You could wear your (possibly beat-up) running shoes to boxing class and during strength-training sessions—but you’d be missing out, say fitness pros.
Their expert advice? The best shoes are ones with features that specifically support your workouts—like lateral stability for dance cardio class or flat soles for CrossFit—because it can seriously improve your experience and performance.
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We interviewed six stars across a variety of fitness fields for tips on picking the best workout-specific shoes. Read on find your future sweaty sole-mates… —Lisa Jhung
“For dance, your shoes need to be responsive to fast, agile movements—look for lightweight, form-fitting shoes that don’t hinder you,” says Body Conceptions founder and former Broadway dancer Mahri Relin.
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“For cardio work that involves jumping on the toes, cushioning under your forefoot is especially important,” adds Relin, who generally wears Brooks models like the Ravenna 5 (although they’re technically designed for running). You should also look for lateral support and a wider toe box, she says.
We recommend: Puma Pulse XT Geo, $70
“A good pair of weightlifting shoes should provide you with increased awareness of weight through pressure in the heel and better balance under the bar,” explains super smart trainer Dennis Remorca, owner of Remorca Fitness on New York City’s Upper East Side.
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Remorca says you should also think about technique or range of motion deficiencies you might have, like ankle immobility, which a skilled trainer can help you identify before you shop.
We recommend: Adidas Powerlift 2.0, $90
“On a treadmill, you can go for something a little lighter than what you’d run in outside,” says Katie Bottini, a trainer at treadmill running studio TheRun in New York City’s Flatiron District, Nike run coach, and fitness model.
Why? “A treadmill is a little more cushioned then the road, there are no uneven surfaces, and if you’re using the treadmill primarily for intervals or shorter runs, which most people do, a lighter shoe can help to have a quicker turnover for intervals,” she explains.
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Just make sure you’ve got fit totally covered (i.e. they address your high arches or excessive pronation) and your pair is the right size. “Many people wear sneakers too small or too big, which can lead to all types of injuries!” she says.
We recommend: Nike Air Zoom Elite 7, $80
You don’t have to worry about impact, but do think about the fact that most rowing classes involve some off-the-machine strength training or mat work, too, she says. “I prefer a thinner sole so that I can really feel my pushes on the rower and have maximum stability on the mat.”
We recommend: New Balance 811, $75
“In the case of say, heavy barbell lifting, you don’t want to be standing on a big sponge, like the large, squishy heel in most running and athletic shoes….all that cushioning diminishes stability, joint strengthening, transfer of power, and explosiveness,” says Eric Christensen, coach and co-owner of Boulder’s CrossFit Roots.
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Instead, he recommends a shoe with minimal drop from heel to toe, minimal cushioning, and no ankle support. “The one caveat to this is finding a shoe that will hold up when doing rope climbs,” he says. “One that has some lateral stability and protection around the midfoot is a plus to protect your shoes—and your feet.”
We recommend: Reebok CrossFit Nano 4.0, $100
“Wearing running shoes with thick, chunky rubber soles with lots of grip will prevent you from working well on your feet, and any good boxer knows footwork is one of the most important fundamentals,” says Alicia Napoleon, a Golden Glove champ and head trainer at Overthrow in New York City.
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What helps you fly like a butterfly, she says, is getting in a good pair of boxing “boots.” Look for a pair that’s “nice and light in material with a flat sole, because it’s important for boxers to be light on their feet,” she says. “I only wear shoes with barely any grip to give me the mobility I need to dance in the ring.”
We recommend: DoubleABoxing 3/4 Low Top, $53