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The Very Best Workout Shoes for Men

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Finding a good, do-it-all sneaker is a harder task than it seems. That’s because most workout shoes are built for specific activities, like running, weight lifting, basketball, tennis, or hiking, among others. And though wearing your running shoes for all your workouts might not be the worst crime in the world, it should be avoided as much as possible, because the vast majority of running shoes are built specifically for forward movement, and their constructions don’t provide the stability needed for lateral movement that a basketball or tennis shoe would lend.

A good workout shoe will give that extra support, not just propel you forward, and even though there are differences between the type of support you need depending on the activity you’re doing most often, most of these sports share similar movements that require the same thing: a stable, comfortable base for a variety of forward and lateral movements. That’s why a lot of the shoes in this list could be categorized as cross-trainers; they lend stability and are made to move, push, jump, and jog in.

The experts we spoke to recommended these shoes as the best pairs to do so. We’ve noted where each of these shoes excel best: be it for jogging with a mix of HIIT, lots of heavy weight training, or hitting the trails for a sweaty, uphill hike. And when it comes to style, don’t fret — a few of the pairs we featured below can double as the pair you lift in but also wear to a weekday-night bar hang with friends. (And if you’re looking for something to run in, check out our guide to the best running shoes.)

Best overall | Best for weight lifting | Best status | Best for everyday wear | Best less expensive for everyday wear | Best for tennis | Best for outdoor pursuits | Best for running

What we’re looking for

Support: A supportive build is crucial for running, moving side to side, and for any workout involving weights. We’re looking for features like flat soles, secure, non-flimsy upper constructions around the forefoot, and reinforcements around the shoe’s tongue, the toe box, and your ankle — all of which will help to give you a stable base to push off from, and thus help prevent foot or leg injuries. (“Rule No. 1 in fitness is don’t get hurt and rule No. 2 is reread rule No. 1,” says trainer and entrepreneur Percell Dugger, who says the right shoes are critical to following these rules.)

Cushion: Shoes more geared toward weight lifting will have a flatter, denser midsole with less cushion, while some of the running-focused shoes on this list will have a thicker midsole with a plusher feel. At the end of the day, it comes down to what’s most comfortable for you, and we’ve tried to make it clear how much cushion you can expect in each shoe by rating it from high to light.

Outsole: Good workout shoes will provide solid traction to keep you on your feet, whether you’re doing box jumps, lunges, or jogging on pavement. We’re looking for shoes with good “tires” that are suited to their activity: Some outsoles have balder rubber bottoms, built for flatter gym surfaces, while others in this list have deeper lugs that can handle surfaces like asphalt and dirt trails.

Best overall workout shoe

Flat sole | High cushion | Maximum grip

While some folks opt to wear running shoes for lifting and cardio, most of the fitness pros we spoke to say that it’s worth investing in a pair of shoes better suited for all-purpose workouts — like Nike’s Metcon. Sean Sewell, a personal trainer who runs the gear-review site Engearment, says that while running shoes have “a bit of a lift in the heel that helps for comfort when running,” that can make it hard to achieve “proper alignment” in other kinds of workouts. Todd Brandon-Morris, the founder of inclusive fitness brand Out-Fit, says the Metcon should be “the standard for any versatile athlete” because they’re “firm enough for heavy weight lifting” but also great for jumping and running. Sewell tells us they’re also very popular in the CrossFit community: “They are lightly cushioned and have little to no heel lift, making them good for proper biomechanics when performing deadlifts, squats, swings, and snatches,” he says, adding that they have “good tactile feedback too.” Because of their versatility, the Metcon is our top recommendation for any sweat session — minus training for a marathon.

Best workout shoe for weight lifting

Photo: Courtesy Altra

Flat sole with wide toe box and lacing reinforcement | Light cushion | Medium grip

Altra shoes are known for two main features: a generously wide toe box that allows you splay out your feet, and a zero-drop heel, which means your heel and toe are level within the shoe. Many customers love the brand for this one-two punch of comfort, especially for hiking and outdoor pursuits. But it turns out that this design is perfect for the weight room, too.

When it comes to lifting weights, Dugger and many other experts say you want a shoe with as much of a barefoot feel as possible. This allows you to fully plant your feet into the ground, which helps avoid injuries. “Research has shown that a lot of shoes with very thick soles can weaken your ankles over time,” explains Dugger, who adds that “injuries like ankle sprains and knee problems all start with your feet and footwear.” The Solstice XT 2’s lightly cushioned sole and zero drop are just what you need for that barefoot feel. I’ve been testing the Solstice for a full year now (I even reviewed it previously as an editor at Outside), and its wide and flat base gives me — and my legs — confidence during heavy lifts. It also has a rubbery reinforcement cage around the forefoot and laces, which keeps my feet even more locked in.

Best status workout shoe

$140

Rockered sole with tight speed lacing system | High cushion | Moderate grip

When we reached out to fitness influencers and experts to find the next status gym sneaker for men, On Running’s Cloud line was the clear choice when it came to both style and substance. Master personal trainer Ariel Brill told us that these “are my favorite for running,” adding, “I ran a marathon in this exact pair and I felt like I was truly running on a cloud, when in reality, I was on hard pavement.” While these are branded as a running sneaker, many find they also make a great all-purpose gym and training shoe. As style editor Ted Stafford told us when we asked him about status gym sneakers, “Guys who are looking for a training sneaker with the latest innovation for comfort and performance should try On Running training sneakers as soon as they can. They’ll be hooked.”

Best workout shoe for everyday wear

Flat sole | Medium cushion | Medium grip 

Another sneaker that also appeared in our status gym-shoe roundup, the high-top Converse All Star has a cult following among weight lifters due to its completely flat sole. (It’s also the only weight-lifting shoe we heard about multiple times.) Product designer Amardeep Singh is among those who like the flat-soled All Star high-tops for weight-lifting: He prefers the ’70 model featured here, which has a thicker sole, telling us you’ve “got to keep it flat if you’re lifting.” Sewell seconds the Converse recommendation, adding that they’re the next best thing to going barefoot (which he says “allows for the most beneficial alignment of the body if you really want to train hard with heavier weights”). There’s killer value here: It’s good for your wardrobe (and your wallet) that one of the best weight-lifting shoes is also an iconic, classic sneaker.

Best less expensive workout shoe for everyday wear

Flat sole | Medium cushion | Medium grip

Strategist UK contributor Anna Fielding is a fan of these stylish, affordable trainers from Feiyue that have their roots in versatile movement. “The trainers originated in 1920s Shanghai, where they were adopted by martial arts practitioners,” she wrote. “These days parkour enthusiasts use them too, as do Chinese schoolchildren doing PE lessons and Shaolin monks. They are lightweight plimsolls, with a canvas body and a cushioned sole. They have bounce. They have grip. And unlike other plimsolls, they’re actually supportive.” Feiyue’s Fe Lo sneakers fit the bill of a solid weight-lifting shoe: they have a flat base, a cushioned sole, and a supportive canvas upper that won’t bust open like a flimsy running shoe upper might. “You can easily wear them without socks, and — good for the sockless to know — I’ve also found they stand up to repeat washing-machine cycles,” Fielding continues. “They stay looking fresh, whites white and colours sharp, longer than any pair of Converse. They don’t fall to pieces, as Keds can, even if you treat them badly and kick them off without bothering to undo the laces.”

Best workout shoe for tennis

Low profile | Medium cushion | High grip

Tennis shoes naturally make up some of the best all-purpose workout shoes. That’s because the sport requires both forward and lateral movement, and shoes that have a durable construction and thick tread to meet the demands of shuffling around the hard court. Former Strategist junior writer Sanibel Chai picked the Gel-Resolution as the best men’s tennis shoe: “Five experts call the Asics Gel-Resolution 8 a fantastic option that, unlike many of the pairs on this list, should fit anyone comfortably regardless of the width or volume of their feet.” In her reporting, she cited NYU’s head tennis coach, Horace Choy, who said the Resolution 8 is “very popular” with his team in part because the shoe’s low profile means you’re “closer to the ground, which I personally think makes you feel a little faster.”

Best workout shoe for outdoor pursuits

Low profile | Light cushion | Vibram outsole with maximum grip

If you’re running on trails rather than on pavement, Strategist contributor and fitness enthusiast Steven John says that of his “many pairs of trail running shoes,” he always comes back to these ones from Merrell. Of their many admirable features, John told us he most admires the way they manage to give the wearer “a better feel for the terrain than typical trail runners,” yet still “doesn’t sacrifice noticeably on cushioning, so I never find myself slowed by rock, roots, or other hard surfaces.” While John will wear them on trail runs, he says they’re just as good “for distance runs on concrete and for use at the gym, too.”

Best workout shoe for running

Narrower, rockered sole | High cushion | Grippy tread for road running

Yes, you don’t want to use running shoes for all of your workouts, but if you’re looking for a basic running shoe that can also handle other activities from time to time, the Pegasus is your pick. In her guide to picking the best running shoes, former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson recommended the Air Zoom Pegasus if “you’d rather not think too much about your running shoes,” she wrote. “The Pegasus has been a dependable part of Nike’s running lineup ever since it was introduced nearly four decades ago. Its cushioning comes from a generous layer of Nike’s proprietary React foam in the midsole.”

Other workout shoes we’ve written about

Our experts

• Ariel Brill, personal trainer
• Sanibel Chai, former Strategist junior writer
• Louis Cheslaw, New York Magazine associate editor
• Horace Choy, NYU’s head tennis coach
Percell Dugger, strength coach and founder of Fit for Us
• Anna Fielding, Strategist UK contributor
• Karen Iorio Adelson, former Strategist senior writer
• Steven John, runner and Strategist contributor
• David Notis, former Strategist writer
• Jeremy Rellosa, Strategist writer
• Sean Sewell, personal trainer and owner at Engearment and Mountain Fitness School
Amardeep Singh, product designer
• Ted Stafford, Men’s Health fashion director

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The Very Best Workout Shoes for Men