Let me start by saying this: well done. You’re here, which means you either already exercise or are looking to start, so good for you. Way to take care of your body and mind!
From HIIT to weight training, there’s no shortage of ways to workout. It’s a matter of finding a type of exercise that you enjoy, and there’s certainly something for everyone. Whatever method of movement you choose, it’s crucial to pay attention to how you’re moving. As in, how’s your form? It might sound like a question reserved for gym rats and fitness snobs, but for the sake of safety, it’s important to keep in mind. Seriously, it’s worth your time to make sure you’re working out right—dotting your i’s, crossing your t’s, racking your weights. And good form starts from the ground up, so let’s talk shoes.
With the right support, sole, and structure, the shoes you exercise in can help you maintain good posture and form. Ideally, they’ll be comfortable, too, and in a perfect world, they might even be stylish. Some days, it feels like there are countless distractions and excuses to convince yourself to skip the gym. Factor in workout gear that causes pain or discomfort, and your odds of getting any physical activity dwindle faster than Netflix will auto-play the next episode. If given the chance, the right exercise shoe could completely change your fitness game. Who knows, maybe you would actually enjoy jogging if you swapped out that old pair of tennis shoes.
Here, find a list of gym shoes that come highly recommended by yours truly here at ELLE. Trust us, these are the best workout shoes for your next sweat sesh.
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“I live and die by my Nike Pegasus sneakers. I bought a pair when I started running more than 5 years ago and have since cycled through at least a half dozen pairs as the miles added up. They’re comfy enough for half marathon training but also cute enough to wear around town for errands.”—Jessica Roy, Digital Director
Marathon runners love to sport this sneaker when racking up the miles. The sock-like fit and seamless design maximize comfort. Meanwhile, added heel support and energy return technology help optimize your stride and pace.
“This is my tried and true long distance walking shoe. My husband and I got fairly obsessed with hitting 10,000-plus steps every day throughout the pandemic, and this shoe has been there every step of the way. The thing I like most about it is the thick, squishy insole—what New Balance calls cush+—that makes me feel like I’m wearing a slipper while working out.”—Kayla Adler, Deputy Editor
“The Sorel sneakers are surprisingly comfortable and have great arch support; my pair fit me like a glove. They’re perfect if your workouts, like mine, mostly consist of leisurely walks around the neighborhood for a quick break from screen time.”—Erica Gonzales, Senior Culture Editor
Looking for a utilitarian pick that will serve all your cross-training needs? These were designed with intense interval workouts in mind, so they’re flexible and light enough for drills and conditioning while still sturdy enough to withstand weighted squats or RDLs.
“Pre-pandemic, I thoroughly enjoyed workout classes. Now my increased germophobia has me mostly exercising at home. These Hoka Kawanas are light and cushiony enough to not annoy my downstairs neighbor and still look cool enough to wear outside of my apartment.”—Claire Stern, Digital Deputy Editor
Taking your workout to the great outdoors? When it comes to hiking and trail running shoes, look for secure traction and solid durability. This pair is completely waterproof, so they’re ready for the elements, and have plenty of cushion to keep you comfortable. They’re still lightweight, though, so you don’t have to sacrifice your speed or reactivity.
This shoe has a barely-there feel compared to others. It’s still supportive, but in a subtle way, which makes it a favorite among people with neutral to flat feet for whom arch support can sometimes feel excessive. Its versatility also makes it a good option for anyone who likes to alternate and experiment with various types of workouts.
“I’m obsessed with my Ghost Brooks running shoes. They’ve lasted me for years. Super cushiony, and they work for sidewalk runs as well as treadmill jogs. Can’t recommend these enough!”—Rose Minutaglio, Staff Writer
“I am in no way qualified to talk about the art or mechanics of weightlifting, although I do dabble in the sport on the (literally) lightest level. I’m a newbie, okay? What I do know is that good form is crucial to not hurting yourself. Bad form = bad news. Surprisingly, Converse happen to be the shoe of choice for many lifters. Their firm, flat sole helps your foot stay level, which is important for weight distribution and stability. The rubberized bottom is great for traction, and the high-top offers a bit of ankle support. This funky patchwork pattern is an added bonus. I want to wear them everywhere!”—Meg Donohue, Associate Fashion Commerce Editor
“I’ve been lucky enough to test countless sneakers in my tenure as a fashion editor, but I reach for these for almost any workout, be it HIIT, hiking, or boxing. Seriously—I’ve owned three pairs, making it one of the few fashion-related items I’ve ever repurchased. The New Balance 990s sneakers are the OG dad shoes, so you can count on them for comfort. They transition more easily into casual wear than most athletic styles, too. Case in point: when I’m traveling and my suitcase is exploding, I’ll pack these New Balances as both my workout and sightseeing shoes to save space for five more bikinis.”—Justine Carreon, Senior Market & E-Commerce Editor
Calling all weightlifters! Here’s another flat-soled pair that will allow you to stay in control. Made for lifting, these feature stabilizing straps and Under Armour’s TriBase design, which aims to mimic the way your bare foot would grip the ground.
“I run, walk, and even strut in these sneakers. As someone that goes to the gym three times a week, I have now owned two pairs of this exact shoe model, because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Not to mention, I think the white pair makes my legs look longer. Optical illusion? Perhaps. But one thing is for certain, these are incredibly comfortable.”—Leah Romero, Senior Digital Designer
Perhaps your preferred workout is hiking, a virtuous pastime indeed. Anyone who has tried to hike in regular gym shoes likely knows the two do not mix well. A bit of loose dirt or mud and you risk taking a spill. Embarking on a hike that requires some rock scaling? Forget about it; you’ll need real hiking boots for that. This Timberland pair, an all-around solid boot, will withstand any weather and any terrain—from snow to rocky wetland and sandy desert. So wherever your workout takes you, you’re ready.
“I’m flat-footed and pronate, so it’s super hard for me to find good workout shoes. I love the Nike Metcons! They support my foot and ankle so I’m able to workout confidently and with ease.”—Danielle James, Interim Beauty Director
“I hate, hate working out. Truly! The only thing I’ve hated longer than working out is running. (I was a swimmer.) But a few times a year, I’ll force myself back into a routine for the sake of health, and these are the shoes I swear by. They make me feel like I’m running on air, which is no small feat!”—Katherine Krueger, Features Editor
Lululemon has dropped their first-ever shoe, and fitness fanatics are already loving it. The Blissfeel running sneaker has a soft underfoot and a cushioned upper for ultimate comfort. Team USA Track & Field star Colleen Quigley specifically recommends the shoe for people who run outside or in cities because “it’s a substantial enough shoe to protect your feet and your joints from all the pounding on pavement,” she tells ELLE.com.
“With a misshapen spine and herniated discs, high arches, and arthritis in one of my feet, my skeletal system is all-caps WONKY. I have to be extra mindful about my form and technique when exercising, especially with something as high impact as running, or else I could lateral lunge my way into some serious pain. New Balances have been recommended to me by doctors, chiropractors, and even sports medicine professionals. These have a very thick sole and are super structured, keeping my foot and ankle in place as I trot along.”—Meg Donohue, Associate Fashion Commerce Editor
“Love” might be a dirty word in the game of tennis, but players will fall hard for these shoes that are perfect for court sports (pickleball, anyone?). Tennis pros recommend these to players of all levels. The design features added stability around the heel to help you feel secure as you dart from side to side. They’re also reinforced at the toes, so they won’t wear out. Gel cushioning absorbs shock and impact, leaving you primed and ready for your next match.
Running by moonlight? These Pumas are reflective all over, from heel to toe, for maximum visibility. They’re also made with PumaGrip traction and the brand’s innovative carbon fiber plate designed to help propel your foot and maximize energy and efficiency. Bonus: they’re also a known favorite of Peloton instructor Olivia Amato, from whom we would honestly take any recommendation.
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