The Best Workout Shoes For Women (For Running & Weight Lifting)

Steve Hoyles October 20, 2021

What are the best workout shoes for women? 

It’s a question that has multiple answers; let me explain why…

The days of generic ‘training’ shoes are over. The fitness world has progressed to a point where there are shoes designed for every type of workout–whether you’re a girl who loves to run, lift weights, do CrossFit or all of the above, there’s a shoe for the job.

In this article, I’m going to look at the different types of workout shoes on the market for women, giving a considered viewpoint on the different types of shoes, their strengths and best uses. I’ll share options for each use and explain why I think they’re the best choice for the job.

This is a completely unbiased review. I’m not influenced by brands, just quality and suitability. 

In case you don’t have time to read the rest of the article, or you’re in a hurry and just want to know my recommendations, here’s my top 4 list, depending on what you’re using them for. 

Best women’s weightlifting shoes – Reebok Legacy Lifter 2

Best women’s CrossFit shoes – Reebok Nano X

Best women’s shoes for hiit workouts – NOBULL Trainer (shoe sizes listed in men’s; click the “fit guide” tab to find the women’s shoe conversion chart)

Best women’s running shoes – NOBULL Mesh Runner (shoe sizes listed in men’s; click the “fit guide” tab to find the women’s shoe conversion chart)

 
  
 
Best for...
Why we love it
Ratings
Shipping
Reebok Legacy Lifter 2
Reebok Legacy Lifter 2
Best for... : Weightlifting
Why we love it : Super stable, flexible but secure upper. High heel to allow for mobility. Great features.
Ratings : 4.9*
Shipping: Free
Reebok Nano X1
Reebok Nano X1
Best for... : CrossFit
Why we love it : Perfect all round CrossFit shoe. Works for lifting and running. Supportive and flexible.
Ratings : 4.7*
Shipping: Free
NOBULL Trainer
NOBULL Trainer
Best for... : HIIT
Why we love it : Best NOBULL shoe on the market. Very comfortable, stable in direction change and flexible.
Ratings : 4.5*
Shipping: Free
NOBULL Mesh Runner
NOBULL Mesh Runner
Best for... : Running
Why we love it : Super comfortable, highly padded and breathable. Great upper flex and sleek, minimalist design.
Ratings : 4.3*
Shipping: Free

What’s Important to look for in Workout Shoes

When selecting workout shoes you have to think about the features you’re going to need. Here’s a rundown of what is important for different types of training…

Workout
Type
FitFlexSoleUpperHeel
Weight-
lifting
WideStiffFlatStiffRaised
CrossfitWideMedium/StiffFlatMediumSlight raise
HiitMediumFlexibleTexturedMediumFlat
RunningNarrowFlexibleTexturedSoftFlat

Different workouts have specific requirements…

Weightlifting shoes need to have a wide toe box for comfort and to allow for toe-spread when squatting etc. The uppers and soles should be stiff with just enough flex. The sole should be flat for maximum ground contact and the heel should be raised to allow for maximum mobility.

CrossFit shoes borrow elements of running and weightlifting shoes. They need a wide fit for weightlifting, a medium flex sole and upper – stiff enough to help lifting, flexible enough to allow you to run and jump. There’s a slight raise in the heel and the sole should be flat.

HIIT shoes don’t need the lifting elements to the design. They should be medium flex uppers and medium width fit to prevent too much side-to-side movement. They need a textured sole to help with underfoot grip. There’s no heel raise requirement either. 

Running shoes tend to be on the narrow side to offer support to the foot as it strikes. They need to have a flexible sole and a soft, flexible upper to allow the foot to move naturally during the run. The sole is textured for grip and the heel should be flat.

Of course there are nuances in each of these because we all have different mobility and comfort requirements, but as a snapshot the table above shows you what you need to look for in your workout shoes. 


So.. What’s The Best Workout Shoe On The Market For Women?

Now we’ve established that there’s no single shoe that will tick all of the boxes you require, it’s clearer as to why I’m making a suggestion for each different type of workout. The shoes I suggest are the ones that I believe offer the best quality across a number of different categories such as quality, comfort, value, features, design etc.


Best Women’s Weightlifting Shoe – Reebok Legacy Lifter 2 – excellent lifting shoe, great features

Best Workout Shoes
Features
Our rating
Features
  • Super stable – heel clip, high side supports and a thick strap make for a top-level shoe
  • Very breathable, so perfect for long sessions
  • Stable base, flexible supper
  • Highest heel around (22mm)
Our Rating
Our #1 Rated Best Workout Shoes
4.9 out of 5

The Reebok Legacy Lifter 2 is the top of the range women’s lifting shoe from Reebok. I’m struggling to find fault with them, because in terms of build quality, features, comfort and performance they’re everything you should be looking for in a premium weightlifting shoe for women.

I know $200 sounds like a lot of money, but that’s the average price for a premium lifting shoe. You’ll also wear them for (literally) years, so choose wisely. It’s a really solid shoe for women looking for the next level in terms of outright competition quality. You won’t outgrow these shoes, regardless of your ability.

Reebok Legacy Lifter 2

The Legacy Lifter 2’s contain a unique combination of features. The textile upper is more breathable and stability is aided by high plastic side supports around the heel. The girls at my lifting club love the combination of support of the shoe in the clean, squats, snatches etc but the flexibility it offers in the jerk.

Stability is further aided by a heel clip, which limits side-to-side and front-to-back movement. This has the effect of both supporting and ‘cupping’ the heel. There’s also feedback that this extra support helps those with smaller feet.  It’s a popular shoe amongst lifters.

Reebok Legacy Lifter 2 Reviews

As you’d expect, the flat sole is the perfect platform from which to lift. There’s the perfect amount of flex in the sole, which compliments the flexible upper.

The heel is high compared to a lot of other weightlifting shoes (22mm), but that provides huge help from a flexibility and mobility point of view. The combination of flexible uppers, stiff sole, high heel, the heel clip and the strapping make these an elite level weightlifting shoe.

Pros

  • Super stable – heel clip, high side supports and a thick strap make for a top-level shoe
  • Very breathable, so perfect for long sessions
  • Stable base, flexible supper
  • Highest heel around (22mm)

Cons

  • Lack of stiffness can be an issue for some
  • Premium price might put off a few people

Verdict

The Legacy Lifter 2 is a great weightlifting shoe. It’s stable, looks great, has all of the features you need and plenty more. It’s a shoe that is suitable for complete beginners through to seasoned pro.


Best Women’s CrossFit Shoe – Reebok Nano X – a decade of design in one shoe

Best Workout Shoes
Features
Our rating
Features
  • Flat sole, slightly raised heel, great stability for lifting
  • Comfortable enough to run in
  • Supportive around the foot
  • Stiffer upper than rival shoes
Our Rating
Our #2 Rated Best Workout Shoes
4.7 out of 5
Reebok Nano X

I’d previously reviewed CrossFit shoes and these came out on top. At the time they were $26 cheaper than the updated X1s, but now they’re pretty much the same price. Despite that, I haven’t changed my mind on the order.

The Nano X is a slightly stiffer shoe than the X1 – it has better foot support, the upper is touch more rigid and the fit is a tiny bit wider. All of these add up to make it a better shoe for the lifting elements of the sport. CrossFit is a majority lifting and strength sport – lifting movements outnumber cardio movements significantly, so the best CrossFit shoe should bias lifting over cardio.

That being said though, the Nano X1 is still an excellent shoe, I just think the additional support and comfort offered by the Nano X keeps it in first place. The wider community reviews agree with my opinion too, with the Nano X just pipping the Nano X1 in review score…

Reebok Nano X Reviews

Both are excellent shoes, so think about what you prefer. If you like a softer shoe, perhaps go for the X1. For a better all-rounder with more support, go for the Nano X.

Pros

  • Flat sole, slightly raised heel, great stability for lifting
  • Comfortable enough to run in
  • Supportive around the foot
  • Stiffer upper than rival shoes
  • Wide toe box for comfortable lifting and jumping

Cons

  • Lacks a large inside grip to help with rope climbs
  • Slight price increase recently

Verdict

The Nano X is still the top of the pile when it comes to CrossFit shoes in my opinion. They’re tough enough to withstand anything you can throw at them, but flexible enough to use for the dynamic work in CrossFit. 10 years of design and innovation hasn’t been lost here.


Best Women’s HIIT Workout Shoe – NOBULL Trainer – Stability, agility and flexibility all in one shoe

Best Workout Shoes
Features
Our rating
Features
  • Flexible yet supportive sole
  • Comfortable enough to run in
  • Supportive, despite the flexibility. Stiffer than a running shoe
  • Minimalist design prevents rubbing
Our Rating
Our #3 Rated Best Workout Shoes
4.5 out of 5
NOBULL Trainer

NOBULL Trainers are relative newcomers to the workout shoe scene, but they’ve arrived with a huge bang. Signing many of the top CrossFit athletes to their brand, they’ve made waves in the sport and have also started sponsoring the games.

This isn’t just a triumph of marketing though, the NOBULL shoes are fantastic and the fitness world loves them…

NOBULL Trainer Review

I’ve reviewed them before as a CrossFit shoe and felt although they were a great shoe, they lacked the top end stability for Olympic Weightlifting. In a HIIT workout setting though, they’re perfect. They have a minimalist design, a soft, flexible upper and a flexible sole that doesn’t compromise movement.

The NOBULL trainer is the best of all the CrossFit shoes to run in, so with HIIT workouts demanding lots of movement, flexibility and change of direction, these are ideal.

The NOBULL trainer is significantly more supportive than your typical running shoe, so if you’re doing plyometrics, lifting, kettlebell work, running etc it’s perfectly designed. The minimalist construction also prevents things like blisters and rubbing during their use. Although they’re designed with CrossFit in mind, they’re a perfect HIIT workout shoe.

One last thing to add. For some reason, NoBull lists their shoes sizes in men’s sizing even though they are “unisex.” If you click the “Fit Guide” tab, it will tell you what size you are in men’s sizing listed.

Annoying, but don’t let it deter you from choosing these ones if you’re big into HIIT workouts. They are the best on the market, and it’s not even close.

Pros

  • Flexible yet supportive sole
  • Comfortable enough to run in
  • Supportive, despite the flexibility. Stiffer than a running shoe
  • Minimalist design prevents rubbing
  • Excellent with direction change – good grip

Cons

  • Not supportive enough for top end lifting – but that’s not an issue with HIIT

Verdict

The NOBULL Trainers might have fallen short of being the best CrossFit shoes, but they’ve excelled when it comes to HIIT. I love the combo of the flexibility, grip and comfort combined with the additional support. These are an excellent HIIT shoe and offer true versatility.


Best women’s running shoes – NOBULL Mesh Runner – Light, breathable and comfortable

Best Workout Shoes
Features
Our rating
Features
  • Flexible, lightweight shoe
  • Comfort is a priority – lots of additional padding
  • Maximum airflow to minimize sweating and rubbing
  • Minimalist design prevents rubbing
Our Rating
Our #4 Rated Best Workout Shoes
4.3 out of 5
NOBULL Mesh Runner

It’s a NOBULL shoe again that takes the top spot here, because they’ve made an excellent shoe that the likes of Reebok just haven’t matched yet. At NOBULL there’s a range of running shoes, but I think the combination of features, design, value and construction of the Mesh Runner makes it their best.

The shoe is breathable and lightweight. There’s support underfoot, but you’re well aware of the ground contact so you can adjust your stride pattern accordingly. Unlike a lot of running shoes, the sole is relatively flat. If you have specific foot issues (pronation, flat feet etc) then check with your podiatrist if they’d be OK.

The soles are textured and grippy, so slipping won’t be an issue for you in these shoes. An interesting feature of these shoes is a removable sock liner, which provides added comfort.

It seems as though the designers of these shoes have really focussed on user comfort as a priority – they’ve maximized airflow and internal foot padding without removing the feedback that runners receive from the underfoot contact with the ground. They’ve taken the basic premise of a running shoe, flexibility, comfort, grip and improved on each aspect. The users love these shoes…

NOBULL Mesh Runner unisex reviews

Because these shoes are also NOBULLS, they too are listed in men’s sizing. As I mentioned above, NOBULL shoes are unisex and are popular among women. Simply click the “Fit Guide” tab to find your shoe size in the “Size Conversion Chart.”

NOBULL Mesh Runner review
NOBULL Mesh Runner Size Cnvrsn Guide

Pros

  • Flexible, lightweight shoe
  • Comfort is a priority – lots of additional padding
  • Maximum airflow to minimize sweating and rubbing
  • Minimalist design prevents rubbing
  • Removable sock liner

Cons

  • Flat sole, which may pose problems for some runners biomechanically

Verdict

I’ve long felt that the running shoe world needed some innovation, and the Mesh Runner offers that. With its combination of sleek design, extreme user comfort and breathability, it’s a running shoe that will make pounding the tracks, trails and sidewalks a pleasure. You won’t find a better running shoe at the price point.


Workout Shoes – The Big Shift

It wasn’t too long ago people wore the same shoes for all of their training. Whether it was running, weight training, HIIT or cycling, the same shoes came out. Weightlifting had specific shoes, but it wasn’t until CrossFit boomed that weightlifting became more mainstream and weightlifting shoes became more commonly worn.

The multidisciplinary nature of CrossFit meant that trainers and manufacturers alike began to understand the need for different types of footwear. As more people started to mix up their training, the nuanced footwear requirements became better understood and the big brands catered for the different needs.

Over the last decade or so, workout shoes have changed dramatically. The Hybrid shoes from Reebok, Nike and NOBULL have come into the market and changed the game forever.

Your training shoe choices have shifted. It’s no longer about fashion… your choices are about equipment.

Your decisions should be made on features, not on designs.


Wrapping It Up – The Case For Women To Get The Right Shoe For Their Workouts

I hope that through reading this article you’ve understood the nuances behind workout shoes and why a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach isn’t the way to go. Think about the type of training you do and then make a decision that way.

The correct workout shoes will not only improve your workout experience, therefore your fitness and enjoyment, but they’ll also help to prevent injuries and maximise your performance.

In any other walk of life, you use the right tools for the job. When it comes to workout shoes, make that the case too! Your body will thank you for it – I promise!

In case you need a reminder, here’s my recommendations list again…

Best women’s weightlifting shoes – Reebok Legacy Lifter 2

Best women’s CrossFit shoes – Reebok Nano X

Best women’s shoes for hiit workouts – NOBULL Trainer (shoe sizes listed in men’s; click the “fit guide” tab to find the women’s shoe conversion chart)

Best women’s running shoes – NOBULL Mesh Runner(shoe sizes listed in men’s; click the “fit guide” tab to find the women’s shoe conversion chart)

Steve Hoyles

Steve is a Personal Trainer, Weightlifting Coach, and Gym Owner. He has written about fitness for over a decade. He lives with his girlfriend Rachel and their two sons.

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