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If you’re in the market for a new pair of workout shoes, a great way to sort through the countless styles is to get recs straight from the experts themselves. We tapped instructors, trainers, and marathon-finishers to give us the details on their favorite pairs from tried-and-true classics like Nike and Adidas to more recent standout brands like Hoka and Hilma.
You may want a specific shoe for weightlifting or HIIT workouts, but there are also more versatile sneakers that work for a variety of activities like 12-3-30 on the treadmill, hiking, and interval running. Having a solid pair of workout shoes is an essential part of your motivation to move; they’re the difference between sitting on the sofa watching Survivor and jogging on a gym treadmill — also watching Survivor. It’s all about multitasking, people.
Best for Any Workout
Kirsty Godso raves about the Nike Free Metcon 5. The Nike Master Trainer and founder of Made Of says it’s the most versatile sneaker for any activity, whether you’re doing HIIT and circuit workouts, strength training, running intervals, and even hiking. “Honestly this shoe has never not handled any exercise I’ve thrown at them.”
Godso says it’s lightweight yet has enough support for jumping, squatting, and lifting — especially for those with higher arches like herself. The Free Metcon 5 has a different tongue design than its previous versions, which makes it easier to get into, and the toe box is slightly wider in its most current iteration for extra comfort. “It’s the perfect mix of performance, style, freedom, and durability that you want in a training shoe.”
Best for Cardio
Trainer Erika Hammond knows all about cardio as the creator of the brand-new Knockout program at Equinox. She loves any of the Adidas Ultraboost styles for cardio, but specifies the Stella McCartney ones if you’re in the market for a fashion-forward training shoe. She says they’re stable and well-cushioned, and tends to use them for running, strength training, and group fitness classes. The 2023 version of the Ultraboost is lighter so you’ll feel untethered with every stride.
Best for HIIT Workouts
Alexis Fischer, a pilates instructor and the founder of MOVE by lexfish, turns to this lightweight pair for high-intensity sessions. “You don’t want a shoe to weigh you down or interfere with your balance or form, and the Streamlines feel like you aren’t wearing a shoe at all.” The “FutureFoam” midsole gives you all the bounce needed for explosive movements, and the “AeroLux” knit upper is made of a fabric that reduces drag and makes it breathable.
Best for Outdoor Workouts
Fischer also recommends this pair for any outdoorsy activity like walking, running, or hiking. She says the heel cushion is great for those who are more flat footed, so if you have super-high arches, you might want something that conforms more to your foot shape. If the all-terrain capabilities don’t convince you, the eye-catching color combinations will.
Best for Any Distance Run
If you want a running shoe that feels a little more tailor made to your feet, Halie LeSavage, fashion commerce editor at Harper’s Bazaar, recommends Hilma. She recently trained for and completed the Brooklyn half-marathon wearing these but says they’re dependable for all distances.
You take a fit quiz before ordering a pair as the brand offers three widths and different toe-box shapes to choose from. For those who want a running shoe that’s more function over fashion (the colorways are pretty limited and there’s only one style), Hilma has the option for you. LeSavage says the extra time filling out the fit quiz was well worth getting a sneaker that felt the most true-to-size and comfortable over her other pairs.
Best for Midrange Runs
Fitness instructor and run coach Ceren Kalyon uses these Asics for runs from three to five miles to runs for half-marathon training and everything in between. She’s logged 150 miles on them and they still feel fresh and light on her toes as the day she got them. As someone who has completed four half-marathons, she turns to this pair for their unparalleled fit and support — and the cute color options, of course.
Best for Long-Distance Runs
For those who are planning to go the distance (pun absolutely intended, sorry), these super-shoes are definitely worth looking into. Mia Lardiere, emerging platforms director at Cosmopolitan, says they’re worth the investment to get you through longer slogs. She’s completed two half-marathons and one full, so she knows how important extra cushion is. “In my mind, I am supermodel height when I wear them. The FuelCell foam combined with a carbon plate helps drive you forward, even when you’re feeling fatigued.” She does specify that carbon plates aren’t for everyone, so make sure to rotate into your running shoe gradually to make sure that they work well with your feet. Lardiere also says she goes up a half-size because your feet swell while running. Cute!
Best for All-Weather Runs
Another avid runner is Savannah Sachdev, who just completed the London marathon and has run more than 650 days in a row. Did you know about streak running? Neither did I. She opts for the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3. “I love this shoe, and I also think that it screams speed and style,” she says. “My brother doesn’t give me many compliments, but one of the first things he gruffly mumbled post me finishing the London Marathon was, ‘Shoes look cool.’”
The day of the marathon was an especially soggy one, but Sachdev says the grip on these shoes never failed her on slick surfaces. Another bonus was that the laces never budged, so there was no need for adjustments mid-race. She warns that they do run small, but once you find a size that fits, you’ll fly forward and notice how the bounce increases as you quicken your pace. “I will definitely be relying on these for future races.”
Best for Weight Training
If you’re a lifter, you want a shoe that gives you the necessary stability. Toby Massenburg, who is the group fitness manager at buzzy new L.A. gym Heimat, recommends these NoBull squat shoes. “The wide soles of these shoes allow me to plant my feet firmly during lifts, preventing any slipping or sliding that could compromise my form or safety,” he says. “Additionally, the shoes are designed with durability in mind, ensuring that they can withstand the wear and tear of regular weight training sessions.”
If you want a bolder color, there are so many to choose from like neon pink and swirly patterns, or you can always stick to black or navy. Massenburg says these are an essential part of his weight training routine, and from the 4,500+ reviews, others would strongly agree.
Best for Gym Workouts
Lardiere’s favorite gym sneakers are these Lululemon ones. “I was skeptical about Lululemon’s line of sneakers at first, but I am pleasantly surprised by the Strongfeels. They’re so soft and light that you feel gently held. They’re the friend that quietly likes all your Instagram Stories but never texts.” They run true to size and her only complaint is that the laces sometimes loosen up. Lululemon does offer a 30-day free trial to test them out, and you can get a full refund if you’re less than satisfied.
Best for Walking
It’s been quite the year for French footwear brand Salomon. First Rihanna wore a pair at the Super Bowl, and now designer Sandy Liang launched a collab with the label. Ryan Norville, founder of Oat Cinnamon Studio and new resident of Paris, grabs these for her endless walking. “I spend long days buried in flowers at my studio and early mornings stepping in mystery puddles at the flower market and walk a minimum of 10,000 steps going around Paris, so I need a shoe that is comfortable, not too precious, but also makes me feel dressed at the same time,” she says. “This sneaker checks all those boxes.”
- Kirsty Godso, Nike Master Trainer
- Erika Hammond, trainer
- Alexis Fischer, pilates instructor and founder of MOVE by lexfish
- Halie LeSavage, fashion commerce editor at Harper’s Bazaar
- Ceren Kalyon, fitness instructor and run coach
- Mia Lardiere, emerging platforms director at Cosmopolitan
- Savannah Sachdev, runner
- Ryan Norville, founder of Oat Cinnamon Studio
- Toby Massenburg, fitness manager at Heimat