I have a lot of shoes.
While doing CrossFit, we spend a lot of time moving on our feet, wether it is running, jumping, lifting, or whatever. Having the right shoe can make all the difference between getting a new Personal Record, or a blister.
There are a few things I look for in a shoe-
1) Solid Sole. A lot of shoes, particularly running shoes, have big, squishy soles. If you’re lifting or doing any kind of side to side movement, this is bad because they get unstable at the bottom.
2) Zero Toe Drop. Toe drop is the difference in elevation between the heel and toe of a shoe- like a high heel. Classic running shoes will have up to a 3/4″ drop, which is HUGE! Having a toe drop changes your posture, causing your hips to tilt forward, pulling your spine out of alignment, which can eventually lead to back weakness or pain. If I can’t find a zero toe drop shoe, I’ll take something in the 4-6mm range.
3) Big Toe Box. Feet like room to spread out. I love Vibram FiveFingers for this reason! The more your feet can spread out, the more stable and grounded you will be. Also, foot binding is passe.
Keeping those three things in mind, let’s take a look at a few different kinds of shoes:
1) New Balance Minimus. The Minimus line has a few different shoes in it, but let’s talk about the trail runner, and the cross trainer. I love both of these shoes! The trail runner has a 12mm sole with no compression at all- you can feel the ground under you as you run, jump, and play. They have zero toe drop and a huge toe box. They feel great, and look good. My only problem with them is that the thin sole will make your feet ache if you plan on walking around on pavement all day.
I also love the cross trainer. Keeping a minimalist philosophy, they are a little more built up. Same big toe box, and a flexible but firm sole with a 4mm toe drop. They are my go to every-day-and-I-can-WOD-too sneaker. A+ grade!
2) Vibram FiveFingers. I really enjoy being barefoot, but living in the city, there are all kinds of hazards: glass, sharp rocks, other unpleasant things. FiveFingers excels at that barefoot sensation while providing protection for your foot. While I absolutely love them, (and have three pairs, KSO, KSO Trek, and Sprydon LS) I have two complaints about FiveFingers. The first is that, like the NB trail runner, the thin sole means your feet will hurt walking on pavement for long periods. Secondly, if a toe slips out of its slot, it can be really aggravating to get it back in, and worse to just ignore it. People ask all the time about flat feet or weak ankles, but if you walk barefoot your feet will grow stronger, and many of these issues will resolve. Check out Vibram’s site and FAQ on barefoot running here. Vibram FiveFingers come highly recommended!
3) Reebok. I’ve heard good things about the Nanos, but I’ve never tried them. I can tell you that the “RealFlex” line is a horror. I almost rolled my ankle just walking around in these. It has these inch square platforms that allow the sole to flex in a “more natural fashion” that just don’t support weight well. Also, they have a huge toe drop, which makes me cringe.
4) Skora. I was really excited about these shoes- no toe drop, huge toe box, non-squishy sole that’s thick enough to hold up against walking on pavement. Sounds like an A+ ready to go! First problem: The velcro straps don’t do a good job of keeping the shoe on your foot. I mean, its not like they’re going to go flying off just from running. Getting the laced ones should remedy that. Secondly: they’re UGLY. I feel like someone in a scifi wearing goofy space shoes whenever I put them on. If that’s your thing, rock it.
5) Vivo Barefoot. Huge toe box, no heel drop, and a sole that is too thin to compress. They feel like wearing rubber slippers. Same complaint as with any barefoot shoe- pavement hurts. Also, despite their huge toe box, I always get pinched near the little toe when I go up on the balls of my feet. I can’t get over the fact that they feel like rubber slippers…it weirds me out.
6) Merrill Trail Glove. Good sized toe box, no heel drop, no compression in the sole- but it’s thick enough to protect against long walks on pavement. However, they are tight around the midfoot, so be careful when lacing them up, as it can be very easy to over tighten them. Shoes that are too tight can lead to intense and chronic foot pain. Leave them loosely laced (just enough to keep them on your foot) and you should be fine.
7) Inov-8. Let the flaming begin… I don’t like the Invo-8 F-Lite. For anyone with an even slightly wider foot (like myself) these shoes are less than ideal, and my understanding is that the entire Inov-8 line is similar. If you have slim feet, try them out- because I like everything else about them… they just don’t fit my feet, and foot compression hurts. Other than that, they have a reasonable sized toe box (not quite big enough to really stretch out- again, maybe not for narrow feet), small toe drop, and a good balance between lightweight and minimalist and enough to protect you from pounding pavement.
I hope this helps! Let us know what you think.