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Shoes are made up of many different parts, although this has always been true, it's even more true today. In determining which shoes are worth your money, we've narrowed down the list to six characteristics that should be paid the most attention to when purchasing a new pair of training shoes for CrossFit.
These are (in no particular order):
No matter what people claim, the appearance of a pair of shoes plays one of the biggest roles in which pair is chosen. Even though CrossFit shoes should ideally be worn for their performance aspects, the way the shoe looks is important.
Something to understand regarding the looks of the shoe is that it is subjective. Different shoes appeal to different people and because of this, the way we view the attractiveness of the shoe played a very small part in which shoes were chosen. The Nike Metcon 3 are undoubtedly the most popular shoe from a purely "looks" standpoint, but the big Nike swoosh plays a big part in that. There is someone who prefers each of our picks over the others, but it's important to understand that the looks do matter to people.
The second area to look for in a CrossFit shoe will come down to personal preference, but is the most important part of the entire shoe - the fit.
A shoe could be the absolute best available, but if it doesn't fit your foot, it's worthless. It's for this reason that you must understand how your foot is compared to the average. If you have a thin foot, there are certain shoes like the Reebok Speed TR 2.0 that you will absolutely love. However, if you have a wide foot the Speed TR 2.0 would likely be the worst option for you.
There are other factors related to fit that must be understood as well. CrossFit shoes are designed to do it all from rope climbs to burpees, therefore the fit of the shoe needs to accommodate these things. You'll notice that many shoes designed for CrossFit have a wider toe box and this is to allow you to splay your toes when doing grounded movements like squats. Some shoes feature tongues that are stitched to the sole and are secure without even being laced, while others require you to crank them down.
The third area that most CrossFit shoes are similar on is the heel drop. One of the big changes of CrossFit shoes from traditional training shoes the more minimalistic style. A 0mm heel drop would make your foot parallel to the ground. Although there are few with a 0mm heel drop, there are many that are close. We suggest choosing shoes that have a 4mm heel drop or less.
Durability is obviously important for all shoes, but due to CrossFit's varied nature, durability is of utmost importance. The average amount of time manufacturers recommend you get out of your shoes is about 7 months of normal use. Some will go longer, others could be changed more often. Despite this suggestion, most CrossFit shoes can be used much longer if you don't mind a worn down sole (which will in reality simply make your shoe even more minimalist.)
A CrossFit shoe should have a durable upper with extra protection in high wear spots such as the shoes instep.
Since CrossFit is a sport and includes certain movements, manufactures have begun adding features that specifically aid in e movements. These include rope guards on the instep of the shoe, heel cups for stability and heel clips to easily slide along the wall during handstand pushups.
Finally, the price of the shoes should be a factor. No matter how good a shoe is, its price should be a criteria for whether it's chosen or not. Rather than say shoes are expensive or cheap, we like to look at the value. If the shoe is costly, does it's performance match up? If not, then it is overpriced. With so many great options today, it's unlikely that a $200 pair of shoes designed for CrossFit are going to be that much better than the $130 pair.
The shoes we picked to test could all be considered great for CrossFit and general training. Granted, some of the shoes we tested simply won't work for certain people either due to the looks or fit, but our picks should work for the majority of people. After some deliberation, we narrowed down our specifications to the following list of features ordered in no particular order.
During testing, we performed various workouts both long short and in between. We squatted, deadlifted, box jumped, wall-balled (is that a word,) clean and jerked, snatched, ran, and did many other movements. We lifted for maxes as well as EMOMs, AMRAPS, and lots of metcons. We requested the opinion of many different people including a couple of CrossFit Games Athletes without shoe sponsors (to avoid biases.)
Here are the results.
Of all the shoes we tested, the Reebok Nano 7 Weaves had the best combination of comfort, stability, performance, and looks, making it our top pick (by a very slim margin.) Compared to the Nike Metcon 3's (our runner-up,) the Nano 7 Weaves very similarly, however as we'll detail, there are some things we prefer.
The Nano 7 Weaves are an update of the original Nano 7's. The original Nano 7's were far from being a contender for the best “looking” training shoe. In all honestly, I didn't mind the original Vitamin C colorway, but the general consensus of the community was that overall, they weren't a very great looking shoe. In the past, Reebok didn't really have many to compete within the CrossFit shoe space, but now that Nike, Adidas, NOBULL, and others have entered the arena, looks play a big part in who buys what shoes.
The new Nano 7 Weaves are, at least in my opinion, much more pleasing to the eye. Although I'm not a huge fan of the initial black and white colorway, I do believe there is a lot to work with on the shoe, and am excited for what the team at Reebok comes up with.
One area that I like in which they copied from the 7's was how little amounts of branding they've applied to the shoe. No longer is it plastered with “CROSSFIT OMG” across the sides, back, tongue, and everywhere else. They've completely transferred to using the delta logo that I like, and there are only a couple of places that feature the word CrossFit, both are hardly noticeable.
The big aesthetic change in the shoe is the improved NanoWeave on the upper. Rather than a stiff, all plastic weave mesh on the upper like the original Nano 7's has, the Weaves feature both a durable cage along with a more mesh-like material going horizontally across the toes. It both looks and functions superbly. However, the jury is still out on their durability compared to the bomb-proof Metcon 3's.
One of the big features performance-wise for the new NanoWeave mesh is its breathability. There is not a training shoe currently being made that is as breathable as the Nano 7 Weaves, including the Nike Metcon 3's. The upper now features great durability with Reebok's most breathable shoe yet. It also looks better than the previous version; this is a win-win-win all around.
The new Nano 7 Weaves feature a CMEVA molded midsole that allows the foot to move naturally. To put it plainly, the Nano 7 Weaves feel much more like the Nano 6's, which is a great thing seeing as they were our previous top pick.
The heel drop of the shoe is the standard 4mm that Reebok has been using for most of the Nano series and although isn't a completely minimalist shoe, by today's standards is still very minimal. The cushioning is similar to previous Nano's, and although not the ideal marathon running shoe, I personally would have no problem running 5k's in the shoe.
The Nano 7 Weave will be considered somewhat narrow for those of you with wide, hobbit-like feet (you know who you are,) but I don't think the shoe is too narrow for most people. The Nano series is designed to reach a broad audience, and as such, Reebok creates the lasts based on averages.
The outsole of the shoe remains the same as the Nano 7 and provides excellent durability as well as grip. The heel counter is also the same which is a feature many liked as it provides good stability during lifts.
The Nano 7 Weave is a welcome update that should provide outstanding performance, breathability, and durability. For all these reasons, the Reebok Nano 7 Weave is in our opinion the best CrossFit shoe available.
Of all the shoes we tested, the Nike Metcon 3's were the overwhelming favorite by most people from an appearance standpoint. Every pair of shoes in this guide are worth using, but Nike refined their early Metcons into a shoe worthy of being one of the best CrossFit style training shoes available, however, we do not feel like they are good enough yet to take our top spot.
The Nike Metcon 3's were designed for CrossFit. Although you won't see them on the CrossFit Games stage anytime soon (due to Reebok being the title sponsor) you will see them worn in every CrossFit event outside of the Games as well as in nearly every CrossFit gym in the world.
People love Nike and not just because of that swoosh that represents so much sporting history, but also for their innovation and attention to details. (They're also one of the best marketed organizations in the world.)
Before we get into the performance and construction of the shoe, I first want to comment on the appearance. When polling people's opinions of the shoe, we found fewer negative comments on the looks than any other shoe. Nike knows how to make a good-looking shoe and one of the ways they include so many people is by introducing new colorways seemingly every week. This combined with offering limited runs builds the hype of the shoe and fortunately unlike many things in this world, the Metcon 3's live up to the hype.
Although few argue against the Metcon 3's being one of the best looking shoes (we think the NOBULL Trainers are,) it must be understood that a shoe for CrossFit training should be purchased first on fit, comfort, and performance AND THEN on appearance. If the looks of a shoe were all that mattered, I'd be running around in a pair of Allen Edmonds (can you imagine?)
Moving on to the construction of the shoe, Nike has for the most part taken what was successful in the Nike Metcon 2 and improved it. The upper of Nike Metcon's in the past has been mesh, and the upper of the Nike Metcon 3 is also mesh. However, its thicker and tougher without being restrictive for flexibility sake.
The other material that was on the upper of the Nike Metcon 2's was a thermal wrap. Although the wrap provided some rigidity, it was also very thick and over time begins to crack. Especially for those of you who leave your shoes in your gym bag (you know who you are.) Nike has kept the thermal wrap on the Metcon 3's, but minimized it allowing the upper to be much more pliable and also less prone to cracking.
With the subtraction of so much thermal wrap, the Metcon 3's are a much more comfortable shoe that feels in reality, more like a sock than a shoe. The toe box uses the same mesh as seen in the 2's, which is a positive due to its breathability.
One of the most well received features of the Metcon 3's is the addition of TPU plastic on the sides of the heel. The TPU adds increased rigidity and a more locked in feel for your foot. That said, it doesn't completely eliminate the heel slipping that so many have experienced with past Metcons. One feature that Nike introduced to the market that has since been copied by nearly every company is the heel clip on the back of the shoe, that allows the shoe to glide up the wall during handstand pushups. The feature is a nice touch on a well-made shoe.
The outsole on the Nike Metcon 3's is one of its standout features. Often times, the outsole of a shoe is an afterthought, but Nike has the sole extend up the sides which provides rope protection and increased stability when changing direction.
The biggest issue we, as well as others have with the Nike Metcon 3's is the squeaking that sometimes happens from the insole rubbing against the inside of the shoe. The insole is where pretty much all of the cushion of the shoe comes from and although the squeaking eventually dissipates (at least for me it did) it is still annoying.
The Metcon 3's are slightly more narrow than the Metcon 2's but should be the same length. Personally, I wear the same size in Metcon's as I do Nano's.
Although we like the performance aspects of the Nike Metcon 3's as well as the looks (one of our personal favorites) the squeaking of the shoe is the main reason of what has caused it to be our runner-up for the best shoe for CrossFit. Should Nike find a way to improve the shoe while removing the elephant in the room (the fact that you sound like a little kid with squeaky shoes) the Metcon's could top our list.
The Metcon 3's performed well in short distance runs as well as metcons and heavy lifting. The Nano 7 Weaves are more flexible and breathable, but the stability was very similar in both the Nano's and Metcon 3's.
Our recommendation is if you find the Nike Metcon 3's to be just as good a performer for you and prefer the looks, purchase them. If not, then choose our top pick, the Reebok Nano 7 Weaves.
If you're not a fan of the Nike Metcon 3's or Reebok Nano 7 Weaves, then we suggest the NOBULL Trainers. Choosing which shoes were best for CrossFit training has been one of the most difficult guides we have compiled. The reason is pretty simple, there are more great trainers available than ever before.
The NOBULL Trainers although appear for the most part to be the same as the ones launched initially, were actually updated in 2016. The updates created an entirely different shoe, that looks the same (if it isn't broke, don't fix it mentality.)
The changes to the NOBULL Trainers were in our opinion all improvements except for one area which we plan to detail.
The star of the show per se when it comes to the NOBULL Trainers is the SuperFabric that makes up the entire upper. Although SuperFabric sounds gimmicky in the same way the book "How to Get Rich" by Felix Dennis makes you not want to read in public, both are outstanding in their respective areas. SuperFabric is a cut and abrasion resistant material that has been used in motorcycle jackets as well as military clothing that truly is tough. In fact, we tested the claims of NOBULL by stabbing the shoe with a knife.
In order to remain flexible and breathable, NOBULL has added various guard plates throughout the shoe in high wear areas over a mesh layer. This makes an otherwise stiff and stuffy material the opposite.
Another change to the NOBULL Trainers is in the midsole and outsole. The midsole is less compressible than before, although I didn't find the comfort change too much (except we disliked the new insole compared to the previous versions.) Due to the midsole being thin and stiff, the shoe feels very flat even though it boasts a 4mm heel drop. For some this is great news, for others they would prefer a bit more cushion.
The outsole has improved and now features a uniform patter that goes up the instep of the shoe to provide protection and grip on CrossFit staples like rope climbs. One thing to note though is the outsole will catch and keep dirt, mud, and other un-pleasantries (dog poop) worse than our other picks. If you do any sort of working out, outside, it may be something worth considering.
The one change we mentioned that we dislike is the tongue. The previous tongue featured a thicker, more traditional tongue that Reebok has been doing for years (except on the original Nano 7's) and the comfort it provides is great. NOBULL decided to follow Nike and create a thinner tongue that is less comfortable than the previous version.
Finally, the NOBULL Trainers perform well in most every CrossFit movement except running. Out of all of our picks besides our ultra-budget pick, the NOBULL Trainers were the least comfortable to run in. To have a shoe designed for the unknown and unknowable, it needs to be comfortable to run in.
Although most of the people we polled preferred the looks of the Nike Metcon 3's, the NOBULL Trainers were our personal favorites. The sleek, understated design featuring Super Fabric in all sorts of unique colorways is a unique and refreshing take on training shoes. Despite us being big fans of the looks, the NOBULL Trainers just simply don't perform to the level of the price they're offering them at (starting at $130.)
We understand that the Reebok Nano 7 Weaves, Nike Metcon 3's and NOBULL Trainers all retail for $130, but NOBULL literally never has sales. The other options can be had during sales for under $100 rather easily.
Should the NOBULL Trainers be offered at a lower price through sales or retail as well as improve their feel during runs, then we may boost them higher on our recommendations list. This said, the NOBULL Trainers are a great looking shoe that performs well.
Understanding that not everyone wants to drop nearly $150 on shoes, our budget pick for the best CrossFit shoes are the Reebok Speed TR 2.0's. The Speed TR 2.0's are a less costly pair of shoes than our other picks, but can perform just as well.
The main difference we find between the Speed TR 2.0's as well as other budget training shoes, like the Nike Metcon Repper's is going to come down largely to durability.
Although the previously mentioned budget options from Reebok and Nike are both great training shoes, in our experience they just simply don't hold up to regular training the way their flagship models do.
Although the durability may not be there, everything else is. There are many CrossFit athletes, even some who have made the CrossFit Games that use the Reebok Speed TR 2.0's as their main training shoe (Dan Bailey, James Hobart, and more.) The big differences we see between the Speed TR's and the Nano series is the fit.
The Reebok Speed TR 2.0's are a shoe designed for shorter, sprint type workouts (as evidenced by the name) although we found them to be just as good in longer workouts, even some longer distance runs than most CrossFitters partake in (5k's and such.)
The thing you realize immediately upon putting the Speed Tr's on is how much thinner a profile the shoe is than the Nano series. If you have a wider than average foot, we suggest you stay away from the Speed Tr's as they are one of the thinner shoes we tried. For people with average to thin size feet, you will absolutely love the profile.
Although we were fans of the fit, we did not find as much stability in the shoes which is likely related to the inability to completely splay your toes due to a thinner toe box.
The materials on the Speed TR 2.0's is breathable and very light; even lighter than the Nano 7 Weaves. Despite the price tag, the Reebok Speed Tr 2.0's are a more than capable shoe at a great price.
If you're looking to hardly spend any money at all, the Feiyue Canvas Shoes are the cheapest training shoes we can recommend.
Few of you have likely ever heard of these shoes, but they are an absolute cult classic among the "movement" community. People like Ido Portal have been using Feiyue's for years and I'm not going to lie, I wear my Feiyue's like crazy.
They're an ultra-minimalist shoe with very little, if any support that appeases the same crowd who were once into Vibram Five-Fingers (except these are actually great shoes.)
Despite their price tag, Feiyue's are made to last. Combining a canvas upper similar to Converse All-Stars with a flexible, gum bottom, the shoes won't win any awards for support but that's kind of the point. The Feiyue's are designed so you are forced to use the muscles in your feet to support and control your body. Although they are great for most movements in CrossFit, I would not suggest using them during any sort of running due to the lack of cushion.
The Feiyue Canvas Shoes are a great option for those on a budget and desire a minimalist shoe. Worst case scenario is you end up not liking them for training and use them as casual shoes because they're great looking shoes.
Due to CrossFit's explosive growth as well as people purchasing shoes specifically for training, companies are constantly coming out with new training shoes.
Within the next year we will see the release of the Reebok Nano 8's (a shoe that will likley feature FlexWeave technology) as well as the Reebok RF1's a shoe created in collaboration with Rich Froning. From Reebok, we are most excited for the RF1's. The original Froning shoes were very underwhelming and we don't see Reebok making that same mistake twice. Reebok also plans to re-release the Nano 2.0's in the Fall of 2017; prepare for some nostalgia.
From Nike, we expect to see the Nike Metcon 4's along with another flyknit version similar to what was released with the Nike Metcon 3's. Should Nike improve some of the issues discussed above, we could see the Metcon 4's overtaking Reebok in our guides for the first time ever.
NOBULL has to have something in the works to replace their trainer's as sales for a shoe that has remain unchanged from an aesthetic standpoint cannot sustain growth (at least in my opinion.)
Reebok Nano 6.0: Our previous top pick has been replaced by the Reebok Nano 7 Weaves not so much because they are a better, but largely because you can't hardly find the 6.0's. We are still big fans of the Nano 6.0's and view them as one of the best trainers ever released.
Reebok Nano 7: These are one of the stiffest trainers we tested. Although the updated 'Weave' version is outstanding, these are not. We do not suggest these.
Lalo Tactical Grinder: Although we are fans of Lalo Tactical, the sole of their shoes has proven to be a bit too soft to provide optimal stability as well as durability. That said, they are a very comfortable pair of trainers.
Lalo Tactical BloodBird: Same reasons as the above. Comfortable trainers, but not stable enough for most CrossFit movements.
Adidas CrazyTrain Elite Boost: The CrazyTrain Elite Boost's are one of the best training shoes for those focused mainly on running, but although the boost is comfortable and more stable than expected, they still did not make our cut.
Adidas CrazyPower Trainer Shoes: The CrazyPower Trainer Shoes were one of the best surprises of the year. Not only are they great for nearly every CrossFit movement, but they also look great. The reason they didn't make our cut is due to their limited availability as well as some durability issues in some movements like rope climbs.
Nike Metcon DSX Flyknit: Although the flyknit version's of the Nike Metcon 3's are great training shoes, they aren't so much better than the Metcon 3's to be deserving of the high price tag. They will also prove to be less durable than their sister, the Nike Metcon 3.
Nike Metcon Repper DSX: The Nike Metcon Repper's are an awesome shoe for the pricepoint and were barely beat out by the Reebok Speed TR 2.0's, but we overall liked the performance of the Speed TR's over the Reppers. Nike, as always, has a better silhouette and colorway options, but it just wasn't enough this time around.
Nike Free Trainer V7: Although the Nike Free's are popular shoes, they simply don't work for CrossFit. Too much cushion and not enough protection leave them off our top picks list.
Nike Free Trainer Virtue: Same reasons as above.
Jordan Trainer Prime: A good-looking sneaker with too much cushion, too high of a heel drop, and not enough protection for a shoe designed for CrossFit.
Inov-8 F-Lite 235 V.2: Inov-8 has produced great trainers for years, but their latest releases lack durability and lack in overall comfort. We hope Inov-8 continues to innovate as we are overall big fans.
Strike Movement Interval 3: Although the Interval 3's are Strike Movement's best shoes yet, they are not as durable as our top picks and in most people that we polled are simply not a good-looking shoe. The appearance ofa shoe should be secondary to performance, but the looks of the Strike Movement's have kept many we talked to from even giving them a chance. We will say that the Interval 3's are an outstanding performer, but not more so than our other picks.
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