Best Gym Shoes for Women: Crush Cardio, Weights, & More


Key Points

  • The best gym shoes for women vary based on workout type, foot shape, and pre-existing joint issues.

  • There are shoes for HIIT, cross-training, lifting, running, and general arch support.

  • Evaluate the sole, durability, flexibility, ankle support, tread, breathability, and fit when searching for the best gym shoes for women.

Do you need a reason to go shoe shopping? Do your legs and feet ache after workouts? Look no further. It’s time to hunt down the best gym shoes for women!

Your feet have 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 different muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This means one thing: You need a solid pair of sneakers.

Read on for details about the best gym shoes for women and to find a pair that enhances your exercise routine.

Why Do Gym Shoes Matter?

Disclaimer: Gym shoes are not the same as running shoes. 

Running shoes provide springiness for your strides, while gym shoes support a much wider variety of workouts.

Gym shoes come in all different shapes and sizes and vary based on cushioning, support, and style. They're crafted for specific workouts, foot shapes, and lower joint problems. Gym shoes also simplify your training by helping you employ the correct muscles.

Are you a weightlifter? First of all, kudos to you! Second, there’s a renowned gym shoe for that.

Two weightlifting must-haves? Flat soles and ground-gripping outer materials.

Woman running on treadmill

Weightlifting shoes empower you to engage more muscle fibers, drive through your heels, and push off the ground. They anchor you to the floor, allowing you to produce extra force and reach heights you never dreamed possible. 

Are you cardio-obsessed? Look for shock-absorbing shoes. They protect your joints from the stressful impact of running and jumping. Say hasta la vista to painful shin splints!

If you constantly switch up your exercise routine, cross-trainers are life. They give you the best of everything by supporting forward and lateral movements. 

Gym shoes drastically improve your workout performance. They can also prevent athlete’s foot, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, ankle sprains, and more. 

Quality gym shoes reinforce good posture and alignment, equip you to train harder, and create an enjoyable exercise experience. The best part? When you feel comfortable and safe during workouts, you stay naturally motivated to crush your fitness goals. 

Why Do People Wear Vans to the Gym?

Fun fact: Vans are the famously preferred weightlifting shoe. Vans. Talk about a high school throwback!

Vans are flat, stable, durable, and — most importantly — budget-friendly. Most quality weightlifting shoes cost $100 to $200, while Vans go for $60 or less for basic styles.

Their outer soles contain vulcanized rubber, creating a rock-solid foundation for your feet and ankles. Vans also have outstanding grip and traction for lifting. There’s no slippin’ and slidin’ in these shoes. Vans are perfect for first-timers and recreational lifters.

However, Vans aren’t ideal for cross-trainers. They severely limit foot and toe mobility and have zero cushioning, making them dangerous to wear during cardio. Your joints absorb the full impact of dynamic movements, leading to pain, muscle damage, and injury. 

Good news? If weightlifting is not your thing, you can still sport your Vans with regular clothes (just like the good ole days).

Woman tying athletic shoes

How Do You Pick the Right Shoe for Your Workout?

Your perfect shoe should breathe well, fit comfortably, and stick around for the long haul. Prioritize functionality over style. 

Certified strength and conditioning specialist and exercise physiologist Janet Hamilton says, “If you close your eyes and envision what your foot is doing during your workouts, it’s wildly different based on whatever that exercise is. The optimal shoe is going to support whatever is happening at the foot during that specific activity.”

What exercises do you perform the most? Tailor your shoe purchase to your workout preferences. Be extremely picky. Write a detailed list of what you need. Try not to deviate from it. When you feel tempted to snag the shiniest shoe on the rack, cross-examine the sneaker with your must-haves.

General shoe factors to consider include:

  • Sole: Do you need bounce and cushioning for running? Or flat, stable soles for weightlifting? 

  • Durability: Shoes with thicker soles and high-quality materials withstand the demands of high-intensity exercises. 

  • Flexibility: Do you need stability or room for mobility? Perform a “flex test” by bending the shoe to discern how much it lets your foot move around. 

  • Ankle support: Your ankles are your base for all kinds of movement. Find a sturdy shoe with very little twisting room for your ankle. 

Woman crouches down to tie athletic shoes

  • Tread: Evaluate the bottom of your shoe to see how it makes contact with the ground. Does it have springiness or grip? If you’re playing sports or running, you need springiness. For weightlifting and calisthenics, you need more grip to prevent slippage. 

  • Breathability: Struggle with sweaty feet? You’re not alone, although you may require a shoe with extra airflow. Look for “mesh upper” in the product description or ask a store employee to bring you shoes with this feature. 

  • Fit: The ideal shoe fits snugly — not too tight or too loose. It doesn't pinch or rub your toes. Consider the shoe's length, width, and space for your heel, midfoot, and toes. Always try them on before purchasing. 

Your feet typically swell a half to a full size while you train. Don't purchase a sneaker that fits “perfectly." Instead, allow room (about half the length of your thumb) between the tip of your longest toe and the shoe's end. 

Note: The prices of the following shoes are accurate at the time of writing in April 2023 but are subject to change.

Best Shoe for HIIT

A true all-purpose workout shoe is great for HIIT workouts. The Reebok HIIT Tr 3.0 Cross Trainer contains a simple design and construction, foam midsole, and breathable mesh upper.

For HIIT exercises, cross-training shoes “should be flexible enough for speed work, structured enough for weighted movements, and responsive enough for jumping,” says Tempo’s head coach Melissa Boyd

This affordable shoe checks all the boxes for intense training to light weightlifting. 

Sale Price: $61

Original Price: $110

Woman crouches down in gym to tie athletic shoes

Best Shoe for Cross-Training

Your ideal shoe has a stable midsole with a low arch for indoor workouts and general training. It provides light support for balance, flexibility, and movement. 

The Hylete Circuit 2 Cross Trainer is stylish, versatile, and comfortable in the toe box. It’s a happy medium between rigid and cushiony, which is excellent for all-around athletes.

Even better? It comes with three interchangeable inserts you swap in and out to match a specific workout. The “Lift” insole provides stability for weightlifting. The “Train” insole supplies versatility for cross-training. The “Run” insole braces your joints for high-impact cardio exercises. 

Sale Price: $46

Original Price: $130

Best Shoe for Lifting

Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Star Classics have stiff, sturdy soles for stability. They reinforce good foot placement and grip during lifts, allowing you to adjust your positioning for a proper stance. 

These flat hightop shoes are going toe-to-toe (get it?) with Vans in the weightlifting industry. 

Chuck Taylors have minimal cushioning and top-quality materials. They stabilize your calves and ankles, safeguard your back, help you squat lower, and keep your torso upright during big power lifts. 

Cons? The mid-rise ankle design and narrow toe box are bothersome and constricting for some individuals. Fortunately, Converse offers low-top and wide-width options on its website. 

These shoes aren't for lifters with poor flexibility or high arches. 

Price: $65

Woman stretches on floor of gym

Best Shoe for Running

Excellent running shoes protect your knees and ankles and effectively guide your stride. They also support your arches as you propel your body weight forward.

ASICS Women’s Gel-Venture 8 Running Shoes do some of the work for you, letting you focus on hitting your next major milestone. With these kicks, running feels nearly effortless. 

They have a wide toe box, comfy cushioning, gel technology for maximum shock absorption, and outsole lugs for better ground traction. With ASICS, hop on the treadmill or head outdoors for a walk, jog, or run. 

Avoid running shoe sizes too tight in your forefoot or that give you a slipping heel. These fit issues can lead to blisters, black toenails, ingrown toenails, and sores, especially for long-distance runners.

Sale Price: $50

Original Price: $70

Best Shoe for Arch Support

Podiatrist Tyler Miranda explains, “New Balance shoes offer excellent support for the heel, arch, and forefoot. They also have a wide toe box, which is especially important for people who need extra space to avoid friction and pressure on bunions and hammer toes.”

New Balance Women’s Fresh Foam Roav Running Shoes provide plush comfort and a supportive arch. Their soft, flexible midfoot encourages a neutral stride, while their ultra heel gives a snug fit for all-day comfort.

These shoes contain a light, durable foam and interior padding that feels like you’re walking on clouds. What more could a high-arched athlete ask for?

Cons? New Balances aren't for flat-footed individuals. They also tend to get toasty throughout the day. If your feet sweat buckets during exercise, choose a more breathable option. 

Sale Price: $47

Original Price: $85

Woman runs along mountain trail in shoes

Time To Go Shoe Shopping!

Whether you’re a professional athlete, fitness fanatic, first-time gym-goer, or simply trying out a new exercise type, comfortable gym shoes are a worthwhile investment.

On your shoe-shopping journey, select kicks that best fit your workout style (and your feet). 

You can find high-quality gym shoes at Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy, Finish Line, Famous Footwear, and Foot Locker stores. 

The perfect pair of sneakers awaits you. Good luck!

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