Sneakers vs Gym Shoes (Everything You Need to Know!)

When you go shopping for shoes, you might wonder if there is any difference between sneakers and gym shoes. These two types of shoes are among the categories of athletic shoes and something they have in common is their rubber soles. So, let’s find out what is more distinctive about the two.

What are the sneaker shoes?

There was mass production of canvas topped shoes in the U.S in 1917 which gave birth to sneakers. The term sneakers were used to refer to the shoe’s ability to make the wearer walk stealthily anywhere without making any noise.  They were the first shoes to be made with a flexible rubber sole and a canvas upper. Sneakers are meant for comfort and lighter physical activities.

You can wear sneakers to just about everywhere and with the different styles available today, you have many options to choose from. First, you need to determine the reason why you’re buying the sneakers.

Gym shoes

Tennis shoes vs gym shoes

These can also be called cross-training shoes and are another type of athletic shoes. Many activities go on in a gym like weightlifting, aerobics, treadmill, spinning, studio classes, yoga, and Pilates. All these activities require different types of shoes to provide the right kind of comfort and support. Choosing the right gym shoes will determine if your workout is successful or not.

Weightlifting: when you’re weight lifting you need stability, power, and grip to optimize the lifts. A firm, flat grip on the ground ensures you have proper form and that your stances offer you a safe grip especially if you’re lifting heavy. Most weight lifters prefer to go barefoot as it provides you with neutral stability, while others prefer shoes that have a firm, flat grip on the ground to give you a stable base and to prevent you from sliding or slipping. Weight lifting shoes don’t have lots of movement so they have less shock absorption, which means you can’t use them in other gym activities.

Treadmill: If you’re clocking for hours on the treadmill you should think of investing in a good pair of running shoes so that they can provide support depending on your level of pronation, but if it’s for short distances and combining with other activities, you can get cross-trainers. For your running shoes, your shoes should provide you with the support you need based on how you run like if you’re overpronated, your running shoes should help prevent your feet from rolling inward while you’re running. The right shoes will help you run more efficiently to give you better performance and also prevent injuries. Look for shoes with cushioning in the forefoot and rear to help absorb the impact and support on the inside for overpronators to reduce excess inward rolling.

Spinning: for spinning classes, you can use cross trainers, but for the long-term, you should get indoor cycling-specific shoes to help improve your performance. These shoes have a rigid hard sole that helps to transfer energy directly to the pedals which makes it cycle and reduce fatigue. By clipping onto the pedals, these shoes allow for a smooth and efficient transition from foot to bike.

Indoor cardio: Shoes with basic cushioning will be sufficient in this activity. Go for shoes with an ankle cut based on the moves you’ll be doing. Mostly, these shoes have a flat sole with minimal grooves because you don’t need the same traction on your indoor shoes as you would on your outdoor shoes.

Factors to consider when choosing the right shoes

How the shoes fit

One important thing you need to consider if the shoes you want are for the functional purpose of just fashion. A good pair of sneakers should feel comfortable right from the box and shouldn’t need to be broken-in. If the shoes have an uncomfortable fit, they can give you aching heels and shin splints. Having beforehand knowledge of your feet like if you have flat feet, high or low arches can help you narrow down the kind of shoes you need. If you’re looking for a pair of sneakers you can wear to your next HIIT class, your main focus should be the athletic performance of the sneakers, but they have to be comfortable.

Choose based on activity

Almost every activity that you do has shoes for it, so whether you’re weightlifting, running, walking, or playing any sport, you must pick the right shoes for the specific activity to avoid injuries and make your shoes more efficient. The sole is also very important and a quality supportive shoe has a sole that is a bit difficult to bend and a slight heel, so if you’re wearing your causal sneakers on a run, you will damage the sole faster.


If you love training outdoors, you should get shoes that can handle the outdoors best. In the same way, you should get indoor shoes for indoor activities and don’t use your outdoor shoes in the gym as they don’t have the proper support needed indoors. If you wear the shoes you use for weight lifting to run, they will wear out faster and not last long.

Differences between sneakers and gym shoes

Both sneakers and gym shoes have become an essential part of the shoe fashion world, but there are a few things that make these two different.

The uses


Sneakers are more of fashion footwear and are popularly worn by teenagers and youthful adults. They’re available in different colors, styles, and anyone can wear them because they’re comfortable. The main focus of sneakers is to be comfortable and trendy so these are casual shoes you can wear to almost any occasion and they’re part of athletic shoes as well as street fashion style shoes.

However, gym shoes are activity-specific and their sporty designs are more detailed. Their rubber soles are specifically designed with patterns that help to provide better support, grip, and traction to improve your performance in the activity you’re doing. They’re also sturdier than sneakers and have more focus on durability. They have more cushioning, thicker soles, breathable uppers, supportive arches, and better shock absorption.


You would also differentiate the two by how they look. An athletic shoe with a canvas upper would be classified as a pair of sneakers and any other type of shoe designed for a specific sport or activity would be categorized with gym shoes.

Sneakers are simple rubber shoes that you can wear for fashion and comfort, but gym shoes have different features from the materials used on the upper, the design on the toe box, the sole patterns and the type of material used to make the outsole. All these features will give the gym shoes a very different look like even the technology used to make them is more advanced than for sneakers.

Price difference

Sneakers are shoes you can buy at any local shop or shoe store, but for gym shoes, you have to go to specific shoe store distributors or retailers to get the kind of shoe you’re looking for. This is because they are sport-specific which makes them more costly than sneakers that are cheaper because they’re common and easy to make.


Sneakers and gym shoes are both athletic shoes but they perform different functions and are made for different purposes. Teenagers and young adults love wearing sneakers, but gym shoes help you to train better in your workouts. The sneakers vs gym shoe comparison will help you understand why you need to wear sport-specific shoes to the gym.


Can you wear running shoes to the gym?

You can but they will wear out quickly. Running shoes aren’t designed for heavy lifting so if you’re squatting and doing deadlifts, your running shoes aren’t effective and it could lead to injuries.

Can you wear sneakers in the gym?

It depends on the structure of the shoe and the brand, but sneakers aren’t recommended in the gym or for any high intensive activity. Wearing sneakers during your workout can compromise the structure of the shoes.

Should I wear socks with sneakers?

The downside to wearing sneakers is if you don’t want to wear them out quickly, you need to wear them with socks. Wearing them without socks means your feet will sweat more and the shoes will start to stink faster.

What is a training shoe good for?

Training shoes are good for weight lifting, fitness classes, some racquet sports, and overall use in the health club. They provide you with cushioning and stability to protect your feet and ankles.

Are Converse good for the gym?

The converse isn’t ideal for all workouts because they don’t provide good arch support which leads to painful arches and this makes them and other flat shoes a bad choice for workouts where you’re running or jumping.