Barefoot exercise might connect you with the earth, but treading on a thorn won’t do much for your PB. For sole support that shields your feet, you can’t top a pair of the best workout shoes.
Looking to put a spring in your step? Whether you’re pushing to beat your PB, cross-training to torch your core or going wild to bound over boulders, the right trainers can make all the difference.
From springy gym sneakers to supportive trail shoes, all of the lace-ups below will help you leap towards success – whatever your fitness discipline. Just add socks.
Additional copy by Jack Needham
The best workout shoes for pounding the pavement
The road runners: Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2
Some runners like to feel every bit of feedback from the road beneath their feet. These Nike kicks are not for those people. With more foam than a dodgy disco, the ZoomX will have you bouncing along like a battery-powered bunny. Striving for maximum shock absorption, the cushioned sneakers also feature a wide forefoot for super stability. Because soft strides go easier on your knees, it should mean you’re not hobbling after attacking the asphalt.
The power platforms: New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2
You won’t find an actual FuelCell inside these running shoes. Which is lucky, because hidden hydrogen would likely lead to lifetime disqualification from your local Park Run. Instead, the foamy loafers feature a high-rebound midsole compound paired with a full-length carbon fibre plate. Working together, the two materials promise to propel you forward with every step. So you should finally be equipped to power past Susan, your Saturday jogging nemesis.
The streamlined sprinters: Brooks Launch 9
Brooks’ original Launch launched in 2009 as a straightforward shoe for easy sprinting. 14 years and seven generations later, the ninth edition is as bold as ever. Lightweight BioMoGo DNA cushioning adapts to your specific stride for superior support, while air-injected rubber on the sole is designed to reduce contact time by launching you forward. The midsole stack height has been increased by 2 mm compared to past models too, which provides more responsiveness in your stride.
The best workout shoes for cross-training and gym exercise
The springy steppers: Under Armour HOVR Apex 3
New shoes won’t transform you into Hercules, but they might boost you to a new personal best. And while the Under Armour Hovr Apex 3 may be a little old (and, by default, a little cheaper), they’re a great all-rounder. The Under Armour foam is designed to reduce impact and maximise energy return for each rep. Strapping around the heel of the Apex 3 also adds extra lifting stability, while the TriBase sole gives you the right balance of grip, ground contact and flexibility when you clean and jerk.
The workout warriors: Inov-8 F-Lite G 300
Think the varied challenges of cross-training make it tough on you? Try being a shoe: from lifts to squats to box jumps, your plimsolls have to deal with all sorts of strain while you work out. Featherweight and foot-hugging, these multi-talented trotter protectors are reinforced with a graphene Powerheel for ultimate support and durability while you huff, puff and gurn.
The fabric flexers: Reebok Nano X1
Knitting gets a bad rep. Sure, working the needles might not score top points for street cred, but a good weave can wrap your foot just right. Take the Flexweave upper on these Reebok kickers: soft yet durable, it gives just enough flex to keep your feet comfortable, with the strength to go the distance. Add responsive Floatride foam underfoot and you’ve got proof that there’s power in going woven.
The best workout shoes for trail-running
The tree-loving trainers: Allbirds Trail Runners SWT
Trail running is all about appreciating nature. Luckily, so are these sneakers: made with love for the great outdoors, the all-terrain Allbirds are crafted from a suite of sustainable materials. The one-piece upper is made using splinter-free eucalyptus tree fibre and ethical ZQ Merino wool, while the midsole is a sugarcane number. Recycled polyester ripstop forms the protective mudguard, with castor bean oil contributing to the insole. The laces? They used to be plastic bottles.
The go-anywhere grippers: On Running Cloudventure
Only the highest trails will take you into the clouds, but don these all-terrain trainers and you’ll feel like you’re treading on air. On Running’s third-gen Cloudventures combine chunky lugs for maximum grip with a trio of technical materials: Speedboard to maintain your momentum, CloudTec to cushion impacts and Helion superfoam to propel you forward. Working in unison, they deliver an off-road experience that’s light on weight, low on impact.
The high-speed hikers: Hoka One Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX
Most people are happy hiking up hills, but some nutters need to sprint to the summit. If you’re one of them, these lace-ups will help you make like a mountain goat. Part hiking boot, part trail runner, the waterproof Hoka hooves give you grip and flexibility for all conditions. Moulded foam collars keep your ankles supported as you clamber, while a Megagrip outsole delivers all the traction its name suggests.
The fashionable fell shoes: ACG Zoom Gaiadome
ACG (All Conditions Gear) is Nike’s line of hard-wearing gear for mountaineers, trailers and wet weather wanderers. And, because it’s Nike, ACG toes the line between exceptionally trendy and tough. You’ll pay a pretty penny for the name and quality, but there is both style and substance to be found in the ACG Zoom Gaiadome hiking boots. The Gaiadome’s are specially specced out for steep inclines, while a Trailframe underfoot adds some extra stability. The Summit White colour pattern will have you roaming those hills like a rambling space cadet, too.
The rest and recover: Hoka Ora Recovery Slide
Proper rest and recovery is almost as important as exercise itself. After all, you won’t be breaking any personal bests if there’s no petrol in the engine. Recovery shoes are one way of ensuring your muscles relax and recuperate after a fitness session, and the Hoka Ora Recovery Slides do just that. For one, they’re incredibly comfortable with a cushioned sole, which makes for a forgiving impact when walking. Our personal favourite feature, though, is the textured insole that massages your foot as you walk. The Hoka Ora are available in both men and women sizes, and at £40 are a real bargain.