This guide to the best gym sneakers of 2018 covers the best shoes for weightlifting as well as mixed-use options.
A good pair of shoes can make or break your gym-going experience. Whether you’re trying to get in shape or are looking for shoes to give you 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 that are closer to the ground provide more support for your muscles and joints giving you better stability during unilateral (one-sided) moves, as well as operating as a proper platform for lifting heavy weights.
How We Tested Them
We tested 12+ pairs of shoes to bring you this list of the nine best gym shoes. There are a lot of sneakers that come across our desks at Gear Patrol. We put all of these to the test — we evaluated how they felt right out of the box, then hit the treadmill to test how they feel at a walk, jog, run and sprint. Following that we hit the gym floor and took each pair of shoes through a variety of movements and exercises to mimic the range of motion these shoes need to do as your go-to pair. Squats, alternating forward or reverse lunges, side lunges, single leg deadlifts, mountain climbers, planks and a range of stretches (runner’s stretch, pigeon, upward dog, etc.)
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 fit tightly 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.
Best For Weight Lifting
Nike Metcon 4
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 8
Reebok’s new Flexweave material is more breathable, stable and durable than Nanos of the past. The unique dual-layered upper looks like a chainlink fence, but feels more like a rubber tire. This one fits like a glove and aids with stabilization during unilateral moves like lunges and single leg deadlifts. It also has a minimal drop outsole to keep your body close to the ground.
Nobull Canvas Trainers
At first glance, these canvas sneakers look like lifestyle shoes. And to be honest, you can wear them around all day long — they’re that comfortable. Don’t be deceived though, the perforated canvas is rough to the touch over the high carbon lateral and medial guards for added balance support. The lighter colored canvas gets dirty very quickly — especially in the weight room — but the forest green doesn’t seem to have the same problem. Similar to the Nike Metcons, there is a 4mm drop. These are the lowest price point in the category, coming in under $100.
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 extremely breathable whether you’re box jumping, pistol squatting or throwing punches. I was concerned about how comfortable the mesh upper would be on the treadmill, but it’s nowhere near uncomfortable when running. 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.
Reebok Flexweave Fast
I first tested the Flexweave Fast in a boot camp class which alternated running on a Woodway treadmill with total body weights on the floor, and the shoe performed admirably. The Flexweave Fast is made of the same material as the Crossfit Nano 8. It’s just as breathable, if not more so than the Nanos, and is a slightly looser sneaker to help with sprints and runs. I’d take this outside for a 5k or track workout, in addition to using it during HIIT workouts and for weightlifting. The flexible upper bends to match the natural movement of your feet during calf raises, jumping jacks and lunges. And you can run with these right out of the box — I had no blisters or hot spots after using.
APL TechLoom Pro
These are priced more like running sneakers, which makes sense since they lean slightly more in that direction. However, I wouldn’t run more than 3 miles in them, especially if you’re used to a more supportive stability sneaker like a Brooks or Asics model. The dual-layered woven upper is reinforced with a sock liner and has a neoprene-feeling tongue. The tongue is attached, so there’s no easy way to move it around, and the laces tie underneath it (which is easy to change, just pull them out) — a feature added with aesthetics in mind. The 8mm drop is slightly more than the other shoes on this list, but there were no performance issues when completing moves and exercises — squats, reverse lunges, mountain climbers and even spider planks.
Adidas AlphaBounce Beyond
The cushioning on these sneakers is what sets them apart from the others on the list. They’re comfortable enough to handle miles on the treadmill and are most similar to the Reebok Flexweave Fast in that you can do a variety of activities in them. The grippy Continental rubber outsole means they’ll work just as well in the grass as they will on the mats at the gym. We highly recommend these for classes like Barry’s, as well as for your day-to-day gym trips.
New Balance LAZR
New Balance is known for its performance foam, Fresh Foam, and it slimmed down its typically plush cushioned running shoes to create the LAZR Sport, a sneaker that’ll work on the pavement for short runs, on the treadmill and in the gym for training sessions. The mesh upper is breathable and flexible with less give closer to the collar and laces. It’s hard to find a pair of sneakers at this price point with this amount of performance features.
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