The 15 Best New Workout Sneakers of 2019

When did buying workout shoes become so complicated? We understand what it’s like to arrive at a shoe website or store, only to be inundated by weird terms (neutral versus minimal? supinate versus pronate?) and feel overwhelmed by the number of options available. So we’re here to help.

For our awards this year, we handpicked a small group of devoted runners, lifters, hikers, and walkers to test close to 50 pairs of new workout sneakers, and sifted through the jargon to find the best workout shoes for every activity. Whether you’re new to running or training for yet another marathon, we think there’s a shoe on this list that’s right for you. We’ve also included a lifestyle option for walking, a cycling shoe, a lifting shoe, and even an obstacle race shoe. We hope our explanations help demystify the shoe-buying process and offer an explanation for some of the most frequently used shoe terms along the way.

The best workout shoes on this list are new, released between October 2018 and September 2019. Once you’ve picked out your next favorite pair of sneakers, make sure you check out all of this year’s fitness award winners to select a sports bra, leggings, and a top to match.

1. Best Running Shoe for Speed: Altra Escalante 2, $130

Altra is known for its rather funky-looking toe box (if you look at the sole of this shoe, you’ll actually see individual toe treads) and “balanced cushioning”—meaning the forefoot and heel are placed at an equal distance from the ground, to encourage a lower-impact landing with each foot strike. (Lots of other shoes have a more significant “drop,” meaning the heel is elevated more than the front of the foot.) We’ll be honest: Like most sneakers, this running style can be pretty subjective—and there’s plenty of debate about the exact position your foot should be in while running. But for our testers—who were looking to quicken their pace, lighten their shoe load, and feel the ground as they moved—this shoe delivered in a big way.

One reviewer says: “I was actually quite surprised by these Altras! This is going to sound really weird, but with every step on the treadmill, it felt like the shoe ‘became one’ with the conveyer belt—like, the shoe naturally propelled me forward instead of my body exerting energy. And that was great to feel during sprints! Because these shoes are more for sprinting than long-distance running, I wear these to classes like Barry’s Bootcamp where I’m forced to change speeds and sprint regularly.”

Buy it: $130,

2. Best Running Shoe for Long Runs: Brooks Glycerin 17, $150

A neutral running shoe designed specifically for road running, the Brooks Glycerin 17 offers a cushioned yet durable ride. (A quick word about neutral running shoes: These workout shoes are typically designed for folks who don’t roll their foot too much to the outside or too much to the inside as they land each stride. In other words, they’re sort of right in the middle—neutral. Neutral shoes typically offer some cushion and support, without being too soft or bulky.) The midsole (meaning the middle of the shoe) is engineered with a proprietary “plush” transition, meaning you should feel just as supported pushing off as you do landing each stride. And this latest release in the Glycerin series comes with a new built-in sock liner that gives an even softer feel than previous editions.

One reviewer says: “The feel and fit of the shoe is great. I love the amount of support and cushion it has without switching the insoles. I felt very light on my feet while running in them. In fact, they’ve become my new go-to shoes. I wear them for pretty much any type of activity (running, HIIT classes, just going shopping). I wear them everywhere!”

Buy it: $150,

3. Best Stability Running Shoe: Saucony Guide ISO 2, from $65

If you’ve ever read a sneaker website and been confused about whether you want a “stability” or “neutral” running shoe, this might be the one for you. (A quick primer on stability shoes: They are intended for someone who overpronates when running. Overpronation means your foot rolls inward as you land, which lets your big toe do a lot of the work as you push off, and it’s common in people with low arches or “flat feet.” Shoemakers used to make big, bulky shoes with lots of cushion to try to correct a runner’s stride, but as more experts have adopted the idea that there’s no single “right way” to run, the thinking today is more subtle and not always about bulk. No matter what, a good stability shoe should make your run more comfortable and provide cushioned arch support.) The Saucony Guide ISO 2 attempts to unite the concepts of neutral and stability into a single shoe. It provides cushioned yet lightweight support for your long runs, plus an innovative “guide” system designed to help stop overpronation.

One reviewer says: “I have flat feet and am an overpronator, so I usually wear shoes with a lot of cushioning when I do long runs. The issue is that a lot of those shoes can feel really clunky, especially if I’m just going for a quick run and want to feel light on my feet. These Sauconys gave me the cushioning my feet are used to without feeling like dead weights—I definitely didn’t feel weighed down. I also really like the grippy tread on these.”

Buy it:  From $65,

4. Best Cushioned Running Shoe: Hoka ONE ONE Clifton 6, $130

Hoka One One is known for its “maximalist” running shoes—meaning if you want all the cushion and then some, these might be the right shoes for you. Don’t be fooled by the bulky appearance, though. Our testers said the shoe still felt surprisingly lightweight and wasn’t clunky at all for longer runs.

One reviewer says: “Holy cloud marshmallow pillow! These shoes offer plenty of support and cushion. As someone who has been a lifelong runner and now suffers occasional knee pain, these shoes make that pain virtually disappear. Yes, they’re kinda clunky looking, and no, I probably wouldn’t wear them all day, but for a good, steady run that left me feeling more energized at the end than at the start, these made an excellent option.”

Buy it: $130,

5. Best Running Shoe for Beginners: Nike Joyride Run Flyknit, $180

While we named this shoe best for beginners—and it’s definitely a solid choice for a newbie runner—it’s also perfect for anyone looking to add extra cushion to their ride. Foam beads at the heel of the shoe (you can see them through the clear panel!) mold to your foot with every strike, providing personalized cushion where you need it most. The sock-like upper is also snug—meaning it helps hold your midsole (the middle of your foot) straight and helps to prevent you from rolling too much in one direction.

One reviewer says: “I wasn’t sure if these shoes—with their bubbly semitransparent heels—would be all hype and no substance. But once I started running, I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a ton of cushion here and an inner sock structure that really held my foot in place. I wouldn’t wear these on speed runs or maybe on race days, but for everyday running they were pretty perfect!”

Buy it: $180,

6. Best All-Purpose Running Shoe: New Balance FuelCell Propel, $110

The pillowy cloud that hugs the heel of this shoe is no coincidence: They’re specifically designed for heel and midsole strikers (runners who land more in the middle of their foot, rather than with their heel first or toes first) who are looking to give their legs a bit of a break. The Propel also has great energy return—meaning you’ll feel like you’re springing into your next step—and an all-knit upper that hugs your foot and secures it in place.

One reviewer says: “I’ve been a fan of New Balance for years—but typically only for shorter distances. Their lightweight running shoes have always been great for speed in my book, but when I go on longer runs, I typically want more cushion. Thankfully, now there’s the Propel! This shoe has a great amount of cushion but doesn’t feel too bulky to me. Plus, I love the curved design of the sole, which really makes rolling into each new step feel easier (especially once my legs get tired). If you’re only going to have one pair of running shoes in your closet, I think these would be an excellent choice.”

Buy it: $110,

7. Best Treadmill Running Shoe: APL TechLoom Breeze Merino Wool, $250

APL (or Athletic Propulsion Labs) is known among sneaker fans for its monochromic palettes, sleek silhouettes, and sophisticated designs. These shoes, made from merino wool, are no exception. They’re soft (you can wear them without socks) and breathable (warm in winter, cool in summer), and they come with all of the cushion and support innovation you’d expect from a company that put labs in its name. Perhaps best of all: You can throw these into your washer, let them air dry, and they’ll be good as new.

One reviewer says: “I wore these for a full week of treadmill workouts while on vacation (they were the only sneakers I brought!). Not only do they pack a surprising amount of cushion for looking and feeling so lightweight, they’re also really cute. APL always nails the style factor, and these were no exception. I’d definitely wear them all day long.”

Buy it: $250,

8. Best Trail-Running Shoe: Merrell Antora Trail Runners, $110

Trail running can be a little tricky. Most runners want a shoe that lets them still feel the ground, but with enough cushion and stability so that the inevitable small rock, stick, or uneven terrain won’t roll their ankles. That’s where these new Merrells come in. They’ve got forefoot and heelfoot cushioning pads (extra cushion in the front and back), so you’re covered no matter how you strike, plus a rock plate to prevent bruising. (Rock plates are often built into the midsole of trail running shoes to help protect your feet if you’re covering gravel or other potentially jagged terrain. They are just what they sound like: A piece of metal or other hard material designed to prevent rocks from hurting your feet.) Bonus: These shoes are vegan friendly.

One reviewer says: “These feel like a running sneaker with better grip and good stability, which is what I would look for in a trail runner. They look sleek and almost like climbing shoes, but when I put them on I realized that the sole was actually nice and thick. As far as Merrell shoes go (they are great shoes, but associated with suburban dads), they were cute! You could totally make it work.”

Buy it: $110,

9. Best Shoe for Hiking: Columbia SH/FT trail shoe, $130

The coolest feature of these hiking shoes? The completely waterproof outer shell that’s paired with a perfectly soft stretch-knit liner. We’re not saying it will replace your favorite hiking socks, but it does come close. Similar to another winner on this list, soft beads in the sole of this shoe provide added cushion and help with energy return—so you’ve got extra bounce in your step to keep going.

One reviewer says: “I loved the fit—they gave me room on the sides and at the toe but had the sock-like component toward the tongue at the ankle, so they never felt loose or like they weren’t supporting me properly. It was a really happy medium. They felt pretty light for material that is leather-/suede-like and waterproof. They were great and can be used for many purposes when walking/running/hiking outdoors. I loved that they look like a cute trainer but have the support for more rugged terrain. True story: I actually wore them with a dress after I wore them on a hike. I loved the look!”

Buy it: $130,

10. Best Shoe for Cross-Training: Inov-8 F-LITE G 235 V3, $130

These minimalist shoes are designed for the cross trainer who wants to (almost) feel like they are working out barefoot. We mentioned drops earlier, and this shoe has a 4-mm drop—meaning your heel is only 4 mm more elevated than the ball of your foot—so you should feel pretty natural agains the floor. Plus, with a wide toe box and flexible upper, you don’t need to do anything extra to break these in. Testers felt supported, but still light and speedy on their feet.

One reviewer says: “They were light and surprisingly comfortable. They were also super flexible on the first wear so I didn’t have trouble doing exercises that required me to be on the tips of my toes. I think these are a great shoe for your HIIT class or cardio fitness class. One catch, I wouldn’t wear these outside the gym. I didn’t care for the color or the design to be completely honest, but they were great to work out in.”

Buy it: $130,

11. Best Shoe for CrossFit: Reebok Reebok Nano 9, $130

It’s no secret that CrossFit fans love Reebok’s shoes—and the latest Nano iteration is no exception. These shoes come with a knit upper for flexibility, plus added cushioning in the forefoot (front of the shoe) so you’ll be comfortable whether you’re running sprints or lifting heavy.

One reviewer says: “They fit a little loose, but I was happy with the room. I was able to have full range of motion while feeling supported. They’re not super cushiony, but my feet didn’t hurt at all. Super lightweight. Love these! I’d totally wear these out and about outside the gym. The provided shoelaces are superlong. No tongue holder either. Tongue stayed in place though. Great traction without being overly tacky.”

Buy it: $130,

12. Best Shoe for Weight Lifting: Nike Metcon 5, $130

The latest iteration of the Metcon from Nike is designed for your heaviest leg days—but our reviewers loved that it could also keep up on their high-impact workouts. The flexible sole on this shoe is made for doing quick sprints, pivots, and all types of agility training, in addition to providing the stable foundation Metcons are already known for.

One reviewer says: “The shoes fit perfectly. Even though they’re not cushiony, my feet felt well supported. They are also fairly lightweight for a weight lifting shoe. I would totally wear these all day, they’re so cute! There is a bit of a ‘clonk’ when walking—similar to the sound of cycling shoes—but not nearly as extreme. These have great traction, but aren’t too sticky. Great for weight lifting and all-around exercise!”

Buy it: $130,

13. Best Shoe for Cycling: Pearl Izumi Women’s Sugar Road Cycling Shoe, $130

Our reviewers loved the “old-school” lacing style on these cycling shoes—even people who are used to Velcro or clips for their cycling shoes were into the laces. But don’t let the throwback style fool you—there’s still plenty of technology to this shoe. The fully bonded upper is seamless, meaning there’s less risk of blisters, while the sole integrates a stiff carbon plate (to help hold your foot in a proper position), so you’re getting the most power out of every pedal.

One reviewer says: “The fit and feel of the shoe is great. I hate when a [cycling] shoe is too tight around my toes and forefoot, but this one didn’t pinch at all and left my toes some room to breathe.”

Buy it: $130,

14. Best Shoe for Obstacle Races: Spartan by CRAFT Fuseknit X Training Shoe, $120

With the rise of obstacle-course racing—the kind of race that often requires participants to run through mud, climb rope walls, or swing across monkey bars—it felt fitting that we should add a shoe made specifically for those challenges. This shoe is built to support you through both short sprints and longer runs, plus any type of cross-training you can think of.

One reviewer says: “These lightweight shoes always feel a little flimsy when I first put them on, but they are deceptive! The base of the sneaker really supports the entire foot, and the sole is substantial without appearing clunky. I really like the soles on these shoes. Not only is there adequate shock absorption in the front of the shoe, it feels like there’s adequate cushioning in the heel.”

Buy it: $120,

15. Best Lifestyle Shoe: Reebok CLUB C 85, $56

This updated classic is made from a leather upper so you it will soften and get even comfier over time. And while the silhouette has that retro vibe, the midsole provides the perfect amount of lightweight cushion, which makes it perfect for long walks or days when you simply have to frequently be on your feet.

One reviewer says: “I absolutely love these shoes—they are very cute and chic. I wore them for multiple days of commuting (which is about two miles per day), plus wore them all day at work for several days.”

Buy it: $56 (originally $75),

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