From strong-and-stable lifters to light-and-fast treadmill runners, here’s our pick of the best gym shoes for any workout…

If you’re serious about the time you spend in the gym – whether you’re pounding the treadmill or picking weights up off the floor – a battered old pair of trainers just aren’t going to cut it. For dynamic, high-intensity movements, you need a pair of the best gym shoes that are lightweight and responsive and can handle quick changes of direction.

By contrast, heavy lifting – particularly squats and deadlifts – calls for a robust, flat-bottomed shoe that grips the ground and allows you to drive through your heels.

Then there are hybrid shoes – the jacks-of-all-trades – which offer stability, grip and lateral support. They may not excel at any one discipline but offer decent performance across the board.

To help you make the best decision for your workout needs, we’ve pulled together the following buyer’s guide, featuring the very best gym shoes for 2023.

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Best gym shoes for treadmill running

Best gym shoes for HIIT workouts

Best gym shoes for cross-training

Best gym shoes for heavy lifting

Best gym shoes for hybrid training

New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v12

Best shoes for treadmill running


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Material: Hypoknit upper, Fresh Foam X™ midsole, blown rubber outsole
Weight: 292g
Width: Narrow, standard, wide, extra wide
Colours: Grey, orange, black, navy, blue
Sizes: 6½ – 14½

Fit: 4.5/5
Comfort: 5/5
Performance: 4.5/5

The New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v12 is described as the best running shoe in its range, and it certainly strikes the ideal balance between cushioning, stability and flexibility on test.

It’s an attractive trainer that comes in five colors and four width options, and features a deep foam midsole, which provided a huge amount of support while we were working out. Plus, the 1080 v12 also has an engineered ‘Hypoknit’ upper, which provided plenty of breathability and stretch, while keeping the shoe’s weight below 300g.

Lastly, in terms of fit, this shoe is nice and snug. It hugged out feet well and offered plenty of cushioning and support for added stability underfoot.

Read our full New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v12 review

Asics Gel-Kayano 29

Best shoes for treadmill running


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Material: Stretch knit upper, FF BLAST™ PLUS midsole, AHARPLUS™ outsole
Weight: 299g
Colours: 10 colours available
Sizes: 5 – 15

Fit: 4/5
Comfort: 4/5
Performance: 4.5/5

The Asics Gel-Kayano 29 is a sturdy, highly supportive shoe. There’s plenty of impressive sounding tech – such as FF BLAST PLUS cushioning, LITETRUSS midsole stabilisation and AHARPLUS heel plugs – which all combined to help me feel stable throughout lateral and forward motion.

While testing, that foamy midsole offered impressive shock absorption, helping us deal with the impact when running on treadmills. Plus, there’s a cushioned tongue and thick padding around the ankle, while the sock liner also helps make for a comfy fit.

What’s more, at least 50% of the shoe’s main stretch-knit uppers are made out of recycled materials to reduce carbon emissions and waste. 

Read our full Asics Gel-Kayano 29 review

Pick up the pace with the best running shoes

Under Armour TriBase Reign 5

Best shoes for HIIT workouts

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Material: Mesh upper, Micro G™ foam midsole, UA TriBase™ outsole
Weight: 297g
Colours: 7 colours available
Sizes: 6 – 14

Fit: 4/5
Comfort: 4/5
Performance: 4.5/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5

The Under Armour TriBase Reign 5 is a solid, versatile trainer, offering stability during various cardio and weight exercises.

The Reign 5 has a durable base, a sock-like wrap-around upper and a thick, blocky midsole that provides plenty of support. We also found it to be a highly breathable shoe, with a layered mesh material that stopped out feet from getting too sweaty during intense workouts.

The Reign 5 is designed to maximise ground contact while promoting natural motion. On test, this shoe certainly provided a good blend of stability and movement. 

Lastly, we liked the strong rubber build under the toe box, which offered a solid base and powerful floor grip – helpful during weight lifting and mixed workouts. If you’re incorporating heavier weights alongside your aerobic work, this might just be the ideal gym shoe for you.

Read our full Under Armour TriBase Reign 5 review

Reebok Nano X3

Best shoes for cross-training


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Material: Flexweave™ knit upper, Floatride Energy Foam™ midsole, glow in the dark rubber outsole
Weight: 306g
Colours: 6 colours available
Sizes: 4 – 13

Fit: 5/5
Comfort: 5/5
Performance: 4.5/5

The Reebok Nano X3 is a superb all-around gym shoe, and arguably the most versatile trainer on this list. Firstly, it features excellent lateral support, plus good grip and traction from the shoe’s rubber outsole.

In testing, we found that the Nano X3 can also handle multiple movements, as well as the strain put on it by heavy lifting, making it perfect for cross-training. Its heel also has a good spring to it. Plus, its breathable upper material kept my feet from becoming too hot and stuffy.

If you’re looking for a quality all-rounder that can handle the variety of exercises included in a multi-format routine, you can’t go wrong with the Reebok Nano X3. And with six attractive colour schemes, it also holds its own away from the gym as well.

Read our full Reebok Nano X3 review

Nike Metcon 8

Best shoes for heavy lifting


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Material: mesh upper with synthetic overlays, Nike React Foam midsole, rubber outsole
Weight: 352g
Colours: 6 colours available
Sizes: 5½ – 15

Fit: 5/5
Comfort: 4.5/5
Performance: 4.5/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5

The Nike Metcon 8 provides plenty of stability and support during heavy lifting. But we also found it was versatile enough to allow you to perform a more mixed set of exercises.

In testing, its wide, thick heel provided a strong base for deadlifts and squats, giving the shoe a solid feel with plenty of protection.

The foam midsole gave a cushioned, springy base and the shoe’s rubber tread provided ample grip. Plus, the uppers are fairly light, creating a good balance between sturdiness, flexibility and relatively light weight.

Read our full Nike Metcon 8 review

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength

Best shoes for heavy lifting

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Material: Recycled polyester upper, plastic-free laces
Weight: 282g
Colours: 4 colours available
Sizes: 6.5 – 14.5 (US) / 6 – 14 (UK)

Fit: 4.5/5
Comfort: 4/5
Performance: 4.5/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5

Vivobarefoot does things a little differently: creating feet-shaped shoes, not shoe-shaped ones. The Motus Strength is the brand’s latest barely-there training shoe, with a flat base and minimal cushioning to allow your feet to move as nature intended.

The result is an excellent lifting shoe, with a stable base that allows you to stay stable and exert maximum force with compound lifts like squats and deadlifts. We appreciated the extra ‘sidewall’ protection with the Motus Strength, though, which creates a locked-in feel. There’s also ample grip provided by the 1.5mm outsole luge.

Read our full Vivobarefoot Motus Strength review

Reebok Legacy Lifter 3

Best shoes for heavy lifting

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Material: Textile upper, TPU heel clip, rubber outsole, midfoot strap
Weight: 575g
Colours: 6 colours available
Sizes: 7 – 14

Fit: 4/5
Comfort: 3/5
Performance: 4.5/5

This is an out and out lifter, pure and simple, offering excellent stability and a locked-in feel to keep you gripped to the ground at all times.

That said, the thick, heavy feel of the shoe means it’s not the most comfortable when you’re walking between workout stations (though that’s not an uncommon sacrifice made with specialist weight-lifting trainers). And the bulkiness of the Reebok Legacy Lifter II might not be to everyone’s tastes; they’re just too heavy for a more generalised workout.

However, if you’re gearing up for a day of heavy lifting, you’ll do well to find a better option than this shoe.

Read our full Reebok Legacy Lifter 3 review

Under Armour Flow Dynamic Training Shoe 

Best shoes for hybrid training

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Material: UA Intelliknit upper, Flow midsole
Weight: 255g
Colours: Black, grey mist, downpour grey, gilded yellow
Sizes: 6 – 13

Fit: 4/5
Comfort: 4/5
Performance: 3.5/5
OVERALL: 4/5  

It’s hard to find a shoe that’ll support strength efforts and cardio sessions, yet the Flow Dynamic manages to offer the best of both worlds. Unlike some of the other shoes on test, it may not have the solidity to support heavy lifting, but it’ll treat your feet right through most strength sessions, as well as plyometrics, HIIT, sled pulls and and hour-long runs on the treadmill or tarmac.

It manages to do this with a Flow foam midsole that’s firmer than most super foams. It gives much needed rigidity but keeps weight to a respectable 9oz / 255g. Plus, it features the same rubberless sole as UA’s Velociti shoes, tapping into the company’s running DNA.

Read our full Under Armour Flow Dynamic review

Under Armour SlipSpeed

Best shoes for hybrid training

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Material: UA Flow cushioning, breathable mesh uppers, Iso-Chill padded interior
Weight: 306g
Colours: Black, white, red, yellow
Sizes: 6 – 12

Fit: 3/5
Comfort: 4/5
Performance: 4/5

The Under Armour SlipSpeed is an innovative gym shoe that switches effortlessly from beast mode to recovery mode just with a flick of its ‘crushable’ heel. In training mode, we found it to be a capable all-rounder, handling treadmill runs, aerobic sessions and even strength training.

It may not excel at any of these, but its Flow foam is durable and grippy, reinforced mesh uppers are breathable and the Iso-Chill interior enhances comfort. Pop the heel down and – hey presto – you have a Croc-like slip-on for post-workout lounging.

Read our full Under Armour SlipSpeed review

What’s the difference between gym shoes and running shoes?

If your main goal at the gym is to pound the treadmill before maybe spending some time on the exercise mats, a classic running shoe will do the job. However, if your workouts extend beyond treadmill running, you’ll want to get more specific.

There are a few key differences between a gym shoe and a running shoe. Think about the type of action that a running shoe is made for: it supports forward-going, heel-to-toe movements, rather than lateral movement or upward propulsion. A higher heel-toe drop provides a running shoe with extra cushioning and shock absorption, protecting the runner’s joints and ligaments from injury.

Heel cushioning is particularly important, as is the use of lightweight mesh materials – a running shoe need to be light and breathable for those long, sweaty runs.

A gym shoe, however, is made with multidirectional and lateral movement in mind. Generally, it’ll have a lower heel-toe drop and a smaller cushion, which gives athletes a better range of motion. Typically, a wider toe box also helps to support quick directional changes.

How to make gym shoes last longer

Now you’re kitted out with some killer kicks, we’re sure you want to make them last as long as possible. While there is only so long a pair of gym shoes can last if you’re using them regularly, there are certain steps you can take to prolong their lifespan.

Firstly, to minimise the build-up of bacteria and odours, it’s always best to wear socks when exercising and to allow your shoes to dry out properly after sweaty sessions. We recommend leaving them outside in the sun to air dry, removing the insoles first if they are particularly damp. Steer clear of the radiator or tumble dryer: the heat can cause damage, warping and premature ageing.

Even with these precautions, it’s likely your shoes will need freshening up from time to time. However, you need to make sure you learn how to wash your gym shoes properly to avoid any damage (spoiler: don’t throw them in the washing machine).

Words: Fred Garratt-Stanley / Kieran Alger


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