Whenever I start a new workout, one of the first things I do is ask my trainer what type of sneaker I should be wearing. After all, due to the nature of their job, they’re virtually all sneakerheads (not to mention that they’ve tested out an insane number of shoes between teaching and their own workouts). Personally, I’ve found their intel super insightful. For example, learning that those cushioned running kicks that help me power through my first mile could actually cause me to roll an ankle in CrossFit class because box jumps require a solid sole with lots of surface contact—life saving…literally.
So, rather than turn to the sales person at my local sportswear store for recommendations on the right type of shoes to be wearing to OrangeTheory, I reached out to some of the top trainers across exercise modalities and asked them to share their expert intel.
Keep reading to find out what type of sneaker experts say you should wear to your next CrossFit class, dance cardio hour, boxing sesh, and beyond.
“Generally, CrossFit workouts combine medium weightlifting, box jumps, jump rope, running, rowing, and calisthenics, so I recommend a flat-soled shoe with minimal cushioning,” says CrossFit Hollywood founder Andy Thompson. “The reason being that when lifting load, you need a solid surface to minimize action from your small stabilizer muscles to let the larger muscle groups be the focus.” Shoes with significant cushioning, he says, can be dangerous as they allow for a great deal of error if you move incorrectly while under a load. That said, slight cushioning is necessary in order to absorb the impact of those box jumps and other such bouncy movements. Next time you hit the box, try lacing up a pair like the Reebok CrossFit Nano ($130) or Nike Free TR7 ($171).
The art of finding the right type of running shoe for your foot, distance, and general geography is so complex, we created an entire guide all its own to help you home in on your ideal pair (Though you can’t go wrong with Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19). Bottom line: They need to be comfortable.
“The more support the better,” says Body by Simone founder Simone de la Rue, who takes her sneaker game so seriously she actually designed a pair of her own. “Dance includes a lot of jumping and movement in all planes of motion, so it’s important to find a shoe that will really support the knees and joints.” Specifically, she advises looking for shoes with extra cushioning at the arch and the heel. Another insider tip: Step into any studio in New York City and you’re bound to see plenty of women shaking it in a pair of Asics Kayanos ($120), the OG brand is a go-to for dancing divas.
“Boxing involves a lot of pivoting on your heels and being on your toes, so you definitely want a shoe that’s not only comfortable in the toe area, but one that also supports your ankles,” says CruBox founder Bebe Ding, who adds that shoes that are too loose around your foot will disrupt your balance while those that are too flat will give you “dead (read: numb) toes.” For her clients, Ding suggests shoes made specifically for boxing because they weigh less than many other types of athletic shoes (which can help speed up your footwork). She also offers a hack for those who don’t want to invest in such a niche shoe: “Basketball players need to cut, jump, and sprint at fast speeds, so basketball shoes not only have amazing grip, but they’re lightweight and will allow you to tighten up around the ankle for support,” she says.
When it comes to indoor cycling, clip-in shoes made specifically for the sport are best because they provide a more secure platform and connection to the bike to ensure a better workout and experience. “Clipping in allows you to keep your foot secure in the optimal position on the pedal,”says Alexis Anzlovar, who oversaw development of New Balance’s just-launched NBCycle spin shoe. “Overall, this is safer as you won’t slip and your body position will remain aligned on the bike, which allows you to both pull up and push down through your pedal stroke,” she says. Major players in the spinning revolution—Peloton, Flywheel, and SoulCycle—all make their own proprietary pairs, and the TIEM Slipstream Indoor Cycling Shoes ($130) work with every bike. Plus, here’s a round-up of other next-gen options that’ll supercharge your ride.
High-intensity interval training “requires extremely supportive shoes, especially for the ankles,” says Ballet Bodies trainer Ashley Li, who specializes in HIIT classes that incorporate rebounding exercises on trampolines to get your heart rate up. Look for shoes that are supportive, light, and flexible, so that you can “be in control, and not the other way around,” explains Li. Before buying a new pair, read about how Nike’s new Mecton 4 can take your HIIT workout to the next level—then grab some of your own.
Learning to lift heavy weights is hard enough without having to worry about what’s happening below your ankles. For that reason, “I recommend shoes that are very flat and tight on your foot,” says celebrity trainer Chase Weber. “This combination creates better stability when doing linear movements, as well as lateral exercises.” He emphasizes that stylish shoes aren’t always appropriate, so it’s important to choose form over function. Thompson agrees, and further recommends a shoe made specifically for weightlifting. “These shoes are flat on the sole with no cushioning and have a solid, elevated heel to help keep your posture in an upright position while lifting larger loads,” he explains. So, take the, ahem, weight off your shoulders by finding a pair that’ll keep you grounded while you work on your sumo squats.
While you’re contemplating completion of your perfect workout ensemble, know that some people are opting to attend their next sweat sesh naked. Gulp.
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