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If you ask ten people for a definition of cross-training, you might receive at least five different answers. Similarly, asking those same ten people about their preferred shoes for cross-training could yield a variety of responses. This is understandable, given the range of activities covered by cross-training.
Cross-training encompasses HIIT, CrossFit, running, jumping rope, weightlifting, and even walking. However, not all shoes are suitable for cross-training. For example, the majority of running shoes provide inadequate stability, support, and grip for CrossFit and HIIT exercises.
So, how do you find the best cross-training shoes? Let's explore.
Activity-specific shoes and cross-training shoes are the two types of workout shoes. Activity-specific shoes, like those for running, hiking, and walking, serve a particular purpose and are easy to identify. Meanwhile, multi-faceted cross-training shoes, or "jack-of-all-trades" shoes, are capable of covering a broad range of activities and movements, making them genuine cross-training shoes.
"A good cross-training shoe should have lateral support and heel lockdown for multi-directional movements to keep your foot secure and in place," says Grace Wentzien, who works on the Women's Train Footwear project line at Under Armour. "Flexible and cushioned soles are also important for natural and free foot movement, which helps during rapid changes of direction or balance."
When shopping for the perfect pair, it's crucial to consider the type of cross-training activities you will be doing. "Cross-training involves lifting, running, jumping, climbing, and a range of other functional movements, so the shoe needs to be stable, flexible, durable, and responsive all at the same time," explains Fran Calvert, Inov-8 Training Marketing Manager and competitive CrossFit athlete.
Do cross-training shoes make a difference? Yes, they do, depending on the type of cross-training you engage in. If you occasionally run on an elliptical or use weight machines, any running shoe can work. However, owning the right pair of cross-training shoes for more intense activities like HIIT classes, CrossFit, and Olympic-style weight training is crucial.
"Cross-training shoes are designed to provide lockdown, stability, and support during the various exercises and movements you may encounter in a workout, which other types of footwear cannot," Wentzien affirms. "They're versatile, like cross-training itself."
Can You Use Running or Walking Shoes for Cross-Training?
It's best to avoid using walking or running shoes for cross-training. Although walking is a great unidirectional activity, most cross-training activities require multidirectional movements that walking shoes do not provide the necessary support and stability for.
According to Wentzien, cross-training requires shoes with firmer cushioning and shock absorption. Running shoe foam tends to compress over time when repeatedly absorbing weight, whereas cross-trainers are designed to withstand the pressure of cross-training without compromising stability or longevity.
New York-based podiatrist and Vionic Innovation Lab member Dr. Jacqueline Sutera emphasizes that cross-training shoes must be less flexible and be designed to keep the foot stable within the shoe.
What to Look for in the Best CrossFit Shoes
A good cross-training shoe should have heel cushioning to absorb shock during jumping, lateral support for quick side-to-side movements, and reliable heel support when coming up from squats and jumps.
Wentzien recommends looking for shoes that keep your feet locked in throughout various movements while providing cushioned support to absorb impact and boost energy during training.
If you have specific foot conditions like heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, or bunions, you'll need shoes with additional support features for comfort and health. Dr. Sutera recommends looking for deep-seated heel cup and arch support with cushioned insoles for additional structure and support. If you have bunions, mesh sneakers or shoes with forgiving material with wider sizes could work better.
For a hassle-free shopping experience, we've compiled a list of the top cross-training shoes for women based on expert recommendations, user reviews, and product testing. Don't let the wrong shoes hold back your healthy workout.
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Top Cross-Training Shoes for Women of 2023
Nike Metcon 7 Cross-Training Shoes
The Top CrossFit Shoes of 2022
When it comes to training shoes, CrossFit enthusiasts demand footwear that can provide stability, support and comfort throughout their grueling workouts. Here are our top picks:
Nike Metcon 7 Cross-Training Shoes
Nike’s Metcon series has been a go-to for weight training and CrossFit and their seventh iteration continues to impress. With React foam in the midsole, the shoe is forgiving during cardio and sprints but still provides a firm and sturdy platform for squats, deadlifts, cleans and snatches. The molded part around the bottom stabilizes lateral movement and prevents injury. Word to the wise, the shoe runs a half-size small so size up.
Under Armour Project Rock 4 Cross-Training Shoes
The Under Armour Project Rock 4 is perfect for any cross-training activity with its Hovr foam providing energy return and comfort. The engineered mesh upper fits like a sock and gold TPU overlays offer medial and lateral support for lateral movements. Reviewers love the shoe’s wide top that allows toes to sit naturally without discomfort.
Reebok Nano X1 Cross-Training Shoes
Reebok Nano is one of the most trusted and versatile fitness shoes for anyone who loves cross-training. The shoe features rearfoot stability, a lightweight heel clip to keep the foot locked in place and prevent unwanted movement. Whether you’re a competitive CrossFit athlete or enjoy weekend workouts, the Reebok Nano X1 will keep you comfortable and supported throughout.
It's worth mentioning that the deeply cupped heel in these shoes received mixed feedback. Some shoppers commended it for keeping their heels in place, while others stated that it was too firm and caused irritation in their Achilles area. For this reason, many reviewers concluded that these shoes should not be paired with ankle socks.
Reviewer Feedback: “I'm absolutely obsessed with these sneakers! They're perfect for workouts and offer supreme comfort and spaciousness.”
APL Ascend Cross-Training Shoes
The Most Fashionable
APL sneakers are sweeping through virtually every trendy workout studio in major cities. Although the Ascend sneakers may appear effortlessly chic at first glance, they are actually so much more. They are an exceptional choice for any sort of lateral HIIT exercise, such as Barry’s, F45, or Crossfit. The brand is recognized for its iconic TechLoom, which was specifically engineered for the right blend of ventilation and support in these shoes. It feels akin to a knit fabric that allows for slight stretching for those with bunions or sensitive feet. The cushioning in these sneakers comes from the label's patented APL Propelium, which provides exceptional comfort in a streamlined design.
Reviewer Feedback: “Oh my goodness, these shoes are amazing. They're incredibly structured for knee and ankle alignment while still being lightly cushioned for optimal foot stability during floor exercises. They're perfect for heavy lifting as well as running and jumping. These sneakers are unquestionably worth the investment.”
On Cloud X Cross-Training Shoes
The Best Cross-Training Shoes with Heel Support
On sneakers are constructed using innovative CloudTec technology that stimulates the natural rolling motion of the foot and enhances efficient energy transfer from landing to take-off. The result is an adequately cushioned footbed that offers deep-seated heel support and high-energy return. The Cloud X is a lightweight and comfortable shoe that works best on pavement for both training and running sessions. It can take several wears to break in, but once you do, you may not want to wear any other shoes.
These shoes are constructed with a knit-weave mesh upper that provides lightweight breathability, and the brand's Zero-Gravity Clouds on the outsole feature abrasion pads for superior grip and increased durability.
Reviewer Feedback: “I primarily participate in HIIT workouts about five times per week, but I also enjoy running occasionally. I was on the hunt for a versatile shoe that could cater to both types of exercises. Right out of the box, these shoes felt amazing. They're incredibly lightweight and made from quality materials that feel premium. They fit true to size. I wore them for a 90-minute HIIT session, which included sprints, box jumps, weights, and more, and the Cloud X exceeded my expectations. I felt stable while lifting, jumping, sprinting, and running.”
New Balance Minimus TR Cross-Training Shoes
The Best for Narrow Feet
The Minimus TR has long been a favorite New Balance cross-training shoe that performs exceptionally well in various activities. To label these as a genuinely minimal shoe may be slightly misleading. Although they are minimally cushioned with high sensitivity, they also provide some extra underfoot protection for individuals who require additional support.
Despite their unassuming appearance, these shoes are incredibly light, weighing only six ounces. You'll breeze through short sprints and agility drills effortlessly with the Adidas Fluidflow 2.0 Cross-Training Shoes, which are highly regarded by many reviewers. One user even went so far as to describe them as the "best cross-training shoes" for their workout routine, citing the thin soles and excellent floor and platform grip as highlights.
However, it's worth noting that there is a general consensus among reviewers that these shoes tend to run small and very narrow, so be sure to keep that in mind when selecting your size.
The Adidas Fluidflow 2.0 Cross-Training Shoes boast classic Adidas styling that is at once stylish and understated. These reasonably priced training shoes feature a soft and stretchy knit upper that allows for optimal airflow during tough gym sessions, as well as a midsole that strikes the perfect balance between cushioning and stability. If you prefer a softer feel underfoot, the UltraBoost 22 is a great option. However, if you're doing squats, deadlifts, and agility drills, the UltraBoost 22 may be too soft and instead, the Fluidflow 2.0 remains a great option.
Many reviewers rave about these shoes, finding them to be comfortable despite having wider feet. They're firmer than some shoes, making them ideal for gym usage rather than running. In terms of sizing, most agree that they run about a half size too big.
For those who need shoes for running and cross training, the Brooks Levitate StealthFit GTS 5 Cross-Training Shoes are the perfect choice. Although they are technically running shoes, they are perfect for cross-training as well, due to their stability. A sturdy piece of plastic gently cradles the heel, providing additional support and eliminating excess movement, while the midsole is firm, making it ideal for activities that require side-to-side motion and quick stops.
Revolutionary Cross-Training Footwear: inov-8 F-Lite G 300
The Most Resilient Athletic Shoes
Cross-training can be extremely demanding on footwear, requiring a shoe that can withstand the rigors of jumping, climbing and sprinting. Enter the inov-8 F-Lite G 300, known as "the toughest training shoe in the world," thanks to its exclusive infusion of graphene. Graphene, which is 100 times stronger than steel, offers strength and toughness to keep the rubber soles of these shoes from wearing out. This model also exhibits an exceptional grip, ideal for box jumps and stop-and-go sprinting.
What customers have to say: “Remarkable! I have tried every CrossFit shoe out there and these are by far the most versatile and outstanding. Without a doubt, these trainers have to be the best CrossFit footwear.”
Asics NovaBlast 2 Cross-Training Footwear
The Best Cross-Training Shoes for High Arches
People with high arches underpronate, which means their feet roll inward while they run or walk. These individuals need a shoe with ample cushioning to distribute force and decrease the risk of lower leg injuries. While primarily a running shoe, the Asics NovaBlast 2 is one of the most comfortable cross-training shoes available. If you suffer from lower leg pain, these trainers might help, as they feature excellent padding and ultra-comfortable support. Keep in mind, though, that the extra cushioning reduces stability for strenuous exertion and heavy lifting.
What customers have to say: “I have been searching for a sports shoe that could alleviate heel pain during all activities. Asics never disappoints, and the heel height and support offered by this footwear is unmatched. I've been wholly satisfied and content with my purchase, comfortable and happy after wearing them for several weeks now!”
York Frank Cross-Training Sneakers
Alternative Option for Fashionable Fitness Enthusiasts
Although York may not be a household name, don't underestimate their ability to create comfortable and effective cross-trainers. The brand's Frank sneakers provide lateral movement support with their leather overlays and molded heel counters for rearfoot stability. Additionally, their flexible outsole is slip-resistant, ensuring stability even during intense workouts.
What consumers say: "Don't overlook the Frank sneakers! These shoes are not only stylish, but they offer great support. The leather cage fits snug and the shoes feel incredibly comfortable to wear."
Top Pick for Shock Reduction
Puma's Lqdcell Optic sneakers provide both stability and cushioning, earning them a spot on our list. These sneakers use shock-absorbing technology to enhance your jump performance while maintaining full support for your feet and ankles. Their hybrid tread design allows for indoor and outdoor use, while their stylish appearance allows them to blend in with any streetwear look. A helpful tip for newcomers: wear a sock to act as a barrier around the ankles. While these sneakers offer exceptional support, the material may rub against the skin until they've been broken in.
What consumers say: "Perfect for HIIT workouts - these sneakers provide stability and cushioning for squatting and jumping. And they come in such cute iridescent colors!"
Salewa Ultratrain 3 Hiking Sneakers
Top Choice for Hikers
For anyone who considers cross-training to occur primarily in the mountains, the Salewa Ultratrain 3 is the perfect option. These lightweight hiking sneakers will keep you glued to the ground, providing the grip and confidence you need to tackle even the most demanding day hikes.
What consumers say: "If you're an avid outdoorsman, these are the sneakers for you. Salewa is a privately-owned company that refuses to produce low-quality products. These sneakers fit wonderfully and come with a two-year warranty. I'll definitely be a Salewa customer from here on out."
Cross-Training Shoes for Wide Feet: Altra Solstice XT
The Ideal Choice for Comfort and Toe Space
If you're a wide-footed runner in need of extra space in the toe box, look no further than the Altra Solstice XT cross-training shoes. These shoes have been a favorite among runners for a long time due to their unique FootShap design that allows for natural toe splay. Their midsole and outsole feature grooves that enhance flexibility and this flexibility extends into the upper as well, ensuring a comfortable fit.
While the Altra Solstice XT prioritizes comfort and space, it may not be the most secure or stable option for those who require more support in their shoes. However, if you value comfort above all else, these shoes are an excellent choice.
What Reviewers are Saying: "I've owned three pairs over the years and they are just fantastic. It's like wearing slippers that you can wear out. The shoe fits my foot just right and allows my toes to spread out as if I'm barefoot."
Cross-Training Shoes for Minimalist Enthusiasts: Merrell Vapor Glove 5
The Best Choice for a Natural Feel
If you're someone who would love to workout barefoot if you could, the Merrell Vapor Glove 5 cross-training shoes are for you. As one of Merrell's top minimalist shoes, the Vapor Glove 5 provides just enough cushion and arch support while still maintaining the advantages of a more natural feel, including exceptional ground feel and flexibility. The Vibram EcoStep outsole provides both durability and excellent grip for any surface.
Bear in mind that these shoes might not be the best option for everyone. However, if you're looking to experiment with minimalist shoes, the Merrell Vapor Glove 5 is an excellent starting point.
What Reviewers are Saying: "This is my first time wearing a minimalist shoe, and I'm completely sold. They're lightweight and have great traction on all kinds of terrain. I would definitely buy them again."
Top Cross-Training Shoes for Women in 2021
Get the Best Shoes for Your Workout Needs
Are you on the lookout for the perfect cross-training shoes? Look no further because we've got you covered with our top picks for different workout activities.
Best for Agility: Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 Cross-Training Shoes
Agility training can be tough on the ankles, but the Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 provides excellent foot and ankle support with external overlays around the ankle. This shoe's midsole is highly energetic, making it easy to bounce off the ground. Keep in mind that these shoes tend to run small, so it's advisable to go for the smaller size.
What reviewers say: These shoes are popular due to their comfort and style, with reviewers frequently complimenting them.
Best for HIIT: Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2 Cross-Training Shoes
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2 takes inspiration from the brand's carbon-fiber running shoes, providing unmatched energy return for HIIT activities. Dual Air Zoom bags in the forefoot deliver a uniquely cushioned experience, perfect for burpees. While these shoes have a visible cutout at the midsole, they still feature a full-length plate, giving plenty of arch support for reliable stability. These shoes tend to run small.
What reviewers say: These shoes are fantastic for high-intensity gym classes and a game-changer for users. They might need time to adjust to because of their unique design, but they're worth it.
Best for Weight Lifting: Reebok Legacy Lifter II Cross-Training Shoes
Reebok Legacy Lifter II is the perfect footwear for weight lifting. It boasts of a firm and stable platform with a raised heel that puts your feet and body in the proper stance for lifting. A raised TPU heel clip stabilizes the heel, directing all the forces upward to eliminate excess side-to-side movement. These shoes are pricey but worth the investment for those who are serious about weightlifting.
What reviewers say: These shoes are game-changers and a must-have for weightlifting. They're comfortable, stylish, and of excellent quality.
Best Cushioned: Under Armour Hovr Apex Cross Training Shoes
Under Armour Hovr Apex Cross Training Shoes offer two key features that make them a great option for people with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and bunions. Firstly, they have a foamy footbed that molds to the shape of your foot for custom support. Secondly, they have flexible mesh uppers that allow feet to breathe. Additionally, Hovr technology provides a “zero gravity feel” to prevent foot fatigue and keep users moving with ease.
Meet the Author
Cory Smith has been a running coach for over 25 years and founded Run Your Personal Best. The online running coaching business has helped many runners hit personal records covering distances from 800 meters to 100 miles. Smith holds a USA Track & Field Level 1 and 2 Endurance Certification, three Maryland State records, and is a two-time NCAA Division National Championships qualifier. Additionally, he's a running and fitness journalist who has written for publications such as Runner's World, Men's Journal, Muscle & Fitness, Outside, and Trail Runner.