Can I use trail running shoes in the gym? Don’t Do It!

According to my observation, there are two main types of gym rats: one who wears the wrong types of shoes to the gym and the other who juggles between multiple types at the site. If you lie in either category and consider trail running shoes the smartest option, I’ve news for you.

Trail running shoes are not meant for the gym, and you can only use them for some specific gym activities. And even those have some pros, cons, and limitations you need to sort out.

So, what should I go for if not trail running shoes? I don’t own a castle to buy gym shoes for every exercise. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered for simplifying your workout routine.

Can I use trail running shoes in the gym?

You can take your trail running shoes to the gym, but there are many ifs and buts associated with this statement. Of course, it depends on your personal choice as well. But for me, they are a big no if you’re into cross-training, weightlifting, aerobics, and other cardio exercises, as they don’t allow lateral foot movements, are heavier, and are more cushioned.

For all such exercises, you need great foot torsion, less cushioning for throwing out energy instead of absorbing, and lightweight for no ankle sprains. But trail running shoes are okay for treadmills. 

Keep reading for more justifications.

can i use trail running shoes in the gym

The Pros and Cons of Using Trail Running Shoes in the Gym

Yes, I know we all have our preferences, and you might disagree with some of my previous points about trail running shoes for the gym. Let me share some details on the pros and cons discussed earlier:

The Pros 

  • Being on the heavier side, trail running shoes can be a great option if you’re conscious of losing weight at a faster rate. The heavier the shoes, the more calories you’ll burn.
  • Trail running shoes have a great lugged outsole for holding irregular surfaces. This feature can be useful when trekking on treadmills having a similar belt surface.
  • Unpopular opinion, but I find trail running shoes not efficient but safe for crush injuries from weightlifting. And for that, their cushioning, strong construction, and heavyweight plays a major role.

The Cons

The lugged outsole of the trail running shoes is beneficial for traction on treadmills and muddy surfaces, but the same thing is a turn-off for me when it comes to hygiene. Stones, mud, and whatnot get trapped in the soles, and turn off the instructor when you bring the shoes inside. Ultimately, you won’t be allowed to bring them inside the gym unless it’s yours.

When it comes to the weight of shoes, you will burn more calories but will get ankle sprains at the speed of a bullet. Why? Because your body isn’t designed to bear weights on extremities, doing that will add to joint pain in those areas because of the high energy demand.

What kind of shoes are good for lifting weights and running cardio?

Now you know that trail running shoes are both a boon and a bane for the gym. So, what kind of shoes are good for lifting weights and running cardio?

I’ll vote for two types: weightlifting and flat shoes. Though they are entirely different, there’s a unique characteristic of why I prefer them over trail running shoes for cardio and weightlifting.

1. Weightlifting shoes

There’s no denying that both weightlifting and running shoes look similar, which is why people have made running shoes a gym staple for weightlifting and cardio. But there’s a reason for everything, and weightlifting shoes are made for a purpose. 

If you notice the heel, running shoes allow head-to-toe movement, have a heel drop and arch support, and are softer and more cushioned in general. But for weightlifting, you need the opposite. 

Your heel should be hard, raised, and less cushioned enough to retain the pressure and allow your feet muscles to work or move the weight, thereby reducing the need for arch support. You also need a lateral/side-to-side movement instead of head-to-toe to bring flexibility during compound movements like squats. And that’s what a weightlifting shoe has in it.

They also make your back supine and lean less forward.

2. Flat shoes

Now before you get back to me for talking about a raised heel in one and a zero heel in the other, let me tell you that running shoes have a heel drop, showing a distributed height from heel to toe. And that’s different from a raised heel. 

So, why flat shoes for weightlifting? As a rule of thumb, the closer your feet are to the ground, the shorter the range of motion for handling. So, when you’re increasing the weights, you need to reduce the soles’ thickness and add more flatness. And that’s one reason why powerlifters prefer switching to shoes before extreme lifting like deadlifts.

Flat shoes also put less stress on your knees and distribute the load more evenly, while weightlifting shoes do the opposite. 

So, flat shoes prevent your knees from going forward, targeting the hips in place of quads, making you put the highest load on your back and bottom leg muscles, but won’t give a comfortable lift. But unlike weightlifting shoes, flat shoes will promote more forward bending, and that’s not good.

Alternatives to Trail Running Shoes for the Gym

1. Cross-training shoe

As the name suggests, cross-training shoes are athletic shoes designed for all-purpose training activities. They allow you to move in different directions, making it easier for you to ace multiple activities like CrossFit, cardio, weightlifting, etc. One major reason for listing them here is that these shoes are a blend of tennis shoes, running shoes, and volleyball shoes, construction-wise.

Cross-training shoes are lightweight, supportive, more stable, and less flexible to keep the shoe in place. They also provide great traction during ground-rubbing exercises like situps and burpees and have a breathable, durable, and comfortable sole to wear all day.

Popular examples:

Nike Metcon 7, Under Armour tribes, reign 4, and On Cloud X.

2. Tennis shoes

Do you remember why your school made you wear your tennis shoes even in a PT period? Because these shoes have exceptional sturdiness and flatness, making them great for physical activities. So, why not the gym? 

Since tennis requires forward and lateral movements and high traction to bear with the court, these shoes are designed to keep these points in well. And all these become relevant for the gym and workouts as well.

Popular example:

Asics Gel Resolution 9

3. High-top shoes

High-top shoes extend above the ankle and provide exceptional support for combating ankle sprains during workouts. They also have a flattened outsole and a wide toe box, which spreads out your toes and stabilizes your lower body while lifting.

Popular examples:

Converse High-tops, and Nike Blazer Mid 77′ Vintage.

Can I wear trail running shoes on a treadmill?


If you still think your running shoes can take over some form of running at the gym and hence work on the treadmill, you’re right! You can wear trail running shoes on the treadmill.

Trail running shoes usually have a rugged tread for traction, which can become helpful for gripping the treadmill’s rugged surface. And due to cushioning, running shoes can absorb shocks experienced on the treadmill, protecting your lower body joints while absorbing impact from each step.

But sometimes, the rough tread pattern of your shoe can catch the rugged treadmill’s belt, making you stumble and fall. And the same reason can create excessive friction on the belt, leading to abrupt abrasion.

So, if you’re considering trail running shoes for a treadmill, it’s better to opt for one having a less aggressive tread with decent cushioning to carry yourself safely on the treadmill.

Are trail running shoes good for everyday use?

Trail running shoes are definitely a good choice for everyday use, only if you wear the right ones. They offer greater stability and grip than road running shoes and are mostly waterproof and stable. But this waterproof version can be a turn-off in summer, and you’ll find the shoes way hot.

They also have a good cushioning and heel-to-toe support system and breathability. But you can not wear them all day for long hours due to the added weight.

Can you wear trail running shoes on the pavement?

You can wear trail running shoes on pavement, but only for a short distance. 

An average running shoe weighs around 6 to 12 ounces, whereas the minimum weight for a trail running shoe would be around 10 ounces. So, when you plan to run in trail running shoes on the pavement, you can only aim for trails less than 10k or 6.2 miles. Why? 

Studies have concluded that adding 100 grams of mass increases metabolic rate by 1% and reduces the speed with the same percentage, and it’s because you’ll need more effort to lift your heavy shoe and demand more energy. And this high metabolic rate results from that high demand, making you tired earlier and reducing your target distance.

But on the brighter side, trail running shoes provide a more lugged tread, cushioning, and stability than road running shoes, which serve best for rocky and muddy pavements. 


Trail running shoes aren’t entirely made for the gym, and if you’re using them for almost all types of workouts, except for the treadmills, you should stop because of the mentioned reasons.

Instead, you should go for shoes that would fit almost all types of exercises, are less cushioned, allow both side-to-side and head to toe movement, and are easier to kick with. For instance, cross-training shoes, weightlifting shoes, tennis shoes, high-top shoes, etc.

Leave a Comment