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Gym Shoes In 2024, Personal Trainer Shares His Favorite Picks

Expert Reviewed by: Dr. Tyler Kallasy, PT, DPT, CSCS, PPSC

I independently buy and hand-test everything recommended on That Fit Friend. When you buy through my links, I may earn a commission. Read more here.

There are so many bad gym shoes — and even worse — lists of gym shoes by “reviewers” who aren’t even wearing the models they’re recommending. Quite frankly, I’m sick of media sites recommending sub-par shoe picks.

As a strength coach and someone who’s worn and reviewed every shoe in this list, it’s frustrating because I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours testing and vetting my picks. For my background, I follow a hybrid training style so I’m constantly pushing gym shoes in various settings.

I’m the type of athlete who loves to deadlift and squat heavy, tackle HIIT workouts and WODs, and run and jump all in a single session. When I’m testing shoes for the gym, I’m trying to assess how different models compare to one another.

Let’s say I’m assessing the stability of the Metcon 9 by squatting 400 lbs and doing deadlifts. To properly track stability, I’ll keep an eye on how a midsole compresses and then compare it to similar shoes like the Nano X4 and Dropset Trainer 2.

Conversely, if I’m reviewing a shoe like the On Cloud X3 and assessing its comfort for 1-mile runs, I’ll then compare its midsole, traction, and ride to its peers like the Nike Free Metcon 5. The art of any great round-up is the nuance that exists between top picks and these reviewers recommending picks without truly testing different models are so lame.

A List That's Taken Years to Build

How I Review Gym Shoes

  • I (Jake Boly) have bought and personally reviewed every shoe that is featured in this list. That Fit Friend is a small business and I’m the only owner. I don’t take free products for reviews and build content with a consumer-first mindset.
  • Every shoe is tested similarly based on its performance category. This allows me to recognize the nuance that exists between models, something most shoe review sites can’t do because their authors don’t test the same volume of shoes.
  • Each shoe has an individual written and video review. I build these to give you more depth about every shoe to make sure you make the right buying decision.

parts of a cross training shoe

On top of the above, I’ve also been a personal trainer for over a decade, and my educational background is in Exercise Science. I test every shoe independently and have a curated protocol of tests to assess a shoe’s performance and durability.

When reviewing gym shoes, I’m reviewing a shoe’s overall performance and noting where it excels and falls short. I’m asking questions like:

  • Who is this shoe best for and where do they perform the best? Are there areas where a shoe performs poorly?
  • Is the construction of the shoe durable for the most part? If not, what activities are problematic?
  • How does the shoe fit? Is it a better gym shoe for wide feet, flat feet, high arches, narrow feet, etc.?

The Irony of Most “Best Gym Shoes” Lists

I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of a cynic at heart. I try to keep this in check, however, nothing brings out my cynical side more than seeing more media sites publishing “best gym shoes” lists when you can tell they haven’t even tested the shoes.

Let’s call it what it is, but if you’re reading a round-up with no original images of products being tested, then is it legit?

Adidas Dropset Trainer 2 Community Feedback

Every shoe featured in my round-up has been hand-tested by me and EVERY SINGLE shoe has an individual written review and YouTube video covering everything I’ve done in the shoes to test their performance and durability.

Pro Tip: if you’re reading reviews with no original media — run. Actions speak louder than words. It’s 2024, it’s time to move past weak reviews.

My Best Gym Shoe Picks

Author’s Transparency Note: I try to update this list regularly based on new models. These shoes have earned their spot because I genuinely like them as the best performers in their respective categories.

No shoe earned a top spot because of some under-the-table higher affiliate payout deals not disclosed in my content.

Try This: Make sure you also try out my TF2 Cross-Training Shoe Finder. I built this calculator to match you with shoes that fit your performance needs best.

What I Wear When I’m Lifting Heavy | Adidas Dropset Trainer 2

Testing the Adidas Dropset Trainer 2 Sizing and Fit

Dropset Trainer 2 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • Fantastic training shoe for lifting due to its stability and it's well-rounded.
  • Good breathability for hotter gym climates.
  • Ample room in the toe box for toe splay for most foot anatomies.

Cons

  • Not the best shoe on the market for running and hybrid workouts.
  • Arch can feel a little uncomfortable for flat feet.
  • Ventilation in midsole isn't the best for walking in wet climates.

Dropset Trainer 2 Specs to Know

Adidas Dropset Trainer 2

$130

Adidas Dropset Trainer 2 Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.8
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Cross-Training
  • CrossFit Workouts
  • Heavier Strength Training
  • Athletic Focused Sessions
  • Wider Feet

Falls Short

  • For Running

Why I Chose the Dropset Trainer 2 for Lifting

The Adidas Dropset Trainer 2 is a really strong shoe for lifting and this model has been an awesome upgrade compared to its predecessor. For lifting specifically, the dual-density midsole and “flatter” feeling sole are both hits in this shoe.

The forefoot’s midsole of this shoe has a little more responsiveness and the heel runs more firm. This is great because it gives this shoe a nice blend of versatility without compromising stability under heavy weight.

Testing the Adidas Dropset Trainer 2 for Deadlifts

I also like that there isn’t a ton of toe spring in this shoe and that the heel has a flatter and more stable feel. For things like heavy deadlifts, lunges, and machine work this is a nice perk of this shoe.

The final aspect to like about this model is that it has a good range to it outside of lifting. I love to blend lifting with jumping, sprinting, and cross-training into single sessions and if you’re similar but want a shoe that’s stellar for lifting, I think you’ll like the Dropset Trainer 2.

Consider Passing On the Dropset Trainer 2 If/What to Get Instead…

  • You don’t want any arch whatsoever. This model despite having a decent width does have a little arch and you may be better suited looking into an option like the Born Primitive Savage 1.
  • You plan to run in your shoes, too. This shoe works well for sprints and short intervals, but it won’t be your best model for tacking on a mile before or after your workout. Explore options like the Nano X4 for this ask.
  • What to Buy Instead for Lifting: Nike Metcon 9. The Metcon 9 has been a good model for lifting and it has decent forefoot width to accommodate to splay.

My Community’s Pick for Women | Nike Metcon 9

Nike Metcon 9 That Fit Friend

Metcon 9 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • Similar to the Nike Metcon 7 and 8, the Metcon 9 delivers a pretty strong performance for recreational strength training and has good stability.
  • The upper construction in the Nike Metcon 9 feels more durable through the toe box and the aesthetic of this shoe sans the rope guards looks better.
  • This model features a wider toe box which is great for accommodating toe splay and giving your feet more room to move and do their thing when training.

Cons

  • The Hyperlift TPU heel limits this shoe's runnability and versatility and this was an issue that also plagued the Nike Metcon 7 and 8.
  • The $20 price increase is pretty steep for this shoe especially since its performance isn't that noticeably better than its predecessors.
  • The rope guard on the medial and lateral sides is pretty excessive and it seems to just add weight and bulk to this shoe when it's not a critical feature, in my opinion.

Metcon 9 Specs to Know

Nike Metcon 9

$150

Nike Metcon 9 Product Shot
4.0
Stability
4.1
Versatility
4.0
Durability
4.0
Quality
3.8

Best For

  • Recreational Lifting
  • Cross-Training
  • CrossFit
  • Athletic Focused Training

Falls Short

  • For Running
  • For Overpronators

The Rationale Behind the Nike Metcon 9

The Nike Metcon 9 is earning the top pick for women. This model is a really strong well-rounded gym shoe for gym-goers who like to lift, do class workouts here and there, and do athletic-style training.

Compared to the Nike Metcon 8, the Metcon 9 has received a few updates that give it a little more versatility in the gym. For example, this shoe still features a TPU plate in the heel but it’s been reworked to feel better for a wider range of versatile training contexts.

Nike Metcon 9 Upper

The outsole has a good level of traction when training on different surfaces and the medial and lateral midfoot outsole wraps help this shoe’s durability for CrossFit contexts where you’ll be having more abrasion on the top of the shoe. This shoe’s wider toe box is also a perk.

It’s important to note that the TPU insert does take away from the Metcon 9’s running performance, so if you want a training shoe for lifting and running, I’d look at the second and third picks below.

Consider Passing On the Buy Nike Metcon 9 If/What to Buy Instead

  • You need a shoe with more versatility. The Hyperlift heel in this model tanks its performance for running and versatile training. Look into options like the Reebok Nano X4 if you need a more versatile, runnable shoe.
  • You need a narrower-fitting shoe. If you traditionally have a narrower foot then you’ll want to explore snugger-fitting trainers like the Inov-8 F-Lite 260 V2 which is versatile and stable.
  • What to Buy Instead: Reebok Nano X4. The Reebok Nano X4 has been an exceptional shoe for tackling a little bit of everything and it has a nice blend of versatility and stability.

One of My Go-To Picks for Guys | UA TriBase Reign 6

TriBase Reign 6 Try On

TriBase Reign 6 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • The drop-in midsole has given this shoe a much more flexible feeling compared to the thicker Micro G Foam midsoles used in the last five models. If you're feeling spicy, swap the drop-in midsole out for a thinner insole for a super minimal feel.
  • This shoe's upper feels more "athletic" on the foot because it hugs the foot well and feels seamless after the first wear. The internal heel counter helps contribute to the security that you get with this shoe, too.
  • The outsole's tread is awesome and does a phenomenal job of gripping different surfaces. This shoe has been fun to use on turf, rubber gym floors, and wooden platforms. You shouldn't have slip issues in this model.

Cons

  • While I like the drop-in midsole, I'd be remiss to not disclose that drop-in midsoles are an acquired taste. For example, if you don't love models like the PUMA Fuse and Nike Zoom Metcon Turbo 2 then you may not like the Reign 6.
  • If you have high-volume feet and you don't want to swap out the drop-in midsole then you may find that this shoe's fit feels snug on your foot. Thick feet be warned, this shoe may feel snug out of the box.
  • For hybrid workouts, this shoe works for runs under 800 meters but it's not going to be your best bet for tackling workouts where you're running over a mile in a single bout.

TriBase Reign 6 Specs to Know

UA TriBase Reign 6

$130

UA TriBase Reign 6 Product Image
4.7
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.7

Best For

  • Strength Training
  • Athletic Workouts
  • Cross-Training and HIIT
  • CrossFit
  • Sprints and Ploymetrics

Falls Short

  • For Exceptionally Wide Feet (<EE-width)
  • For Runs Over a Mile

Why I Chose the Reign 6 for Men

The Under Armour TriBase Reign 6 is an awesome option for guys. This shoe is a nice upgrade from the UA TriBase Reign 5. I’m calling it now, but the UA TriBase Reign 6 is going to be one of the top gym shoes in 2024. I’m taking the UA TriBase Reign 6 as my top pick for men for three key reasons. First, they’re a really good well-rounded gym shoe for lifting, CrossFit, athletic-style training, HIIT workouts, and even sprints or short tempo runs (100-400-meter bouts).

Second, I like the overall width of this shoe. This model fits my E-width feet well and if you have medium to slightly wider feet you’ll enjoy this shoe’s fit. The width increase in this model I think does a better job of feeding into the anatomical needs of men’s feet.

Testing the Under Armour TriBase Reign 6 for Deadlifts

Third and lastly, I like the TriBase tech in this shoe’s outsole, drop-in midsole, and 2mm heel-to-toe drop. The blend of the midsole and outsole give this shoe a nice stable, yet versatile feeling and this can be a good model for gym-goers who like lower heel-to-toe drops.

Consider Passing On the TriBase Reign 6 If/What to Buy Instead

  • You don’t like drop-in midsoles. A drop-in midsole is a thicker “insole” that serves as a shoe’s midsole. They can be pretty polarizing and if you like traditional midsoles, skip this model.
  • You like a higher heel-to-toe drop. The lower 2mm heel-to-toe drop of this shoe may not resonate with everyone and if you like a high drop, opt for something like the TYR CXT-1 Trainer as they have a 9mm drop.
  • What to Buy Instead: Adidas Dropset Trainer 2. I’m telling you — this Adidas model is sick. The Reign 6 and Dropset Trainer 2 have been two of my favorite shoes of 2023/2024.

What I Want Less Arch Support | Born Primitive Savage 1

Born Primitive Savage 1 Sizing and Fit

Savage 1 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • This shoe excels for CrossFit, lifting, and cross-training and has held its own across a wide range of workouts that I've used them in.
  • The durability of this shoe feels strong thus far and its upper has done well with abrasion resistance and its midsole and outsole feel well-constructed.
  • This model feels like a nod to older cross-training shoes and if you long for some of the original CrossFit-focused trainers, then you'll probably enjoy this shoe.

Cons

  • The tongue on this shoe can press into the top of the foot during the break-in process which can be a little uncomfortable.
  • If you want a plusher training shoe with more runnability and daily wear-friendliness, then you may want to pass on this shoe.
  • For narrow-footed folks who like lower-profile training shoes, you may find that there's too much room in the Savage 1.

Savage 1 Specs to Know

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4mm
  • Weight: 12.7 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Born Primitive Savage 1
  • Prior Model: First Iteration!

Born Primitive Savage 1

$130

Born Primitive Savage 1 Product Shot
4.8
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.8
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Strength Training
  • CrossFit
  • Cross-Training
  • “Minimalist” Trainer Lovers
  • Wide(r) Feet

Falls Short

  • For Running

Why I Chose the Savage 1 for Flat Feet

The Born Primitive Savage 1 can be a great option for flat feet. This shoe is built with a wider toe box and midfoot that doesn’t have a super aggressive taper so it can be great for flatter arches and feet.

In the gym, the Born Primitive Savage 1 delivers a well-rounded performance. This model has excelled for my CrossFit WODs, heavier leg days, and athletic-focused sessions.

Testing the Born Primitive Savage 1 for Leg Day

The dual-density midsole in the Savage 1 has supported my 500 lb deadlifts with no compression issues and the upper on this shoe has held up well to things like rope climbs and burpees. This shoe also has a lower stack height which is great for giving you more ground feel.

I think if you have flatter feet and enjoy shoes in the gym that feel more “minimalist” and prioritize needing stability and durability with your workout sessions, then the Born Primitive Savage 1 will be a good pick for you.

Consider Passing On the Savage 1 If/What to Buy Instead

  • You want a shoe with a little more cushion. The density of the Savage 1 may not resonate with everyone and if you need a more plush ride or cushioned shoe then I’d suggest exploring the Core Gym below.
  • You have thicker feet. The thinner mesh tongue on the Savage 1 can be a little annoying when breaking this model in and I’d suggest wearing longer socks for the first week. This shoe’s upper is a little more low-profile.
  • What to Buy Instead: VIKTOS Core Gym. The Core gym is a great option for flat feet and it has a high upper volume to accommodate thicker feet. This shoe has a unique fit and feel to it.

What I Wear for HIIT | Nike Free Metcon 5

Nike Free Metcon 5 Hands On Review

Free Metcon 5 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • The reworked upper and tongue give this shoe a more spacious fit and they're easier to get on than the FM4.
  • If you want a shoe for mostly HIIT/class-style workouts with some strength blended in, then you'll enjoy this shoe.
  • The Nike Free midsole is flexible in the forefoot while the heel is a little more stable. This shoe should be stable enough for most light to moderate-weight training contexts.

Cons

  • The heel can feel a little clunky and blocky at times and if you like lower-profile shoes, then you'll want to consider this.
  • The exposed midsole foam in the midfoot can hinder this shoe's long-term durability for daily wear and outdoor workouts.
  • For heavy strength sessions, I'd pass on this shoe. This shoe's midsole started to compress when I was lifting anything over 225 lbs.

Nike Free Metcon 5

$120

Nike Free Metcon 5 Product Shot
4.5
Stability
4.3
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • HIIT
  • Class Workouts
  • Light to Moderate Strength Training
  • Short Runs (3 miles)

Falls Short

  • For Heavy Lifting (225+ lbs)
  • For CrossFit

My Rationale for Choosing the Free Metcon 5

The Nike Free Metcon 5 can be an awesome pick for HIIT workouts. This shoe has been one of my favorite options for workouts where I’m jumping a lot, doing explosive work, and doing light to moderate strength training.

The Nike Free midsole in this shoe gives this model a nice blend of versatility and comfort. It moves and articulates well and it feels “bouncy” when doing things like jump rope, box jumps, and skater strides.

Me testing the Nike Free Metcon 5 for jump rope

I also like that this shoe gives you enough stability to add in light to moderate strength work. For example, when deadlifting between 225-275 lbs in this shoe it was stable enough to accommodate these tasks.

Outside of its bouncy midsole, the upper on the Nike Free Metcon 5 also does a good job with security. I never had spillover issues in this model and I appreciate that Nike gave this shoe a more spacious upper compared to the Free Metcon 4.

Consider Passing On the Free Metcon 5 If/What to Buy Instead

  • You plan to train outdoors. The Free Metcon 5’s exposed foam on the outsole can take a beating on concrete, especially around the forefoot. I’d look for a shoe with a full rubber outsole for outdoor workouts like the Reign 6 or Nano X4.
  • You like a flatter shoe. If you want a shoe with a “flatter” feeling then you may not resonate with the Free Metcon 5’s drop and blockier heel construction.
  • What to Buy Instead: UA TriBase Reign 6. The Reign 6 and Nano X4 have both been awesome for HIIT workouts and I like the Reign 6 because it’s flexible and has a super grippy outsole.

What I Recommend for Wide Feet | Born Primitive Savage 1

Born Primitive Savage 1 Toe Box Width

Savage 1 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • This shoe excels for CrossFit, lifting, and cross-training and has held its own across a wide range of workouts that I've used them in.
  • The durability of this shoe feels strong thus far and its upper has done well with abrasion resistance and its midsole and outsole feel well-constructed.
  • This model feels like a nod to older cross-training shoes and if you long for some of the original CrossFit-focused trainers, then you'll probably enjoy this shoe.

Cons

  • The tongue on this shoe can press into the top of the foot during the break-in process which can be a little uncomfortable.
  • If you want a plusher training shoe with more runnability and daily wear-friendliness, then you may want to pass on this shoe.
  • For narrow-footed folks who like lower-profile training shoes, you may find that there's too much room in the Savage 1.

Savage 1 Specs to Know

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4mm
  • Weight: 12.7 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to size for most.
  • Read My Review: Born Primitive Savage 1
  • Prior Model: First Iteration!

Born Primitive Savage 1

$130

Born Primitive Savage 1 Product Shot
4.8
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.8
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Strength Training
  • CrossFit
  • Cross-Training
  • “Minimalist” Trainer Lovers
  • Wide(r) Feet

Falls Short

  • For Running

Why I Chose the Savage 1 for Wide Feet

The Born Primitive Savage 1 is my favorite gym shoe for wide feet. This model’s toe box rivals some barefoot shoe’s widths which makes it an awesome option for feet that go up to EE-widths and sometimes more.

This model’s wider anatomical toe box blended with its flatter midfoot construction gives it a nice flat feeling when training. The upper of this shoe also does a good job regarding security when moving forward, backward, and laterally.

Testing the Born Primitive Savage 1 for Deadlifts

This shoe has a dense midsole for heavy lifting and it does a good job with durability for CrossFit and cross-training workouts. I think if you like more simplistic training shoes then you’ll resonate with the Savage 1’s construction.

Whether you need a shoe for 500 lb deadlifts and heavy squats or you want a model for cross-training and CrossFit WODs, the Born Primitive Savage 1 should deliver for all of your training needs.

Pass On the Savage 1 and Consider This Instead If…

  • You high-volume feet. If you need more volume through your shoe’s upper, especially at the midfoot, then you may be better suited to opt for a model like the VIKTOS Core gym.
  • You want a plusher and more barefoot shoe-like width. If you want a shoe for more casual training and daily wear then you’ll want to look into a model like the Topo Atheltic ST-5 below.
  • What to Buy Instead: Topo Athletic ST-5. This model has a nice width and plusher midsole for casual training. Plus, it’s super lightweight and comfortable.

What I Like for High Arches | Inov-8 F-Lite G 300

Inov-8 F Lite G 300 for High Arches

F-Lite G 300 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • Midsole is stable yet responsive delivering a well-rounded performance for lifting, HIIT, and CrossFit.
  • These can be a good option for those who like a little more width in their forefoot for toe splay.
  • Great option for lifters and athletes who like having more arch support in their training shoes.

Cons

  • The TPU midfoot cage can press into the top of the feet if you have a high instep or thick feet.
  • If you have flat feet, pass on this shoe. The tapered midfoot may feel too snug for your foot anatomy.
  • The bootie-style construction isn't for everyone and if you like traditional tongue and lacing systems you'll want to consider this.

F-Lite G 300 Specs to Know

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 6mm
  • Weight: 12.3 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Inov-8 F-Lite G 300 Review
  • Prior Model: First Iteration!

Inov-8 F-Lite G 300

Inov-8 F-Lite G 300
4.6
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.5

Best For

  • Versatile Training
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Shorter Runs
  • Plyometrics

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency

My Rationale for Picing the F-Lite G 300

The Inov-8 F-Lite G 300 is my favorite gym shoe for high arches. This is a cross-trainer that can excel well in a lot of different contexts and is a good well-rounded gym shoe for high arches.

For example, you can lift heavy in this shoe, use them for CrossFit, and even for HIIT workouts and light runs (<3 miles or less) and they’re an exceptional performer across the board.

Inov 8 F Lite G 300 Arch

They also have a fairly wide forefoot which is great for those with high arches and wider feet in need of a shoe to accommodate these anatomical asks. The Graphene construction on the outsole also adds a nice layer of durability to this shoe.

I think if you need a shoe for doing a little bit of everything that provides a nice level of stability, then the Inov-8 F-Lite G 300 is a good pick for you. If you’re not a fan of bootie-style constructions on gym shoes, I’ve also included a few runner-up picks for high arches below.

Pass On the F-Lite G 300 and Consider This Instead If…

  • You have a wider midfoot. The Inov-8 F-Lite G 300’s midfoot has a pretty aggressive taper which can be offputting for athletes who have a wider midfoot but like a little arch.
  • You want a flatter shoe. If you like a flatter shoe but want a little arch support then I’d suggest looking into something like the Topo Athletic ST-5.
  • What to Buy Instead: Adidas Dropset Trainer 2. This model has a little bit of an arch and it’s an awesome shoe for lifting and cross-training with a wider toe box.

My Favorite Pick for Walking | On Cloud X 3

On Cloud X 3 Try On Review

Cloud X 3 Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • These can be good shoes for the hybrid-focused individual who wants a model for moderate lifting and running.
  • The CloudTec midsole delivers a nice level of responsiveness for jumping, HIIT, and casual wear so these can work well for all-day use.
  • The upper construction is breathable and has a nice lightweight feel which can be great for workouts in hotter settings.

Cons

  • These will not be the best shoes for heavy strength work, so you'll want to pass on them for heavy barbell-focused training.
  • The material at the base of the midfoot can overlap if you're lacing these shoes up a lot which can be annoying and take away from this model's aesthetic.
  • Midsole long-term durability can be an issue around the toe box when you're training a lot on concrete.

On Cloud X 3 Specs to Know

On Cloud X 3

$149.99

On Cloud X 3 Product Shot
4.3
Stability
3.9
Versatility
4.5
Durability
4.2

Best For

  • Light Strength Training
  • Versatile Training
  • Classes/HIIT
  • Short Runs (1-5 miles)
  • Daily Wear

Falls Short

  • For Outdoor Workouts
  • For Heavy Training
  • For Wide Feet

Why I Chose the On Cloud X 3 Here

The On Cloud X 3 is earning my top pick for walking. This model has a high level of comfort and in the context of walking long distances both on the treadmill and outdoors, they’re exceptional shoes.

The On CloudTec midsole is what gives the Cloud X 3 its high level of comfort and this midsole maneuvers pretty well. These shoes never feel overly stiff so if you like a more plush and cushioned ride, then you’ll enjoy the On Cloud X for walking.

Testing the On Cloud X 3 for Versatile Training

Outside of walking, the On Cloud X 3 is also a good gym shoe for light to moderate lifting (cap loading to about 315 lbs), HIIT workouts, classes, daily wear, and short to moderate runs (1-6ish miles)

This model will work best for the gym-goer who prioritizes versatility and comfort over stability when training. For example, this shoe will not be the best for heavy lifting, but it will do a good job in versatile training contexts.

Consider Passing On the On Cloud X 3 If/What to Buy Instead

  • You plan to lift heavy, too. The On Cloud X 3 isn’t the best training shoe for walking and heavy lifting. Instead, look into options like the Nano X4, Haze Trainer, and RAD ONE for this ask.
  • You like a wider forefoot. The On Cloud X 3’s forefoot can run a little narrow for wide feet. For more width and a good shoe for walking, I’d suggest looking into the Haze Trainer below.
  • What to Buy Instead: STR/KE MVMNT Haze Trainer. This shoe is my go-to trainer for travel due to its comfort and casual look, and the face it’s a great model for lifting and cross-training.

How Should Your Gym Shoes Fit?

As opposed to running shoes that have a fairly formulaic method for sizing, gym shoes can be a little different. Sizing discrepancies in gym shoes can vary for three key reasons.

  1. Different forms of training will require different types of fit. For example, if you’re doing explosive training, then you’ll generally want shoes that hug the feet fairly well to prevent sliding around or feeling unstable.
  2. Different foot anatomies will require different spaces in the toe box. For example, if you have wide feet, then you’ll typically want a little more room at the end of your toe box for both comfort and performance reasons.
  3. Different preferences can shift how we want our shoes to fit. Some like their shoes to fit a little looser while others like their shoes a little snugger.

How Should Gym Shoes Fit

That said, I typically recommend a range for sizing gym shoes. The range that I recommend is having anywhere from .2-.6 inches of room at the end of your shoe’s toe box.

If you have wide feet or like more room in your shoe’s toe box, then go with a thumb’s width.

As a rule of thumb, if you have so much room at the end of your toe box that you’re experiencing heel slip when training, then you’ll want to size down and aim for the lower end of the range mentioned above.

Best Cross Training Shoes In 2022 for CrossFit, Running, and More

When it comes to sizing, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer (pun intended). Explore different models and find shoes with the last constructions that align with your feet best and allow you to perform your best.

Gym Shoes Vs Running Shoes, Which Do You Need?

There are countless differences between gym shoes and running shoes. Plus, within each shoe category, there are endless variations of running shoes and gym shoes designed for different individuals’ performance wants, needs, and preferences.

For the sake of brevity and to not overwhelm you, I’m going to discuss a few key differences that differentiate gym shoes from running shoes. These differences can heavily influence each type of shoe’s performance as you get more specific with your training.

Gym Shoes Versus Running Shoes

Difference 1: Gym Shoes Are Typically Flatter

Gym shoes will typically have midsoles and outsoles that are more firm and flatter in nature. This is to promote stability when lifting weights and doing other forms of versatile training where balance is important. 

Difference 2: Gym Shoes Have More Durable Uppers

Additionally, the upper construction of gym shoes is often heavier than what’s used in running shoes. This is to promote durability from abrasion and stress rips that can come from multi-directional training.

Difference 3: Running Shoes Have Thicker Stac Heights and Lighter Uppers

Running shoes will have midsoles often thicker and biased towards running, AKA forward movement so they’ll be less flat and will lack the same amount of stability as gym shoes when lifting and working out. This is also why I don’t recommend lifting in running shoes.

adidas ultraboost 22 for walking and daily wear

Adidas Ultraboost 22 Running Shoe

In addition, the upper materials used in running shoes are often less heavy and layered compared to gym shoes and have a larger bias towards breathability. This is to limit the shoe’s overall weight for running.

Outside of these core differences, there are additional construction subtleties that can further differentiate gym shoes from running shoes. For example, we could discuss how different heel-to-toe drops used in both styles of footwear can influence biomechanics in the gym and when running.

Should You Use Running Shoes for the Gym?

While you can technically use running shoes for light and mod workouts, I’d suggest not doing this and instead investing in two separate pairs of gym shoes and running shoes.

can i squat in running shoes

By using the right shoes for the job you’ll not only be able to perform to your best ability, but you’ll also prolong the lifespan of your shoes. For example, heavy lifting can compress a running shoe’s midsole and limit your performance and stability.

Conversely, a gym shoe is more stable and biased towards lifting and may not be comfortable for longer runs or endurance sessions, thus making it a sub-optimal choice for the task at hand.

When in doubt, reach for the right shoes for the context of your training. As you get more specific and serious with your training gear selection becomes more important as task demands increase.

My Tips to Make Your Gym Shoes Last Longer

I’m a big proponent of getting the most out of your money and investment when it comes to gym shoes. As someone who reviews gym shoes for a living, I’m constantly trying to get the most out of the shoes I enjoy and review.

If you want to make your gym shoes last longer, then there are a few key steps you can take to add months to their lifespan. Below, are my four favorite tips to get the most out of your gym shoes.

Reviewing the OluKai Mio Li athletic shoes for hiit workouts

Tip 1: Spot Clean, Do NOT Use Washing Machines and Dryers

When cleaning your shoes use a washcloth, lukewarm water, and soft soap and handwash areas that need attention. To dry your shoes, take the insoles out and set them in a dry area in your home.

Tip 2: Take Your Shoes Out of Your Gym Bag

Gym bags can be humid after training sessions due to sweat buildup on gear. Always try to take your gym shoes out of your gym bag after training sessions to ensure humidity doesn’t wreak havoc on their materials.

Tip 3: Wear Them Only for Training

If you’re buying gym shoes specifically for training and not walking or daily wear, then try to limit only wearing your gym shoes for your training sessions.

Tip 4: Lace and Unlace Your Shoes When Putting Them On

I admit I can be lazy and jam my feet into my gym shoes which can cause the boot to break down pretty fast. Always lace and unlace your shoes to prevent this.

These are four simple steps that you can use to add months to your gym shoes and get the most out of your investment. It’s always cool to see how these little things can add up to get the most out of your money.

Coach Jake’s Buying Tips

The ideal gym shoes for you will be dependent on variables like how you train and your foot anatomy. It’s normal to experiment with different shoes as you find what works best for you.

Keep in mind, that every company uses different shoe lasts (molds) to construct their shoes so if one company’s shoe doesn’t fit your feet perfectly another company’s shoe likely will.

TriBase Reign 6 Try On

As always, if you have additional questions, drop a comment below. Let me know what gym shoes you currently wear and what you want out of your next pair.

Buying Tip 1 — Midsole, Outsole, and Upper Are Key

Multiple construction features can manipulate a shoe’s performance. A shoe’s midsole, outsole, and upper are three of the big features that can influence stability, responsiveness, security, and durability.

I would suggest assessing these three heaviest when looking for your next gym shoes. These will dictate your shoe’s “feel” when training and how long it lasts regarding durability.

Buying Tip 2 — Your Workout Specificity Matter

Your shoes should always reflect your training and get more specific to reflect how you train. For example, if you do something specific like CrossFit, then you’ll want to find shoes that are optimal for this context.

The same holds true for HIIT, lifting, and so forth. This is why I include categories in my round-ups. Please ask questions about shoes featured in this list as you have them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
What kind of shoes are used in gym?

A:
Generally, you'll want a good pair of cross-training shoes for most gym workouts. Cross-training shoes are versatile and are designed to support things like lifting, HIIT workouts, light runs, and classes.

Q:
Do I need different shoes for gym?

A:
That depends. It can be useful to think about shoes for the gym as existing on a spectrum of specificity based on your training goals and needs. For example, if you plan to lift heavy, then you'll want a stable cross-training shoe. Conversely, if you only do classes, then you'll want a lightweight, responsive, and versatile training shoe.

Q:
Are gym shoes different from running shoes?

A:
Yes, typical gym shoes are different from running shoes. Gym shoes often referred to as training shoes or cross-training shoes, will have denser midsoles designed to be supportive for lifting weight whereas running shoes lack stability.

Q:
Can I wear running shoes for gym?

A:
You can technically wear running shoes for light and casual gym workouts, however, it's important to note their performance can fall short if you plan to lift weights or do more explosive workouts.

Final Thoughts

When looking into the best gym shoes, I’d suggest exploring your training goals, needs, and wants. If you can nail down the specific training asks that you have from your shoes, then you can make the best investment for your individual goals.

Whether you plan to lift heavy, do HIIT workouts, or take classes here and there, there’s a gym shoe that accommodates your foot’s anatomy and training needs.

If you have additional questions on any of the shoes featured in this article, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).

 
Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

2 thoughts on “Gym Shoes In 2024, Personal Trainer Shares His Favorite Picks”

  1. I loved my OnClouds but felt they didn’t wear well in the toe area. Do you think that’s consistent with all their models? I did not have the one you recommended. Also, if I need more room in toebox area should I be looking at wide models always?

    1. Yeah, On shoes can be super inconsistent with their durability, tbh! I’ve had pairs last a year and I’ve had pairs break down in a few months. I always suggest buying models through companies like REI when possible that way you’ll have a better chance of returning/replacing them. It wouldn’t hurt to try some wider models to see if they align with your anatomy better as that could also be why the toe durability suffered pretty quickly!

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