Best running shoes for gym and weight training

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The Puma Velocity Nitro 3 in the gym.

This article has been updated with current models for May 2024. The Brooks Ghost 15, Brooks Glycerin 20, and Nike Flex Experience 11 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Puma Velocity Nitro 3 is a new addition. The adidas Solarglide 6 has been removed. Except for the narrower ‘B’ width, the women’s models are almost identical to men’s.

The adidas Ultraboost 22 inside a gym.

The adidas Ultraboost fares surprisingly well inside a gym.

What kind of shoes work best in the gym? Should they be 100% running-focused, or a shoe that’s designed specifically for training and lifting?

A pure-play training shoe offers a lot of stability, but isn’t great for treadmill sessions. The Nike Metcon is a good example. Conversely, a soft running shoe offers a higher level of comfort on the road, but lacks the stability that weight-training sessions demand.

There is always a middle ground for everything, and that’s what this guide is about.

1. The shoe should preferably have a heel drop of 4 mm or higher: The higher the drop/lift (10-12 mm), the better it is – but only if the running shoe in question is firm and supportive.

If the midsole foam is soft, then the weight loading will induce instability.

The 4 mm+ drop rule is exempted for zero-drop shoes that aren’t too soft.

Take, for example, Vans and Converse Chuck Taylor models with their 0 mm offsets. Yet, they’re ideal weight-training sneakers because their soles and sidewalls are made of solid rubber. The same goes for stable sneakers (with a slight drop) like adidas Superstars and Nike Dunks.

2. Avoid ‘stability’ shoes with medial posts: Let’s say you’re squatting 200lbs wearing shoes with a medial post. What do you think is going to happen?

Well, the softer part of the midsole will compress whereas the medial post will not. This not only creates instability, but the hardness of the medial post will also press up against the foot.

3. A firm and stable midsole with a full ground contact outsole: A professional power-lifting shoe is super-firm, exhibits zero midsole bias, and has a full-contact outsole for superior grip and stability. That’s why casual sneakers with those characteristics – like the Converse Chuck Taylor and Vans – are near-perfect for the gym.

The Puma Velocity Nitro 3 on a treadmill.

The Puma Velocity Nitro 3 grips well on a treadmill.

For the same reasons, shoes with a heel Air Bag (Nike) or super-soft midsoles are excluded. Besides, treadmill runs require a firmer shoe than road running.

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 inside a gym.

If you’re lifting more than 110 kg/250 lbs squats or 40 kg/100 lbs (standing) barbell/dumbbells curls, then ignore this guide and get a proper (firm) training or lifting shoe instead. At this weight, a stable training shoe offers better safety than a soft running shoe.

The Nike Metcon 7 Flyease with a deadlift bar.

If you don’t plan on running, get a proper training shoe like the Nike Metcon instead. The rearfoot lift and stability inspires confidence during squat cleans, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, and regular squats.

For reference, we reviewed the Nike Metcon 7 – another gym-worthy training shoe for lifting and strength conditioning exercises.

4. A planted forefoot and outsole grip: The shoe should grip well; exercises such as lunges, leg presses, or calf raises activate the ball (front) of the foot. The forefoot should be flexible too.

5. Sufficient cushioning: Ride comfort is important for treadmill running, and that should co-exist with traits mentioned in points #1 to #4.

This list applies only if the gym workout includes running. Otherwise, buying a pair of Vans canvas sneakers is a cost-effective way of meeting most weight-training needs.

1) adidas UltraBoost Light

The Ultraboost Light isn’t strictly a running shoe, but that doesn’t make it less friendly for the gym. You see, the Ultraboost went through a transformative design with the UB-22; the Ultraboost Light is based on a similar design.

Just like the 22, the ultra-wide midsole of the Ultraboost Light supports the heel for better ride stability. The plastic clip on the snug upper also helps secure the foot.

The Continental rubber outsole and Torsion shank increase the overall stability by making the ride stiffer. Also, the Ultraboost Light has a deeper transition groove (under the heel) than the Ultraboost 22, and that leads to marginal gains in stability.

The cushioned Boost midsole makes treadmill runs comfortable, whereas the stable midsole and narrow upper keep the foot supported during weight training sessions. The Continental rubber outsole grips well over treadmill belts and rubber tiles.

2) Nike Flex Experience Run 12

The Flex Experience 12 has deep, side-to-side flex grooves that are inspired by the original Nike Free. The midsole isn’t very soft, so there’s adequate stability for weight training. The flexible nature of the midsole design is useful for treadmill runs, lunges, and box jumps.

The upper design is basic, yet fits smoothly and securely. In the back, the collapsible heel is gentle on the Achilles.

By the way, this entry-level lightweight trainer is also an excellent travel shoe.

3) Puma Velocity Nitro 3

Besides being an excellent everyday trainer on the road, the Puma Velocity 3 has a few things that make it a decent, if not great, running shoe for the gym.

First, it’s fairly stable for its stack height. While the upper midsole is made of the softer Nitro foam, it’s supported by a firmer EVA layer underneath.

The dual density midsole of the Puma Velocity Nitro 3.

The Pumagrip outsole of the Puma Velocity Nitro 3.

The Puma Velocity Nitro 3 on a treadmill.

Next is the balanced sidewall design that prevents the Velocity Nitro’s midsole from tilting. The snug upper also keeps the foot locked in place over the midsole.

Lastly, the high level of comfort also makes it a very good treadmill shoe. The tried-and-tested Puma grip outsole offers excellent traction on treadmills.

4) Brooks Glycerin 21

If you’ve ever seen the Brooks Glycerin in action during a road race, it becomes easier to understand why it would do well inside a gym.

The Brooks DNA Loft 3 foam makes the cushioning firm and supportive; the stable ride is a great thing to have during mild weight training sessions.

The midsole creates a stable foundation even when loaded, and works on the treadmill as well – this is a running shoe, after all.

The 2024 model gets a few updates – including a marginally softer midsole with higher sidewalls – but it’s very similar to the previous season’s shoe, the Glycerin 20.

The plush upper complements the midsole by keeping the foot locked in.

5) Asics Kayano 30

While this shoe shares the first name with the Kayano 29, the two shoes are nothing alike. Just like the Nimbus 25, Asics has completely redone the Kayano for 2023-24.

The Kayano 30’s midsole doesn’t have a medial post (Litetruss) or visible Gel pads. Instead, what we get is a single-density midsole with a wide and supportive base.

The Kayano makes it to this list, courtesy of its excellent blend of cushioning comfort and support. The Flytefoam midsole offers treadmill-friendly cushioning with a ride that’s supportive enough for gym workouts.

The secure upper is very Asics-like; it’s plush and smooth on the inside.

6) Brooks Ghost 16

The Ghost 16 doesn’t have a lot of ‘personality’, but it’s hard to go wrong with this Brooks shoe. It’s up for everyday runs, a half-marathon, and everything in between – including gym use.

Despite its recent switch to a DNA Loft V3 foam (same as the Glycerin 21) midsole, the Brooks Ghost is cushioned, but not too soft.

Like the Ghost 15, there’s a tinge of firmness within the midsole. That’s great for weight-training exercises when excessive softness becomes counterproductive. The midsole provides sufficient support while being comfortable enough for treadmill runs.

As always, Brooks has done an excellent job with the upper construction and design. The true-to-size upper secures the foot over the midsole, and there’s plenty of plushness packed within the tongue and heel collar.

The outsole footprint provides plenty of ground contact and traction, and that works very well on the gym floor and treadmill.

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