What you wear to the gym is important. Not just because feeling good is a great confidence boost, but because outfits should also support your training. Whether that’s in the form of sweat-wicking technology, supportive sports bras or practical leggings with pockets, getting the right gear is crucial.
But it’s never more important than when it comes to our shoes. “You need to feel comfortable while you’re training, but we also don’t want any further problems down the line,” says Samantha Williams, strength coach and physiotherapist. That means no more ‘one trainer fits all’ approach – so while those running shoes might see you through 5ks and support your feet in HIIT circuits, when it comes to the gym, we need something different.
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“Cushioned soles on shoes actually end up causing people problems like plantar fasciitis [inflammation on the bottom of the foot] because they stop the foot and supporting muscles from activating as they should. For weight training, it’s better to have a flat sole,” Samantha says.
The reason for that is because our feet are mainly bones and ligaments, which are quite difficult to engage and strengthen unlike the muscles in our legs or arms. “For your feet to stay switched on and be reactive they need to have as much feedback from the ground as possible when you’re pushing through the movements,” says Samantha.
“We need to be able to move freely from the ankle too, so while some people feel more stable with a higher ankle box, a lot of us need to make sure that we’re not restricting movement. Generally, I don’t like insoles, but it will depend if you have an injury or certain issues with your feet.”
While you can get proper weightlifting shoes that are designed to help you boss your one rep max, for those of us who like to incorporate strength training with supersets and sweaty finishers for well-rounded training, we’re better off getting something a little more versatile. Samantha recommends something minimalistic, that your feet and toes can spread naturally in to help you balance.
If you don’t know what shoe to get for your training, speak with a gait specialist or a podiatrist who can help point out what you need to look for. Otherwise, these are some of our favourites:
Nike Metcon FlyEase
The Metcon is a classic gym shoe for a reason: no excessive padding, great stability and a wide, flat sole that keeps you grounded. This version features the FlyEase features, including a slip-on design and mesh top to keep feet cool.
WIT X Reebok Nano
Designed to support the versatility and durability that gym-goers need, these trainers fare well in both heavy lifting and cardio workouts. The wide fit around the toes and balls of the feet helps you feel grounded for free movement and is perfectly paired with a sturdy sole that adds an element of stability.
Vivobarefoot Knit Lux
You can’t get much more minimalist than these shoes which are designed to feel as though you’re wearing nothing (the clue’s in the name, after all). Shaped to the foot and ultra flat on the ground, these allow your feet to grip the floor and find their natural stance without any fuss. An extra bonus: they’re made from recycled plastic.
New Balance 715v4
These trainers are a great go-to for higher-intensity days. They still offer that flat sole that allows for foot flexibility but with a little more shock absorption for box jumps or burpees.
Converse Chuck Classic Low Top
If you’ve been training in the weights room for a while, you’ve no doubt seen people squatting and deadlifting in these. Not just because they already had them lying around their house, but because Converse offer a very flat, sturdy rubber sole and minimal cushioning.
Sweaty Betty Gripper Socks
Some people actually suggest lifting without shoes. This is because when your feet make direct contact with the ground, you engage more muscles. To reduce slip, go for socks with extra grip, like these from Sweaty Betty.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).