What’s The Difference Between Training, Running, CrossFit + Weightlifting Shoes?

girl sat confused with weight training shoes

It’s completely normal to wear any trainer you already own when you start out with fitness. It doesn’t make sense to immediately buy new kit before you start – who’s to say you’ll enjoy it, or even what you’ll enjoy? Different types of fitness need different types of shoe, so once you’ve figured out what you’re into, it’s time to get yourself some new kicks! Read on to find out how these types of shoes are different and the reasons why you might want to wear them.

Running Shoes

Unsurprisingly, running shoes are made specifically for running. They’re made to help absorb the shock of up to 4 times your bodyweight going up your leg with every running stride hits the floor, and are designed for moving forwards and backwards only. The rubber soles (made from a combination of materials but usually containing EVA and polyurethane) tend to be thickest at the heel, and whilst that’s great for shock absorption, it’s not ideal for balancing or rooting down into the floor to do a squat. If you’re doing something dynamic with lateral movements like BodyCombat or Zumba, you might even find that you can roll your ankle in running shoes, so stick with using these pounding the streets or the trails.

This one should have a whole sub-category as there are so many different types of running shoes: neutral or stability, long or short distance, minimalist or maximalist. I love my Brooks Addiction for anything 5km plus but I’d say the best thing for you would be to go to a local running store and ask to try as many as you can on, and more often than not the store will have a treadmill for you to run on, too.

Training Shoes

If you do any sort of training, from BodyCombat, Zumba, and dance classes, to BodyPump and weight training, all the way to HIIT and bootcamp-style classes, you need a low-to-the-ground, form-fitting shoe. This will keep you stable during strength moves but also enable you to move dynamically whenever you need to, and you’ll probably be able to do some running in these (especially if you’re doing treadmill sprints) so they’re a pretty excellent all-rounder.

Think about the sorts of training you do mostly and try to match the key points of the shoe. If you mainly lift weights with a bit of HIIT, you’ll want something very flat like a New Balance Minimus or even just a Converse All Star; if you do HIIT with treadmill sprints but some weights, then you might want something more flexible like a Nike Free TR or a Reebok Speed; lots of dance classes and it’ll be something flat with ankle support, like the Reebok Guresu.

girl sat with weight training shoes

CrossFit Shoes

Shoes specifically made for CrossFit are very similar to training shoes in that they have a flat sole, but they have a couple of features that will make them more durable to withstand the intensity of the sport. These include extra rubber, denser fabric, or even Kevlar in areas to protect against rope climbs, extra rubber or plastic at the back to make handstand push-ups easier, and a sturdier, less flexible sole to keep you even more stable during weightlifting WODs. This solid sole does make running uncomfortable, but you should be alright for shorter sprints within workouts.

You can of course wear your training shoes to do CrossFit, but you might find that as you start getting more skilled you need to upgrade. I remember burning half the sole of my training shoes off when I did a rope climb descent a few weeks in, so let that be a warning to you! The big names in CrossFit are the Nike Metcon, Reebok Nano, and Inov8 F-Lite.

Weightlifting Shoes

These are really specialist shoes and are made for those who do Olympic lifting or a lot of heavy squatting. The raised heel (usually plastic, but sometimes wooden) assists with mobility to get to the bottom of the squat by reducing the angle the ankle needs to move, and they also keep you mega stable thanks to the solid sole and secure upper, usually involving velcro. The last thing you want to do when you only get three goes at a lift in competition is lose the barbell because your shoes made you unstable! I wouldn’t wear these for normal workouts, however – you’ll find them too heavy to move dynamically in.

Again, choosing these shoes is a personal preference, but if you have less ankle mobility then Reebok Legacy Lifters or Nike Romaleos might work well, but if you have ankle mobility nailed then the Adidas Powerlift might work for you. I recommend seeing if you can borrow friends’ weightlifting shoes to see what works as these could be an expensive mistake to make.


Have you figured out which shoe is best for your style of training? The best case scenario is that you own shoes for every style of training you do, but I realise that’s not always possible. Figure out what your priority is then work from there!

girl with weight training shoes

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