Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by Martina McKeough
Can you wear Vans to the gym or should you be thinking about wearing specialist sports shoes?
Lots of people are genuinely asking this question so I thought it was time to explore the topic and give my opinion. You are going to see that I have some different thoughts from many of the people who think that using Vans in a gym environment can be ok when it comes to certain activities such as weightlifting.
Here’s why I believe Vans are not suitable for the gym and why wearing the right sports shoes is helpful for your health and well-being.
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Can I Wear Vans To the Gym For Training?
I’ll start by answering the first question which is can you wear Vans to the gym? Well, the answer is yes if that gym allows you to but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
Plenty of gyms will turn a blind eye to what you have on your feet however that doesn’t mean they are right. The question is should you wear them not can you wear them?
I’ve been running a shoe blog for a while now and I am constantly amazed at the number of people who want to cut corners and wear their casual shoes for everything even though they aren’t designed for the activity.
Vans were originally designed as skate shoes because of their flat base and stable rubber soles which allowed people to maneuver their skateboards more easily. These shoes then became a bit of a fashion statement and now people want to wear them for everything.
The fact is that whilst these are great shoes for everyday wear they aren’t gym shoes, walking shoes, or hiking shoes. If you want to do these activities you should be buying the right shoes for the job. Using shoes for multiple tasks can be ok provided they are designed for the activity. If they aren’t you need to invest in shoes that do work.
Have a look at this old pair of Vans shoes that my husband owns and you can start to see the issue. Do they seriously look like suitable footwear for a gym environment?
Are Vans Good Gym Shoes?
What makes a good shoe for a gym? Well, it depends on what activities you are going to be doing in the gym. Generally, gyms have a number of workout zones from running and cardio-vascular machines to a weight room and workout studios.
In most average gyms people tend to choose good cross-training shoes that are suitable for most areas. Obviously, if you are only doing very specific activities you may specialize more. Such as a running shoe for treadmills or yoga shoes for classes however, the average person tends to stick with a CrossFit workout shoe which can be used in most areas of the gym.
They do this because these types of shoes have certain characteristics that are good for safety, comfort and your foot health. Here are some of the features they tend to have.
They Are Flexible
Training shoes tend to be relatively flexible and bend and flex with your foot movements as you are active in the gym.
They Have Cushioning and Are Comfortable
Cushioning in their shoes helps with shock absorption to protect your feet and body from the impact of your movement. Cushioning also helps you to feel comfortable.
The Shoes Are Supportive
Gym training shoes are supportive and help to keep your feet stable. More stability helps prevent accidents and injury.
They Have Good Grippy Soles
The rubber outsoles of training shoes tend to give good traction so that you don’t slip on machines or on the gym floor.
Gym Shoes Are Breathable
Having breathable shoes is important as they prevent the build-up of sweat and keep your feet cool and dry when you are working out.
They Are Versatile
Finally, the perfect shoe for the gym is versatile so they can be worn for a number of activities such as weights, cardio and classes.
When you see this list you can see that the ideal gym shoe has a great balance of support, stability, and cushioning. Sneaker brands will have spent millions developing good shoes for people to use in a gym environment and yet people want to wear Vans!
Vans shoes simply don’t have all the attributes you need from a gym shoe which makes them a poor choice for working out.
Are Vans Good For Working Out?
The fact is that Vans are good shoes for everyday use but not for training.
As an example, if you use their slip-ons as running shoes they don’t have adequate cushioning or arch support. This is particularly problematic if you have flat feet or other foot problems.
Plus their slip-on shoes tend to be less secure than lace-up sneakers which means they are more likely to move around on your feet as you wear them and even slip off. Wearing Vans on machines like treadmills is a great way of getting injured!
Equally, they are going to be no good in a CrossFit class or when you are doing agility training as they are not supportive and the flat sole doesn’t cushion your feet.
If that wasn’t bad enough you are going to get some funny looks from the people using the gym wondering why the hell you couldn’t be bothered to invest in proper training shoes. That is if the gym lets you into the premises in the first place.
If you want to work out you need the right footwear full stop so stop cutting corners.
Wearing Vans To The Gym Has More Serious Consequences
As I mentioned earlier can you wear Vans to the gym? Well yes if the gym lets you but should they be doing this?
Most professionally run gyms have written policies on their websites that not only discuss the behavior they expect from their customers but also the clothing and footwear that is allowed on the premises.
From my research, there are a couple of common rules that turn up regularly on gym websites and these are:
- Only proper sports clothing and clean sports shoes should be allowed in the gym.
- Secondly, street shoes are not to be used inside the gym.
Vans shoes clearly do not meet most professional gym standards.
Gyms do not create these rules for no reason. They want proper sports shoes to be worn for your safety. Slip-on shoes aren’t going to be very secure when you are on a machine which can be dangerous. Vans shoes don’t have the cushioning to make them great running shoes. So most gyms make it clear that their personal preference is for proper sports shoes to be worn.
They also don’t want street shoes used inside the gym because it isn’t hygienic. Some people think it is acceptable to wear their Vans shoes outside in all weather and then waltz into the clean gym environment wearing the same shoes. If a gym allows you to do this then you have to question how much they value the health and well-being of their customers.
Certain shoes just shouldn’t be worn in a gym environment and if you see your local gym is allowing people to wear shoes that are not ideal for cross-training or classes then I would be looking at a different place to go.
What About In a Home Gym?
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a home gym but I do. It has some bikes, a treadmill and a cross trainer in it as well as weights. It obviously isn’t the same as a professional gym but it still works well.
Do I just head into my gym in my normal everyday shoes and get on the equipment? Of course not I still change into my cross-training shoes to work out because I know they are going to be better for my foot health.
Certain shoes like Vans to me are just not suitable for a gym environment even when I am at home and not stuck with the rules of a professional club.
Deadlifting and Weightlifting in Vans
Interestingly enough people who are wondering if you can wear Vans to the gym are being directed to people talking about deadlifting and weightlifting in Vans.
There are it appears a number of gym users who believe that using Vans for lifting is ok. Whilst they have their option I am going to disagree.
As I have already mentioned decent gyms wouldn’t even consider allowing people to wear Vans as training or weightlifting shoes because they want people to wear the proper footwear for the job. Most specify this in their online rules that they want sports shoes and in the case of weights they would expect traditional lifting shoes or sports sneakers to be used in the weights area.
There are however a number of other reasons why shoes with flat soles like Vans don’t make the grade. Here are just some of the reasons why I think you need better shoes for lifting exercises.
Vans Have Flat Soles
Vans flat sole is what makes them great for wear for skateboarding however they lack an elevated heel which is really needed for lifting.
Having a slightly elevated heel on a weightlifting shoe helps to reduce knee stress, improves balance, enhances ankle mobility and generally makes the shoes more stable when you are lifting heavy weights.
Vans are not known for being the most supportive shoes as I mentioned earlier, especially the slip-ons. This is especially the case with ankle support for the slip-on models which means you are more at risk of injury.
Possible Traction Issues
Vans have a rubber waffle outsole which is fine for grip in most circumstances however it doesn’t do the job when it comes to moving heavy weights on a gym floor.
Weightlifting shoes will have a better ability to grip which keeps you safer.
If you are wearing Vans you know that it is possible for your feet to slip around a little too much inside the shoes. This is the last thing you want when you are lifting weights.
If you look at the design of lifting shoes you will see that as well as having a slightly elevated heel they also tend to have laces and a strap as well.
Lifting shoes are designed to keep your feet fixed in position so your feet are as secure as possible when you use them. Wearing Vans doesn’t even come close to offering you that type of security.
Not Biomechanically Designed For The Job
Finally, companies like Addidas, Reebok, and Castiron haven’t spent a fortune designing lifting shoes for no reason.
Their experts will have looked at the biomechanics involved in heavy lifting and designed their shoes with tons of specialized features to help you lift heavier weights more safely. Why on earth would you wear Vans which have none of those features?
The fact is that Vans lacks the stability, support, and rigidity that you would get with a purpose-built weightlifting shoe. This means that you are putting yourself at risk of injury by wearing them. So don’t listen to the people who tell you that you can get away with cutting corners.
Buy yourself a pair of professional weight-lifting shoes like these Nordic Power Lifting shoes instead and save yourself from problems further down the line.
What Are The Best Shoes To Wear To The Gym
There are plenty of great gym shoes made by big names that are far better than Vans. Nike does so many different styles like these cross trainers that would work great in a gym environment.
These have a rubber sole for traction, mesh for breathability, and good cushioning and stability. I have a pair of Nike sneakers that I use in my home gym and they are perfect for what I need.
Of course, Nike is the largest sports footwear company in the world so I am hardly telling you something new.
Reebok is another huge name that does great workout sneakers. These are designed for indoor and outdoor use if you need it.
Once again they have great support and stability, they are lightweight and have extra cushioning. These also have a great rubber outsole for good traction.
Finally, if you are after a running shoe then I can totally recommend Brooks Ghost running shoes. These have been tried and tested over the years by my husband who has used various incarnations of the Ghost brand for the past four or five years.
So far he hasn’t had any injuries or blisters from wearing them and found them really supportive. I should add that he chose these after being tested in a running store for a good neutral running shoe so he was advised by experts before buying these. These are perfect to wear on a gym treadmill or for outdoor running.
Here’s his latest pair which are still looking good considering the amount of miles he has run in them. Plus I have bought him new ones for xmas so the long tradition of wearing Brooks shows no signs of fading yet in our household.
So can you wear Vans to the gym? Well yes if you or the gym you go to don’t care about your foot health and safety. Personally cutting corners doesn’t work for me so I’ll stick with my Nikes.
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