If you’re already a CrossFit athlete, no doubt you understand what a challenge it is to find the perfect pair of CrossFit shoes. And if you’re just getting started with CrossFit, you’ll discover that challenge, and others, shortly.
They’re just sneakers, you might think. Why on earth should it be such a challenge to find the best CrossFit shoes? This should not be a big deal. Right?
CrossFit has wide appeal. Right now, it’s particularly trendy among hardcore athletes, survivalists, martial artists, law enforcement officers, active duty military personnel, and triathletes. CrossFitters are a diverse bunch with disparate goals and a variety of different fitness approaches. They embrace many different philosophies, but one thing they share in common is this: the desire to excel in many different physically demanding situations.
Variety is what makes CrossFit stand out from other methods of athletic training. It encompasses many different disciplines, plus a wide range of different movements and activities. CrossFitters sprint, lift weights, row, swim, dive, jump, rappel, skip, jump, and run — among other things. Typical workouts include high intensity interval training, lunging, squatting, rope climbing, jumping, pedaling, and just about any other challenging activity you could think of.
So, what about shoes?
Have you ever encountered a shoe that’s ideal for running, weight lifting, kicking, lunging, jumping and all the other movements that CrossFit athletes are doing?
Well, therein lies the challenge. No individual shoe can be completely perfect for every last activity that might come up in your latest WOD. Heck, it can be a challenge to even find a decent running shoe, let alone a shoe that can take you from running to climbing rope. So, the challenge is really to find the one magical pair of shoes that does a decent job of transitioning between activities, without compromising too much in any given area.
Unless of course you don’t mind buying multiple pairs of shoes, and then changing them every time you switch activities.
If you need some help with understanding just what to look for in the ideal pair of CrossFit shoes, we offer the following suggestions to help you make sense of it all.
CrossFit Shoes — Colors and Styles
CrossFit shoes tend to be bright, vibrant and colorful, although there’s often a black colorway included in the mix.
A CrossFit training style tip: in “real-life” fashion, you might choose your outfit first, then choose your shoes to match. With CrossFit training, it’s worth choosing your shoes first, and then selecting the rest of your gear to coordinate.
This is because it’s easier to find workable clothing than it is to find the perfect pair of CrossFit shoes.
Choose Lightweight, Flexible Shoes for CrossFit
Some CrossFitters are used to wearing heavy shoes as part of their daily routines. For example, active duty military and law enforcement officers tend to wear heavy boots around for much of the day.
For some new CrossFit athletes, it initially seems surprising that CrossFit shoes are so lightweight. In comparison to some other sorts of athletic shoes, it seems they don’t offer much in the way of support. This is particularly true for those who are used to wearing hiking boots or running shoes. To some new CrossFitters, CrossFit shoes seem like featherweight pieces of nothing.
Rest assured that this sensation passes quickly once you begin to get used to them.
CrossFit training requires quick, agile motions — sprinting, jumping, and squatting. Heavy shoes would hinder the athlete from achieving the necessary speed.
Flexibility is also a requirement, because the shoes need to move with your feet as you move.
Durability and Lifespan of CrossFit Shoes
With all the demands that CrossFit places on your gear, it should be obvious that durability is a plus. You’ll be beating the living bleep out of your shoes, and despite that, you want them to last as long as possible.
However, this is one of those areas where you’ll have to make some tradeoffs. If you want a lightweight shoe, it isn’t likely to last forever. If you want a long-wearing shoe, it may not be as flexible or lightweight as would be ideal. So you have to choose: durable, or flexible? Long-wearing, or lightweight? Most of the time, the compromise ends up being somewhere in the middle.
What that means: you’ll probably go through CrossFit shoes fairly quickly, so budget some money for replacing them every six to nine months, give or take.
Understanding Heel-to-Toe Drop
Heel-to-toe drop is a concept that you often see discussed in connection with CrossFit shoes. What does this mean, exactly?
When you stand without any shoes on, your heel-to-toe drop is zero. Your toes and your heels are at exactly the same level, and one part of your foot isn’t elevated above the other.
In contrast, if you were to measure the heel-to-toe drop on a high-heeled shoe, you’d find a substantial drop.
It seems reasonable that you don’t want to be working out in high-heeled shoes, right? So when CrossFitters say that they like a shoe with minimal heel-to-toe drop, in a way, they’re sort of stating the obvious — since nobody wants to lift weights wearing high heels, unless maybe they’re posing for a calendar or something.
Still, there are athletic shoes where a higher heel-to-to drop is the norm — like running shoes, for example. So for athletes accustomed to running shoes, CrossFit shoes may feel a little flatter and the heels may feel more grounded in comparison.
CrossFit shoes often include some sort of mesh as part of the fabrication. This is ideal because it’s essential for the shoe to have substantial airflow. Breathability is key, since a shoe that doesn’t “breathe” will leave your feet feeling sweaty and uncomfortable as your workout progresses.
Ankle Support and Arch Support
Don’t expect support on-par with other sorts of athletic shoes, particularly not if you’re used to wearing hiking boots or running shoes for long periods. While some CrossFit shoes do offer support, it’s typically not the highest-priority characteristic of a CrossFit shoe.
At one extreme, minimalist-style CrossFit shoes offer the athlete little or no support. Their job is to mimic the barefoot condition, while at the same time offering more protection than your bare feet would.
Then there are CrossFit shoes that offer substantially more support, but it’s still just enough to get the job done.
A fully supportive shoe isn’t necessarily going to give you the necessary flexibility and light-on-your-feet feeling. Since the shoes can’t be too rigid and still function properly, ankle support and arch support may be sacrificed. Support is minimal in some CrossFit shoes. In other CrossFit shoes, support is given slightly higher priority, sometimes at the expense of either the flexibility or the lightness (or both.) This is one of those tradeoffs where the athlete’s personal preference matters a great deal.
Popular Brands of CrossFit Shoes
With CrossFit’s popularity increasing, more and more shoe manufacturers are getting in on this trend. Some of the most popular brands of CrossFit shoes are as follows:
Reebok: Reebok is an official CrossFit partner, so their brand has an edge over many others when it comes to being sanctioned for wear by CrossFit athletes during official competitions.
The Reebok Nano is a model that has some staying power. As of this writing, they’re on the 4th version, the Reebok Nano 4.0. Each version has become progressively better-tuned to the CrossFit lifestyle — so if you’re a CrossFit newbie and you don’t know which shoe to choose, the Nano is a good choice to start with.
Rogue Fitness: Rogue is another official CrossFit partner. Rogue makes a weight lifting shoe that’s popular with CrossFit athletes.
Inov-8: Inov-8 offers many models that appeal to CrossFit athletes. The Inov-8 F-Lite Precision and F-Lite Standard are both versatile designs. The Inov-8 Bare-XF is a minimalist shoe that excels at indoor and rope-climbing workouts, and it performs well outdoors too.
Nike: Nike, of course, makes zillions of different athletic shoes and cross-training shoes. However, as far as dedicated CrossFit shoes go, they are a bit late to the party. Their first dedicated CrossFit shoe is the Nike Metcon TR. CrossFitters also wear other Nike cross trainers such as the Nike Free 3, Nike Free 4 and Nike Free 5.
One Pair of Shoes for CrossFit, or Several Pairs?
If you’re seriously pursuing CrossFit training, it would be ideal to have at least one pair of dedicated CrossFit shoes. Depending on the model you select, you might also wish to own a pair of dedicated running shoes as well, since your CrossFit shoes might compromise on support and in other areas that are critical to an excellent running shoe.
The right CrossFit shoes can enhance your WOD and accelerate your success — so select them carefully, and wear them often and well.