before, toss some baking soda inside each shoe.
  2. When you’re ready to wash, remove the laces and place the shoes (and laces) in the washer with a couple of towels—this helps to balance the load and prevent your shoes from loudly slamming against the inside of the washer.
  3. Wash on a cold, delicate cycle and then let air dry. The dryer can warp or damage the shoe.
Previous Article Next Article