How I tested the best cross-training shoes
In addition to running each pair of cross-training shoes through multiple 30- to 45-minute HIIT and bodyweight workouts, I tested each shoe’s performance on 10 consecutive burpees, 10 side shuffles, and both a 200-meter and 1-mile jog.
The best cross-training shoes for women overall
The Under Armour HOVR Rise 2 are incredibly comfortable, have fool-proof traction and stability, and are the cheapest on our list.
Pros: Great traction and stability, versatile workout support, easy to slip on and off, attractive colorways, affordable, fits a diverse foot shape
For the Rise 2, Under Armour took its HOVR running shoe cushioning and integrated it with an outsole pattern designed to stop your momentum on side shuffles and back lunges. The cross-training shoes are also designed with an energy return to minimize jumping impact. The result is a super lightweight women’s athletic shoe that keeps you moving through burpees, ladder drills, and box jumps.
The stretch-bootie construction provides a sock-like fit and makes it easy to slip these on and off, but the side and back of the foot are supported with a leather overlay to lock your heel in on side-to-side movements. What’s more, the stretchy material makes these comfortable for all foot shapes, including if you have a wider toe box like me.
As the best cross-training shoes, they’re comfortable enough to run in, stable enough to lightly lift in, and were the only pair of cross-trainers I tested that didn’t slip out whatsoever on the burpee jump back.
These were already my top pick thanks to their performance across the board, so I was very happy to learn that they are also the most affordable on my testing list.
The best cross-training shoes for women with narrow feet
The Nike SuperRep Surge excel at traction, stability, and running support making them ideal for any HIIT or cardio bootcamp, but they fit narrow.
Pros: Great traction, great stability, versatile workout support, attractive colorways, clip at heel for rowing machine
Cons: Run narrow, expensive
These Nike training shoes are designed to excel in cardio-based bootcamp-style classes – that is, for running, agility training, and light lifting.
The ultralight ZoomX foam provides a springy cushion and slight energy return with each push-off, so these won’t hold you back on the treadmill, ideal when looking for the best cross-training shoe. In fact, the outsole is designed with special flex grooves to support incline running and sprinting.
The tread on the outsole resists momentum on hardwood floor and rubber mats. My tests found a small amount of slippage in the ball of the foot on burpees and side-to-side on shuffles, but not enough to be frustrating. Overall, I found the SuperRep Surge to have great traction and padding on the outside bottom of the foot.
I also liked that these Nike training shoes had small details helpful for a Bootcamp class, like a rower clip at the heel and reinforced mesh across the top of the foot to hold up against foot straps. And there are six colorways, all of which are attractive.
My only real issue with the SuperRep Surge is the same issue I have with all Nike training shoes as someone with a slightly-wider-than-average toe box: The toe box is on the narrow and tight side.
The best-looking cross-training shoes for women
If you want a dope-looking cross-trainer that still performs, the Under Armour Apex 2 is incredibly responsive, supportive, and lightweight with a basketball-trainer aesthetic.
Pros: Better for lifting, great traction, great stability, great lifestyle aesthetic, easy to slip on and off
Cons: Slightly bulky for some people, limited colorways
The UA HOVR Apex 2 was a close second for overall best cross-training shoe thanks to its stellar performance during my multi-direction agility tests and reliable performance on the run test.
Much like the Rise 2, the Apex 2 leverages Under Armour’s HOVR running shoe cushioning, has an outsole pattern designed for traction and agility support, and energy return to minimize jumping impact. Uniquely, these are designed with a UA TriBase, which maximizes ground contact for more grip both on quick movements and heavier lifts.
The mesh upper and seamless tongue are both breathable and comfortable. I love that these are easy to slip on and off without untying, too.
The main reason these were beat out for best overall pick was that the Rise 2 are more lightweight (9 oz. compared to 11.25 oz.), cheaper, and have a more mainstream aesthetic. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Apex 2 are bulky as they’re still only 11.25 oz.; they’re just slightly more shoe underfoot. This didn’t affect their performance on any of my tests, and I love that these double as shoes that perform well at the gym yet also look good grabbing coffee.
The best cross-training shoes for women runners
If you want one shoe that can handle agility and HIIT as well as road running, the Salomon Predict Soc are designed for smart stabilization and are incredibly comfortable.
Pro: Great traction, great stability, great for running, sock-like design very comfortable
Cons: Took some breaking in, a bit supportive for heavy lifting
Of the three running hybrid cross-trainers I tested, the Salomon Predict Soc performed the best on agility, traction, and stability. It was even among the overall top performers on both the burpee and shuffle test, and, of course, excelled in the run test.
The Predict Soc is technically a road runner with a unique outsole design so the groove pattern mirrors the bones of your foot. This makes for smart propulsion and stabilization not only as you run but when you’re cutting side-to-side on shuffles and ladder drills or landing jumps via lunges and air squats. This shoe also features an Energy Cell+ midsole which is a high-rebound cushion that provides excellent energy return and durability.
The knit upper is incredibly flexible and breathable, making it comfortable for most foot shapes and widths, while the heel and top of the foot both have an overlay to lock the shoe into place for speedy drills. Although there are only four colorways, all are very unique and attractive.
The one issue I had with this shoe was it gave me massive heel blisters the first three times I wore them (while I had on quality socks, no less), both on workouts and walks. But they eventually broke in fine and I haven’t heard of this being an issue for other wearers.
The best CrossFit shoe for women
If your main training is CrossFit, the Nike Metcon 6 excel on heavy-lift days and can handle the agility training.
Pros: Breathable upper, lightweight, super stable base
Cons: Stiff outsole, awful for running
The Metcon is, hands down, the CrossFit shoe of choice — and its performance holds up to that reputation. The low, flat, and wide heel makes for a stable base when you’re lifting heavy and the rubber sole has great traction for stabilizing compound movements like jerks and cleans.
The Metcon 6 is more breathable than past iterations to keep you cool and moving. They come with a removable insert so you can adjust the height under your heel if you prefer more or less of a drop.
While the shoe is technically designed with a softer foam in the forefoot, there isn’t much of a comfort or cushion feeling in these. They performed decently on the agility tests. As Jennings pointed out, a flatter shoe like the Metcon is great for cutting and turning.
When it comes to supporting other dynamic movements of CrossFit or HIIT, I’d say they certainly can make it through lunges, burpees, and side shuffles, but this is definitely not where they shine, largely because the sole is so stiff — it’s hard to get that bend in your toes. for that reason, I’d classify these as a lifting shoe and not so much as a cross-trainer.
Also, the Metcons are truly abysmal to run more than 200 meters in.
If your main focus is HIIT and agility workouts, these are definitely not the shoes for you. But if you want to optimize your lifts and are willing to have a second pair of cross-trainers for AMRAP or running days at the gym, the Metcon 6 do the limited amount they’re made for, extremely well.
What else I tested
What else I recommend among cross-training shoes
Nike SuperRep Groove ($110): With its grippy sole, these performed really well in all my tests and the seamless tongue, were very comfortable and secure. They were a strong runner-up for the best-looking pick, but Nikes (and the SuperRep Groove specifically) fit a little tighter in the toe box and therefore aren’t a great pick for all feet.
What I don’t recommend as cross-training shoes
Hoka Tivra ($110): In true Hoka fashion, these shoes are great for running and walking but, even though they’re specifically designed for jumping and cutting, they tested the worst of the 9 cross-trainers – I couldn’t do a single burpee without my feet sliding out from under me.
Altra Solstice XT ($110): Altras, overall, are designed with a more minimal mid-sole and roomier toe box so your toes can spread out naturally and provide more stability and power. If you love a minimalist shoe and will be running a lot in your HIIT workouts, this shoe could work for you. But in my experience, the roomier toe box leaves a bit of material in front of the toe that feels awkward when you’re in a pushup or plank. What’s more, the traction under the ball of the foot isn’t very grippy and my feet slid with every burpee jump back.
What I’m looking forward to trying
Reebok Nano X1 ($99.97): Reebok is a leading brand in the training shoe space, and the new Nano X1 take Reebok’s running shoe technology and fuse it with the stability of a training shoe. We’re looking forward to testing these in the future.
What to look for when buying a cross-trainer
What you need in a good cross-trainer depends largely on what kind of workouts you’ll be doing. Cross-training can encompass everything from circuit training, which involves cardio mainly on a rower or treadmill and light lifting; CrossFit, which is split between high-intensity dynamic movements like box jumps and medium-to-heavy compound lifts; or generic bodyweight or lightweight high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which incorporate a lot of agility moves to get your heart rate up.
In general, the best cross-training shoes should be lightweight to minimize the extra work on your feet, breathable to keep you as cool as possible, have reliable traction to keep your footing secure on hardwood or rubber mats, and be supportive, though this last one highly depends on whether you’re doing more jumping, running, or lifting.
Because cross-training runs the gamut of exercises, most of all you want a shoe that’s versatile (i.e., can handle jumps, runs, and lifts) and comfortable, Jennings added.
Lastly, it’s important the shoe is comfortable and fits properly, Dr. Paulus said. “There are some well-made cross-training shoes that may not necessarily be a good fit depending on the patient’s foot width and the shape of their arches.” Plus, size varies from brand to brand so it’s important to either go to a sports store and get fitted or, if you’re ordering online, to wear them around the house and analyze how comfortable they feel on your toe box, top of foot, and heel. Be sure to try them on with quality socks, too, Dr. Paulus added.
A note on fit
While we feel strongly that someone should be able to wear whatever they want, regardless of its gender designation, there are real differences between a male and female foot so you should buy a shoe according to your biological sex for the best support and lowest injury risk.
Females tend to have a smaller heel and their feet are shaped slightly differently so that there’s more potential for the foot and toes to roll inward more. This affects how the shoe is shaped overall, and where the cushioning is placed. Females also tend to have a lower body mass as well, which shoe manufacturers react to by including slightly less foam in the midsole of the shoe. Males and females also have different biomechanics thanks to different-sized hips and centers of gravity.
While it would be more accurate for the industry to use sex instead of gender delineation, the design of a women’s shoes reflects the ideal support for a female’s foot and overall physiology, while a men’s shoe reflects that for a male’s.