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.
The best workout shoes for…pounding the pavement
The road runners: Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit
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 8
Brooks’ original Launch launched in 2009 as a straightforward shoe for easy sprinting. A dozen years and seven generations later, the eight edition is as bold as ever – and smarter to boot. 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 best workout shoes for…cross-training and the gym
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. Under Armour’s Hovr foam is designed to reduce impact and maximise energy return for each rep. Strapping around the heel of the Apex 3 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 athletic all-rounders: Adidas Futurenatural
You can easily pick your kicks for specific workouts, but what if you want to mix it up? These do-it-all Adidas shoes are designed to take everything in their stride. From training room to running club, their sculpted sole mimics the form of your foot, with a wider heel and forefoot for enhanced stability as you move in any direction. Plus the PrimeKnit upper should leave your hoof feeling free.
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 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 second soles: Vivobarefoot x Finisterre Primus Trail Knit
Going barefoot isn’t for everyone. But if you prefer to feel the ground you’re bounding over, try these crossover soles. Shaped for your feet, the Primus Trail Knit require a period of adjustment: they’re larger at the toe, to give your hooves room to move naturally. Build up to longer runs and you’ll find that the tread beneath balances grip and feedback for pared-back performance. The shoes themselves are lightweight, flexible, yet remarkably rugged, with their recycled, vegan construction providing a breathable layer that’s low-profile but protective on the trail.