When it comes down to it, so to speak, shoes can make or break your gym-going experience. And whether you’re trying to get in shape or find that extra edge in the weight room, this list has an option for you. While it can be tempting to use the same pair of sneakers for all your walking, running, jogging and gym-going, it’s ideal to have a pair of shoes that you use just for the gym. Beyond extending the life of your running shoes, swapping out that pair for a gym pair does a lot for your workouts. Shoes designed for that purpose are closer to the ground, lending more support to your muscles and joints, giving you better stability during unilateral (one-sided) moves and providing a reliable platform for lifting heavy weights.
Get the Right Fit
When purchasing true running shoes, people often leave space in the toe box for toe splay. It makes sense and can improve your running form and performance. But in weightlifting shoes, it’s best to avoid unnecessary space in the toe box. You want the sneaker to snugly fit so that there’s support for your feet during unilateral moves. The more space between your toe and the end of the sneaker, the harder your body has to work to balance, which is unnecessary. Go with an exact fit.
Nike Metcon 4 XD
The Nike Metcon is always a top contender in the gym space — the fourth iteration of this sneaker is pretty darn close to the perfect weightlifting shoe. If CrossFit is your workout of choice, or you like to hit the gym and only lift weights, this is the shoe for you. The grip is tough and will help you crush sled pushes and pulls without slipping. There’s not much cushioning between your feet and the ground, so there’s more of a stable launch point for tuck jumps and power cleans — and the sneakers are a breeze to tighten with an added sixth lace loop option.
Reebok Crossfit Nano 9
Reebok’s Nano is synonymous with CrossFit. Last year’s update includes a Flexweave material upper that is breathable, stable and durable. This year’s Nano For All asked the CrossFit community what updates they’d like to see and implemented them. You’ll find a CrossFit specific outsole design with MetaSplit grooves for better traction and grip. A wider-than-average toe box gives your feet room to breathe and enough toe spread for improved balance and a stronger base to push off. The unchanged minimal drop outsole keeps you close to the ground.
Nobull Clay Trainers
The speckled outsole adds a bit of a dynamic touch to these otherwise minimalist sneakers. A super-durable upper paired with a perforated microsuede tongue is breathable and comfortable for all-day wear, if you need them to last that long. High-carbon lateral and medial guards add balance support and help during rope climbs and deadlifts. The lighter colors can get dirty very quickly — especially in the weight room — but there are 20 other colors and designs to pick from that likely won’t have the same problem. Similar to the Nike Metcons, these shoes feature a 4mm drop.
York Athletics The Henry Mesh
These unisex sneakers felt light for the amount of support they provided — they weigh in at 8.3 ounces despite having the highest offset with a 9mm drop. Originally designed for fighters, the Henrys feature a mesh upper that is exceptionally breathable whether you’re box jumping, pistol squatting or throwing punches. There’s not much support underfoot, but there is enough to get through sprints and a boot camp class. The high heel pull tab didn’t rub during squats, lunges or mountain climbers. The toe box is large enough to offer room for toe splay to aid in balance, but not so wide it looks disproportionate or bulky. The textured lining is comfortable and minimizes heel slippage. And at $115, this is the most affordable option on the weight lifting list — plus it looks good enough to wear all day long.
Under Armour TriBase Reign
The Under Armour TriBase Reign features a full rubber outsole that wraps around the edge of the shoe to help your grip during rope climbs. The foam midsole is firm and built for lifting, not running. I wouldn’t wear these on the treadmill for even short sprints. The abrasion-resistant upper makes for a durable shoe that’ll hold up to even the toughest of WODs.