Our guide to the best cross training shoes or workout shoes is intended to help you pick the perfect footwear for every type of exercise you can do in a gym. All of our picks are based solely on performance, with special consideration for versatility. No points for looks here.
Our testers agree that one of the main characteristics of a good workout shoe is that it should be able to handle everything the gym can throw at it from box jumps to deadlifts. These shoes need to feature great traction, solid support, and enough cushion to keep you pain-free after a hard session in the gym.
We have tested a large number of models from an array of different brands. From well-known brands like Under Armour or Adidas to the more niche brands like GORUCK or Vivobarefoot.
So, with that being said, check out our best cross training shoes guide!
Last updated 6.09.2022
Best Cross Training Shoes
- Best Cross Training Shoes to Buy in 2022
- Best Budget Cross Training Shoes
- How We Test Cross Training Shoes
Best Cross Training Shoes to Buy in 2022
GORUCK Ballistic Trainer
GORUCK is an upstart training gear company founded by a Special Forces veteran, that’s also pioneering a whole new sport called Rucking. The GORUCK Ballistic Trainer is currently our favorite cross-training shoe.
GORUCK uses durable Ballistic nylon for the back two-thirds of the shoe. The nylon used on the Ballistic Trainer is tough and soft at the same time. Cordura nylon is used on very few shoes, mostly for cost reasons. It gives off a vibe that the shoe is ready for anything. The knit toe box and tongue are one seamless piece that flexes great and feels minimal on foot.
The shoe’s cushion is what GORUCK calls Gradient Density EVA. The shoe is more cushioned and better at rebounding in the forefoot to accommodate jumping, running, and explosive movement. The heel of the shoe is denser and stiffer to provide a stable platform while doing various lifting movements like deadlifts and squats. Perfect for your ever-changing workouts
On the bottom, what looks to be an outsole made of one type of rubber is actually made of 3 different rubbers. A grippy forefoot, a harder more durable midfoot made for climbing ropes, and a denser heel to endure heel strikes while running.
But remember that the Ballistic Trainer runs “about a half size larger than other athletic trainers”. We recommend going a half size down from your normal shoe size for the best fit. Read the full review. Price: $125
Reasons to buy: The best cross training shoe on the market
Reasons why not to buy: None
Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 3
The Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 3 is highly versatile. Few training shoes can do as much as this one does. For how the Nike SuperRep 3 performs, the retail price of $120 is a bargain. You might be skeptical at first as it’s an odd-looking shoe, but once you put the shoe through its paces, it won’t disappoint, and you’ll be able to focus on setting personal records.
One of its best assets is the cushion. Though we don’t know the specifics, the previous two models have used Cushlon, and it feels that way here. It’s probably one of the softer foams you’ll put under your feet. You won’t mind using them casually because of this.
The Zoom Air pods at the front aren’t as bouncy as we expected, but they gives a lot of impact protection and stability. That’s a great combination for working out. See the full review. Price: $120
Reasons to buy: All around comfort
Reasons why not to buy: Outlandish design
Under Armour TriBase Reign 4
The Under Armour TriBase Reign 4 is one of the best options available for heavy lifters. If you’re one to do PRs often or want to push yourself to your limits, the TriBase Reign 4 is a good companion. What’s more, is that wide-footers will be happy with how accommodating and well-fitting this shoe is.
This shoe can also handle short cardio sessions. Emphasis on short. We don’t recommend doing cardio in these for a prolonged period of time as they’re not built for that.
The TriBase technology works wonderfully to ensure stability. Even when doing heavy deadlifting, these handled the job well and posed no problems. The grip is also excellent on gym surfaces. See the full review. Price: $120
Reasons to buy: Great stability
Reasons why not to buy: Sizing issues
Nike Metcon 7
The Nike Metcon 7 is great for weightlifting and various exercises in the gym. However, its lack of heel cushioning means it’s not very good for running. Running on a treadmill is doable for the occasional short sprint work but for anything over a quarter-mile, it’s not your best option. That said, for lifts where you need a stable base and a flexible forefoot, it’s just about perfect. Read the full review. Price: $130
Reasons to buy: Forefoot flexibility, forefoot cushion, fit
Reasons not to buy: Clunky heel, laces and lace lock, durability
The herringbone pattern on the Nike Metcon 7 grips well but the rubber used is too thin and pliable. The shoe collects little rocks and other junk when doing anything outside. Keep the Nike Metcon 7 indoors and the traction will shine.
The full-length Nike React cushioning is a big win. While it’s not as noticeable in the heel, the forefoot feels really good. Any exercise on your toes gets fantastic impact protection.
The nylon mesh upper is a great idea given the purpose of the shoe but gets nicked up pretty quickly. It’s just not as rugged as it needs to be. The heel portion with its vinyl overlays doesn’t get too beat up though. So just know this shoe will show its age (and how hard your work out).
The Nike Metcon 7 is the most accommodating Metcon so far. The toebox is widened while the rest of the upper is streamlined. In addition, the upper breaks in nicely and the dynamic fit system keeps the foot well locked down.
A nice wide base and the plastic Hyperlift at the rear of the shoe make the Metcon 7 super stable during Olympic lifts. You won’t be wasting energy moving from side to side in this shoe.
Reebok Nano X1
The Reebok Nano X1 is technically a CrossFit shoe, which means that it’s designed to handle a wide variety of different moves. Reebok used their split-finger outsole on the Nano X1. Consider it Reebok’s attempt at giving a traditional training shoe the mobility of a five toe shoe. The Nano X1 outsole is split in the forefoot enough to allow for each toe and toe area to grip the floor almost independently. The Nano X1 is an excellent shoe for the gym, however, if you are looking for a flat or zero drop shoe, the Nano is not for you. Read the full review. Price: $130
Reasons to buy: Ultra versatile, extra cushion and excellent traction
Reasons not to buy: Forefoot support.
The shoe’s outsole features a split outsole to allow a more natural movement of the foot. The outsole also allows for lateral flex, meaning the shoe rolls sideways as well as forward, so on lateral movements or climbs, the outsole stays in contact with the surface.
There are colorways of the Nano X1 that feature translucent rubber on the sole, which could be a traction red flag for other brands, but not for Reebok who, historically, has had great translucent rubber. The bladed pattern worked well on squats and lunges as well as box jumps, short runs, and even some court work – just not basketball.
Under foot, the Nano X1 utilizes what may be one of the best foam based cushion setups on the market: Floatride. Floatride is essentially a lighter form of adidas’ proprietary max cushion foam Boost. Floatride made its training debut in the Reebok JJ 4. The Floatride midsole was implemented by Reebok to make the Nano X1 more comfortable for running while still being able to handle the rigors of the weight room.
While most cross training or functional fitness sneakers are stiff from the mesh construction (durability and stability are key), the Nano X1 uses a new Flexweave Knit for better flex and comfort while still being tough enough for the gym. However, in a first for Reebok, the Nano X1 is also available in Flexweave Grit, a tougher, more durable and supportive material for the crazy days or bigger athletes.
The toebox of the Nano X1 is also reshaped from the bulkier, flat toebox of previous models to a sleeker, formed shape. This is mostly to make the aesthetics cross over from the gym to the street. The toebox is now wider to allow your toes to splay out in a more natural position and grip while lifting.
One concern that one might have, because of the extra cushion, is that, while lifting, it might create instability, especially in the heel. Luckily, the Nano X1 has a crazy support system in the heel, featuring raised sidewalls along the lateral and medial heel that run all the way to the midfoot. The rubber compound is stiff enough to provide enough support for any lift you would do.
The forefoot outsole/midsole combo is wider than the footbed, which gives the forefoot a solid base for planting and jumping as well as landings. There’s no midfoot support shank but the stiffness of the rubber and the flat platform work well to keep your foot bending the right way.
UA HOVR Apex 2
If you need a shoe that can go from the weights to box jumps to lateral drills to turf training, the UA HOVR Apex 2 is a solid do everything shoe. Heck, the Apex 2 can even handle an outdoor basketball game or two (lateral forefoot containment would be the weak point on court). Read the full review. Price: $120
Reasons to buy: excellent cushion for the gym, to-notch traction and fit.
Reasons why not to buy: If you intend to run in them for long stretches.
The traction on the UA HOVR Apex 2 is very turf inspired and is built using thick rubber with forefoot lugs and deep flex grooves. We tested the shoe using a squat rack, leg press, box jumps, driveway lunges, ropes and with cone drills on grass; and the Apex 2 excelled in all movements. The shoe is better suited for lifting and training versus just running. The rubber is thick and stiff under foot. For short runs, the Apex 2 is a respectable choice.
The shoe features Under Armour’s proprietary foam compound HOVR. HOVR is a bouncy foam/rubber combo that can be tuned to different levels of impact protection or hardness depending on the netting and caging.
The HOVR in the Apex 2 is almost completely caged except the two small windows at the heels. Even with the caging, you can feel the cushion doing its job. The EVA carrier is soft, softer than the Under Armour Project Rock 2. Soft enough that the shoe can be a crossover runner as needed.
The shoe features a simple mesh upper, that is soft and flexible with a tight weave, overlaid with kurim/rubber in strategic places for durability. The overlays are 3D and aren’t built for stability or support. They’re the little lines or ribs on the upper that you see in the pictures. They add extra durability on the high-wear areas of the upper.
The rest of the upper is thickly padded and bulky. The tongue is almost like a skate shoe. It’s thick, big, and densely padded using the same micromesh as the upper. The ankle area has a quilted padding that snuggly cups the joint and fits perfect.
The shoe fits true to size. The shoe might look bulky but the inner padding fills the space. The heel is really where the fit shines. The thick, dense, quilted padding forms and wraps around your foot. The heel strap works to pull the foot down into the heel.
The shoe offers a great blend of support to withstand explosive movements and cushion to protect your joints while doing them. The EVA carrier around the edges is stiff and solid with some slight give but no collapsing.
The heel is also housed inside a stiffer TPU cage where the visible HOVR windows are located. The heel works even better at keeping your foot in the up and down plane of motion and allowing side-to-side motion.
Also, the base of the shoe is wide. Although it sits higher than a shoe like the Nike Metcon 6 or Reebok Nano X, the Apex 2 never felt unstable or like it would roll or tip. The main reason for this is the TriBase plate under the midfoot. The support plate and the outsole’s flat, wide area contribute mightily to the solid stability and support. The forefoot can still flex naturally and doesn’t feel too much like a weightlifting shoe.
On Cloud X
The On Cloud X is a hybrid cross training and running shoe from upstart running brand On. It’s versatility lets the wearer bounce between various athletic activities. The On Cloud X’s high build quality handles any typical movements you’d make while working out or running. To top it off, the shoe looks great casually. Is it worth $140? Only if you’re going to use them casually as much as you will for working out. Read the full review. Price: $140
Reasons to buy: Can handle the gym and short runs seamlessly
Reasons why not to buy: The price
The On Cloud X has Helion Cloudtec cushioning alongside a plush insole. The plush insole sits atop a TPU Speedboard that helps to evenly distribute your weight to all the cloud cushioning elements. It’s a nice consistent feel throughout the foot.
The cushion level is in the perfect range to handle various workouts and some running. It handles deadlifts, squats, jumping, and sprints without feeling like too much or too little cushion.
On uses rubber with a very simple slanted line pattern on the clouds at the toe and heel. The rubber’s hardness is appropriate for both working out and light running. The outsole should last the life of the shoe despite not looking all that aggressive. Testing in wet conditions didn’t come with any slippage or issues. It’s a simple outsole but it works as intended.
The midsole’s sidewalls come up high enough at the heel and midfoot to provide solid lateral support. And the forefoot features internally-reinforced sidewalls and a toe cap to keep the balls of your feet on top of the midsole. The shoe feels secure while doing various weight-bearing exercises, sideways lunges, taking corners while running, and quick shifts of direction.
The Cloud X’s engineered mesh upper features various weave patterns. The tongue is seamless and integrated as one piece with the toebox. All the materials are basic but, On has a way of making them look high class. Despite just using mesh, On manages to make one of the best-looking cross trainers on the market.
The Cloud X fits true to size with plenty of room for wide footers and toe splay. Narrow footers that cinch the shoes up tight don’t have to worry about weird toebox creasing because On manages to mitigate that with the toebox/tongue combo structure. The mesh interior of the shoe is very soft and avoids any potential hotspots in the forefoot with a dual-layered mesh setup. Finally, On tops the fit off with some skinny but surprisingly nice feeling achilles and collar pads. The pads are broken up in an intuitive way that lets them hug the heel without feeling puffy.
Reebok JJ IV
Reebok may have left the performance basketball world behind, but they’ve never stopped creating performance footwear. Recent examples of Reebok’s performance prowess include the Nano X and Floatride Forever Energy 2. In addition to those two, JJ Watt’s cross trainer line consistently produces some of the best performers. And now, whew, Reebok is taking it to a new level with the JJ IV. Read the full review. Price: $100
Reasons to buy: Floatride cushion, comfort, traction, price
Reasons why not to buy: Shoe length
The JJ IV features a radial traction pattern that works amazingly well. The shoe provides coverage in all directions and grips from any angle. It worked very well during all types of movements from box jumps, leg presses, squats, seated toe raises, sled work, or even short periods of 3-on-3 basketball.
The JJ VI features Reebok’s Floatride foam which is an amazing cushion set-up. The Floatride foam is caged in the shoe’s heel, so the shoe doesn’t bounce and spring like the running line, but this setup works better for heavy lifting. It stabilizes the heel while still compressing under foot for running, cardio, and basketball.
The forefoot is EVA but also has nice compression. Even with just EVA under the forefoot, I didn’t have any issues with impact to the knees or back from landing on concrete or gym floors.
The JJ IV utilizes Flexweave in the upper, a nylon-coated woven thread material. It uses tighter patterns in all the areas that need more support (lateral forefoot, heel, and ankle). The Flexweave is looser in areas that benefit from more flex (like the toebox). The shoe features some fuse areas like around the toebox and around the laces,
Lengthwise, at true to size, the toebox feels slightly long. However, the midfoot and heel are locked in. The extra length doesn’t affect performance, however. The midfoot is completely locked in through the panels and lacing system. And the heel is nicely padded and locked in as well with the last lace strap pulling the shoe in and around the foot.
The JJ IV keeps the design sleek and slimmed down by having no extra structure for support, and it does that while keeping a wide-ish base without feeling clunky or slow. The caged heel and the lacing system lock the foot into the shoe and stop any slips or slides. The shoe doesn’t feel particularly supportive but it gets the job done.
Vivobarefoot Magna FG
If you’re interested in reaching for a zero drop cross training shoe, this is the best and most versatile option on the market. The shoe features excellent materials and some grippy traction. Zero drop shoes do take some getting used to though. Read the full review. Price: $190
Reasons to buy: The zero drop set up
Reasons why not to buy: The zero drop set up
The traction on these shoes is aggressive. The shoe features Vivobarefoot’s “Firm Ground Sole”, which includes an effective and durable t-shaped traction pattern meant for a variety of different surfaces.
The sole is primarily a semi-translucent gum rubber that sits on a 2.5mm base with a 4mm lug height. It’s designed to maximize ground feel and grip on everything from wet, dry, to rocky and firm terrain. The textured arch also provides zonal grip for technical trail movement.
This answer is simple. The shoe does not provide cushion and that’s the point. The little cushion you do get comes from the Outlast Thermal Insole inside. The temperature regulating insole helps keep your feet cool as you train by absorbing, storing and releasing heat.
The shoe is made from naturally scarred leather from free-roaming cattle sourced from small-scale farmers (so not vegan friendly) with a water-resistant treatment so you can use them cross country without getting your feet wet. The shoe’s body is made with Woolmark certified Merino wool. Wool is naturally breathable, temperature-regulating and sweat-wicking. The laces are terrible though so make sure to switch them out.
The shoe fits true to size, but the shoe is purposely roomy. The forefoot area is wider than normal to allow your toes to spread out naturally, instead of being pushed together by a more traditional pointy shoe shape. So, they feel loose in the forefoot. In this case, that’s a good thing.
The shoe features a rubber cup in the heel and two wings on either side that pull your foot into the shoe bed and hold it in place. Aside from that, you are depending on the lacing system to keep your foot stable.
UA Project Rock 3
The Project Rock 3 features an excellent version of HOVR combined with Under Armour’s TriBase weight lifting set-up which is stable and solid. If you are looking for a shoe built for the weight room, some light running, and cardio, look no further. The Project Rock 3 checks every box. Read the full review. Price: $140
Reasons to buy: Tribase geometry, plush cushion, knit upper
Reasons why not to buy: The sub-par support, tight fit
The shoe features a TriBase panel in the midfoot for stability, large flex grooves cut across the forefoot, through the diamond patterns, and a large lug of sticky, durable rubber across the heel. The traction held up great under every task thrown at it.
The forefoot of the Project Rock 3 is soft but responsive and at the same time stable on the edges, and flexible underfoot. It’s almost a runner feel in the forefoot. The shoe felt good up to three miles. The heel is caged and stiffer. The added rigidity keeps the shoe from twisting or compressing when you’re doing heavy lifts.
The UA Project Rock 3 uses a knit that is stretchy, compressive, comfortable, breathable, etc. The midfoot cage is a thicker, padded textile is 3D-molded with a ripstop material overlay for support. The ankle features more knitted materials while the heel cup is a harder rubber material. The last part to mention is the heel collar. The Rock 3 utilizes a large Achilles pillow for comfort and help with lockdown.
The UA Project Rock 3 fits a half-size small. The toebox is extremely snug, but at least the knit is very accommodating and stretches well around your foot without being too constrictive and uncomfortable. It’s wearable in your true size but will be too tight for many people.
The base is wide, solid under the arch, and connects the heel and forefoot for added torsional restriction. The last thing you want coming down from a box jump or while under a squat bar is an unstable platform. The TriBase takes care of it.
The fit does lock in and keep your foot from sliding on lateral movements, but the knit forefoot doesn’t do so well trying to hold your foot on the footbed.
Best Budget Cross Training Shoes
Nike Renew Retaliation TR 3
The Nike Renew Retaliation TR 3 is a good option for those on a budget. It features Nike’s Renew foam, though it is implemented differently here than most. There is no dual-density foam, which is good because that ensures continuity and lessens instability. The traction is also thick, so these will last you a while. Read the full review. Price: $75
Reasons to buy: Thick outsole, Renew foam
Reasons why not to buy: Non-premium materials
Nike Legend Essential 2
The Nike Legend Essential 2 is by far the cheapest shoe on this list, but don’t be fooled. Although nothing will surprise you and make you feel like you got the steal of the year, you won’t be disappointed because it has all the basics down. The performance lives up to the name. Read the full review. Price: $60
Reasons to buy: Great flexibility, Breathable
Reasons why not to buy: Flimsy heel counter
How We Test Cross Training Shoes
In this case, we are looking for a blend of performance and versatility. There are so many different exercises that can be performed in a gym, and each demands different characteristics out of your footwear. Heavy weightlifting requires a flat stable base with very little cushion, plyometric training will require support and good traction, cardio will probably require more cushion, etc. So you can either go super specific with your workouts, carry around 10 different pairs of shoes, or go with a great do-it-all model. And that’s where we come in.
We test the essential criteria as we do in our basketball and running shoe reviews: traction, materials, support, cushion, fit. Then we give the shoe an overall rating. For training shoes, however, models get extra points for universality and versatility. Essentially, will most people will like them and can they perform most gym activities.
If a model isn’t featured, it’s either because the model has yet to be tested/reviewed or because we feel it does not belong among the current top cross training shoes. If you’d like to suggest we test a certain model, comment below or reach out via Twitter.