Hello fellow JPCFers! If you don’t know me by name or sight let me tell you a bit about me. Cathy – water sign, introvert, enjoys poolside cocktails and…. Wait? This isn’t that kind of blog? Ok. Let me try that again… Cathy, former D1 basketball player, lazy person in an athlete’s body, salt and vinnies enthusiast. And also, footwear professional. No really, I swear, I have a business card and everything! I work for a local running shoe brand, Saucony (“sock-oh-knee”), and my full title is Footwear Developer. So, I really do know what I’m talking about when it comes to what you put on your feet. In this post I am going to give you a run down on the four main CrossFit shoes available out there. But first I’m going to provide you with some information about shoes in general, and why you should stop working out in your running shoes and buy a pair of shoes specifically made for CrossFit.
For most people, sneakers or running shoes are interchangeable for any athletic pursuit. Whether its taking a walk with your dog, going for a run, or hitting the gym to do some curls. That is until you become “serious” about an activity. If you are training for a 5k/10k/half marathon – then you would probably go and get yourself some serious high-end running shoes with the exact amount of cushion or support for your feet as determined by a specialty salesperson. If your 10K happens to be in the white mountains, then you need a trail shoe with a grippy outsole and toe protection. The #1 feature of running shoes is cushioning. Running shoes in general are made to be cushioned underfoot and to work back to front; heel-strike to toe-off. This is the one of the main reasons they are NOT good for CrossFit. Running shoes with cushioining underfoot do not provide a stable platform for most CrossFit movements. The other main reason running shoes are not good for Crossfit is that they have a high heel to toe drop. Heel to toe drop is the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. On running shoes, this is usually between 8mm and 12mm and puts your foot on a slope; the better to help you propel yourself forward during your run! However, this high heel drop does not provide a stable platform on which to lift, jump, lunge… you get the idea.
When looking for CrossFit shoes, a stable platform is the most important feature. CrossFit shoes provide this by addressing the two two main “flaws” found in running shoes that I have addressed above. First, CF shoes have a low to zero heel drop. Most CrossFit shoes have a 4mm heel drop or less. The second is by making sure the EVA midsole, (the material between the rubber outsole and the fabric upper part of the shoe) is not as soft or cushioned as on a running shoe. Both items contribute to the firm stable underfoot feel of a CrossFit shoe which will help you perform your best. I have had the opportunity to try on and work out in several of the major CrossFit shoes on the market. There are certainly other training or Crossfit shoes out there, but I focus below on the ones that I have personally worn. Below are my thoughts and opinions on these four major shoes to help you choose the best shoe for you.
The Nike Metcon is probably one of the best known CrossFit shoes, and the Metcon 4 is an all-around good choice for a lot of CrossFitters. It features a midfoot rubber wrap-up to help with rope climbs and a hard plastic (TPU) clip at the heel which helps your heels slide up and down the wall on HSPUs. In addition to a minimal tongue and flywire lacing system, the Metcon 4 also has good arch support. However, Nike’s in general run small and narrow, and as a result this shoe has an overall snugger fit than some other options, and may not be a great selection for anyone with wide or flat feet. I have also found that it is not the best shoe for running, and I never wear it if we are doing 800s or several 400s in a workout.
FIT: I wear a 9 but I have slightly narrow foot with a higher than normal arch. I bought a 9 and thought they were a bit tight at first but loved them after a small break in period.
WORKS WELL FOR: Bodyweight movements, Heavy Lifting, Lifting in a WOD and Gymnastics
FOOT TYPES: Average to narrower feet, High to average arched feet
The Nano is another well-known CrossFit shoe. A lot of people wear or have worn some iteration of the Reebok Nano and everyone has their own opinion about which is the best. Fortunately, Reebok has brought back many of its old Nano’s, so you can head down to the Reebok store and buy the 2, 4, 6 or whichever you like best. The Nano 8 is the first version to offer a “bootie” system around the heel and a proprietary flex-weave upper, which is supposed to make the shoe breathable and durable. The 8 also has a dual density midsole, with a softer forefoot (for running) and firmer heel (for lifting) along with decent arch support. The change back to the dual density midsole makes this shoe one of the better CrossFit shoes for running wods. However, it was not my favorite to do any heavy lifting in as it does not feel as stable compared to my Metcons or NOBULLs. I found this shoe to be wider and more accommodating than the Metcon.
FIT: I wear a 9 but I have slightly narrow foot with a higher than normal arch. I bought a 9 and thought they were a great fit at first. However, after a small amount of wear I felt that they were too big for my foot.
WORKS WELL FOR: Bodyweight movements, Lifting in a WOD, Gymnastics, short runs
FOOT TYPES: Medium to wider feet, Average arched feet
NOBULL is one of the newest kids on the block in terms of CrossFit/Training specific shoes. The Superfabric version of their low top trainer was their first option on the market and their most widely known and worn. This shoe sports a seamless one piece upper constructed of Superfabric, which is an extremely durable, breathable and abrasion resistant material. In other words, even though this shoe has no other overlays to protect high friction spots they are unlikely to rip or tear. These shoes also sport a small rubber wrap at the arch. From my experience, these are a pretty good all-around shoe and were even decent for running. Maybe not the best at anything, but pretty good at most things. My only issue with these was that I felt that they were a little big overall, although I don’t think I could have half sized down. Another weird quirk of these shoes is that they are very flat underfoot. In a lot of ways that is good as it promotes stability but after a while this became hard on my high arches and I would start to feel inklings of my plantar fasciitis coming back.
FIT: I wear a 9 but I have slightly narrow foot with a higher than normal arch. I bought a 9 and thought they were a touch big.
WORKS WELL FOR: Bodyweight movements, Lifting in a WOD and Gymnastics
FOOT TYPES: Medium to wider feet, Average to flat arched feet
Under Armour recently entered the CrossFit shoe market the past winter with the TriBase Reign. Promoted by UA athletes like Marquan Jones and James Newbury this shoe garnered some quick traction among athletes. I was nervous to try this shoe solely based on the construction of the collar – it’s a hard edge unlike most shoes which have a foam running all the way to the top. But my fears were baseless. The collar was mildly uncomfortable for the first half of the first workout at which point I no longer noticed it. This shoe has a unique rubber outsole with a flex groove ¾ of the way through, which is the natural flex point of your foot. It has a rubber wrap at the midfoot like the Metcon as well as an external asymmetrical hard plastic (TPU) piece at the heel. They are firm and stable which makes them great for any lifting in WODs or heavy lifting days. One of my favorite features is the unique lacing system. The laces go through a double hole, which holds the lace to the desired tension while you lace the rest of the shoe up. You can also pull tighter or looser at different sections of the laces to get a personalized fit. With other shoes I have consistently had issues with my feet falling asleep during WODs, which I have not experienced in this shoe.
FIT: I wear a 9 but I have slightly narrow foot with a higher than normal arch. I bought a 9 and these fit great.
WORKS WELL FOR: Bodyweight movements, Heavy Lifting, Lifting in a WOD and Gymnastics
FOOT TYPES: Medium to wider feet, Average/High arched feet
As you might have noticed in my write ups, none of these CrossFit shoes tend to feel good for running. As I explained above your needs for running and WODing are mutually exclusive. However, as the warmer weather rolls around and Tim sends us out on longer runs, I start to trade in my CrossFit trainers for an actual running shoe. Woah, wait a second, you might say – you just told us we should not being doing CrossFit in running shoes!? Ah, I did, but instead of a typical training day running shoes with lots of cushy material underneath my foot, here I am talking road racing shoes. My two favorite options from Saucony are the Fastwitch 9 and the Type A8.
These shoes are light, firmer underfoot and have a 4mm drop. They are perfect for running 800s and are firm enough underfoot to still provide some stability for those Olympic lifts or (god-forbid) front or overhead squats.
So that’s a wrap on all this shoe information. I hope I was able to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision without overloading you with useless details. If you have any questions about running shoes or CrossFit shoes, please feel free to ask. But you have to come at 5am to do it (hahah, just kidding). Send me a message or find me on the weekends. I am always happy to help and talk about shoes!
Cheers. I hope you all have happy feet and PR your day.