Whether you’re heading into a HIIT class, lifting session, long run, or challenging hike, you definitely want your feet to feel good. And that’s what the best workout shoes can do: They’ll help you feel stable, supported, and most importantly, comfortable, throughout your favorite activities.
Over the years, SELF has accrued quite the list of road-tested, highly vetted footwear for everything from heavy lifting to cardio to leisurely strolls. We’ve featured some of our absolute favorites below, as well as tips on how to find the best gym shoes to meet your needs. All of them come recommended by experts or have garnered a SELF Sneaker Award in years past. Read on to find your next favorite pair of shoes.
Our top picks:
- For walking: Hoka Bondi 8
- For running: Nike Invincible 3
- For weightlifting: Xero Shoes Forza Trainer
- For HIIT and cross-training: Reebok Nano X3
- For hiking: Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid
- For indoor cycling: Tiem Slipstream Indoor Bike Shoes
Best Walking Shoes
Walking shoes should be well-cushioned and offer a good amount of support in your forefoot and heel. The SELF Sneaker Award–winning Hoka Bondi 8, Skechers Max Cushioning Elite 2.0, and Fresh Foam X 1080 V12 from New Balance are three particularly foam-heavy iterations—they’re great options if you spend a ton of time on your feet and like your shoes to feel almost marshmallowy. Slightly less padded but still highly comfortable—even when walking long distances—is the ASICS GT-1000 12, which won our award for Most Supportive Walking Sneaker in 2023. Ryka’s Sky Walk is a great budget-friendly shoe, while Kuru’s Quantum sneaker is our top pick for walkers with plantar fasciitis.
Best Running Shoes
Most of our running picks are SELF Sneaker Award winners, meaning they were rigorously tested and reviewed based on expert criteria then evaluated for what they’re best suited for. Everyday runners and beginners will be well-served by the SELF Sneaker Award–winning Nike Invincible 3 and the SELF Certified Adidas Supernova Rise, while the Brooks Adrenaline GTS is a more supportive choice for people with flat feet. If you want a foam-forward, pillowy shoe, try On Running’s Cloudmonster, which won a 2022 SELF Sneaker Award for its cushy feel. Anyone with a need for speed should take Under Armour’s Flow Velociti Elite sneaker for a spin—it brought home the title of Best Race Day Shoe in our 2023 Sneaker Awards. And for those who like to take their runs off-road, there’s the New Balance FreshFoam More Trail v3, which has a breathable mesh upper and thick foam midsole to protect against uneven terrain.
Best Weightlifting Shoes
If you’ll be lacing up for a strength training session, there are two types of lifting shoes to consider: those with flat or lifted soles. Flat shoes, like Converses, Nobull trainers, the SELF Certified Lululemon Strongfeel sneakers, or Nike Metcons, are for folks who prefer a more grounded feel and little to no arch support or heel elevation when they’re lifting. Shoes with higher heels, on the other hand, can increase your ankle’s range of motion, which may help you deepen your lifts while maintaining proper form, Tiffany Thompson, NASM-certified performance coach at Future, previously told SELF. Whichever type of shoe you prefer, all of our picks are fairly stiff and provide a stable base underfoot to help you generate power through your feet for strong squats and deadlifts. If you want to minimize side-to-side foot-shifting, look for shoes with both laces and midsole straps like Inov-8’s Fastlift or the SELF Sneaker Award–winning Xero Forza.
Best HIIT and Cross-Training Shoes
If you’re into plyometrics, aerobics, Crossfit, or HIIT, you need a gym shoe with a sturdy and durable sole and shock absorption. These are workouts that require you to be quick on your feet, even when you’re jumping, doing lateral movements, or running—a shoe that moves with you while offering support and softening the impact of your footfalls will be ideal (bonus points if it’s breathable). Two major bestsellers—the Nike Free Metcon 5 and the Reebok Nano X3—won 2023 SELF Sneaker Awards for Best Cross-Trainers because they checked these essential boxes. The York Frank Trainer, a previous SELF Sneaker Award winner, has also been a longtime favorite of ours for its support, versatility, and roomy mesh toe box (the retro colorways don’t hurt either). Another solid option is Ryka’s SELF Certified Dauntless cross-training shoe—it has a grippy sole and bouncy cushioning, and it’s available in two widths.
Best Hiking Boots
Prefer the trails? These best-selling hiking boots all have supremely grippy outsoles for slippery terrain, plus extra ankle support to prevent rolling when things get rocky. Some are also water-resistant, like the expert-recommended La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX and the SELF Sneaker Award–winning Keen Targhee III, in case you’re trudging through puddles or rain. If you want something super sturdy (and don’t mind a little added weight), look at the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid. Merrell’s exceedingly comfy Moab 3 boot, which is similarly solid but with a little less bulk. And if you want the feel of a sneaker with the traction of a boot, check out Adidas’s Terrex Free Hiker 2 and Salomon’s Outpulse Mid Gore-Tex boot—they’ve both won SELF Sneaker Awards for their hybrid designs and lightweight feel.
Best Indoor Cycling Shoes
Cycling shoes, which have cleats that attach to clip-in pedals, help align your hips, knees, and feet to reduce your chance of injury. They also lock your feet to the bike, which means there’s no chance of them slipping and, instead of just pushing down on the pedals with your quads, you can utilize your hamstrings to pull up, which makes your riding more efficient. Our personal favorite is the Tiem Slipstream: It won a 2022 SELF Sneaker Award because of its cross-trainer-like sole and recessed cleat, which makes them ideal for hybrid classes where you’re getting on and off the bike to work out. If you’re looking for a more stylish option, check out Nike’s sleek SuperRep shoes (they’re one of New York City–based cycling instructor Erica Osberg’s top choices).