The Best Gym Shoes: Review of Under Armour, Reebok, and Nike
Words by Joel Charley of Midnight Runners
Whether you are working out in a gym or in with your own weights set up at home, having the right footwear is crucial. What is the best gym shoe? Well, like all things it can be really subjective. The search for your best gym shoe can be a long and confusing one, especially as there are so many to choose from. Fortunately, I tried and tested a few frontrunner options from The Sports Edit, to compare the best gym shoes between the Under Armour TriBase Reign 2, the Reebok Nano X, and the Nike Metcon 6.
These shoes are ideal for the street and the studio. I put them through their paces, each one getting the same treatment: a HIIT class, a 1km run, a kettlebell circuit, and barbell movements to get to the bottom of what makes the best gym train.
Read on to find out which shoe shone, and where the weak points were.
UNDER ARMOUR TRIBASE REIGN 2
The name of this shoe alone says quite a lot about Under Armour’s second foray into the cross training shoe world. Its main technological boast stems from the triangular mid-section of sole (hence “tri” of the TriBase) which is designed to provide grip and flexibility when either lifting weights or shifting through a change in direction. The solid base is topped with a stretchy knit upper and a heel cup, to try and lock that foot in place.
How does the Under Armour TriBase Reign 2 look?
I opted for the simplistic black colourway (there are other, snazzy ones, too). Straight out of the box, the initial impression was that the TriBase Reign 2 looked super sleek and simplistic, in a very good way. This shoe has no unnecessary bells or whistles. I could see myself wearing these both in the gym and casually out and about.
Are they true to size?
In a word, yes. The length of the shoe matched my usual sport shoe size so that was no issue. I want to caveat the next statement with the fact that I have wider feet and flatter feet than the average person. With this in mind, I ran into issues with the width of the TriBase Reign 2. The front to the back of the shoe is a bit narrow, or at least it gave that impression during my wear tests, which I’ll go into more detail on below. For this reason, I would say the TriBase Reign 2 is not for those with wide feet.
What is the heel drop?
The TriBase has a 2mm offset from front to back, which for a gym shoe is a very good thing. The heel drop in a gym shoe provides a neutral base, which acts as a benefit if you want to lift heavier weights or swing kettlebells. However in this shoe, I noticed the middle section of the foot felt like it was higher than the heel. Whether this is by design or due to the narrow profile of the shoe it affected my experience, particularly during the HIIT class and run. Perhaps they needed breaking, or would be better suited for someone who needs gym shoes with arch support.
What is the Under Armour TriBase Reign 2 best for?
The time when I felt that this shoe really came into its own was when performing barbell movements (deadlifts, squats, clean and press etc…). The flat and low-to-the-ground nature of the shoe made me feel stable, if I ignored the pressure on my foot arch.
The knit upper was a bit too loose and my foot moved around a fair bit during HIIT training or while running. So I would say the TriBase Reign is best for weights and barbell-related movements. These would be best for someone who wants a dedicated shoe for the gym (or in their home gym), and wouldn’t necessarily seek to use them from cross-training.
REEBOK NANO X
As with UA’s TriBase Reign 2, the shoe name of the Reebok Nano X points towards this being Reebok’s tenth iteration on a shoe. The Nano X was focussed, originally, on CrossFit. With this model, Reebok claims that the Nano is no longer limited to a “Box” but is the gym shoe to trump all gym shoes. The highlights include Reebok’s flexweave upper (a mesh material that provides structural support whilst remaining breathable), a minimal drop outsole, and an “enhanced comfort” heel cup. This all sounds wonderful, but how is it in reality?
How does the Reebok Nano X look?
To be candid, this is a sexy shoe. When looking up previous versions of this shoe, it could definitely be argued that the focus was very much function over fashion, but with the Nano X, that rule no longer applies. The appearance is more vintage streetwear than gym shoes. This, in my opinion, is no bad thing. The Reebok Nano X is a perfectly versatile shoe that looks great in the gym or with any streetwear outfit.
The overall sense I experienced when pulling these out of the box is quality, from the laces to the giant Reebok logo on the side of the shoe. I opted for the black and purple colourway but there are plenty of options to choose from.
Are they true to size?
They run near enough true to size but when first putting them on they did feel slightly small due to the hug-of-a-heel-cup locking the back of your foot in place. The flexweave upper is also slightly stiff around the toes but this loosened off after my first wear of them.
What is the heel drop?
The Reebok Nano X has a higher heel drop. From front to back the shoe falls 4mm. This is twice that of the UA Reign 2, but it was not really noticeable to me, and certainly not to its detriment. The overall feel is incredibly comfy.
What is the Reebok Nano X best for?
Reebok said they wanted it to be a shoe for more than CrossFit and at each stage of my testing, I really have to agree with them to the point where it goes beyond being a shoe for the gym and one that I just wore around - they really are that comfortable.
During the run the shoe held my foot firm and the sole provided good traction. Don’t get me wrong, the Reebok Nano X is not a running shoe, but you can easily smash out 1-2km in them. The masterstroke comes in the heel support which not only provides immense support during HIIT but also locks you in place for heavy lifting. The sole, particularly around the heel makes you feel solid when squatting or during all manner of kettlebell movements. As far as I can experienced, I had no negative comments.
NIKE METCON 6
Nike’s entry into the best gym comes in the sixth iteration of the Metcon. This time round the focus is on breathability, with a lightweight mesh upper that allows airflow to your foot. The sole consists of a favourable harder heel and softer, more-cushioned forefoot, designed to remain solid when static but provide support when on the go - the Nike Metcon 6 claims stability and durability.
How does the Nike Metcon 6 look?
They look like everything you’d expect from a Nike gym shoe: simplistic, no frills (unless you go for the leopard print option!), out for business and with a huge swoosh on the side. They generally have a minimalist look to them, which meant for me that the Nike Metcon 6 looked great in the gym, but didn’t really translate to my casual wardrobe. Fine by me.
Nike wanted to optimise this shoe for breathability with the Metcon 6. One can reason that the thin laces are a weight-saving measure, rather than an aesthetic measure. In fact, this shoe just screams ultimate function and it isn’t here to mess around.
Are they true to size?
Most definitely, this shoe slipped on like Cinderella’s slipper. The wide heel was perfect for me in terms of fit although it’s worth noting that it doesn’t come up very high on your heel and that the cushion is a little tough.
What is the heel drop?
The Nike Metcon 6’s sport a 4mm drop (the same as the Nano X), but interestingly they come with a 6mm insert designed to give you a little extra mobility and range when squatting with weight. Upon testing that theory, it didn’t make a massive difference for me. The overall low heel height caused my heel to slip rather than give me confidence to go after a heavy weight.
What are they best for?
When I said that these shoes scream function, I wasn’t joking. The Nike Metcon 6 was perfect during my weight-lifting, HIIT and a KB routine. The shoe is a good fit and its solid build performs for whatever gym-focussed activity you use it for. The minimalist design makes you feel light on your feet despite the almost-negligible weight difference between all three shoes.
The hitch I found in this shoe is when you want to run any further than one side of the gym to the other. Albeit the Metcon 6 is not a running shoe, nor does it claim to be. It is nice to have something in your repertoire that can do a bit of everything, whether you wanted to take these on a warm up run outside or on the treadmill. Nike’s highlighted cushion is perhaps a little too light to be influential.
Overall, I would stick to minimal running in these. Let the Metcon 6 do its thing, and be your ultimate gym spotter.
Each gym shoe I tested definitely had its moments of glory. I think the differential really comes down to what type of workout you have planned when you reach for these shoes. The best gym shoe is the one that does what you need it to do, and supports and secures your foot.
Whether that is approaching the barbell in the Under Armour TriBase Reign 2, HIIT and weights training in the Reebok Nano X, or looking for a sleek and breathable design while in the gym with the Nike Metcon 6, any of these would make for a solid gym workout. Which will you choose?