One of the best ways to achieve excellent all-around strength and fitness is through cross-training.
Incorporating different types of exercise into your training schedule brings heaps of benefits, from enhancing your performance on the track, road, or trail, to adding variety to your routine and keeping you motivated.
But when it comes to switching up your mode of training, footwear matters.
Just as you wouldn’t wear casual shoes to a formal occasion, you wouldn’t wear running shoes for, say, a weightlifting session.
Instead, you need to look for more exercise-specific footwear designed to support you, improve your performance, and protect you from injury during multi-directional movements.
Choosing the best cross training shoes isn’t easy. The ideal footwear will vary from person to person and largely depends on the main activities you’re interested in.
The best option, then, is to look for versatility – and that’s what we did when choosing the cross-training shoes in this guide. The footwear listed here will perform well for a variety of sports, but we’ve highlighted any activities for which they’re particularly ideal.
This will make it easier to narrow down your choices and find the right pair of training shoes to suit your interests.
But before we get to our top picks, let’s discuss just WHY it is important to make cross-training a regular part of your exercise routine.
What are Cross Training Shoes + The 8 Best Cross Training Shoes In 2023
Why is Cross Training Important?
Some of the benefits are obvious. Different types of workouts help you achieve a more rounded set of skills, which can benefit your overall running performance.
Learn more in our article: 8 Proven Benefits Of Cross-Training For Runners
What Are Cross Training Shoes?
Cross training shoes are designed to offer comfort and support across a range of activities.
Buying a good pair of shoes is both cost-effective and time efficient.
This is because you won’t need to splash out on multiple pairs to accommodate different sports, and you won’t need to keep changing your footwear as you move from one session to the next.
Unlike regular running shoes, the best cross training shoes are designed for short cardio bursts rather than long distances.
They contain some cushioning, but far less than running shoes to give you a greater connection to the ground. This helps with your posture and balance in movements like squats.
They are also far better equipped than running shoes to deal with lateral movements. This generally means they are wider for stability with more flexibility at the midsole.
Features to Look For in Cross Training Shoes
The best cross training shoes for you will depend on your individual interests, needs, and style preferences.
They should always have firm cushioning where needed and additional ankle support for side-to-side movements.
Other features to look for include:
- Flexible uppers – these will make it easier to move in multiple directions.
- Minimal heel-to-toe drops – this is the difference in height from the heel to the toe. A lower drop is better for balance and also distributes stress from impact across the whole foot. The exception would be for weightlifting shoes, which sometimes have a raised heel to align the body during lifts and squats.
- Extra grip and durability – dynamic cross-training movements require shoes that include reinforcements on the outsole and plenty of traction to avoid sliding on gym floors.
- Secure uppers – cross training shoes need to combine comfort with a solid lockdown to hold you firmly in place during explosive movements. Features like Velcros straps and protective overlays will help achieve this.
- Flatter soles – whilst rocker-type soles are ideal for forward momentum in running, they are unsuitable for activities like weightlifting, where you need to be more connected to the ground beneath you.
The Best Cross Training Shoes
– Cushioned forefoot, speed chassis for heel stability, and a stretchy, breathable upper
– Rugged enough for outdoor training
Reebok knows a thing or two about cross training, having sponsored the CrossFit games from 2011 to 2020.
Indeed, it was 2011 that saw the debut of the original Nano – and it’s a line that remains a firm favorite with lovers of cross training to this day!
The X1 adventure is designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, with an updated rubber lug outsole for improved traction on all kinds of terrain and a durable ripstop upper.
Suitable for a wide range of activities along with short to medium runs, it provides a good connection to the ground and the flexibility you need for dynamic movements.
It also offers just the right amount of cushioning for both strength and speed work, with a Floatride Energy foam midsole that feels responsive and resists compression.
We also like the Lace Lock Harness, which features extra loops to keep the tongue in place and helps achieve a consistently snug fit.
– Infused with graphene, with arch support and extra protection for rope climbs
– Best choice for durability
This shoe is a great all-rounder and utilizes the power of Graphene, one of the world’s strongest yet thinnest materials.
It is used in the sole to enhance durability and provide a great grip, and again in the Powerheel to give extra support when lifting.
The best feature, though, is the wrap-around protective cage. This reinforces the middle of the foot and supports you well, even through explosive lateral movements.
The breathable knitted upper has a snug, sock-like feel.
Meanwhile, the ROPE TEC protection saves you from uncomfortable abrasion in the midfoot, so you can wear these shoes with confidence during varied HIIT sessions.
Comfortable straight from the box, the F-Lite G 300 is best for a medium to wide foot. It’s not ideal if you prefer a narrow fit.
– Great lockdown for security, broad heel, and balanced cushioning
– A good running shoe with enough stability for cardio-focused gym workouts
With an early-stage meta rocker sole, the Kawana won’t be the best choice for strength-based workouts.
But if you’re looking for a solid rebound and supportive midsole for HIIT cardio sessions alongside your daily run, this is the versatile shoe you need.
Like all of Hoka’s shoes, these have a considerable stack height.
But the crash pad with SwallowTail geometry and the beveled heel give the Kawana a broad, flat surface. This makes it feel more stable for cardio workouts in the gym.
There’s room in the toe box to accommodate wider feet and the upper is made from a durable and breathable mesh. This hugs your foot securely through a range of movements.
– Breathable, abrasion-resistant upper, with a layered support system for security
– Ideal for plyometric training
If your cross-training activities include lots of explosive movements like jumping, you’ll need a shoe that provides stability, just the right level of cushioning, and a great grip.
That’s just what you get with Under Armour’s HOVR Apex 3.
Featuring a midsole made from a supportive combination of responsive UA HOVR and EVA foam, this is a shoe that efficiently absorbs shock while delivering excellent energy return.
The rubber outsole provides great traction and uses UA TriBase tech.
This makes it low and stable enough for weightlifting, although heavy lifters might find the cushioning too thick. This is because it absorbs some of the generated force and can stop you from lifting quite as much.
The strap construction is exceptionally supportive, allowing for flexibility in the forefoot whilst keeping the heel stable.
This makes it easy to move powerfully forwards, backward, or from side to side.
– PUMAGrip rubber compound, vertical flex lines for foot splay, and a stable base for lifting
– A great budget-friendly option
These men’s cross-training shoes – also available for women – are designed to handle everything from box jumps and lunges to wall climbs and squats!
With a shock-absorbing midsole and low-to-the-ground construction, they offer plenty of stability in the heel enhanced by a comfortably wide forefoot that allows for a healthy toe splay.
The medial and lateral support is good, too, making them ideal for agility training.
There are some nice features to help with durability, including strategically placed rubber reinforcements in high-wear areas.
These also help with traction and are particularly useful for rope climbs.
Whilst it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing model we tried, the Puma Fuse is a versatile shoe that will deliver a great workout at a price that won’t break the bank.
– Lightweight cushioning, a seamless shoe tongue, and a no-sew upper
– A good choice for HIIT workouts and light strength training
Designed specifically for mixed-sport workouts, the Cloud X from Swiss running company On is a lightweight shoe suited to intense exercise and short to mid-range runs.
Its low weight is partly due to the Cloudtec sole, made from shock-absorbing Zero-Gravity foam pods.
The knit-weave and highly breathable upper help keep the weight to a minimum too.
The combination of a low drop and fairly high sidewalls make you feel secure and stable during rapid lateral movements, and the dual-density midsole delivers just the right amount of cushioning and support for both gym workouts and running.
These are not the shoes for you if you like to incorporate heavy lifting into your schedule. They won’t offer the ankle support you’d need, and the cushioning in the midsole is too soft.
But for light resistance training and excellent joint protection during high-impact workouts, the Cloud X is a tough shoe to beat!
– Floatride Energy Foam cushioning, improved heel clip for stability, and a durable upper
– A great shoe for lifting
These women’s cross training shoes – also available for men – are the latest iteration of Reebok’s flagship multi-sport shoe.
They are extra-wide in the toe box – a real advantage when it comes to lifting as it allows your toes to splay, which provides stability. That being said, anyone with a narrow foot might find this shoe a little TOO big.
The responsive midsole cushioning makes these shoes a great choice for a variety of sports, including shorter runs and activities that involve ballistic movements.
The ROPEPRO teeth patterning along the outsole gives you the grip you need for rope climbing and the newly designed heel cup is lower than with the previous edition of the shoe. This is good news as the X1 had a reputation for causing blisters in this area!
The upper is great too, made from a breathable Flexweave knit and with the support you need for stability during lateral movements.
– Locked-in fit, great stability for lifting, and a springy cushioned base
– Our top pick: Great all-round cross training shoes
The name ‘Metcon’ is a portmanteau, blending the words ‘metabolic’ and ‘conditioning‘.
And it’s a name that sums up just what these shoes are created for – supporting you through strength-based moves and high-intensity cardio.
They feature a wide, flat heel that uses an inner plate to distribute your weight evenly across the base.
This feels exceptionally stable during lifting moves but also has enough flexion to feel comfortable during cardio intervals, too.
The lightweight Nike React foam cushioning absorbs shock effectively whilst delivering the responsiveness you need for sprinting.
The rubber tread feels grippy whether you’re working out on the gym floor or running on the pavement, and there’s also a rubber wrap on the arch.
This is designed to provide traction during rope climbs.
Nike has all the bases covered with the Metcon 7, a shoe that works well for pretty much any type of training, either in or out of the gym.
The Best Cross Training Shoes: Key Takeaways
It can be tempting to slip on your favorite running shoes, no matter which type of workouts you include in your cross-training schedule.
But the cushioning that feels so good when you’re pounding the pavements can make you feel unstable in the gym, whilst the lack of lateral support can leave you open to injury.
The right pair of cross-training shoes is the answer, designed to keep you comfortable and protected across a range of sports.
5 Great Rowing Machine Workouts For Your Next Cross-Training Session
Rowing machines can provide fantastic cardiovascular and strengthening workouts. But if you’re new to rowing, there are a few things to learn, including how to adjust the machine and how to row with proper form.
Visit our Guide to Rowing Machine Workouts for tips to help you get the most from your sessions, along with 5 excellent workouts to try.