Running is a beast of a workout, there’s no doubt about it. Whether you make like the wind as a road runner or conquer the trails every weekend — there’s one surefire way to get stronger, faster and better at running. The secret is some days you don’t actually run at all. It might sound counter-intuitive, but as much as running, cycling, or really any long-form cardio is concerned, the best way to get better is to cross train and do other movements as a part of your routine.
Weightlifting, basketball, boxing — all of these are activities you can and should do on your non-running days. The diversity of movement will help strengthen muscles, ease ligaments and make you a better, more well-rounded athlete. In order to maximize the effectiveness of these cross-training workouts, you’ll also need a different pair of gym shoes that have a lower heel drop, a wider base and more support. In this piece, we’re going to break down the best cross trainers and clarify the context of why having different shoes for the gym is important for your workout routine.
We’re going to discuss:
- What cross training is
- Why cross training is important
- The key differences between running shoes and cross training shoes
- The best cross trainers for men
What is Cross Training?
As we briefly mentioned in the opening of this piece, cross training is any activity you do besides running that strengthens different muscles, awakens other parts of the body and makes you move in different way. Everyone has a different version of what cross training is — for some, it’s yoga, for others it’s weightlifting. Cross training is crucial to a successful running regimen because it targets parts of your body that aren’t emphasized when running — like your upper body, core, or anything that isn’t legs moving in a forward motion.
Why is Cross Training Important?
Not only does cross training help strengthen your body in a well-rounded way, but it also prevents injuries that can develop from overusing muscles or using the same muscles repetitively day after day with no break. You also recover faster from really intense runs when you cross-train and give your body a chance to recover actively. Lastly, there’s also a crucial mental health component to cross-training in that you give your mind a break from the marathon training program you’re on and get to focus on other movement. It’s good exercise for your brain to switch things up, and your exorbitantly sore quads will thank you as well. All exercise releases endorphins, and after a good cross-training session whether through yoga, HIIT, kickboxing or another type of movement, you’ll be more mentally attuned and ready for your next running challenge.
Differences Between Running Shoes and Cross Trainers
While running shoes are built light, supportive and shock-absorbing to protect your joints from the repeated impact of running, cross trainers are typically flatter and have a wider base to help with other physical activity.
Cross-trainers are typically heavier because they have more padding and cushioning across the sole. The sole of cross-trainers tends to extend beyond the width of the main structure of the shoe so you can lunge, cut and make other lateral movements. Exercises like sprinting, jumping jacks, burpees, kicks and other moves need support across the foot and in the toes — which cross trainers tend to have more of. They tend to have a lower heel drop, meaning the height of your heel compared to your toes is not as high, and are built with more rugged material to withstand more dynamic workouts where your moves aren’t as consistent.
You should ideally replace your cross-trainers about once a year, just like your running shoes. So if you’re in need of a new pair we’ve gathered the best cross trainers for all types of athletes looking to shake up their routine and find athletic balance.
The Best Cross Trainers for 2020-2021
Okay, so you’ve read all about cross trainers, and now you’re looking for the right footwear. Fortunately, there are a ton of great options, especially considering that this is a relatively new category. If you have a preferred footwear brand like Nike or Under Armour, then you can purchase one of their trainers with confidence.
If you’re looking for recommendations, then keep reading. We’ve rounded up our favorite men’s cross trainers for sale online, with options from Under Armour, Reebok, No Bull and all of our favorite footwear companies.
1. Nike Metcon 5 Cross Trainer
Nike makes great running shoes as well as cross trainers, and their latest rendition of the flat-soled shoe is this Metcon 5. It’s got top-notch stability to heavy lifting, traction to get you from point A to point B and it comes with a Hyperlift insert to give you a boost over the competition. It works just as well in a weight lifting gym as it does HIIT-training and comes in over 12 different colors.
2. Under Armour Men’s UA HOVR Rise 2 Training Shoes
BEST NEW SHOE
These brand new cross trainers from Under Armour just dropped and they’re pretty solid. They’re made with Under Armour’s new “HOVR” technology that’s designed to give them a “zero gravity feel” that eliminates impact and helps you bounce back with energy. They have an EVA midsole that’s high-performing and comfortable, and also contains HOVR foam inside of it. The mesh upper part of the shoe is abrasion-resistant and 3D printed to be lightweight but durable. The bootie construction at the back makes them easy to slip on and off, and there’s an external strap for yanking to put your foot in place.
3. NOBULL Men’s Cross Trainer Shoe
Whether you’re running, rope climbing, lunging, dodging, jumping or skipping these NOBULL cross trainers can keep up with you. The upper of the shoe is one solid piece of SuperFabric that’s durable and breathable. The shoes also have built-in SuperFabric guard plates built into the base that keep you stable from all angles. The shoes have a flat sole and an outsole lug design that can transition easily between indoor and outdoor training.
4. adidas Men’s Powerlift Weightlifting Shoe
BEST FOR LIFTING
These cross trainers are made for, you guessed it, lifting. Weightlifting is a fantastic cross training exercise for building strength and these shoes are some of the best to reach your PRs in. The rubber outsole keeps you firmly grounded during lifts and the upper part of the shoe is made of durable canvas that’s built to last. They have a narrow fit so your feet feel secure, a midsole wedge for support and an instep strap that’ll keep your foot in the shoe no matter what.
MORE: Best Weightlifting Shoes
5. Reebok Men’s Nano 9 Cross Trainer
BEST FOR CROSSFIT
Reebok shoes and CrossFit go together like… protein powder and water. These shoes are made for the heavy lifting and dynamic movements that workout demands. These are made with 100% fabric and a rubber sole with a wide toe box for a comfortable, wide fit. The upper is made of Flexweave fabric that’s breathable but secure. The outsole also has a minimal drop so you can maintain secure footing during pushes, climbs, drops and jumps.
6. New Balance Men’s Minimis 20 V7 Cross Trainer
BEST FOR LATERAL CUTS
Basketball, HIIT, kick boxing and other dynamic workouts all demand a certain amount of lateral movement that pushes running shoes beyond their capacity. This is why you need a secure, stable cross trainer with a wider base that can account for that intense lateral movement within your shoes. These shoes from New Balance are just the ticket — with a knit upper made of nylon-infused yarn that’ll keep your foot secure without compromising flexibility for your foot’s natural movements. The Vibram outsole will give you a secure grip on the floor and the REVlift midsole gives cushioning that’s lightweight enough that you still get good solid feel.
7. Champion Men’s Gusto Cross Trainer
Since it’s likely cross trainers are shoes you’re buying in addition to your regular running shoes, we want to make sure it doesn’t get too expensive. This budget option from Champion is excellent, with a breathable mesh fabric upper and a memory foam insole that’s plenty supportive. The shoes have a padded collar to keep your foot comfortable, and the outsole is non-marking.
8. Lalo Maximus Grinder Cross Trainer
These cross trainers are tailor-made for lifting in collaboration with a professional strength and conditioning coach and UFC fighter. It has a lot of bells and whistles built in, and with that comes a higher price tag. The Maximus has a lateral stability strap for mid-foot support as well as a ceramic-coated SuperFabric toe cap that’s ultra-protective. The anatomical lacing system keeps your foot secure while the EVA-cushioned heel, mid and outsole all give you a top-notch foundation when lifting heavy.
9. adidas Men’s Athletics 24/7 Cross Trainer
These cross trainers from Adidas look cool and are built for dynamic movements and recovery. They have an EVA midsole that provides lightweight cushioning and a rubber outsole for traction. The upper is flexible mesh that’s breathable and moves with your foot, and the shoes have a molded sock liner built inside for recovery after grueling runs or training sessions. We also love the raised ankle accent as well as the lace design out front, aesthetically.
10. Under Armour Men’s Speedform Feel Cross Trainer
This cross trainer from Under Armour has a UA TriBase in the outsole to maximize the contact points between your foot and the ground while also allowing for flexibility and natural foot motion. The external heel counter increases stability and helps you lock in while the Micro G foam midsole is ultra-responsive to your foot’s movements. The whole shoe is also made of ripstop material and mesh that’s durable for support that’s light but abrasion-resistant.
11. Nike Men’s Metcon Free Training Shoe
This cross trainer shoe is an inter-Nike collaboration between Metcon and Free sneakers, and fuses the two technologies together for a super comfortable shoe. It’s built for flexibility, breathability and to be lightweight. It has a dual-density midsole with cold fusion technology to keep your feet from sweating excessively during tough HIIT sessions, and the outsole has laser-siped flex grooves that’ll keep you stable and able to move naturally throughout your workout.