I test cross training shoes for a living — and this is the one pair I’d buy

best gym shoes
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Finding the right gym shoes for you can be a minefield with so many brands now dipping their toes into the cross training shoe game, it’s hard to know which ones to trust.

If you enjoy a specific type of workout, you’ll need gym shoes to suit your goals. But if you’re known to jump from one activity to another, then why not try a pair of the best cross training shoes?

Whether you prefer Hyrox training, HIIT or CrossFit workouts, you’ll probably have some idea which cross training shoes work for you. But if you consider yourself a training novice and enjoy a range of activities, chances are a pair of the best cross training shoes is a great fit. 

I test cross training shoes for a living, and this is the one pair I’d buy above all others. 

Nike Metcon 9 in white and black next to a shoe box

(Image credit: Future)

As a personal trainer and CrossFit fanatic, I’ve gone through a fair amount of sneakers. But as a journalist, I’ve been able to get more hands-on, testing and reviewing leading brands in the market — my extensive shoe collection sparks an ongoing debate with my boyfriend at home. 

But when asked which are the best cross training shoes you can buy? I hesitate. What works for me might not work for you, and gym shoes are as personal a purchase as gym leggings or smartphones. That said, my go-to pair is the Nike Metcon 9.

Find the best deals on the Nike Metcon range here:

The Metcon range is a firm favorite within the CrossFit community and for versatile training in general. Yet the latest release has divided crowds, and most people still sit firmly within the NOBULL or Metcon camp. For me, the Nike Metcon 9 has done enough to top its predecessors — with some notable upgrades in design to make it more comfortable and versatile. 

I tested the shoe at the exclusive launch hosted by  WIT Fitness HQ and haven’t worn another shoe for training since — unless I’m heading out for a run. In that case, you’ll want a pair of the best running shoes instead.

If you found the 8 too stiff, the 9 promises a comfier fit. Although it still comes up tight, the shoe has a roomier toe box for splaying your toes in the tripod position for technical lifting. And there’s a marriage between the larger removable Hyperlift plates, which provide a 4mm heel drop consistent with weightlifting, and dual-density midsole foam cushioning for comfort. 

Writer Sam wearing Nike Metcon 9 series shoe

(Image credit: Future/ Sam Hopes)

The plates provide the necessary rigidity and raised heel for weightlifting without veering too far into weightlifting shoe territory — you can learn the difference between cross training shoes vs weightlifting shoes here.

The Nike Metcon 9 speaks to versatility, featuring a more pronounced wrap-around rope guard (some find it too domineering, but I’m a big fan), and an extended breathable cross-stitch mesh upper that wraps to protect the shoe. 

I can switch deftly between shuttle runs, weightlifting and wall balls better, which speaks to the latest generations' competence with multi-plane movement, but you still won’t find much arch support or plushness in the Metcon range.

Bottom line

Nike Metcon 9

(Image credit: Nike)

If your idea of a good workout is switching between short runs, barbells, box jumps, and dumbbells, for example, cross training shoes suit most needs. 

Overall, if you already love the Metcon but want more space, comfort and rope grip — the 9 ticks boxes. I never hesitate to grab them over other models as I head out the door, and they pack well for travel or small gym bags.

And trust me, having tried to complete the CrossFit workout Murph in the previous editions, I’m far more comfortable clocking up the kilometers in my Nike Metcon 9 when I need to.

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Sam Hopes
Staff Fitness Writer

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and resident fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and workouts.