strat investigates

What Are the Status Gym Sneakers for Men?

Photo: Anonym/Getty Images

When it comes to showing off your status as you sweat, sneakers probably allow you to flex more than any other workout accessory. So after exploring the status gym sneakers for women to wear when they hit the treadmill, yoga mat, or free weights, we wanted to turn our attention to the ones stylish guys wear to stand out during a workout. And although there was some overlap between the two sexes (which is not totally surprising), the cool people we asked about status gym sneakers did point out some newer brands and trends we didn’t uncover in our last deep dive into status fitness footwear.

The 12 people we spoke to told us that, in general, in-the-know fitness folks these days are trading the types of fugly sneaker that once showed status for more understated styles. As Ted Stafford, the fashion director of Men’s Health, told us, “The dad-sneaker trend has maxed out, and I think lots of guys are looking for a sneaker that’s understated, versatile to wear with many looks, and, above all, comfortable for being on the move.” Read on for the pair our panel crowned the next status gym sneakers for men and for other specific sneakers for weight lifting and cross-training that they say will set you apart (at least aesthetically) while you break a sweat.

The next status gym sneakers for men

Without a doubt, On Running sneakers are the next brand to know, according to the experts we spoke with. “They’re becoming crazy popular lately. I’m seeing more and more people wear them at private gyms in Los Angeles,” says fitness expert Kenta Seki. While the Zurich-based brand isn’t new — it was co-founded in 2010 by former three-time world duathlon champion and Ironman winner Olivier Bernhard and two friends — it’s still “more under the radar,” explains Bari Lieberman, a trainer and product manager for the fitness app Tone It Up. As the name suggests, the Cloudstratus running shoes — which have a highly cushioned sole, mesh upper, and wide platform — are ideal for runners because they offer soft landings and springy takeoffs with each stride, and they protect joints from wear and tear. But according to Rhys Athayde, the chief experience officer and founding trainer at Dogpound, On Running sneakers are not only great for trail and road running — they’re also good for hiking, running-based workout classes, and even walking around town, because they exist at the intersection of “function, comfort, and style.” Athayde adds that his clients often rave about the sneakers because they’re as comfortable and supportive as they are versatile. “I have never had a client get blisters from wearing these shoes,” he says. Stafford agrees, telling us that “guys who are looking for a training sneaker with the latest innovation for comfort and performance should try On Running training sneakers as soon as they can. They’ll be hooked.” For those who really want to show their status, the Cloudstratus sneakers also come in a can’t-miss shade of orange.

The men’s status gym sneakers for weight lifting

The perennial footwear of skaters and street-style stars alike is having a bit of a renaissance at the gym, according to many of our panelists. “I’m seeing more people in the hard-core fitness community train in basic sneakers like Chuck Taylors,” says health-and-fitness writer Michael Easter. He admits that power lifters have worked out in Converse for years but notes that he has started to see the style trickle into luxury and chain gyms. Much like the current popularity of barefoot running and weight lifting, Chucks are part of a more accessible, less-is-more approach to fitness. Both Tone House’s director of training, Shaun Jenkins, and fitfluencer Anna Victoria tell us that they wear Converse when lifting, while celebrity personal trainer Jason Wimberly explains that the fitness community is taking a step back from super-technical sneakers in favor of more minimal styles. “Trendy does not always mean better, and when it comes to choosing a training shoe that is right for you, I am always a fan of less is more,” he says, noting that, in his 17 years as a trainer, he has seen many clients struggle with foot problems that are often a result of the wrong shoe. Workout sneakers that put the foot in an unrealistic position — either from too much cushioning or uneven stability — can create problems down the road, which is why All Stars have garnered a strong fan base among weight lifters, he says. “While there is some benefit to cushy running shoes if you’re going for distance, when it comes to weight training, it can actually hinder your lift,” he adds. These have a solid flat sole that keeps feet as close to the ground as possible when squatting and lifting heavy weights; this helps prevent slipping, which can cause injuries.

Like Converse High-tops, slip-on Vans are gaining prominence. “The other day, I was at the gym and saw someone training in checkered slip-on Vans. It was rad,” says Easter. Vans have the same type of thin sole that allows you to feel the ground and get a wide enough spread to lift safely.

The men’s status gym sneakers for cross-training

Nobull sneakers, which appeared on our list of status workout sneakers for women, are just as popular among trendier guys, according to our cool experts. “This brand is definitely more for people ‘in the know,’” explains Seki. He adds that while “Nobulls are hip for working out,” they’re not the best for running. After launching in 2015, the brand quickly became popular in the CrossFit community, where its “train hard, no excuses” philosophy particularly resonated and the sneakers’ flat soles and minimal arches made them a safe bet for cross-training workouts. Now, thanks to their streamlined style, which can easily take you from working out to running errands, the sneakers are unsurprisingly making their way into mainstream gym culture.

The men’s status gym sneakers for hypebeasts

Although simpler designs are generally taking over right now, limited-edition collaborations — especially ones with high-profile designers — are still a way to show status at the gym, according to our panelists. “High-end streetwear, like Off-White or Fear of God, is becoming more and more of a gym sneaker,” explains Dogpound trainer and social-media director Kevin Mejia. “People are getting over the phase where they just wear this superexpensive sneaker out, as opposed to for its intended purpose.” Steve Uria, the creator and founder of group-fitness studio Switch Playground, agrees: “Obviously, the Off-White collab sneakers are your conversation pieces and mark you as the coolest kid in the gym.” The rugged traction, rubber spikes, and waterproof materials make this pair of Nike x Off-White sneakers ideal for running outdoors, as the shoes can handle slippery trails and tracks with ease. According to Nike, the Zoom Kiger 5s are technically women’s sneakers, but stylish men — including Off-White’s Virgil Abloh himself — have been spotted wearing them. And as GQ reports, “sneakerheads and streetwear devotees are paying no mind to the fact that it’s a women’s training sneaker.” Conventional wisdom says there’s roughly a 1.5 size difference between women’s and men’s shoes (so guys should order them in a size 1.5 times bigger than their usual one). And if these don’t strike your fancy, you can always hold out for the next coveted release.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Are the Status Gym Sneakers for Men?