The 14 Best Athletic Shoes for Every Workout

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The right footwear is essential when getting your sweat on. Whether you're into CrossFit, jogging, walking, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), kick-boxing, or just generally like to stay active, you'll want to choose something designed for working out. "When we exercise, our feet absorb pressure, up to four times our body's weight," explains NYC-based podiatrist Dr. Casey Ann Pidich. "If I'm advising a patient on a sneaker purchase, I usually tell them to look for a sneaker with adequate cushioning to absorb that force."

Dr. Marion Yau, a podiatrist based in the UK, says this ensures your foot is protected when hitting the ground during high-impact motions. According to Dr. Chanel Perkins, DPM, other "important features of athletic shoes include breathability, durability, flexibility, stability, and support—just to name a few."

With these pointers in mind, we compiled the best athletic shoes for women below.

Our Top Picks
The cushioned heel and flexible sole make for a comfortable fit for HIIT workouts.
For under $40 you get a comfortable shoe with arch support—can't ask for more.
Quality comfort is found here, from this shoe's mesh upper and gel cushioning.
These training shoes are meant to protect and enhance fitness performance.
Reliable support helps you and your body movement as you run.
This pick is designed to keep your feet feeling cool, even when warm months, and has a large rubber sole for stability.
Get up and go—simply slide your foot in without fumbling with laces.
These shoes keep your feet dry, and cushioned even on the most unforgiving terrain.
Best for Circuit Training:
ON Cloud X Training Shoe at Nordstrom
The outsoles of this shoe keep you feeling secure and stable during high-intensity workouts.
These sneakers are compatible with some indoor cleats for cycling in your home gym.

Best Overall: Nike Women's Air Zoom SuperRep 2

Nike Women's Air Zoom SuperRep 2
What We Like
  • Designed for high-impact exercises

  • Air-filled shock-absorption

  • Ample cushioning

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run small

When it comes to women's athletic shoes, Nike Air Zooms are tough to beat. The SuperRep 2, in particular, boasts air-filled shock-absorption underneath the ball of the foot, plus a cushioned foam heel and a stability plate that evenly distributes pressure underfoot.

"This is a beautiful shoe that has good cushioning to reduce the impact of the foot from high-intensity classes or activities but enough flexibility to provide stability and durability for the foot when running," Dr. Yau tells Byrdie. But these all-purpose sneakers aren't just good for running. They're designed for a range of high-impact exercises, including HIIT, circuit training, and plyometrics.

Size Range: 5–15 US | Colors: Purple, black, white, black/white, sand

Best Budget: STQ Women's Walking Shoes with Arch Support

Women's Walking Shoes with Arch Support
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Arch support

  • Shock-absorbing outsoles

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size range

Looking for something a little easier on your wallet? Check out these supportive slip-on sneakers from STQ. Featuring breathable knit uppers with a bungee-lace system, plus shock-absorbing outsoles and memory foam footbeds with arch support, you can count on a comfy fit.

Size Range: 5.5–10 US | Colors: Black, navy, blue, black/white, gray

Best Design: Asics Gel-Quantum Lyte

Asics Gel-Quantum Lyte
What We Like
  • Breathable mesh uppers

  • Gel-cushioned heels

  • Designed for stability

What We Don't Like
  • Not available in wide widths

A recommendation from Dr. Pidich, the Asics Gel-Quantum Lyte sneaker is a performance-focused shoe chock-full of technical features. We're talking breathable mesh uppers with synthetic overlays for forefoot stability, thoughtfully engineered midsoles, and gel-cushioned heels for long-lasting comfort and stability.

Size Range: 5–12 US | Colors: Blue, silver, black

Best Cross-Trainers: Reebok Women's Nanoflex TR Cross Trainer

Reebok Women's Nanoflex TR Cross Trainer
What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Compression-molded midsoles

  • Designed for cross-training

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run small

If you're partial to cross-trainers, look no further than Reebok's Nanoflex TR. These athletic sneakers have durable rubber outsoles with flex grooves under the forefoot, compression-molded midsoles for optimal comfort, and thermoplastic heel clips to support multidirectional movement.

Size Range: 5–11 US | Colors: White, black, black/white, coral, multi

Best Running: Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoes

Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 21
What We Like
  • Ideal for running

  • Inclusive size range

  • Lots of colors available

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run small

Dr. Perkins recommends Brooks Adrenaline sneakers for runners, and we can see why. The GTS 21 provides unbeatable support, stability, and cushioning while reducing overpronation. In other words, you can count on the super-smooth stride to carry you every step of the way.

Size Range: 4.5–13 US | Colors: Various

Best for Trails: Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 Trail Running Shoe

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 Trail Running Shoe
What We Like
  • Designed for uneven terrain

  • Durable rubber outsoles

  • Cushioned footbeds

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for wide feet

Dr. Perkins is also a fan of Hoka One One. For those looking for a trail shoe, the brand's Challenger ATR 6 won't disappoint. This hybrid sneaker features durable rubber outsoles with targeted zones for ultimate traction on varying terrains, plus cushioned insoles to minimize impact underfoot.

Size Range: 5–12 US | Colors: Multi

Best Walking: Sorel Kinetic Impact Strap Slip-On Sneaker

Sorel
What We Like
  • Arch support

  • Molded rubber outsole

  • Breathable mesh uppers

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run large

If walking is your preferred method of exercise, Sorel's Kinetic Impact Sneaker has your name on it. This slip-on shoe boasts an oversized molded rubber outsole, a dual-pod midsole, and a removable EVA footbed with ample cushioning. But that's not all—an extra-wide elastic strap over the breathable mesh vamp makes it super easy to get on and off.

Size Range: 5–12 US | Colors: Black, black/yellow, gold, white

Best Hiking: Adidas Terrex Trailmaker Gore-Tex Waterproof Hiking Shoe

Adidas Terrex Trailmaker Gore-Tex Waterproof Hiking Shoe
What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Designed for uneven terrain

  • Cushioned insoles

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for narrow feet

  • Expensive

For hiking enthusiasts, we recommend Adidas Terrex Trailmakers. With ultra-grippy, all-direction lugs, these trail shoes were made with uneven terrain and uphill treks in mind. What's more, the lightweight, cushioned design keeps you light on your feet, even in wet conditions on the toughest inclines.

Size Range: 5–11 US | Colors: Black, multi

Best for Circuit Training: ON Cloud X Training Shoe

ON Cloud X Training Shoe
What We Like
  • Lightweight cushioning

  • Responsive comfort technology

  • Multidirectional design

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run small

We're also big fans of the Cloud X Training Shoe, a versatile sneaker designed to support you during agility exercises and explosive movements. Featuring buoyant yet stable outsoles, zero-gravity foam cushioning, and responsive comfort technology, they'll help propel your body in any direction without weighing you down.

Size Range: 5–11 US | Colors: Various

Best Cycling: TIEM Slipstream Indoor Cycling Shoe

TIEM Slipstream Shoes
What We Like
  • Excellent color selection

  • Cushioned footbeds

  • Breathable mesh uppers

What We Don't Like
  • Cleats sold separately

Whether you regularly attend spin classes or cycle at home on a Peloton, you should definitely consider getting a pair of Tiem Slipstream Sneakers. Engineered with cushioned EVA footbeds, breathable mesh uppers, and adjustable hook-and-loop straps, you can bet your footwear won't stop you from conquering your next ride.

Size Range: 5–11 US | Colors: Pink, camo, white, black, navy, sand, merlot, gray

Best for HIIT: Ryka Women's Vida RZX Cross Trainer

Ryka Women's Vida RZX Cross Trainer
What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Contoured footbeds

  • High-impact cushioning

What We Don't Like
  • Eyelets prone to tearing

Dr. Perkins is also a fan of Ryka. If you're keen on HIIT, check out the brand's Vida RZX Cross Trainers, which have sturdy rubber outsoles, contoured footbeds, high-impact cushioning, flexible forefeet, and engineered mesh uppers.

Size Range: 5–12 US | Colors: Various

Best for Streaming Workouts: Vionic Alaina Sock Sneaker

Vionic Alaina Sock Sneaker
What We Like
  • Slip-on design

  • Available in wide widths

  • Built-in arch support

What We Don't Like
  • Relatively tight fit

With sock-style uppers, targeted traction points, and a pared-down silhouette, these slip-on sneakers are ideal for streaming workouts at home. Like all podiatrist-designed shoes from Vionic, the Alaina features built-in arch support and stability underfoot.

Size Range: 6–11 US | Colors: Black/white, gray, blush

Best Lightweight: Adidas NMD_R1 Sneaker

Adidas NMD_R1 Sneaker
What We Like
  • Heel-to-toe cushioning

  • Whole-foot stability

  • All-activity design

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run large

If you prefer to keep things light, you'll love the NMD_R1 Sneaker. Designed with sock-style uppers, runner-tech detailing, heel-to-toe cushioning, buoyant outsoles, and whole-foot stability, these athletic shoes are suitable for nearly any activity.

Size Range: 5–11 US | Colors: Various

Best All-Purpose: New Balance Women's FuelCore Nergize Sport V1 Sneaker

New Balance Women's FuelCore Nergize Sport V1 Sneaker
What We Like
  • Lightweight cushioning

  • Reasonably priced

  • Available in wide widths

What We Don't Like
  • Sizes run small

Dr. Perkins often falls back on New Balance athletic footwear, like the FuelCore Nergize Sport V1. This all-purpose workout shoe is durable and supportive yet lightweight and breathable, with all the cushioning you need to power through each move.

Size Range: 5–12 US | Colors: Various

Final Verdict

If we could recommend only one pair of athletic shoes for women, we'd have to go with the Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 2. Designed for high-impact exercises, this all-purpose workout sneaker offers ample cushioning, air-filled shock absorption, and ultimate stability. However, if you're looking for something more affordable but still want arch support and cushioning, STQ Sneakers for Women are an excellent choice.

What To Look For in Athletic Shoes

Cushioning

"The most important feature of an athletic shoe is that there is enough cushioning to protect the foot from the impact of hitting the ground," says Dr. Yau. "When we exercise, the force of when the foot hits the ground is two to three times greater than walking. The heel of the shoe should be soft because it needs to absorb the initial impact and should not be much higher than the front (toe)."

"Cushioning is a very vital element in most athletic shoes since this is what helps with shock absorption as the foot impacts the ground from higher levels of physical activity during a workout," adds Dr. Perkins. According to Dr. Pidich, cushioning is particularly important for those with flat feet.


Breathability

"Another important sneaker feature is breathability because our feet sweat a lot when we exercise," says Dr. Pidich. "Unfortunately, exercising in sweaty shoes not only causes foot fungus, but it can also lead to mechanical issues like blisters."

Stability

Dr. Pidich says stability is essential for injury prevention and overall functionality. "Stability also allows for control of pronation when we run and exercise," she adds. "Pronation is the movement that occurs when the toes turn away from the body. While everyone pronates during exercise, some people over-pronate, which can lead to painful foot problems like tendinitis.

Activity

When you shop around for workout sneakers, you'll find options designed for specific activities, like running, hiking, walking, cycling, and interval training. But according to Dr. Perkins, cross-trainers are most suitable for a wide range of exercises.

"These are the best shoes for gym workouts," she tells Byrdie. "Cross-training shoes allow you to cross-train in the gym, just as their name implies. They tend to be the most versatile type of athletic shoe."

FAQ
  • How Do You Choose the Right Pair of Athletic Shoes?

    As Dr. Perkins explains, cross-trainers are excellent all-purpose athletic shoes. Having said that, there are a few other things to consider when shopping around. "Athletic shoes need more foot stability and cushioning," says Dr. Yau. "We should keep in mind that there are many varieties of shoes and combinations [with these] characteristics. The shoe should be appropriate for the individual, both for the shape of their foot and their gait pattern."

  • How Often Should You Replace Athletic Shoes?

    The general rule of thumb is to replace sneakers every 500 miles. Of course, this metric isn't easily measured with cross-trainers and other types of gym shoes used for activities other than running or walking. With that said, if you exercise for 30 minutes a day a few times a week, you should replace them about every six months. And if you work out for roughly an hour a day with few rest days, you may need to get a new pair every three months or so.

  • How Do You Clean Athletic Shoes?

    The proper way to clean athletic shoes depends on the material. If you're working with sneakers with mesh uppers, you can start by removing dried mud and debris with a dry brush, like a shoe brush or a clean toothbrush. To address deeper marks and discoloration, create a mild cleaning solution using warm water and a few drops of dish soap or laundry detergent. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and gently rub it over the uppers, then allow your shoes to air dry. Most shoelaces can be washed in a washing machine.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a seasoned commerce writer specializing in health and fitness. As an avid exerciser and experienced footwear copywriter, she knows how to spot high-quality athletic shoes. From this list, she can personally vouch for Sorel, Vionic, Nike, Ryka, and Adidas. When compiling her picks, she spoke to three podiatrists, combed through reviews, and considered each of the expert-recommended features before making her selections.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Chanel J. Perkins, DPM, is a podiatrist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She specializes in arch pain, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, neuromas, and tendonitis.

Dr. Marion Yau (aka Miss Foot Fixer) is an award-winning celebrity podiatrist and YouTuber based in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Casey Ann Pidich, DPM, (aka Dr. Glass Slipper) is a podiatrist with training in forefoot surgery and diabetic limb salvage. She is an associate at Park Avenue Podiatry Care in New York City.

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