(This list has been updated for 2018.)
Getting a pair of new gym shoes is the classic purchase dilemma. If you’re hitting the gym for weight training, you spend some time on the treadmill too. So what kind of shoe do you buy – one which is running oriented or a shoe designed specifically for training and lifting?
Buying a pure-play training shoe offers all the stability you need, but could prove clunky during runs. Conversely, a soft running shoe is more comfortable but lacks the level of support required for weight training sessions.
That said, there’s always a middle ground for everything, and that’s what this guide is about. We’ll help you find a shoe which delivers all-around performance in the gym. The following is our selection criteria; this applies to the shoes on the list in varying degrees. Since our list is not exhaustive, you can also apply it to other shoes not mentioned here:
1. The shoe should have a minimum heel drop of 4 mm: When weight training, the higher the drop/lift (10-12 mm), the better it is.
2. A firm and stable midsole with a full ground contact outsole: Have you seen a professional powerlifting shoe? It is super-firm with zero roll and a full contact outsole. This is the reason why casual sneakers like the Chuck Taylor, Vans, and skate shoes perform so well in the gym. Since we have to consider running too, we’ll tone down the hardness preference a bit and yet stick to stable shoes.
For the same reasons, shoes with a heel Air Bag (Nike) or adidas Boost are excluded. Besides, treadmill running requires a firmer shoe than road running. The general thumb rule here is: heavier the loading weight, firmer the shoe.
If you’re lifting super heavy – say 110 kg/250 lbs+ free squats or 40 kg/100 lbs standing barbell/dumbells curls, then disregard this list and get a proper (firm) training or lifting shoe instead.
3. Good forefoot plant and outsole grip: The shoe should grip well; a few exercises require you to be on the ball of your foot. For example: lunges, leg press, or calf raises. The forefoot should be reasonably flexible too.
4. Decent cushioning: Needed for running on the treadmill, while considering points #1 to #3.
Here is solereview’s pick of ten best shoes for gym and weight training, sorted alphabetically:
1) Asics DS Trainer 23
The DS-Trainer is a low profile running shoe with a firm ride. There’s even a medial post thrown in for good measure, and the DSP outsole lugs provide excellent grip over synthetic surfaces.
The firm ride translates into a stable foundation – both for weight training and the occasional treadmill run.
2) Asics Dynaflyte 2
The Dynaflyte is a DS-Trainer without the medial-post and the DSP outsole. This lightweight yet firm riding neutral trainer has enough support for standing gym workouts while being versatile enough for the treadmill.
3) Brooks Ghost 10
The Brooks Ghost 10 continues to be our cushioned shoe pick for gym use. The midsole has a thick stack of foam yet supportive enough for the gym floor.
Pick the Ghost if you want a little more shoe while steering clear of the marshmallowy cushioning territory. If you want something firmer, get the Adrenaline GTS 18.
4) Brooks Transcend 5
If you want to dial up the level of cushioning without compromising on stability, the Transcend 5 is the shoe. Not only does this Brooks shoe have ample cushioning underfoot, its wide outsole footprint and high sidewalls gives it a very, very, planted feel.
The narrow and secure upper fit is great for locking the foot down in place during workouts.
5) Mizuno Wave Rider 21
The Wave Rider is mentioned on this list because it’s an excellent blend of stability and cushioning. The wide forefoot flare and the plastic Wave plate makes the shoe supportive; the layered upper is protective and spacious.
You could also look at the Inspire 14 too. It is very similar to the Rider 21 except for a slightly more supportive inner midsole.
6) New Balance 890 V6
The 890 is lightweight, cushioned, supportive, and snug fitting. All these characteristics work well together on the gym floor. The TPU band infused outsole makes the forefoot stable, and the Revlite midsole delivers cushioning without the energy-sapping sink.
The New Balance Zante V4 also works great for gym and treadmill use.
7) Nike Free RN 2018 Flyknit
The Nike Free has always been a great shoe for the gym environment. The flexible and supportive midsole is suitable for weight training and the ride is cushioned enough for treadmill workouts.
There’s also a non-Flyknit version of the Free RN available. The upper heel of both the variants are collapsible.
8) Nike Flex 2017 RN
This is a nice entry-level shoe which is inspired by the flexible midsole design of the Nike Free. The lightweight shoe is good for weight training, treadmill use, and even as a travel fitness shoe.
The Flex 2017 RN is the only other shoe (other than the Free Flyknit) with a collapsible heel.
09) Saucony Guide ISO
The Saucony Guide ISO is an excellent choice for weight training and short distance treadmill running.
The ultra firm midsole provides a stable, no-sink ride quality which is suitable for standing exercises. The responsive Everun Topsole over the midsole provides a slight pop during treadmill workouts.
10) Under Armour Charged Bandit 3
The Charged Bandit 3 is a cushioned and supportive neutral shoe. The unique rubber placement under the rearfoot makes the heel stable and centered for weight training and other free-hand exercises.
For treadmill runs, the midsole has plenty of foam-based cushioning. The Bandit’s upper has a seamless construction, making the interiors smooth while providing a secure fit.