All shoes are not created equal. Unfortunately, trying to pick the right athletic shoe essentially comes down to random chance. To the untrained eye, every shoe seems to offer you the same thing.

While the differences might be minor, the benefits of picking the right shoe can make a huge difference. For example, if you’re using running shoes to deadlift, you’re probably putting yourself at risk.

Running shoes are great for getting around, but deadlifting is all about pushing through your heels and lifting straight up. Putting too much pressure on the balls of your feet (or worse, your toes) can ruin your workout and even put your joints at risk.

Picking the right tool for the job is important, especially when the job is getting yourself into shape. Today, we’re going to do more than just find the best shoes for deadlifting. It’s time to dive in and find the best kind of athletic shoes for your training needs.

Performance Shoes

So, you’re looking for sneakers to wear while lifting in the gym. Avoid the conventional wisdom of just walking into the mall and picking out the first pair you see. In reality, you’re going to need a very particular kind of shoe.

If you were paying attention earlier, you already know that you won’t be able to just pick up the newest pair of running shoes (especially if you intend to work your lower body). In reality, you have three options.

Your first option is a no-brainer: going barefoot while lifting. It might not be stylish, but it’s better than wearing shoes that demand too much engagement from the balls of your feet. Of course, this is a last resort (gyms don’t usually like their members kicking their shoes off). Besides, getting the right shoes for the job eliminates the need to do this all together!

You’re going to want flat shoes. The two most popular options that you’ll see at your local gym are weightlifting shoes or Converse shoes. Converse shoes are fine (they’re certainly better than running shoes), but weightlifting shoes are a completely different animal.

The best weightlifting shoes are designed to put your heels at just the right elevation to make your torso more erect. This is done by putting your knees further out over the toe line when you perform those heavy lifts (deadlifts, squats, cleans). Weightlifting shoes allow your body to be properly aligned while improving your balance and stability.

Our personal favorite? The Adidas Adipower Weightlift Trainer. It’s easily the best weightlifting shoe on the market right now. Lightweight with a heel system that locks your foot into place… if you’re serious about lifting weight, these are the shoes to pick up.

Running Shoes

Of course, there are plenty of people that have no interest in lifting weight at the gym. Some people just need to run. Even if you lift weights, you’ll probably want a solid pair of running shoes for those days that you need to tackle that cardio.

Well, weightlifting shoes and Converses are out of the question. Flat shoes are awful for running (which is hard enough on your joints as it is). When it comes to finding the right running shoes, you’re looking for three things.

The first is stability; the last thing you need a rolled ankle. Second, the proper cushioning. Even the toughest runners in the world understand the importance of minimizing the pain that your feet will inevitably feel. Finally, comfort. If it doesn’t feel great the first step, imagine how much worse it’ll be on the 1000th one.

There are a variety of other factors that go into making the perfect running shoe, but we’re not going to bore you with the specifics of certain kinds of mesh or what a crash pad is. Instead, we’re going to make this as easy as possible.

The Brooks Ghost 8 was Runner’s World’s choice this year for best running shoe, and it’s easy to see why. The cushioning is able to reduce shock, but the shoes still manage to be responsive. It’s supportive in all the right places and flexible when it needs to be. When it comes to running shoes, these are some of the best that money can buy.

Hybrid Shoes

But let’s say you’re on a budget. Maybe you aren’t looking to buy two different pairs of shoes. You need something for the weight room and the treadmill. Well, the ASICS Men’s Lift Trainer Cross-Trainer is your best bet.

Designed with power and balance in mind, this shoe supports runners just as much as it supports lifters. Whether you’re looking to lift some serious weight in the gym or just trying to make those morning runs easier, the ASICS Men’s Lift Trainer Cross-Trainer shoe is a top-notch hybrid athletic shoe.

So, there you have it. Our top picks for athletic shoes this year. Remember: picking the right gym gear can be the difference between a decent training session and an amazing one.