The path to finding a pair of gym-worthy shoes is fraught with potential compromises. Going to the gym for weight training also involves some treadmill use.
So what kind of shoes work best here – should they be 100% running-oriented, or a shoe that’s designed specifically for training and lifting?
Buying a pure-play training shoe offers a lot of stability, but isn’t necessarily the best choice for treadmill sessions. The Nike Metcon 7 is a good example. Conversely, a soft running shoe offers a higher level of comfort, 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. We’ll help you find a shoe that delivers all-around performance inside the gym.
Our selection criteria apply to the shoes on the list in varying degrees. Our curated guide is not exhaustive, so this reasoning can be applied to other shoes not mentioned here:
1. The shoe should preferably have a heel-to-toe offset 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 therefore, supportive.
If a shoe is soft, then a higher offset shoe will prove counter-productive during weight training. A higher drop usually translates into more foam under the heel. If the said 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. But then, Vans and Chucks aren’t running shoes so their usage is limited to weight training. That’s why this guide exists.
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 be felt underneath. Here, a neutral shoe with a uniform density midsole is a better choice.
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.
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 adidas Ultraboost 22 is an exception, because it has the same supportive midsole from the 21. The new generation of Ultraboosts are nowhere as soft as the first few versions. Even the Ultraboost 20 was a lot softer.
If you’re lifting more than 110 kg/250 lbs squats or 40 kg/100 lbs (standing) barbell/dumbells 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.
More recently, we reviewed the Nike Metcon 7 – another gym-worthy training shoe for lifting and strength conditioning exercises.
In the last edition of this guide, we recommended the New Balance Minimus Trail 10 V1 – a running shoe that was excellent on the treadmill while being flat and stable enough for weighted workouts.
Unfortunately, we no longer see it in New Balance’s assortment. On the bright side, New Balance sells a Minimus series of training shoes. Hence, these low-offset shoes (4 mm) continue to be an option. If we had to choose from that assortment, it would be the Minimus Prevail.
4. A planted forefoot and outsole grip: The shoe should grip well; exercises such as lunges, leg press, or calf raises activate the ball (front) of the foot. The forefoot should be flexible too.
If this article were written five years ago, various Nike Free running shoes would have received a mention. Since versatile Nike Free shoes are no longer available, Flex Experience RN 10 will have to do.
5. Sufficient cushioning: Ride comfort is desirable for treadmill runs, and that should co-exist with traits mentioned in points #1 to #4.
Without further ado, here’s a list of nine best shoes for gym and weight training – sorted in Solereview’s order of preference.
This list applies only if the gym workout includes running. Else, buying a pair of Vans canvas sneakers is a cost-effective way of meeting most weight-training needs.
1) adidas UltraBoost 22
The Ultraboost wasn’t ever on this guide, so what has changed? A lot, actually.
adidas took a brand new direction with the Ultraboost 21. Instead of the softer midsole of the 20, the ultra-wide midsole of the redesigned Ultraboost supported the heel for better ride stability. The plastic clip on the snug upper also helped secure the foot.
The reconfigured Continental rubber outsole and Torsion shank increased the overall stability by making the ride stiffer. And why are we discussing the Ultraboost 21 instead of the 22? That’s because both share an identical sole unit and a very similar upper – thus resulting in a similar in-gym behavior.
The cushioned midsole makes treadmills runs comfortable, whereas the stable midsole and narrow upper keeps the foot supported during weight training sessions.
2) Nike Flex Experience Run 11
In the absence of suitable Nike Free models, the Flex Experience 11 is the next best thing.
The midsole 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 Flex Experience 11 has a more supportive rearfoot than the 10, as the heel no longer has the flex grooves. The newly-acquired stability makes the V11 a better gym shoe than the V9 and V10.
The upper design is basic, yet fits smooth and secure. 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) Nike Zoom Structure 24
A firmer medial post is no longer a part of the Nike Structure’s design, so this shoe is more gym-friendly than the past models. Last year’s Structure 23 ditched the medial wedge (of the 22) for a wide and cushioned midsole. The 24 is based on the same midsole, so nothing has changed under the slightly-tweaked upper.
The rear midsole is where plenty of cushioning and stability co-exist. The foot sits cupped by the midsole rather than atop it; this arrangement gives the shoe adequate support during weight training sessions.
A compressed Zoom Air bag under the forefoot makes treadmill running enjoyable and efficient. The outsole geometry also helps with the overall stability and traction.
Bringing everything together is a fully-sleeved upper with a very plush tongue and heel; a strap-based midfoot lacing system locks the foot down during workouts.
4) Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
The Adrenaline GTS 21 was a softer shoe than the 22. It was almost as if the Ghost 14 got a set of ‘Guiderails’ (the raised midsole sidewalls).
However, this year’s Adrenaline GTS 22 is slightly different. That’s why it features here instead of the Ghost or Glycerin. We reviewed the shoe earlier this year.
The GTS 22’s midsole is noticeably firmer than the 21. That’s great for weight-training exercises where a softer midsole is counter productive. The firm midsole adds sufficient support while being comfortable enough for treadmills runs. The raised ‘Guiderails’ don’t hurt either.
As always, Brooks has done an excellent job with the upper construction and design. A midfoot sleeve 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.
5) Saucony Kinvara 13
Last year, Saucony’s popular low-profile trainer received a slew of updates. The new changes made the Kinvara 12 a better gym-going shoe than the 10 and 11.
The Kinvara 13’s sole design hasn’t changed, so it has everything that made the K-12 a well-rounded running shoe for the gym. Our full review is here.
The Kinvara 13 has a flared midsole, so there’s a high level of stability under the heel and forefoot. The cushioning isn’t lacking either; along with a ‘Topsole’, the midsole packs ample cushioning for runs.
This blend of cushioning and stability makes the Kinvara an excellent pick for weight training and treadmill runs alike. Though the outsole is (still) mostly foam, the better-defined outsole texture improves the grip.
The upper is lightweight and breezy for indoor comfort, while the seamless and half-sleeved interior makes the fit smooth and secure.
6) Asics Kayano Lite 2
This shoe may be named after the medially posted Kayano, yet the two shoes are nothing alike.
The Kayano Lite 2’s midsole lacks the traditional Asics paraphernalia like a medial post, visible Gel pads, or plastic midfoot shank. In their place is a single-density midsole with a wide and supportive base.
The K-Lite is extremely comfortable as well. The resilient Flytefoam midsole combines treadmill-friendly cushioning with a ride that’s supportive enough for gym workouts.
The upper is typical Asics – very plush and smooth on the inside.
7) Mizuno Wave Rider 25
There are no two ways about it – the Wave Rider 25 is softer than the older Riders (21, 22) due to its reformulated midsole foam and smaller ‘Wave’ plate.
That being said, the heel still has the rigid Wave plate for rearfoot stability. And like the previous model, the wide forefoot midsole delivers a planted ground feel.
The just-right blend of cushioning and support makes the Wave Rider 25 suitable for weight training and treadmill runs. The comfortable upper breathes well, thus making it suitable for indoor use.
8) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 3
Despite our review that called this running shoe average, there are three reasons why the Nike React Infinity Run 3 does well inside the gym.
Firstly, the wide outwards flare of the midsole create a supportive base for mild weight-training sessions. Secondly, the firm ‘rim’ on top of the midsole cups the foot and enhances the overall stability.
Lastly, the firm React midsole doesn’t compress a lot, so that’s good from a stability perspective – both on the gym floor and treadmill runs. The secure-fitting upper doesn’t hurt either.