Best cross training shoes: HIIT workout trainers, gym sneakers and more options

What to look for in the best cross training shoes - and the top picks you can buy right now

Using a kettlebell and wearing the best cross training shoes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best cross training shoes will cover all the bases you need in a gym or circuit-orientated workout. Do you need a firm base for weightlifting? A springy, responsive sole to take off for sprints? A light, breathable upper? Look no further. 

Cross training shoes are designed differently to running shoes. Whereas running shoes elevate and cushion your heel, and are made so that your feet can roll from heel to ball to takeoff more naturally, cross training shoes require a strong base for lots of different kinds of movements, rather than just one, which is why the best cross training shoes are perfect for people who love mixing things up. 

Like multi-disciplinary workouts such as CrossFit? One moment you might be throwing medicine balls around, the next performing squats, then wearing the uppers out on rope climbs. The best shoes are designed to deal with this wear-and-tear from all angles. 

Having said that, these shoes don't just cater to CrossFitters. Perhaps you're more about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), whether that's a park workout or circuits in a gym class. Maybe you like plyometric workouts, with lots of explosive jumping and sprinting, combining weights and cardio in equal measure. If you've answered yes to any of the above, these are the shoes for you.  

Multi-disciplinary workouts are a combination of exercises demanding cardiovascular fitness, explosive power and applied resistance training strength. The benefits don't even stop post-workout, as the intense recovery demands on your body elevate your metabolism for up to 24 hours after a workout. 

One of the most popular cross training shoes right now – and the one we recommend above all others – is the Nike Metcon 5. For CrossFit and HIIT workouts, this shoe offers tremendous heel stability, comfort and durability while ensuring there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre in the forefoot. Even though the Nike Metcon 6 is now out, the drop in price of the Metcon 5 as a result of this, and the relatively small amount of differences in the shoes, make the Metcon 5 the superior deal. 

However, it’s the Metcon is just one of a number of superb options. The Reebok Nano 9 is one of the original CrossFit shoes and perhaps a little more suited to strength training, due the imposing outer sole that ensures a solid and secure base promoting balance and correct weight distribution for exercises like squats and kettlebells. 

The NoBull Trainer provides many of the aforementioned benefits, with the added benefit of an understated design that will look as good outside of the gym as inside. 

In this article we'll look at these top choices and more. We'll also outline what to look for when selecting the best workout shoes for you, and present more of our favorites that satisfy these criteria. All the styles listed below cater to both sexes, making them the best cross trainer shoes for women and men alike.

How to choose the best cross training shoes for you

The best cross training shoes or all-purpose workout sneakers for you will depend on your preferred disciplines. Each of our chosen shoes vary in terms of the stability, comfort level, flexibility, breathability and durability. 

If you’re focusing on strength training, you should look for a shoe which provides a firm, stable base made with weightlifters in mind, such as the Under Armour HOVR 2 and its firm outsole, which provides a strong base. Others like the OnCloud X might be fine for short runs and sprints. 

However, always remember these aren't running shoes: If you run on concrete with these for any length of time, you're running with a shoe that isn't properly protecting your joints or encouraging you to run with more natural movements. If you're more of a runner, check out our edits of the best running shoes for men, the best running shoes for women and the best trail running shoes). Running shoes offer significant cushion, energy return and arch support, whilst cross training shoes typically have a flat sole, designed to give the stability we've already touched on.

Fit is a factor, too. Running shoes generally should have a little space at the end to allow for the swelling of your feet as you run over long distances. On the other hand,  shoes for cross training should have a slightly more snug fit for added support, especially around the ankle for when (or if) you’re lifting heavy weights. 

When it comes to pricing, a decent pair of workout shoes will probably cost you around $120 / £100, but there are of course cheaper options around for those on a budget. Reassuringly, our price comparison tool will always show you the lowest prices available today. I’d also advise having a nosey at older models of popular brands, which often update their flagship shoes meaning older generations can be picked up for a much lower price despite, in most cases, being almost identical. 

The best cross training shoes you can buy right now

Nike Metcon 5: one of the best cross training shoes

(Image credit: Nike)

1. Nike MetCon 5

The best cross training shoe for most people

Specifications
Weight: 360g
Workout type: Fitness training
Stability: Neutral
Heel to toe drop: 4mm (with removable 8mm insert)
Reasons to buy
+Added heel stability for lifting +Roomy fit 
Reasons to avoid
-Unsuitable for long runs

Metcon is an abbreviation of 'metabolic conditioning', a the combination of strength and cardio training. Made popular by CrossFit and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), metcon workouts burn loads of calories in short, intense blasts and keep your metabolism ticking over at an elevated rate for hours thereafter. 

The headline feature in this shoe is the additional stability in the heel that can assist with squats, deadlifts, box jumps and kettlebell exercises that require a solid base. The 3D-printed upper is highly breathable and roomy, while the raised carbon rubber sole material will offer some additional grip on rope climbs. 

For those who like to focus on lifting, there’s a Hyperlift insert that that adds a little heel lift too. They wouldn’t be our choice for long runs, but they’re perfectly comfortable for those short bursts required of HIIT and CrossFit workouts - and a worthy top pick in our list of the best shoes for cross training.

NoBull Training shoes: one of the best cross training shoes

(Image credit: NoBull)

2. NoBull Training Shoes

The best premium cross training shoe

Specifications
Weight: 283g
Heel to toe drop: 4mm
Reasons to buy
+Very light +Suitable for an array of workouts
Reasons to avoid
-Run a little small

The NoBull Trainer shoe has emerged from the all-star pack thanks largely to their versatility. They’re a simplistic (hence the name) yet fantastic do-it-all shoe for those whose workouts are wide and varied. They can handle cardio, lifting, jumping, climbing and everything in between. 

The shoes have built a loyal following among big HIIT-ers and CrossFitters because they offer the flat sole required for lifting stability, but are able to handle cardio elements of the workouts comfortably. They’re lightweight, breathable and, most importantly, very durable. 

With the understated design that stands apart from statement shoes like the Nanos and Metcons, you’ll struggle to find a more stylish cross trainer shoe that's suitable for everyday wear, either. 

Under Armour HOVR Rise 2: one of the best cross training shoesFit&Well approved buy

(Image credit: UnderArmour)

3. Under Armour HOVR Rise 2

Best budget cross training shoe

Specifications
Weight: 312g
Heel to toe drop: 8mm
Reasons to buy
+HOVR midsole foam provides comfort and cushion +More versatile than other cross trainers 
Reasons to avoid
-UA Apex shoe is more advanced

The latest cross trainer from UA is one of those do-it-all shoes that’ll suit the vast majority of gym, CrossFit or HIIT workouts. The headline feature is the HOVR ‘zero gravity’ foam within the midsole, which offers more cushion than our other selections and will do a little more to protect the joints when engaging in agility-based exercises like box jumps, while providing some energy return for explosive actions like burpees and cardio-based elements of the workout. 

There’s also a full rubber outsole to give you stability in weight-bearing exercises, while remaining lightweight enough to accompany you on walks, jogs and during everyday wear. It’s a classic looking cross-trainer and offers much better value than UA’s flagship HOVR Apex cross trainer.

Reebok Nano 9: one of the best cross training shoes

(Image credit: Reebok)

4. Reebok NANO 9

The classic CrossFit shoe, still going strong

Specifications
Weight: 343g
Heel to toe drop: 4mm
Reasons to buy
+New breathable upper +Excellent stability for weight training 
Reasons to avoid
-Not too grippy

Until the Nike Metcon showed up, the Reebok Nano reigned supreme in the CrossFit realm and continues to bear official CrossFit branding to this day, although not for much longer as Reebok has severed ties with the brand.

The shoe’s ninth edition brought plenty of improvements, including even greater heel stability courtesy of a wider, flatter outsole. The midsole is firmer than previous models, which provides excellent support for lifts, but means that landings can be a little less forgiving. Experienced testers say this model is still more suited to running then the Metcon range too. 

On this model Reebok added FlexWeave material for the upper, which adds a little more manoeuvrability in the forefoot, while an additional layer of material will protect the toes when performing exercises like burpees. Durability is a signature feature again, enabling the shoe to withstand as many rope climbs as you can handle. 

And since the launch of the shoe's latest incarnation, the Reebok Nano X1, in February 2021, the Nano 9 can be nabbed for a bargain price - check out our price widget above for today's best deals.

Best cross training shoes: On Cloud X

(Image credit: On Running)

5. On Cloud X

Another great premium cross training shoe

Specifications
Weight: 226g
Heel to toe drop: 6mm
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight but strong +Outsole adds comfort Design is an acquired taste
Reasons to avoid
-Design not to everyone’s tastes

On usually focuses on shoes made for runners, but Cloud X is a surprising exception in the company's ever-growing line-up of shoes. 

Using the same tech found in On’s race shoes and putting it to work in a workout shoe, these kicks are geared more towards general training. They can handle everything from weightlifting and HIIT to CrossFit and short sprints.

The other great thing is that they still have that super lightweight construction that On is known for, thanks to a knit-weave upper. Light and breathable, they maintain a good level of cushioning on the outsole, not only making them highly comfortable, but well placed to handle high impact training moves such as box jumps.

Inov-8 F-Lite 35 V3: : one of the best cross training shoes

(Image credit: Inov-8)

6. Inov-8 F-Lite 235 V3

The best cross training shoe for runners

Specifications
Weight: 236g
Heel to toe drop: 4mm
Reasons to buy
+A more dynamic cross training shoe +Super lightweight, but durable
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most stable for advanced lifters

Yes, we know we said that cross training shoes definitely weren't suitable for running - but this Inov-8 model is the exception that proves the rule.

This typically lightweight and breathable shoe is suited to the more dynamic cross trainer, rather than those stationary athletes who excel at lifts, squats and kettlebell workouts. 

The F235 V3 includes a dynamic fascia band within the G-Grip outsole that makes it the most natural-feeling cross trainer out there. The innovation seeks to mimic the “anatomical position of the plantar fascia ligament” and Inov-8 attests that when your heel leaves the floor, the tech helps to prevent elongation of the medial arch and supports the entire body weight as you propel forward. 

The company is keen to defy the lightweight construction by making this shoe as durable as the other hard-hitting cross trainers in our list. The RopeTec coating on the upper can handle rope climbs without disintegration, while the rubber toe bumper means you won’t be stubbing those tarsals when jumping back for burpees or while climbing ladders.

Best workout shoes

(Image credit: UnderArmour)

7. Under Armour HOVR Apex

Multi-discipline workout shoe with an added bounce to its step

Specifications
Weight: 370g
Heel to toe drop: 8mm
Reasons to buy
+Layered support for softer landings +Bounce back energy
Reasons to avoid
-A touch bulky

The HOVR Apex is the second offering from Under Armour to make our list, but it's a worthy entry.

What stands out about this multidisciplinary workout shoe is that it's exceptionally cushioned, which will suit you well if you love explosive workouts. While they do feel bulky thanks to that chunky outsole, these gym shoes will soften hard landings and on the flip side, boost your energy return thanks to the HOVR foam, which helps eliminate impact. 

This makes them especially useful for jumping exercises or quick sprints. The Apex also features Under Armour’s Tribase tech in the outsole, which maximises ground contact for the foot, allowing for a better grip during lifts.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith

Chris is a freelance contributor to Fit & Well. He's from Shropshire, England originally, but currently lives in the United States near Miami, FL. Chris has written about health and fitness technology for a decade, including as an in-depth feature writer and product reviewer for Wareable.com, tackling emerging wearable tech trends in the sports and fitness industries. When not on the beat for Fit & Well, Chris writes about technology for Trusted Reviews and WIRED, sports for The Guardian and just about everything else for Shortlist, Pellicle, Digital Spy and a selection of other publications. He also pens books on technology use for Flametree Publishing.

Chris stays fit through hot yoga (studio not always necessary in the Florida humidity) and hopes to complete teacher training in 2021. He enjoys cycling, tennis, running and, ever-more-infrequently, playing football (or soccer, to his American friends). Those old injuries he 'ran off' as a teenager have finally caught up.