Spring is here, and if you’re thinking of hitting up the HIIT, pounding the Pelaton or giving the fresh outdoors a new take with a good jog or a healthy brisk walk, the one thing you definitely don’t want to leave to chance are your shoes.
Does it really make a difference what shoes you wear? In a word. Yes. To maximize what you are looking to get out of your fitness routine, and (equally important) reduce the potential of injuries, what you put on your feet matters.
Ready to dive in? We’ve got the read on our readers favorites as well as experts and trainers opinions. Plus we’ve broken each of our lists down into beginner, intermediate and advanced. Because a lot of your needs when starting out are going to be different than when you’re hitting expert level.
Not as bone-jarring as running, sprinting or high-intensity jumping, walking is still a great work out. And you’ve pretty much been doing it for most of your life. That said, you’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t get yourself a pair of good quality walking shoes.
Made from soft and itch-free Merino wool, these breathable shoes from Allbirds are naturally odor-reducing and over time will mold to your precise foot shape. It comes in several unique colors and they are actually waterproof, so you can keep your promise to yourself to get walking, even when the weather outside isn’t ideal.
As you increase the pace, you need a shoe to give you some pep in your step. Enter the Ultraboost 5.0 DNA. The secret is the adidas Boost technology which fuses capsules together, creating the ultimate cushioning that “gives back” energy as you push off the ground. It has a soft, sock-like fit with a supportive heel counter to keep you moving.
New Balance, 847v4 $134.95
Premium cushioning meets great stability. The brand’s Rollbar stability feature guides your rearfoot movement while their Trufuse midsole cushioning keeps things bouncy. Together with the added heel insert, this shoe delivers unmatched comfort and stability made just for walking.
The mother-of-all-cardio workouts, running is the most popular and practiced sport in the world. The results range from fat burning to muscle building, stamina to stress release. A good run is a great thing, but not prepping your feet with the right equipment and you’re lost in the land of blisters, strains and sprains.
When you are new to running, you don’t always know what will become your BFF running shoe. What you need is a great, lightweight, all-around producer that won’t break your bank. The adidas Fluidflow checks all the boxes with a soft and stretchy knit upper to keep your feet breathing and a lightweight bouncy cushioning giving you comfort and flexibility. It’s good on pavement, sidewalks, and dirt trails.
With the “most responsive adidas cushioning to date” this shoe is built to create a responsive and stable run. The Solarboost 3 comes with the adidas boost midsole (giving you energy with every kick) while the built in Control Rail ensures your strike (aka when your foot hits the ground) stays stable. Why is that important? As you move into longer distances, the potential of fatigue grows. That can throw your rhythm off and increase the likelihood for injury. Consider this shoe your own personal trainer, whispering in your ear to “keep proper form” while you continue to push your limits.
Hoka One One, Carbon X2 $179.95
When you’ve hit the big time and are focusing on the long run, you need a big gun to get you through. The Carbon X2’s secret weapon (or maybe not so secret since it’s actually in the name) is a carbon fiber plate sandwiched between layers of foam above and below. That means that when you’re hitting mile 10, you still feel low-to-the-ground responsiveness but plenty of good cushioning to combat your leg fatigue. Nutshell, this is a blisteringly fast shoe, ready to help you carve chunks off your PR.
It stands for “High Intensity Interval Training” and it has exploded in popularity since the pandemic. It’s extremely flexible in how you approach it – there are HIIT series out there that use traditional weight + hard cardio and others that use your own body weight plus short, intense moves like box jumping. Whatever your preference, these workouts are meant to kick your metabolism into high gear by alternating your moves. And while you could use your trusted running shoe in a pinch, your main go-to for this workout should be a proper training shoe.
While we all love to think that if we’re already running and using weights, starting a HIIT program means we can skip to the intermediate level. After your first session you’re going to learn real quick that HIIT is a whole different beast. Changing gears from intensive cardio to burpees to weights are gonna send your stamina into a free fall. That’s where the Kaptir will save you. The knit TPU upper will give you stability while the Cloudfoam cushioned midsole keeps you bouncy from sprint to dip. It also comes with an Ortholite sock liner which keeps your feet breathing (less sweat means better grip).
Puma, Zone XT Training Shoe $59.99
Made specifically for HIIT exercise, this is a new type of training shoe from Puma. It’s lightweight but super sturdy frame combines with Puma’s Hybrid Foam technology gives great responsiveness and spring. Wearing these will make those box jumps feel like nothing while keeping your heel supported for slinging dumbells and barbells.
This is the top favorite HIIT training shoe on just about everyone’s list. Midfoot reinforcement for lateral stability, Top Grip Rubber outsole for traction and grip, and of course the adidas Boost midsole for shock absorbing. How good is this shoe at handling jumping and quick moves? Volleyball players and cheerleaders give it 5 stars…mic drop and we’re done.
Whether your spinning or hitting the pavement, a good biking shoe is a must. Support of the ankle and and foot is paramount or you risk pedal-slippage, pressure and undue strain. A word of note here, no true biking shoe is complete without proper cleats. There are two main types, and choosing will depend on what your bike requires. SPD is the classic 2-bolt and the most common for all around cycling (including indoor and road). The other is the LOOK Delta cleat and that is what Peloton uses. Cleats are usually sold separately from shoes, but it is important to note that some advanced biking shoes are only compatible with one or the other. The good news? Shimano makes a cleat adapter plate if you find yourself needing to switch often (ie you have a Peloton at home but your spin gym uses SPD). But most professionals will recommend you use the correct cleat for your shoe and bike.
This biking shoe from adidas works just as well outdoors as indoors. It’s seamless but breathable, made from Primeweave (a high-performance recycled material) with a stiff platform to help properly channel energy from foot to pedal. These are 3-bolt cleat compatible (aka SPD-SL) which is the most universal of the two cleat types out there, making them ideal for beginners.
Nike, SuperRep Cycle Shoe $120.00
With adjustable straps to give an individual level of foot fit, this shoe is compatible with Delta cleats (such as used on Peloton bikes). While it feels lightweight on the foot, the SuperRep has added rubber-tipped studs built into the bottom of the sole to help increase your traction and prevent slipping as you walk to and from your spin class.
Venzo, Road Cycling Shoe $98.93
Now that you’re spending more time in the saddle than out, we’re guessing you’re not just limiting yourself to those spin classes. You need a shoe that’s just as home on your Peloton class spinner as it is on your Cannondale. You also want something that’s heat-insulated to reduce friction when you go full gas. And let’s not forget, something that’s odor reducing, because, we all love the thrill of victory, but def not the agony of “de feet”. The Venzo Road Cycling shoe gives you all that, with removable cleats that are compatible with indoor, outdoor, and just about everything on the market.
From Hip Hop Abs to Zumba, nothing beats getting in shape while shaking your groove thing. Cardo, flexibility, balance and coordination are just some of the results you can look forward to. Plus it’s just so damn fun. Much like HIIT, there is a lot of quick movement which can include jumping and lots of laterals. So you really need a shoe that is close to a trainer. The difference is, you aren’t going to be doing any power sprints, so good cushion and stability are what you’re after instead of inches of super foam.
With a super stretchy knit upper and plenty of cushy bounce, this ultra-breathable light running/training shoes will keep you light on your feet while you’re learning to find your rhythm.
ASICS, Gel-Cumulus 22 Tokyo $119.95
With dozens of colors to choose from, this neutral running shoe actually makes for a great cardio dance shoe as well. Why? A plush bed of FlyteFoam, plus rear and forefoot Gel disperses shock and keeps your impact pillow soft, which is great for when your moves get more advanced and things get hoppy. It also has a nice, flexible forefoot which helps keep you grounded.
Made for fast-moving, springy sports like volleyball, handball and badminton, these beauties have a full-length Bounce midsole and a supportive mesh upper that hits the right note of “tight-but-not-too-tight” to keep your foot solid as you jump around. Added bonus, the rubber outsole is grippy but non-marking so you won’t be ruining your floor as you show off that you are, in fact, the master of the Dance Party Workout.
Trail running is one of the best ways to quickly increase your endurance, agility and balance. Not to mention being in the great outdoors, working at your own pace and taking in all that mother nature has to offer builds your inner health as well. That said, it is quite the workout and can be especially challenging if you are not wearing footwear that is both supportive and stabilizing.
When you’re just starting out on the trails you need all the help you can get to prevent injuries while your body gets used to the constant changing landscape and elevations. The Terrex delivers long lasting comfort and lots of cushioning. A wide toe box and a sock like upper keeps you secure inside while the Continental™ Rubber outsole gives super firm grip. But the real secret weapon here is the Boost midsole which provides plenty of cushion over the terrain.
This new trail running shoe from New Balance comes with one of the brand’s biggest beds of Fresh Foam to date, making it amazing for taking the impact of uphill runs. Lining the underside of that famous foam is a burly studded outsole that’s super grippy. Up top there are two types of mesh, stiff around the midfoot and flexible towards the toe box. All these are exactly what you want as you begin to test your mettle on terrain like muddy trails and slippery rocks.
When a shoe is co-created with Tom Evans (the most kick-ass professional ultra-distance trail runner) you know this is a shoe that will take things next level. It has the same coveted Continental soles as the other shoes in the Terrex line, and the one and only adidas Boost cushioning, but the key here is a Lightstrike midsole that gives amazing flexibility while you show off your mountain goat skills.