I think we can all agree that one of the main goals in Crossfit is to keep bettering yourself and keep improving. Although you can compete with your peers in your gym and all across the world, the times to beat that really matter are your own.
Crossfit is all about progression – advancing your movements, adding weight, running faster, jumping higher. Nothing can replace the hard work you put in to get there. However, you can help supplement that hard work to make even more gains with one easy add-in: your shoes.
Using your gym shoes can get you through the basics, but the best Crossfit shoes will enable you to really maximize your workouts so you can keep upping your weight and reps while staying injury free.
What are The Best Shoes for Crossfit?
The first question most people ask is, do I really need special shoes for Crossfit? The answer, as usual, is it depends on. If you’re a beginner and you just want a bit of a workout without pushing yourself too hard, then you’re probably fine in your favorite athletic shoes. But if you want to get serious about Crossfit then you’re going to find pretty quickly that you need something a little extra to keep up with everyone else.
Crossfit shoes differ from running shoes because they offer a hybrid between a weightlifting shoe and a shoe made for running and jumping.
A huge benefit to weightlifting shoes is that they offer a non-compressible heel, which gives you a massive amount of stability during lifting that you won’t get with the cushioned sole of a running shoe. This allows you to lift more weight, lower into your movements. However, a weightlifting shoe is torture to run in.
The best shoes for Crossfit give you a balance between stability for weightlifting and flexibility for running and jumping.
Best Crossfit Shoes for Men and Women
Reebok is always a good brand to turn to, as it is the brand that created the Crossfit shoe. Before Reebok came onto the scene, people were doing Crossfit in their Chucks!
The Reebok Crossfit Nano 6.0 is a game changer when it comes to stability. There is minimal heel lift, which allows you to deadlift and squat without feeling unstable, but provides lateral support and just enough padding to keep you running and jumping with ease.
A big bonus to this shoe is its Kevlar lining. If your shoes are getting ripped up doing rope climbs or doing hill climbs through the wood trails by your gym, you’re going to want a solid lining that won’t tear easily. This shoe not only has a lining made from a bulletproof material, but it also has enough grip to keep you shimmying up the rope.
The toe box on this shoe is wider than normal keeps your toes from rubbing together. This prevents blisters and hotspots from developing and keeps you from missing workouts due to aching feet.
- Kevlar lining keeps your shoes lasting through your most rigorous workouts
- Biggest brand in Crossfit shoes – started the cross training shoe
- Too flexible if your focus is on improve weightlifting
If you like the way Nike makes their running shoes, you’re going to love their Crossfit shoe. They upgraded the Metcon 2s to offer a firmer heel, vital for putting more weight on your lifts. It has a wide toe box to accommodate wide feet and prevent blisters from forming and great soles to support high arches. This is one of the best Crossfit shoes for women.
You’ll get great protection and grip on the sides of the shoe to help you with rope climbs and keep your shoes from falling apart. The plastic heel clip prevents heel separation on the shoe, and the sock liner has been changed to prevent heel slipping during your workouts.
These added changes may seem small, but they become significant when your shoes last twice as long with the rigorous Crossfit workouts you put them, though. If you’re going to spend a pretty penny on shoes, they better last you and these will.
Nike has always been known for having great style and this shoe is no exception. It comes in a wide variety of colors for both men and women, so you don’t have to skimp on style when it comes to function.
- Large variety of colors
- Grip on the sides of the shoe for rope climbs
- Firm heel for weightlifting
- Soles may not be comfortable for flat feet
For a more old school shoe, look no further than the adidas Performance Adipower shoe. Keep in mind that this shoe’s design places more emphasis on weightlifting. It’s ideal if you are looking to increase your weight for squats, snatches, and cleans but not ideal if you’re looking to increase your box jump or sprint times.
The heel of this shoe is solid and non-compressible, giving you the most stability during your lifts. It is made of quality leather materials, which will last longer than traditional shoe webbing. The most impressive feature of this shoe is its power strap. This power strap runs across the laces to lock down your foot, adding to the stability you’re already getting from the solid heel.
A few things to note: because this shoe is designed to increase your stability during weightlifting, it is not going to be comfortable to wear casually walking. However, if you’re seriously into Crossfit you’re not going to be adding extra wear on your shoes outside the gym anyway.
Additionally, this shoe is only made in men’s sizes. You can get past this by ordering two sizes down for a women’s size, but if you’re looking for the best shoes for Crossfit for women, you’re likely going to be happiest spending your money on a shoe that was specifically designed for a woman’s foot.
- Will really maximize your weightlifting
- Cannot wear comfortably outside the gym
- Only comes in men’s sizes
- May be too stiff for jumping and running activities
The Inov-8 F-Lite shoe is a great choice if you’re looking for the best cross training shoes to invest in. It’s designed for overall performance in every category which is great for training to be a well-rounded Crossfit athlete. Inov-8 has long been a leader in off-road running products, which ensures that you’re getting a lightweight shoe with maximum durability.
One of the best things about this shoe is that it has a feature to address almost every Crossfit category. It has toe bumpers to protect your toes from getting smashed during burpees. Its 360-degree Rope-Tec feature protects you from getting rope burns so you can focus on getting up and down as fast as possible.
The outsole is flexible while the heel maintains a high density to give you the stability you need for weightlifting. Additionally, you can remove the insole to make this a zero drop shoe – meaning you have no heel lift, another ideal feature for weightlifting.
The flexible outsole on this shoe makes for a tight fit that won’t cause blisters or rub your feet raw. It’s also great for people who suffer from bunions because of its flexible toe box. You can order these shoes in a wide or narrow width to accommodate your foot.
- Cross training shoe – lightweight and durable
- Ability to be a zero drop shoe – ideal for weightlifting
- Bottom of the shoe does not have much tread so not ideal for snow or icy conditions
Vibram is another brand that’s part of the original Crossfit crew. Crossfit athletes have been training in Vibrams since its inception and love the lightweight, minimalist feel of these shoes.
Vibram’s rubber soles have been used in everything from extreme mountaineering to steel-toed work boots because they have a reputation for being durable and comfortable. The classic “FiveFingers” design allows your foot to curl and flex, mimicking a natural barefoot pattern. This, coupled with its thin sole, gives you maximum feedback during your workouts.
Unlike other barefoot shoes out there, the Vibram KMD gives plenty of arch support for those who have a high instep and cannot tolerate a flat sole. Although the shoe is thin, it is made of a very strong material that won’t break down on you during your movements.
If you have never worn a shoe like this before, it’s important to wear for just a short period of time each day. You can gradually increase your wear time day by day. This helps to prevent extreme soreness because the shoe challenges your foot and ankle differently than a typical athletic shoe.
Another great feature of this shoe is you can toss it in the wash whenever you need to clean them. Never again will your gym mates have to plug their noses when you take your shoes off after an intense WOD.
- Another shoe that’s been in the Crossfit world for a long time
- Gives you more feedback during workouts than a traditional shoe
- Need a break-in period to acclimate your feet to this shoe
What is Crossfit?
Crossfit started in the year 2000, founded by Greg Glassman, a former gymnast. Its main philosophy and style of workout is high intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. The HIIT workouts combine Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, plyometrics, aerobic training, and other kinds of strengthening.
Crossfit trainers are certified by four levels, with Certified Crossfit Level 4 Coach being the highest credential offered. Crossfit itself focuses on overall fitness and the Crossfit Games winner is touted as the “Fittest on Earth”, giving you an idea of the mindset behind their workouts.
Classes are typically an hour long and incorporate a “WOD” or “workout of the day” along with stretching and a strength movement. WODS are often scored by time to completion or a total number of reps completed in a given time, allowing you to track individual progress and inspiring competition. Although a WOD can look scary written up on the wall, Crossfit is all about “scalability” meaning that a 25-year-old fitness guru can be putting 120 lbs. of weight overhead while the retired teacher next to her is using a PVC pipe.
One of the best components of Crossfit is the variety of movements incorporated into workouts. You can go from running 1 mile to doing box jumps to snatching. Which is why Crossfit shoes are so important, and why your average sneakers probably won’t cut it.
Types of Crossfit Shoes
The majority of Crossfit shoes on the market are a mix of a weightlifting and running shoes, with extra durability on the uppers and insole. However, the three main types are weightlifting shoes, running shoes, and minimalist shoes.
A Crossfit shoe that is purely geared towards weightlifting with a hard heel is going to allow you to put more force into moving the weight, but will make your runs extremely tough.
A running shoe with a flexible, cushioned sole is going to make running and jumping easier, but it’s going to make weightlifting much harder as much of your force will be absorbed by the cushion.
A minimalist shoe is a type of running shoe that is designed to encourage forefoot strike, instead of heel strike. These shoes take adjustment and break in time. Many Crossfitters like minimalist shoes because they give more feedback during workouts and encourage a more “natural” form of running.
Benefits of Crossfit Shoes
If you want to elevate your workouts to the next level, getting a pair of Crossfit shoes is one of the first steps to take. You wear hiking shoes for hiking, and climbing shoes for climbing, so why wouldn’t you get a shoe specific to your workout?
You can target your shoes to help you pick up slack in weightlifting, giving you a more stable base of support to increase your weight and get you lower into your movements. You can focus on shoes with more grip to help with your rope climb reps and times. Or shoes with more supportive material on their uppers to help ease the sting during double unders.
Top Crossfit Shoes Brands
Shoes designed specifically for Crossfit are a fairly recent development but have exploded onto the market. Cross training Crossfit shoes remain the most popular type of shoe used, but many brands have also made a name for themselves with shoes geared towards weightlifting or running.
Reebok helped to develop some of the first, true, all-around Crossfit shoes and remains a big sponsor of the Crossfit Games. Their shoes, targeting both weightlifting and running, became a huge hit with Crossfitters because of their versatility. Reebok remains one of the most well-known Crossfit shoe brands and this is the brand you will likely see most often in boxes across the nation.
Nike came a bit late to the Crossfit game but their reputation in the sports world helped propel them to one of the top competitors. Nike knows how to make a solid shoe and they did their research before entering the Crossfit realm. Their first line of Crossfit shoes sold out almost instantly and continue to be in high demand.
Adidas is another brand that’s well-known in the sports world but entered the Crossfit game a bit late. While seemingly not as popular as Nike, this is likely because Adidas has not made a specific Crossfit shoe. Instead, it has focused on the function of the shoe and Crossfitters have picked up on this and begun using them in their workouts. They have a few high-performance weightlifting shoes as well as one cross training shoe.
Inov-8 is one of the Crossfit originals, getting its start before Crossfit was cool and long before Reebok became the face of the Crossfit Games. They have a more simplistic design while focusing on the durability of materials and being a true minimalist shoe, meaning zero drop. This brand has stood the test of time and continues to be a successful shoe in the Crossfit world.
Vibram is another brand that focuses on minimalism, perhaps more so than Inov-8. Vibram uses its “FiveFingers” design to mimic barefoot running. This design encourages a forefoot strike rather than a heel strike. These shoes require a significant adjustment period when trying them for the first time. Vibram has built a loyal following for its sturdy, grip sole and for its more natural feel.
Crossfit Shoes Buyers Guide
“Zero drop” is a term you’ll often hear in the Crossfit community. “Drop” refers to the difference in height between the heel and the toe of the shoe. Running shoes with a lot of cushion typically have about 8mm of height in the heel, guiding the foot from heel to toe during footstrike. A shoe with true zero drop means the heel and toe are completely level. You will most often find zero drop in a minimalist shoe. This can be tough to accommodate if you’re not used to it, and many people with tight ankles will have a hard time in a zero drop shoe. Weightlifters like zero drop as it keeps weight on their heels, but this makes them hard to run in. A good in-between drop for both weightlifting and running is about 4mm.
Determining the amount of support you want will distinguish which type of shoe to get. A weightlifting shoe will have a lot of hard, stable support. The heel and sole of a weightlifting shoe are typically very firm, so all of your force is used to move the weight instead of lost to the cushioning in the heel.
A running shoe will have a lot more cushion. This cushion allows for force absorption during running, but is also important for jumping when a lot of force is going through the sole of your shoes.
If you have ever done a WOD that consisted of double unders, you know how important protection is. Getting a shoe with enough tough material on the toe box is going to help with the slap of the jump rope.
Another area protection comes into play is the instep. If you have enough grip and support on the inside of the shoe, you can trap the rope during rope climbs without getting rope bites, and get up the rope more quickly. Many Crossfit shoes come with Kevlar, which offers maximum protection.
Crossfit doesn’t care if it’s hailing, blizzarding, or sweltering hot. The mindset is that you complete the workout in all weather and come prepared.
High heat can be a tough environment to finish a workout in. You lose a lot of body heat through your feet so if your shoe is draped in Kevlar from heel to toe, you’ve lost any chance you had at ventilating your feet. If you feel like your feet start to slide around inside your shoe towards the middle of your workout, you might want a more breathable shoe with mesh or other porous material where you don’t need toe and instep protection.
On the flip side, if you’re frequently in a rainy or snowy environment you want material that is going to be waterproof or at least water-resistant, so you’re not completing your workout in soggy shoes.
Durability is the reason you need to read reviews of Crossfit shoes, especially newer brands or lines that have just been released. The last thing you want is to drop a load of cash on a nice set of Crossfit shoes only to have them come apart after a WOD full of rope climbs. Rope climbs are the hardest movement for your shoes to last through. Instep support is going to be huge in durability. If you’ve only got soft foam on the outside of the shoe where your arch is, you can bet that it’s going to start separating from the rest of the shoe after coming down the rope a few times.
Kevlar is a great protector that is used on many Crossfit shoes. Although it offers impenetrable protection, it can often be slippery during rope climbs if used on the instep. A rubber material with lots of grip is going to be your best bet.
Another area that often shows wear is the toe box. One of the most frustrating ways a shoe can fall apart is having your toe come right through the mesh upper. A shoe with a built-in toe cage or more solid material on the outsole of the toe box is going to help your shoes last longer.
Comfort and Proper Fit
One of the biggest things to remember is the comfort of the shoe. You can have a perfect Crossfit shoe with 4mm of the drop, a semi-cushioned sole, and instep and toe box protection but if it’s not comfortable, then it’s not going to help you. Everyone is built with different anatomy and what works for your Crossfit idol in the Games may not work for you.
You may find that you have wide feet and you get blisters in a minimalist shoe. Or you may find you are a natural forefoot striker and the minimalist shoe is perfect for you. If you really want to work on your power lifts but have ankle flexibility issues or Achilles heel pain, a zero or minimal drop shoe might put too much stress on your ankle.
Proper fit is a no-brainer. If the shoe doesn’t fit, you’re going to have numerous problems. It needs to be snug enough that your feet aren’t sliding around during sprints but loose enough that you aren’t jamming your toes during cleans. Additionally, different types of shoes may require a different fit. Minimalist and Vibram shoes tend to fit very snugly and aren’t meant to be worn with socks.
If you’re getting serious about Crossfit and want to start pushing yourself farther, it’s time to invest in a pair of best Crossfit shoes.
The type of shoe you buy will depend on your goals – whether it’s feeling more confident putting up heavier weights during your squats or improving your rope climbs and box jumps, there is a shoe out there for you.
Once you start working out in your new Crossfit shoes, you will notice an immediate difference in your comfort and confidence and soon be questioning how you ever completed a workout without them.
Product images sourced from Amazon.com