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Your Perfect CrossFit Shoe: A quick guide

Whether you’ve been doing CrossFit for a while or are new to the game, one question pops up frequently: what shoes do I need?

If you look at the coaches, they’ll mostly be wearing the answer. Anyone who trains strictly CrossFit more than two times a week has usually invested in footwear to do the job. Or, if you’re crazy about sneakers- you probably got a pair before even starting CrossFit.

There are a couple guidelines that we use when choosing a CrossFit shoe, so before we even delve into the brands and their specific details, here’s what you need to consider:

The Drop

The “drop” of a shoe measures the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot.

If you’ve owned a pair of high support running shoes, the drop is very large.

This is an 8 mm drop. These shoes are made to guide your feet from heel-to-toe… i.e not what you want if you need to stay in your heels for squats and Oly lifts.

CrossFit shoes typically have a 4 mm drop. This helps distribute your weight evenly across your foot and is also a more natural foot position. If you’re coming from a super padded shoe or have nagging foot issues, there are a couple fixes:

A. A movement issue needs to be assessed and fixed.

B. Start in a medium drop shoe (about 6 mm) then slowly work to a lower drop.

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2. A hard sole

This still deals with the issue of stability. When you’re doing heavy Olympic lifts during a WOD, do you want to feel the floor beneath you or feel like you’re on clouds? If you prefer the first option, you’ve answered why most people choose more CrossFit-specific training shoes. These shoes help keep your feet glued to the ground and stay stable regardless of the load.

The details of the workout and use of the shoe, along with your personal shoe preferences are also important when choosing between multiple options.

3. Durable outer shoe

We’ve talked about the sole, now it’s time to mention the body of the shoe. CrossFit demands you to be prepared for the unknown and unknowable. That can include rope climbs, a trail run, or a max lift. That being said, your shoe needs to help you perform these tasks.

Traction on the top of your shoe is just as important as the traction on the back. This usually comes in the form of a ‘cage’ around the mid-foot and toes. There will likely be a mention of rope climbs when describing this feature. This lateral support not only helps you grip ropes better, but also reinforces proper alignment during the all-important squats.

Show us the Shoes!

Now onto the real reason you’re still reading this… THE SHOES. We’ve broken this down into three main brands: innov-8, Reebok, and the newcomer: Nike.

This is a sort of continuum of CrossFit. First came Innov-8 with their minimalist, bare bones CrossFit shoe. Then, enter Reebok circa 2011 and the CrossFit world changed forever. Now, we have anther powerhouse in the exercise world- and they're not strangers to training shoes: Nike. This is by no means an exhaustive list of shoes, we just have some things for you to consider when choosing your sneakers.

Inov-8

Innov-8 has been in the game before CrossFit was a well-known (dare-some-say “Fad”) fitness practice. Thus, they have a much more simplistic approach to training shoes. They have the most minimalistic shoes with specific additions for CrossFit training.

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Inov-8 F Lite 235

This is the newest to the Inov-8 reel of functional fitness shoes. (see also F Lite 230)

Minimal heel-toe drop: Yes, 0 mm (a true minimal shoe)

Stiff hard sole: Kinda-sorta. This shoe has cushioning and flexibility but is a true minimal shoe that will focus on natural foot position.

Durable outer: Yes, this shoe has a multi-directional reinforcement intended to help during rope climbs and other CrossFit movements.

The lowdown: This is Inov-8’s newest functional fitness shoe. They’ve proven to be a mainstay in this fitness shoe realm as the true minimalist shoe.

Reebok

They broke into the CrossFit world in 2011 and have been there ever since. It is the shoe that you will see at numerous CrossFit boxes around the world. The Reebok Nano has been through 4 iterations and the most recent is arguably their best.

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Reebok Nano 4's

Minimal heel-toe drop: Yes, 4mm

Hard sole: Yes, also including forefoot and heel pods to provide more cushion and shock absorption.

Durable outer: Yes, a protective “cage” lining for protection in all environments and also including a rope protection wrap.

The lowdown: It’s a durable shoe, supportive, and made for exactly what it says: the sport of fitness. The customize options also make having this common shoe fun as you can design one that is specific to you. The 4.0 is definitely the best fitting of the Nano series, as the 1.0 and 2.0 were a little wider in the toe.

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Nike

The sports shoe powerhouse has officially entered the sport of fitness. They’ve laid low, done their research, and are ready to attempt hijacking the shoe game in true Nike fashion (if you watched the World Cup, you'll understand). This isn't their first round in the cross-training shoe realm, but it is their first round of this SPECIFIC type of training. (#BoKnows)

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Nike MetCon 1

Minimal heel-toe drop: Yes, 4mm

Stiff sole: Yes, including a firm flat heel and grooved forefoot design. MetCons are built to provide stability on heavy lifts, while also maintaining protection for rope climbs and day-to-day wear.

Durable outer: Yes, reinforced for support with running, sprints, and rope climbs.

The lowdown: CrossFitters around the world are either hungry for change or eager for new trends. The MetCon 1’s have had two releases since February and the shoes have sold out instantly. They’re doing a great job creating a demand for the shoe and have gotten great reviews thus far. Time will tell if the MetCon will serve as a mainstay in the fitness shoe rotation, thus far, they’ve been praised as a more supportive shoe during heavy lifts.

A couple reminders

This is NOT a full list of options for your shoes. We are making some suggestions based on the needs of your training and the Coaches personal preferences.

New Balance also has their Minimus line that is a favorite among many athletes as well.

When it comes to picking a shoe, there are certain elements that the shoe MUST have for it to work well with CrossFIt, but outside of those details, you're free to pick what you want. We hope this helps you on your shoe search this season.