You can always spot a person who just started CrossFit training by what shoes they are wearing. In a typical big box gym, or even a bootcamp or HIIT studio like an OrangeTheory Fitness, you can pretty much wear whatever kind of shoe you want. The workouts are not forcing you into so many unique situations that having a cross-training shoe becomes necessary. Because of this, most people wear a high-heel drop shoe like a classic, squishy running shoe. Yesterday during one of our classes, one of our new students said they are in the market for a new pair of shoes, and asked what are the best CrossFit shoes. I figure more than just this person has this question, so below I've organized a list of the best CrossFit shoes on the market and what they are best suited to do - high impact workouts, heavy lifting, long endurance workouts, etc.
When buying a shoe to support your lifting, you are looking for three things: 1) a hard, flat sole so that you can transfer as much force into the ground as possible, 2) a stable upper material which will not let your foot move significantly side to side, and 3) a toe box which will allow your toes to spread which is important for balance and strength in your foot.
Nike's original offering to the CrossFit space is a favorite among many of the best athletes around, including this year's first and second fittest men on Earth, Mat Fraser and Noah Olsen. This shoe is on its fifth iteration, and everyone says it continues to improve. This is a very firm shoe and one which will allow you to tackle your heaviest lifts with confidence.
The Reebok Nano has been updated on nine occasions, and many believe this is its best model yet. The biggest difference between the Nano and the Metcon comes in the toe box. Reebok classically has a wider toe box than Nike, so if you have a wide foot this shoe is your best bet.
NOBULL is the new kid on the block - but they're signing big name athletes left and right who love their no bull*** (hence the name) approach to training. They make simple shoes which function extremely well. This is my go to shoe - if you like a very flat shoe and want a simple but good looking design these are your shoes for CrossFit.
In contrast to a heavy lifting and sprinting workout, for a long endurance workout you may want a little more cushion. This is a personal choice - some people may prefer the same shoe for heavy lifting as they do for long endurance. The following shoes give you a bit more bounce and comfort than the heavy lifting shoes.
Nike debuted this shoe in the last couple years, and it has gained a large following of fans. It is a much softer shoe than the original Metcon and many prefer it for high impact movements such as double unders, box jumps, and medium to long distance runs.
The Reebok Speed TR is a similar shoe to the Free x Metcon in that it is made for medium distance runs, and has a softer sole than its counterpart, the Reebok Nano. It is also a very light shoe, which is a nice change from some of the heavier CrossFit shoes.
When you think CrossFit, you don't think JUST heavy lifting or JUST long running. It's a mix of both, with a bunch of bodyweight movements piled on top. To excel at this you have to have a shoe which can work with you through many different challenges and movements. For the all around CrossFit shoe, here are the top three:
NOBULL is my go to brand for shoes. They are slightly more expensive than the Reebok counterpart, but they make up for it in spades with awesome, minimalist design, light weight, and the ability to do everything well. In fact, I do most of the long distance running workouts in my own NOBULLs.
This shoe is very, very close to the NOBULL and is potentially better for someone who likes just a touch of cushion for the pushin' on their shoes. The flyknit upper provides amazing breathability and comfort, and the firm sole gives you the ability to lift heavy while still knocking out double unders and 400m runs with ease.
Reebok, with the 9th edition, has moved all of their Nano offerings to a flexweave upper - which is what Nike calls flyknit. The difference between the Reebok and the Nano flyknit is mainly down to two things: the toe box, and the tongue. The Nike has an attached tongue, giving the shoe a sock like feel, while the Reebok is a classic tongue. Also, Nike's flyknit shoe is more narrow than the Reebok. Make your choice based on if you prefer a narrow, sock like shoe, or a wider more traditional shoe.