A good, versatile sneaker is harder to find than you might think. This is due to the fact that most pairs of exercise footwear are designed for one particular sport or activity, such as running, weightlifting, basketball, tennis, or hiking. While it's not the worst thing to do, you should try to avoid working out in running shoes whenever possible. This is because running shoes are designed to propel the wearer forward. Neither have the lateral stability of a basketball or tennis shoe, and their designs don't lend themselves to quick cuts. (It's the recipe for an ankle sprain.) )
Even though the type of support you need will vary depending on the activity you engage in most often, the majority of these sports share similar movements that call for the same thing: a stable base of support. stable perch for a wide range of propulsions, both forward and laterally Many of the shoes on this list are cross-trainers because they are versatile and can be used for a wide variety of exercises, including running, jumping, pushing, and jogging.
The professionals I consulted ranked these pairs as their top picks for any type of exercise. We've outlined the specific situations in which each pair of shoes shines, such as on the treadmill, at the gym, or on the trails during a strenuous uphill hike. No need to sacrifice style for functionality; several of the pairs we've highlighted below are equally at home on the weight room floor as they are at a midweek bar with friends. (And if you need a pair of running shoes, be sure to read our comprehensive buying guide.) )
Running, lateral movement, and weight training all necessitate a sturdy frame. In order to protect your feet and legs from harm, we're on the lookout for shoes with features like flat soles, secure, non-flimsy upper constructions around the forefoot, and reinforcements around the tongue, the toe box, and your ankle. For example: The number one rule of fitness is to avoid injury. Rereading Rule No. 2 Percell Dugger, a trainer and businessman, says that wearing the appropriate footwear is Rule No. 1. )
Some of the running shoes on this list will have a thicker midsole and a plusher feel than the weightlifting shoes, which will have a flatter, denser midsole with less cushion. Louis Coraggio, health coach and creator of Body Architect and TrampoLEAN, says that high-quality exercise footwear should provide instant comfort. Comfort is ultimately a matter of personal preference, so we've rated each shoe's cushioning from heavy to light to help you make an informed decision.
Whether you're doing box jumps, lunges, or jogging on pavement, good workout shoes will give you the grip you need to stay on your feet. The outsoles of the shoes we're looking at have to have good "tires" for the activity they're designed for; some have flatter rubber bottoms, made for flat gym surfaces, while others have deeper lugs, making them suitable for surfaces like asphalt and dirt trails.
Thick upper construction for support; medium cushioning; maximum traction outsole.
Some people wear running shoes for weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise, but the fitness experts we spoke with overwhelmingly recommended a pair of shoes like Nike's Metcon for all-around workouts. Although running shoes have "a bit of a lift in the heel that helps for comfort when running," according to personal trainer and Engearment founder Sean Sewell, this can make it difficult to achieve "proper alignment" in other types of workouts. The Metcon is "firm enough for heavy weight lifting" and "great for jumping and running," according to Todd Brandon-Morris, creator of the inclusive fitness brand Out-Fit. According to Sewell, they are also widely used in the CrossFit community because "they are lightly cushioned and have little to no heel lift, making them good for proper biomechanics when performing deadlifts, squats, swings, and snatches." ”
Dr. Clinton Lee, a certified strength and conditioning specialist based out of Brooklyn, says, "For general gym-training purposes, I've been wearing Nike Metcons for years." They're cute, light, and functional for lower-body workouts thanks to the flat soles found on many models. You can find previous versions at discount outlet stores, and if you'd prefer the most up-to-date style, Nike is constantly releasing new versions. ”
Unless you're training for a marathon, the Metcon is the best choice for your workout.
Graphic Provided by Altra
Wide toe box and lace up for added support Light cushioning Medium traction outsole
The hallmarks of Altra footwear are the roomy toe box that allows for toe splaying and the zero-drop heel that keeps your foot's natural alignment while you run. Comfort and durability have made this brand a favorite among hikers and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. However, it has been discovered that this layout works wonderfully in a gym as well.
Dugger and other experts agree that when weightlifting, you should wear shoes that mimic the feel of going barefoot as closely as possible. Your feet will be able to make full contact with the ground, reducing the risk of injury. According to Dugger, "injuries like ankle sprains and knee problems all start with your feet and footwear," and "research has shown that many shoes with very thick soles can weaken your ankles over time." The zero drop and lightly cushioned sole of the Solstice XT 2 are exactly what you need to achieve that barefoot feel. I've been using the Solstice for a year now (and have reviewed it before in my capacity as an editor at Outside), and the stability provided by its wide, flat base is greatly appreciated when squatting or deadlifting. A rubberized cage at the forefoot and lace up closures further secure my feet.
Tight speed lacing system | Heavy cushioning | Medium traction outsole
The men's Cloud line from On Running was the unanimous choice of fitness experts and influencers when asked to name the next big thing in gym shoes. Ariel Brill, a master personal trainer, told us they are "my favorite for running," adding, "I ran a marathon in this exact pair and I felt like I was truly running on a cloud, when in reality, I was on hard pavement." Although they carry the name of a running sneaker, many people have found that they are excellent for use in the gym or for other forms of training. When we inquired as to the most in-demand sneakers for the gym, fashion editor Ted Stafford recommended that "guys who are looking for a training sneaker with the latest innovation for comfort and performance should try On Running training sneakers as soon as they can." It won't take long for them to become addicted. ”
Tight speed lacing system | Heavy cushioning | Medium traction outsole
Yale Breslin, the creative producer for Ralph Lauren, says the Cloudstratus are his go-to shoes for working out of all kinds. He explains that the shoes' soles add a touch of bounce, turning even the most routine tasks into a pleasant experience. "Plus, they're noticeable among the sea of black tank tops and shorts at Equinox. ”
High ankle support; medium cushioning; moderate traction outsole.
Lee likes to squat in a variety of Jordan 1s and Nike Dunks. He assures me, "not for any performance-related purposes." For the amount of time I spend in the gym, I need something different from standard sneakers or weight-lifting shoes, so I rock these for the fashion aspect and because they're fun and I love the way they look." ”
Although Brooks is best known for its performance running shoes, the company also produces casual styles like this suede pair. Coraggio favors the Addiction Walker as his go-to piece of exercise equipment. He explains, "I've had to be very aware of my feet ever since I was 12 due to my low arches and tight calves." Gait and foot mechanics are major areas of interest for me. The Addiction Walker is exceptionally cushioned and supportive because it was not designed for running or quick movements.
Support: High laces lend ankle support | Cushion: Medium | Outsole: Medium grip
The high-top Converse All Star, another sneaker featured in our status gym-shoe roundup, has a cult following among weight lifters thanks to its completely flat sole. The only weightlifting shoe we heard about more than once Amardeep Singh, a product designer, is a fan of the All Star high-tops with flat soles for weightlifting; he recommends the 1970s version shown here because of its thicker sole. The next best thing to barefoot training, which "allows for the most beneficial alignment of the body if you really want to train hard with heavier weights," according to Sewell, who also recommends Converse shoes. The fact that one of the best weight-lifting shoes is also a timeless, classic sneaker is a huge bonus for your shoe collection and your wallet.
Flat, reinforced soles provide support; the insole and outsole have medium cushioning and grip.
Anna Fielding, a contributor from the United Kingdom to the strategy publication Strategist, vouches for the versatility and affordability of these Feiyue trainers. She wrote that martial artists in the 1920s in Shanghai were the first to use the trainers. "Today, they're used by everyone from parkour athletes to Chinese students in PE classes to Shaolin monks." These plimsolls are made of canvas and have a foam insole for comfort. They're springy. They're grippy. And they're a lot more supportive than typical plimsolls. Having a flat sole, a cushioned insole, and a sturdy canvas upper that won't tear open like a thin running shoe upper might, Feiyue's Fe Lo sneakers are ideal for weightlifting. Sockless wearers will appreciate Fielding's next statement: "You can easily wear them without socks, and — good to know — I've also found they stand up to repeated washing-machine cycles." They outlast every pair of Converse I've owned in terms of maintaining their pristine condition. You can treat them roughly and kick them off without bothering to undo the laces, and they won't break apart like a pair of Keds would. ”
For the past year and a half, I have been wearing two different pairs of Fe Lo 1920s on a daily basis. I primarily use them for getting around town, but I also lift weights in them. The heel counter has seen the most wear and tear; it is thin and frayed, but it hasn't irritated my heel.
Cushioned collar and low heel counter for support; medium insole; aggressive traction outsole
Naturally, tennis shoes are among the best multi-purpose exercise footwear. Shoes with a sturdy build and ample tread are necessary for the sport's requisite forward and lateral motions on the hard court. "Five experts call the Asics Gel-Resolution a fantastic option that, unlike many of the pairs on this list, should fit anyone comfortably regardless of the width or volume of their feet," ex-junior writer at The Strategist Sanibel Chai said of the Gel-Resolution, making it her pick for the best men's tennis shoe. Horace Choy, the head tennis coach at New York University, was quoted in her article as saying that the Resolution is "very popular" among his team because of its low profile, which allows the wearer to feel "closer to the ground," which in turn "makes you feel a little faster." ”
Wide, flat, and supportive footbed; plush, thick padding; aggressive lugs for traction on the outsole.
The "zero-drop" design of Altra shoes (no elevation from heel to toe) and the wide footbed that allows your toes to splay out are two features that contribute to the brand's reputation for comfort. The Lone Peak is the most well-known shoe from this manufacturer; however, when it comes to running and walking on trail surfaces like dirt and gravel, I find that the agiler Outroad is best. Despite the Outroad's large lugs, I have found that it is perfectly at home when used for shorter road runs.
The outsole is grippy and the tongue and collar are padded for comfort while running on the road.
Although you shouldn't rely solely on running shoes for exercise, the Pegasus is a great option if you're shopping for a versatile pair of sneakers. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson, in her guide to choosing the best running shoes, recommended the Air Zoom Pegasus if "you'd rather not think too much about your running shoes." Since its debut nearly four decades ago, Nike's Pegasus running shoe has consistently been a top seller. The midsole is cushioned with a thick slab of Nike's React foam. ”
Yale Breslin, creative producer at Ralph Lauren; Ariel Brill, personal trainer; Sanibel Chai, formerly a junior writer at The Strategist
• Louis Cheslaw, associate editor at New York MagazineHorace Choy, the tennis coach at New York University
Body Architect and TrampoLEAN were both created by health coach Louis Coraggio.
Author and strategist Tembe Denton-Hurst
Runner and Strategist contributor Steven John. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson. Strength coach Percell Dugger. Anna Fielding.
Certified strength and conditioning specialist Dr. Clinton LeeEx-Strategist contributor David Notis
• Sean Sewell, owner of Engearment and Mountain Fitness School and a certified personal trainer
Designer of said products: Amardeep Singh
Men's Health's Director of Style, Ted Stafford
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The Finest Men's Exercise Shoes