Proper footwear ensures you’re making the most of your time in the gym, allows you to move around properly, and helps prevent injuries. After all, just like you wouldn’t wear flip-flops to a business meeting, you wouldn’t want to wear shoes that hold you back from giving it all in a workout.
Upgrade your worn out sneakers with these picks from some of the country’s top trainers and athletes, as well as everyday shoppers.
For Strength and Conditioning:
Nike MetCon3, $130, Zappos
Whether you’re lifting dumbbells, using equipment, or just relying on your bodyweight to get stronger, cross-training workouts require a stable, steady shoe. That’s why Adam Rosante, a strength and mental performance coach, recommends this pair from Nike. “It’s the best training shoe out there,” he says. “It’s super durable, has great lateral stability, and provides the perfect platform for allowing your feet to fire and function naturally.”
For Power Walking:
New Balance Women's WW665 Walking Shoe, $52, Amazon
With hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon, these breathable shoes were clearly made for walking. One customer reported that she comfortably walked 15 to 20 miles the first time she wore them, adding that they “defied the laws of physics.” “My feet have never felt lighter with shoes on,” she said.
For Trail Running:
HOKA Challenger ATR 3, $105, Zappos
When you take your runs onto the trails, extra cushioning is the name of the game. These lightweight but supportive shoes make off-road running so much easier, and the tread provides plenty of traction. Trail runner Tim Freriks says this brand is always his top pick: “Whether I’m on a long run through the mountains or in the Grand Canyon, I know that I'm wearing the lightest shoe without sacrificing cushion and traction.”
For Barre Classes:
Great Soles Women's Ballet Grip Socks, $12, Amazon
These ballet-inspired workout classes don’t require shoes, but you want to wear a pair of non-slip socks to help you get a better grip on the barre and on the floor. These are a top-rated option on Amazon. Reviewers call them “cute and comfortable” and report that the quality continues to hold up after many washes.
Reebok CrossFit Grace, $100, Zappos
If you’re heading to the “box” (CrossFit-speak for the gym), you’ll want to have the right shoe for your WOD (workout of the day).
This is the first-ever CrossFit shoe built specifically for women, featuring a more slender shape and narrow toe box designed specifically to suit a woman’s foot. It's also been tested and approved by CrossFit Games athletes like Chyna Cho.
“This is the lightest shoe I’ve trained in from Reebok, and translates into real-life clothing,” she says. “If I were to travel at the airport, I would totally rock this shoe and not feel like a gym rat. And they hold up so well.”
For HIIT Classes:
Nike Free Focus Flyknit Training Sneakers, $74, Amazon
For the full-body functional exercises involved in high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) classes, you want a shoe that’s flexible with a thin, flat sole and a light tread, explains Bergen Wheeler, creator of Exhale Spa’s Core Fusion HIIT classes. This pair will help you feel your feet on the ground, while giving you plenty of stability for high-intensity moves. Bonus: These come in an almost endless array of colors.
For Indoor Cycling:
Shimano SH-RP2 Women's Touring Road Cycling Shoes, starting at $67, Amazon
Crush your next indoor cycling class with this pair of clip-in shoes. Designed for recreational riders, the fiberglass-reinforced sole helps boost your power output, while the synthetic leather upper enhances strength and stability. Amazon customers say they fit true to size and are “so comfy right out of the box.”
Sanuk Yoga Sling 2, $26, Zappos
Sanuk makes shoes “for the journey to your happy place.” And if yoga class is your happy place, these sandals are the perfect thing to wear on your way there. These slip on and off easily, and the rubber soles—made out of real recycled yoga mats—provide enough support if you have a longer walk to class. One reviewer reports: “I wore these for the first time on an all-day walk around San Francisco. There was no break-in time needed. They handled the hills great.”
For Dance Cardio:
ASICS Gel Nimbus, Starting at $69, Amazon
Moving your body to Beyonce’s latest track is definitely a fun ways to break a sweat. But with all the jumping and plyometric moves in dance cardio classes, you need a shoe that’s suited for shock absorption, explains Katia Pryce, founder and creator of DanceBody. “The right shoe is super important for this type of workout because of the lateral movement and constant footwork,” she says. These Asics are “by far” the best shoe she’s found, and she recommends them to all her clients.
Mizuno Wave Rider 21, $120, Amazon
Long runs require shoes with a mix of soft cushioning with plenty of “springiness,” and these kicks deliver the perfect combination. Maegan Krifchin, a professional distance runner, says she prefers this style for their “just right” feeling: “They hug my feet but have enough give, support me but don't over-correct, and won't weigh me down,” she says. “I've gone through at least 24 pairs of Wave Riders since I started running in them!”
Saucony Triumph ISO 3, $150, Zappos
This lightweight, neutral shoe also provides an ideal amount of flexibility and cushioning for longer runs. Celebrity trainer Kira Stokes laces these up whenever she’s running more than five miles. “This is a neutral shoe that still allows me to feel the road beneath my feet,” she says. “They also has a nice wide toe box to allow some breathing room.”
For Any Type of Cardio:
Brooks Launch 4, $100, Zappos
If your workouts involve a little bit of everything, this shoe is for you. Stokes likes to include some high-intensity training moves into her outdoor runs, and this pair stands up to all her cross-training needs. “This is a supportive, low profile shoe that provides just the right amount of cushioning, which allows you to maintain stability while moving in different directions,” she says.