Mix up your training with the best cross training shoes. Top models balance comfort and versatility so that you can move from weightlifting to running or HIIT without stopping.
Choosing cross training shoes can be a minefield, but generally speaking you should aim to find a durable outsole and a light and cushioned midsole to absorb shock. They should also offer stability, flexibility, and a perfect fit around your toes and heels.
The best running shoes offer a specialist fit for runners and cyclists are better off with the best Peloton shoes for home and outdoor cycling. But if you like to mix it up, the best cross training shoes are your best bet for switching between deadlifts and a 5km run.
For example, many brands enhance the tread patterns to improve traction and rubberize the midsoles for better grip on rope climbs or outdoor runs. According to Statistica (opens in new tab), nearly 10 million Americans participated in cross-training in 2021, so we tested the best cross training shoes for all budgets and athletes to help you keep exercising well into the new year.
The best cross training shoes
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The Nike Metcon 7 is a shoe engineered for cross-training. Combining the stability you’ll need under the barbell with the support you’ll need on the treadmill, it’s built with multifaceted performance in mind. And for the most part, it succeeds with flying colors.
Nike bills their Metcon 7 as “the Gold Standard for weight training,” and popping them on for a deadlift day, I could see why. Generally, I find cross training shoes to be far too soft for heavy resistance training. But because of a widened, flattened heel base with a reinforced inner plate that helped to distribute my weight evenly, I was able to maintain decent stability through several strength sets. A relatively low drop (the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot, measured in millimeters) further improved this much-needed lower body stability.
That’s not to say that the Nike Metcon 7 lacks the cushioning you’ll need for short duration higher-impact activities, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or a few sprints around the track. With this latest Metcon model, Nike added their “React” foam to the shoe’s midsole for a more responsive feel. My rather sensitive foot and ankle complex felt appropriately supported (and comfortable) for several rounds of squat jumps, burpees, and brief Fartleks. And with a velcro tab at the top of the shoe’s tongue, you’ll never have to worry about pausing a cardio round to retie your laces.
If your training regimen involves reliving nightmares from middle school gym class, you’re in luck. The Metcon 7 features a thick, rubberized arch wrap that — in theory — provides enhanced traction for rope climbs. I haven’t been through enough therapy to re-attempt a rope climb, so I’ll have to take Nike’s word on this one.
All in all, you could get away with wearing the Metcon 7s for almost any workout imaginable. However, the fact remains that it’s a relatively heavy shoe without a huge abundance of springy cushioning. After running about a mile in them, my feet were aching. You’d be better off switching to one of the best running shoes for longer distances.
Bottom Line: The Nike Metcon 7 is an incredibly versatile shoe, appropriate for almost any activity in or out of the gym.
Like many products, cross training shoes are, by and large, designed with a man’s foot in mind. With a few small but meaningful departures from the norm, Ryka has developed a shoe made to fit a woman’s foot to a T: the Ryka Devotion XT, to be exact.
Until testing out the Devotion XT, I never realized just how much regular sneakers tend to slip up and down on my heel (I guess I had gotten used to needing the occasional band-aid across my Achilles). The Devotion XT features a narrower heel, a broadened toe, and extra arch and heel support — all engineered to more appropriately fit a woman’s unique foot shape. These somewhat minor changes resulted in a major performance shift — the Devotion XT stayed secure for the entirety of my workouts, without putting undue pressure on my foot.
Besides feeling secure, the Ryka Devotion XT was one of the most comfortable shoes on our list. Walking out on the gym floor felt like I was stepping on mini mattresses, and slipping them on for a walk felt like I was strolling along some fluffy cumulus clouds. This is a positive quality in some regards, but it can also be a negative (I’ll get to that momentarily).
Unlike most cross training shoes, the Ryka Devotion XT’s midsole is incredibly flexible, almost mimicking a dance sneaker. This aspect, paired with a “pivot point” (a smooth circular point under the ball of the foot) to assist with turning, makes it an excellent footwear choice for cardio dance classes.
The Devotion XT may work well for Zumba or Jazzercise, but I’d avoid going for any strength PRs while wearing them. All that cushioning is great for comfort, but it inhibits foot stability when lifting heavy loads. You could use them for HIIT circuits or light resistance training, but they wouldn’t be my top choice — there are other shoes on our list with much stronger traction on the outsoles.
Bottom Line: Ryka has designed the Devotion XT with a woman’s foot shape in mind, and female athletes will be able to feel the difference.
One thing’s for sure — there aren’t a lack of options when it comes to masculine cross training shoes. But there are certain design aspects that better accommodate a man’s foot, and you’ll find several of those aspects in the NOBULL Trainer+.
The Trainer+ features a wider and less tapered outsole, which is great in a few different ways. For one, you’ll get a little more surface area to work with and, in turn, a greater degree of stability and grip. This is helpful for working with heavier loads, where you’ll need the solid base and decent grounding that the Trainer+ provides.
This wider outsole also means a not-so-dainty foot will get some additional wiggle room. While the Trainer+’s silhouette seemed slightly big for my comfort level, a male colleague who owns his own pair reports that they fit him better than any other model of cross training shoe (and I definitely wouldn’t consider his foot dainty).
Another big plus for the Trainer+’s outsole is a deep herringbone tread pattern that transitions well for outdoor workouts. I laced them up for some functional training in the backyard and was pleasantly surprised at how well I found my footing in the soil. That deep herringbone tread creeps up along the inner midsole, which is great news for those of you who like a little masochism (rope climbs) with your exercise routines. And with a durable one-piece upper mesh construction, you won’t have to worry about any impacts from the elements.
There’s no doubt that the Trainer+ is a solid shoe, however “solid” often translates to “heavy,” and that’s, unfortunately, the case here. The thick outsole is stable but clunky — it felt more like I was wearing a hiking boot when attempting a run or a HIIT workout. You also won’t find too much arch support, despite a cushioned midsole. My insanely flat feet were screaming at me after about an hour with them on.
Bottom Line: Design features like a wider outsole make the NOBULL Trainer+ a great option for male athletes.
If there’s one place you don’t want to cut corners, it’s in shopping for training shoes (trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way). That being said, a good pair can cost you well over $150, sometimes inching closer to $200. If you want to add some variety into your exercise regimen but don’t want to break the bank doing it, the UA HOVR Rise 3 is your answer.
For a relatively affordable sneaker, I was quite surprised at the HOVR Rise 3’s quality — the upper mesh was breathable, pliable, and durable, while the outsole and internal “UA HOVR” cushioning was supportive without feeling uncomfortably hard. In fact, the Rise 3’s midsole felt much firmer than a lot of shoes on our list, making them appropriate for a moderately heavy resistance circuit.
The HOVR Rise 3’s also aren’t a bad choice for HIIT and shorter runs, thanks to its aforementioned cushioning. Since my feet come riddled with issues, it's unusual for me to find a stable and supportive shoe that’s not specifically designed to correct overpronation. The HOVR Rise 3’s performed really well during a few HIIT tabatas and a quick mile run, and I didn’t wake up the next morning with my usually inevitable foot and ankle pain. The one minor flaw I found lies in the HOVR Rise 3’s outsole — they have a pretty thick base, and I noticed my opposing foot hitting up against it frequently.
A trademarked “UA TriBase” design comes standard on the HOVR Rise 3, although in my research I couldn’t find exactly what that design entailed. According to Under Armor, it maximizes ground contact and provides foot flexibility during lifts. I could tell the difference between the HOVR Rise 3 and other cushioned shoes on our list, like the ON Cloud X’s — I felt a much stronger connection to the floor on barbell squats and deadlifts.
However, I still wouldn’t recommend lacing up the HOVR Rise 3’s for your super heavy lifting days — there’s too much padding between your foot and the floor to maintain a stable base of support.
Bottom Line: Quality isn’t sacrificed for price with the UA HOVR Rise 3 — a supportive and well-made cross training shoe.
Selecting a cross training shoe appropriate for all of your athletic pursuits is kind of like trying to pick one outfit that’s appropriate for yard work, a casual Sunday brunch, and a black-tie wedding. Luckily, there’s the Hylete Circuit II — a cross training shoe that can be worn for anything from weightlifting to your next 5K.
How is that possible? Three insoles with different drop lengths — 0mm, 4mm, and 6mm — provide varying levels of support, stability, and cushioning. It’s actually a pretty ingenious feature, and I’m not quite sure why more shoe manufacturers aren’t employing it. Combine these variable drops with a trademarked “Vibram” outsole for increased traction, and you’ve got a sneaker for all occasions.
Wearing the Hylete Circuit II, I was able to lift heavy, go for a short run, and cycle through a few light resistance training sets — all while in the same shoes. The 0mm drop allowed for decent proprioception (your body’s ability to sense movement and position) and foot awareness on a few heavy barbell squats, the 4mm drop provided the perfect blend of support and comfort for a lower-body superset, and the 6mm drop cushioned the impacts from a quick 2-mile run. Swapping out the insoles for each activity was relatively painless, and they all stayed solidly in place during use.
The Circuit II boasts a non-tapered toe box for a more comfortable and natural foot position. It isn’t as wide as the toe box on the Altra Solstice XT 2, but the additional lateral space for my toes improved stability on my heavier lifts. However, the Circuit II’s lacked some frontal space for the toes — mine felt pretty cramped up at the end of my run. Order half a size larger than normal, and that problem should be solved.
Another downside I noticed at the end of my run — while the 6mm insole is built for high-impact activities, it lacked some of the cushioning properties you’d find in a shoe like the On Cloud X or the Brooks Adrenaline. Some camps would claim that as a positive, but my sore feet would disagree.
Bottom Line: The Hylete Circuit II is essentially three shoes in one, with interchangeable insoles appropriate for a variety of sports.
Having a foot that’s as flat as a pancake comes with (many) drawbacks: you’ll face greater risks of musculoskeletal issues, deal with inherent balance difficulties, and be forced to realize that a ballet career just isn’t in the cards. While your foot may not feel so nice in a pointe shoe, it will feel great in a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22s.
A chronic overpronator for the vast majority of my life, finding a shoe that provides enough arch support and stability feels like a never-ending hunt. But I’ve long been a fan of the Brooks Adrenaline, and with each model upgrade, they get just a little bit better. Brooks’ trademarked “GuideRails” technology, paired with a more-than-decent amount of comfortable yet supportive cushioning, limits excessive motion through the foot and ankle while still allowing for a natural stride.
Obviously, this stability is a great quality to have in a running shoe, but it’s also useful for a number of other athletic pursuits — namely HIIT, some forms of light resistance training, and good old-fashioned walking. The Adrenalines were one of the only shoes on our list that felt supportive for the quick impact exercises that HIIT entails, the longer stretches of impact that running brings, and the slower and steadier movements of resistance circuits. It’s also the only shoe on our list to be endorsed by the American Podiatry Medical Association, so your doc will be pleased.
The downside to a shoe built for stability is weight — all that cushioning and support isn’t exactly insubstantial. That being said, the Adrenalines don’t feel super heavy, especially when compared to the Nano X2 or the Trainer+.
There’s no doubt that the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 is one of your best options for running and HIIT — especially if you lack a good arch. But if you’re looking to pack a lot of plates on the barbell, the Adrenalines won’t work too well. The heavy cushioning, high drop, and significant toe spring will all affect your stability under a heavy load.
Bottom Line: The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 provides ample support, stability, and comfort for athletes with flat feet.
The On Cloud Xs is as good of a HIIT partner as your stopwatch — an incredibly lightweight and supportive shoe, they’re made to stabilize your foot and ankle complex with every burpee or squat jump that comes your way.
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, has become a fairly popular method for improving cardiovascular endurance and overall health. But because of the quick and explosive nature of most HIIT-based exercises, outfitting yourself with the correct footwear is paramount. The On Cloud X’s trademarked Helion superfoam outsole provides the perfect amount of shock absorption, with an adequate amount of cushioning throughout the midsole and heel. Wearing the Cloud Xs for a tabata full of jumps and butt kicks left my normally-cranky ankles and knees feeling pain-free.
Cushioning is important in a shoe designed for HIIT, but so is its weight — you don’t want to feel like you’re wearing concrete blocks when you’ve got 20 seconds of high knees on the horizon. Fortunately, the On Cloud X is constructed with lightweight and flexible materials, including a breathable, no-sew upper mesh that conforms to the shape of your foot. It usually takes me a few wears to really break in a new pair of shoes, but the On Cloud Xs felt as comfortable as they did weightless, almost immediately.
Due to several unfortunately-timed ankle rolls, I have some fear around HIIT circuits that include lateral motions. Thanks to the On Cloud X’s high sidewalls and relatively low drop, I felt a lot more stable while performing side-to-side movement. In fact, I was able to increase my speed and agility on a round of skaters while feeling confident that my ankles were fully supported.
If you’ve got a wider than average foot, however, you’re out of luck — the On Cloud X’s only come in a standard width. And as is the case with most shoes designed for high-impact activity, the excessive cushioning prevents proper grounding of your foot during heavy lifts. Slip-on other shoes for your powerlifting days.
Bottom Line: A lightweight construction paired with a supportive and shock-absorbing design make the On Cloud X a fantastic shoe for HIIT workouts.
Some powerlifters swear by Converse Chuck Taylors (or “chucks”) as their lifting footwear of choice, while others prefer to skip the shoes altogether. The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is a happy medium between the two, providing protection for your feet without blocking a proper connection to the floor — a necessity for effective (and safe) resistance training.
Slipping on the Primus Lite III’s felt kind of like slipping on a pair of old school water shoes — the incredibly light, flexible rubber outsole and the thin mesh upper molded to my feet almost instantly. This combined with the Primus Lite III’s wide toe box and zero drop made me realize why the word “barefoot” is built into the brand name.
That “barefoot” feel is what makes the Primus Lite III so perfect for heavy lifting. The lack of abundant cushioning you’d find in most cross training shoes means you can drive every part of your foot — from the tips of your toes all the way to your heels — into the ground. High levels of stability and proprioception are crucial when pursuing maximal strength, and wearing the Primus Lite IIIs I could completely ground myself when attempting any high weight-low rep program. Plus — I never had to worry about my socked feet touching a gross gym floor.
Vivobarefoot often manufactures their footwear from sustainable and recycled materials, and the Primus Lite III is no exception. With Vivobarefoot’s “Revivo” program, you can return your worn out shoes to be refurbished and resold (or recycled, if they’re really dead). So you can work towards your next strength goal and help the planet at the same time. Win-win.
For a minimalist shoe, the Primus Lite IIIs are pretty pricey — one of the most expensive on our list, actually. And while barefoot devotees will say that the Primus Lite IIIs can be worn for any activity, I wouldn’t lace them up for a run or any high impact exercises (not before enrolling in Vivobarefoot’s “fundamentals” course, anyway).
Bottom Line: The barely-there Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III allows for maximum stability and ground contact while lifting.
Finding a training shoe that can fit a wider foot has its challenges. Many popular brands will only manufacture shoes in standard widths, and others forget that it's possible to make a wide shoe that also, you know, looks cool. The Reebok Nano X2 may not offer any width options in its sizing, but it's designed and constructed to fit a wide foot comfortably — without looking like you’ve taken footwear advice from your grandpa.
The Reebok Nano X2 features a roomier-than-average toe box and heel, so bigger feet have plenty of space to spread out. I may not have what’s typically considered to be a wide foot, but I often struggle with most toe boxes because of a pretty sizable bunion (thanks, high heels and genetics). The Nano X2s were one of the only shoes on our list that didn’t immediately put painful pressure on this annoying ailment. I was able to make it through a circuit of lunges, squats, and deadlifts without any residual pain in the balls of my feet.
The toe box is where my need for more space ends, however, which meant that the Nano X2’s heel felt a bit big — walking, running, and lunging produced notable slippage through the back of the shoe. If you like the idea of a bigger toe box but you have a narrow or average foot, you’ll need to purchase the Nano X2’s at least a half-size smaller than usual.
When it comes to versatility, the Reebok Nano X2 has a lot to offer. “Floatride” energy foam cushioning through the midfoot makes high-impact activities doable, while still offering enough foot stability for light-to-moderate resistance training. “ROPEPRO” teeth patterning along the outsole provides traction for when your workout calls for a rope climb (did I just hear my gym teacher screaming at me? No? Okay). Not to mention that the Nano X2’s classic silhouette and various color options mean you can pair them with high-performance leggings or a nice pair of jeans.
At almost 12 ounces, the Nano X2s aren’t the lightest you’ll find. For that reason, they may not make the best running companions. But for most any other activity you can think of, the Reebok Nano X2 is a technically-advanced choice for athletes blessed with wider feet.
Bottom Line: The Reebok Nano X2 is a versatile workout shoe made with wider feet in mind.
Hang around on fitness Instagram enough, and you’re sure to catch an influencer touting the benefits of wide toe box/zero drop shoes. The Altra Solstice XT 2 is a worthy entry into this newly-popular category, giving your toes ample space to breathe and a more natural position for your feet.
I’m one of those poor souls (or soles?) whose feet have suffered in pointy heels and narrow-toe box sneakers — and I have the bunions to show for it. In fact, they’re so bad that I’m usually forced to slip off most shoes by the mid-afternoon in order to relieve pain and pressure on the toe joint. So I was eager to try the Solstice XT 2 to see if a wider toe box really made all that much of a difference.
Boy, did it ever. The Solstice XT 2s proved incredibly comfortable when walking around and completing a moderately heavy resistance training circuit. Because I was able to spread my toes out more than I was used to, I could better ground them to support heavier squats, presses, and deadlifts. The zero drop also allowed me to drive my heels into the floor with better awareness and efficiency. But most importantly — I never had to take the Solstice XT 2’s off to appease a throbbing bunion.
Wide toe box/zero drop shoes like the Altra Solstice XT 2 are usually considered the best choice for lifting, and I agree with that to a certain extent. You can definitely pop them on for light, moderate, and even slightly heavy resistance training. But if you’re headed under a barbell to attempt a one rep max, I might swap them for an alternative — the Solstice XT 2’s have just a little too much cushioning for proper foot awareness and stability on super heavy lifts.
And while the Solstice XT 2’s are relatively lightweight, you may want to look elsewhere for a HIIT shoe — despite a firmer cage in the upper cage, they still felt pretty flimsy and unsupportive when completing rounds of skaters and side shuffles.
Bottom Line: The more natural fit of the Altra Solstice XT 2’s will make everyone’s feet happy.
How to choose the best cross training shoes
When shopping for a pair of cross training shoes, you’ll want to consider two main factors: your foot shape and size, and the kinds of activities you’ll be wearing them for the most.
If your foot is wider than average, you’ll want to choose a cross training shoe that either comes in wide sizes or is constructed with more room throughout the midsole and toe box. You may even want to consider a “wide toe box” cross training shoe, depending on what activities you do often. If you lack a natural arch (“flat feet”), you’ll want to look for a shoe with motion control.
While cross training shoes are meant to be worn for a variety of regimens, you’ll still want to think about the kinds of workouts you do most frequently. If you’re more likely to go for a run or a round of HIIT than you are to pick up a heavy dumbbell, you’ll want to select a cross training shoe with plenty of midsole and lateral support, paired with a higher heel-to-toe drop. If you’ll be spending most of your gym time under a loaded barbell, you’ll want to select a shoe with a low (or zero) drop and minimal cushioning, which allows you to properly ground your foot. If you tend to exercise outside, you’ll want a cross training shoe with appropriate tread on the outsole.
How we tested the best cross training shoes
Each pair of cross training shoes was worn for the following activities, for a duration of 30 minutes: light, moderate, and heavy resistance training, walking, running, and high-intensity interval training. Additionally, the Ryka Devotion XT was worn for a 20 minute dance fitness class. Each shoe was tested on a rubberized gym floor, concrete, and soil.
All cross training shoes were evaluated for comfort, performance, versatility, durability, and other usability factors.