When I started CrossFit a few years ago (like 10 years ago…), there weren’t really any shoes out there that could handle the rigors of Olympic lifting, running, rope climbing, and more all in one.
Since CrossFit has become a bit more mainstream, there are more brands willing to develop and manufacture shoes to get their share of the money produced by the sport.
I have accumulated quite an assortment of shoes. I do in fact have at least one pair of every shoe I talk about here. And I do rotate through them and use them for different workouts depending on the movements in the workout that day.
I also realize having 5+ pairs of shoes is a bit unrealistic for everyday CrossFitters. In my experience most people already have a pair of running-type shoes. Those are great to start with and you can absolutely get started with CrossFit with pretty much any kind of athletic shoe you already have – there is no need to buy a new pair of shoes in order to get started at a CrossFit gym!
If you are looking for your second pair of shoes though, ones that will be your “CrossFit” shoes, the ones that you leave at the gym in the cubby, then I recommend a shoe made for CrossFit – Reebok Nanos, Nike MetCons, Inov8 F-LITE 235s, or No Bulls.
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any sporting goods or running stores that carry all 4 kinds of shoes. Running stores will carry the Inov8s, sporting good stores will carry the Nike and the Reebok. As far as I know, you can only order No Bulls through their web site.
I recommend trying on each of the shoes, if you can, to see how they feel and fit on your feet. Also make note of the sizing of each brand that fits best for you. In my experiences, Inov8’s and No Bull’s run true, Nike’s are big, and Reebok’s are small (but that also has changed as the different versions come out.)
If you can’t get to a store, you can also utilize each brand’s shoe sizing chart on their web site. Most on-line retailers have return policies as well, so be sure to check that out before you buy.Being part of a great gym community is also helpful. If you ask real nice, most people will let you try a pair of their shoes to see what you think.
These are the first Cross Training shoes long before there was such a thing. Back when I started CrossFit 10 years ago, there were no shoes designed for the varied rigors of CrossFit, but people found Inov-8s, loved the light and minimalist shoe and they became the unofficial CrossFit shoe. WIth Reebok, Nike, and No Bull designing and marketing shoes specifically for CrossFit, Inov8s have become less popular, but don’t count them out! They are a bit less expensive and still really great shoes to handle everything functional training throws at you!
My notes on Inov8s:
- Minimalist running shoe
- Very lightweight (the 235 stands for how many grams they weigh)
- Easy to find good deals on – $60-80 (zappos.com and theclymb.com)
- Narrower fit
- Because of lightweight nature of shoe, wear out faster
- I like them for jumping – box, rope, burpees
- Not bad for deadlifting because you can feel the floor
- No heel, so no added lift to elevate the heel
- As a coach, standing in them all day hurts my legs because they have no sole (insert joke here)
- Huge variety of colors and styles
- Run true to size
With Reebok sponsoring the CrossFit Games there is pretty easy access to Nanos these days. The first shoe designed and marketed specifically for CrossFitters. There are 9 different iterations to date and all are slightly different. People will find the version they love and stick with them. The good news is that shoe sites will carry “old” versions of shoes so you can pick your favorite!
My notes about Nanos:
- Made by Reebok, so made for the varied movements of CrossFit
- Wider toe box
- Hold up well to rigors of varied crossfit movements
- Comfy to be in all day
- Light enough for jumping, stable enough for lifting, great for rope climbing
- If you have decent running form, they are good, if you are a heel striker (like me) too much running hurts my calves
- Can customize colors (costs extra and extra shipping time)
- Some versions run ½ size small, others more true to size
- Made specifically for all of the movements in the gym
- Nano 9s are the best Nanos they’ve made for running
A few years after Reebok introduced Nanos, Nike came out with their cross trainers – the MetCon. Because Nike isn’t an official sponsor, they are marketed as CrossFIt shoes, but as cross trainers, hence the name MetCons (get it – metabolic conditioning?) With usual Nike style and construction, they are a sturdy shoe.
My notes about MetCons:
- Feel slightly heavier than the Nanos
- Feel bulkier
- Have arch support
- Solid shoe, comfy to be standing in all day
- Pricey (about the same at Nanos)
- Lots of color choices
- Sizing runs a little big
- They have women’s sizes up to a 12 – which for me is a HUGE deal
- Decently good for any movement in and out of the gym
- Good for running shorter distances
No Bull is the newest to the CrossFit shoe scene. Again, because they aren’t Reebok and official CrossFit sponsors, they aren’t marketed as CrossFit shoes. No Bull has really upped their game in the last couple years. It used to be really difficult to get a pair of their shoes. There were limited colors and sizes, and they were often sold out and you would have to wait weeks to get them. They now have low, mid, and high top versions and a TON of fun colors and patterns to choose from. More and more big name CrossFit athletes are also being sponsored by No Bull.
My notes about No Bull:
- Flat, solid sole with very little differential from heel to toe
- Lighter than MetCons, about the same as the Nanos
- The shoe is made from one solid piece of material, seems durable
- Solid shoe, comfy to be standing in all day
- Range in price from $99 – $129 (not sure why the price difference to be honest)
- Can only find on-line at nobullproject.com
- Sizing runs pretty true to size
- They have a few styles in women’s sizes up to a 11.5, but the colors and styles are pretty gender neutral so ordering in men’s isn’t a big deal
- Every pair of shoes come with 2 pairs of laces – fun pink laces came with the men’s grey shoe which made them more feminine!
Again, CrossFit specific shoes are not a requirement to join a gym and get started with your fitness. But once you have been consistently at the gym for a few months, you may find you are ready for some shoes that can keep up your progress.