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10 best gym trainers for women – for HIIT, weights and fitness classes

Gym trainers with a do-it-all attitude.

Whether you’re regularly hitting the weight section of the gym or doing a cardio-heavy HIIT class, you need a decent pair of gym trainers to help you to get the most from your workout. Trust us, as editors who have tried and tested practically every sweat-inducing gym class in London (from Barry’s Bootcamp and 1Rebel to The Foundry, Third Space and Psycle), wearing the same pair of running trainers you wear at the weekend for Parkrun sadly won’t cut it when it comes to squats, deadlifts and burpees (and, spoiler: neither will that old pair of Stan Smiths).

In a rush? The best gym trainers 2023 at a glance:

  1. Best for HIIT: adidas by Stella McCartney Ultraboost 20, £200

  2. Best for lifting weights: Nike Metcon 9, £129.99

  3. Best for treadmill running: Asics Gel Pulse, £100

  4. Best for style: Veja Condor Alveomesh, £155

  5. Best all-rounder: Under Armour Flow Dynamic, £80.97

Meet the expert:

  • Nancy Best is founder of Ladies Who Crunch, an all-women's online training platform. As a PT who spends most of her time training other women or herself, she knows what works in the gym.

How we test the best gym trainers:

Alice Barraclough is a Nutrition Editor and long-time runner, so she knows a thing or two about the best trainers in which to sweat it out. Chloe Gray is a health and fitness editor and teaches strength classes at gyms across London, also getting through her fair share of gym trainers. The gym shoes included in this guide are all styles they've either tried themselves or that they know enough about for brand and style to shout out - and she's mentioned pros and cons beneath each one. Read more about how we test fitness launches here.

What's the difference between running shoes and gym trainers?

Running shoes are primarily designed to provide shock absorption and support forward movement (while still remaining lightweight so you can fly across the road, trails or track), so they tend to have more cushioning in the heel and forefoot. They also tend to have more arch support than gym trainers (to help prevent injuries) and are generally more flexible, to help with the foot's natural movement during running. “To avoid joint pain, we want trainers that will absorb some of the impact of cardio exercise, with adequate support on the heel, ankle and arch of the foot. Whether you’re doing a burpee, or sprinting around a track, you need a lightweight trainer that won’t weigh you down,” explains Nancy.

Gym trainers, on the other hand, are usually flatter and have less cushioning, with a lower heel-toe drop and provide more support to the heel and ankle – this is to allow for better stability during, for example, weightlifting. They can be worn for HIIT, weightlifting, strength training, basketball, tennis, dance classes, Crossfit, Aerobics and more. Some gym trainers, especially the ones designed for functional training (think: box jumps and plyometrics), will have more cushioning and more flexible soles than shoes designed purely for weightlifting.

“For building functional movement patterns in strength training, we want to optimise stability. Specialist trainers, like Metcons, are supportive for your ankles, without overly cushioning your arches. They also ensure that you can grip properly through your feet, for compound movements like deadlifts,” says Nancy.

So, in answer to the common question, ‘Can I wear running trainers to the gym?’, the short answer is yes… if you plan on running on a treadmill or doing an intense cardio workout at the gym. However, if you plan to lift weights, do strength training, circuit training or any form of hybrid workout, running trainers might not be best. That's because gym trainers and running shoes are designed for different types of activities, so naturally look and feel rather different.

How do you choose the best gym trainers?

The best trainers for the gym really depends on the specific type of exercise you will be doing. For example, if you’re hitting the treadmill, you’ll want a pair of running shoes specifically designed for running, while if HIIT is more your thing, you might be better off with cross-training shoes that offer a steady footing during squats, burpees and reverse lunges – while also being stylish enough to wear with jeans on rest days, too.

Elsewhere, if you are going to be doing a lot of weightlifting, you may want to consider a weightlifting shoe with a flat, hard sole for stability. The most important thing is to choose a workout shoe that’s comfortable and supportive – and make sure that your gym trainers have non-marking outsoles (‘cos no one wants to be seen scuffing up a pristine gym floor).

Choosing the right trainers is important, says Nancy: “Wearing the correct footwear for a workout is a game changer, for both performance and injury prevention. On a basic level, wearing shoes in a gym environment protects your feet, if someone was to drop a weight nearby. On a more macro level, whether you’re trying to perfect your barbell squat, or run a 10k PB, your shoes can either elevate or detract from your goal."

The best gym trainers for you depend on your activity of choice, but in general, you’ll want to ask yourself the following:

  • How comfortable are they? Can you move your toes? Does your heel slip?

  • Does your arch feel supported? Are the laces tight? Is there enough cushioning around your midfoot reduce the chances of a sprain?

  • Is there firm heel support? What about ample ankle stability?

  • Are the uppers durable? What materials were used? How high quality is the shoe?

How should my gym shoes fit?

Unlike running shoes, which are commonly recommended to fit a little larger to accommodate for swelling when your feet get hot, gym shoes should mostly fit like any other shoe. That means they should be snug and supportive but not too tight, with the ability for your foot to spread out and ground down through the shoe.


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