As we entered the new year, this article was subject to a little TLC! We updated our chart to include two popular Reebok shoes – the Men’s CrossFit Nano 9 and the Women’s CrossFit Grace – as well as the affordable WHITIN Men’s Cross Trainer.
We also gave our beginners guide and FAQ section a bit of a makeover to bring it up-to-date for 2020.
Jumping into your first few sessions of CrossFit can be a baptism of fire. As you acclimatize yourself to the speed and intensity of these ever-changing workouts, you will probably be paying very little attention to your feet.
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The answer, of course, is no.
CrossFit is a very demanding fitness regime that truly tests your physical and mental strength. For example, your WOD (workout of the day) may include high-intensity cardio, gymnastics and calisthenics one day, then heavy lifting and rope climbing the next.
While advanced CrossFit athletes may own several pairs of shoes to suit different WODs, one pair of good training shoes is all you really need as a beginner.
That’s where this article comes in! We have put together a chart of the best CrossFit shoes for beginners, to show you some affordable cross trainers that will meet your needs, regardless of the WOD. We have tried to keep our choices under $100, as no beginner needs to spend much more on their first pair.
There is also a handy buyer’s guide to bring you up to speed on the kinds of things you should look out for when shopping for your first pair of cross trainers.
Note that most shoes will either be listed as ‘for men’ or ‘for women’, but you can often find them available for both sexes – just search the relevant marketplace.
It won’t take you long to realize that Reebok is the official footwear sponsor of CrossFit and their Nano series is one of the most popular in their vast cross trainer collection. Available for both men and women, the Nano 9 is an excellent shoe for your WODs.
With a wide range of color choices, the Nano 9 features a stretchy and breathable Flexweave upper that hugs your foot. A TPU heel clip on the outside and an internal midfoot support cage keeps your foot stable, while responsive cushioning and a decoupled outsole make it a comfortable shoe for high-impact movements.
In short, the Nano 9 is a great all-rounder, whatever the task. Providing that you can find a pair for under $100, this shoe is one of the best buys for beginners.
Unlike some shoes, which come in both male and female versions, Reebok’s CrossFit Grace is a girls-only affair – and it’s a great shoe for women making their first steps in the CrossFit box.
Like the Nano 9, the Grace is not the cheapest shoe on the market, although you can guarantee it will perform well, whatever the WOD throws at you. It’s a very comfortable trainer with a synthetic mesh upper and low-cut design, while the lightweight build keeps you agile during runs and jumps.
The Grace features a high-abrasion rubber outsole with multidirectional groove strips, which gives you a grip boost during rope climbs and sled pushes. A bonus is that it comes in so many cool color combos, allowing beginners to make a statement of intent!
Size: 8 to 15
Upper Material: Textile
Sole Material: Rubber
Features: Zero-drop design, Rope-Tec 360 outsole wraps, rubber toe cap, Y-Lock heel support, sticky rubber outsole, Meta-Flex forefoot, Met-Cradle lace system
While the upgraded F-lite V3 is now available, this means the V2 has seen a price drop that makes it more accessible for beginners who don’t want to invest loads. This highly-versatile Inov-8 shoe is packed with features that make it ideal for CrossFit.
It sports a stripped-down lightweight design with a snug fit that provides great lateral support. In fact, the sole is designed to offer support in all aspects of CrossFit. There a very dense ‘powerheel’, for good stability in squats and deadlifts, while the nicely cushioned and flexible forefoot area is ideal for burpees, jumping and running portions of your WOD.
The outsole features a patented sticky rubber grip that wraps around the sides to offer enhanced traction on rope climbs. At this price, the V2 is a real bargain!
Size: 7 to 15
Upper Material: Synthetic mesh
Sole Material: Rubber
Features: Multiple colors choices, leather midfoot saddle, TPU heel counter, Charged Cushioning, custom tread pattern, cushioned sockliner, heel tab
As one of the world’s best-known sports brands, it won’t surprise you that Under Armour have a wide range of training shoes in their catalog – many of which are the perfect fit for CrossFit sessions. One of these is the Commit TR EX for men.
This attractive midrange shoe offers a good platform for lifting, calisthenics and multidirectional movements, with the TPU heel counter boosting this stability. Meanwhile, the custom tread pattern on the outsole is built to grip any surface.
It also feels comfortable for running and jumping portions of your WOD. This is largely thanks to the midsole, with Under Armour’s responsive Charged Cushioning, which absorbs impact and returns energy. Inside, the cushioned sockliner forms to match the shape of your foot for a reassuringly snug fit.
Wide. Thin. Flat. This is the mantra for these popular stripped-down performance shoes! While the name WHITIN may not be on par with Reebok or Nike, this highly-affordable cross trainer proves to be an excellent CrossFit shoe.
The brand removes everything you’d find on a running shoe, to deliver a minimalist trainer that offers great stability, support, flexibility and comfort. There’s a zero-drop sole which is thin and flexible, but with robust traction, which all adds up to an outstanding shoe for deadlifts and other strength training.
While there’s minimal cushioning, running and jumping in these feels fine as you enjoy the benefits of near barefoot training. It takes a little getting used to, but we love them. What’s more, this shoe is fully vegan, with no animal products used in the production!
The CrossFit Transition LFT is another pair of CrossFit-focused shoes from Reebok, with an affordable price tag that will appeal to beginners to the fitness regime.
With the slightly clunky look of a classic weightlifting shoe, the design isn’t as fashionable as some others, yet the performance is ideal for strength training portions of your WOD. This is thanks to the wide toe box and added Velcro midfoot strap that locks your feet in snugly.
Durability is excellent, with synthetic panels protecting the upper, while the hardy rubber outsole provides good grip for all push, pull and climbing activities. While this shoe will cope with running and jumping, it’s not as comfortable for longer sessions due to less padding than other trainers.
Size: 5.5 to 12
Upper Material: Synthetic mesh
Sole Material: Rubber
Features: Four color choices, minimalist design, origami-inspired EVA foam midsole, cushioned insole, flexible molded outsole
If you are a beginner shopping on a strict budget, there’s no reason to think you can’t walk away with a good brand-name shoe, as Reebok’s Flexagon Energy Cross Trainers prove. Available for both women and men, this versatile shoe performs well for most CrossFit workouts, as well as for daily gym use.
While it’s not a running shoe, the flex grooves in the rubber outsole allow the foot to flex naturally during runs. The shoe offers great traction in every direction, and is particularly good with sled pushes.
While not as firm as others on this list, this shoe features an ‘origami-inspired’ EVA midsole, that performs well for lifting. Finally, it’s a comfortable trainer, with a synthetic mesh upper offering good breathability – although less durability for rope climbs. Still, exceptional value!
Seen a pair of CrossFit shoes that you like the look of? About to click ‘Buy’? Not so fast!
Even though you may have found an affordable pair of cross trainers, there are still a few important things to consider before you jump in and make a purchase.
In the following sections we will take you through some of these considerations, including the design, the build, the materials, the fit and the features. By the end, you will know what most of the marketing information is telling you about your prospective shoe, allowing you to make an informed decision.
If you have ever watched the CrossFit Games, you may have noticed that the athletes wear different shoes depending on the task at hand – whether cardio, strength or dynamic challenges.
However, these athletes are provided with all their shoes from sponsors at the start of the games. As a beginner to CrossFit, you probably aren’t being handed free shoes, so will need to invest your money wisely in one pair that does everything.
Thankfully, even on a budget, you can find a good all-rounder that will cope as well with 800m runs and burpees as they do deadlifts and power cleans.
If searching online, look for ‘training shoes’ or ‘cross trainers’ (not to be confused with a /best-elliptical-trainer/, which are also referred to as cross trainers!).
A training shoe/cross trainer sits somewhere between a weightlifting shoe and a running shoe in terms of flexibility and stability, offering a ‘best of both worlds’ solution.
Unlike a running shoe, a cross trainer has less cushioning and heel-drop (how high the heel is above the forefoot) for an all-round firmer experience. By placing your foot closer to the ground and providing a firmer base, this translates to better stability and power transfer – ideal for weightlifting movements, which are a huge part of CrossFit.
Cross trainers also provide lateral support, which running shoes do not. Lateral support protects your foot from sliding and twisting when moving in multiple directions (sudden stops, sideways jumps, reverse lunges, rope climbs… the list goes on). Running shoes fail to offer this crucial lateral support.
However, while they differ from running shoes, cross trainers are certainly not the same thing as weightlifting shoes. Whereas a good weightlifting shoe will be very rigid and flat, a cross trainer will offer plenty of flexibility.
This flexibility is essential, as CrossFit also incorporates dynamic movements – such as running, jumping and climbing. Using a rigid lifting shoe for running and jumping is certainly not a good idea.
This all illustrates how versatile a cross trainer really is. However, while it is a best of both worlds approach, there are naturally tradeoffs because of this versatility.
For example, cross trainers will be pretty decent for running, but not as good as an actual running shoe for this purpose. They will also be pretty good for weightlifting, but not as good as an actual lifting shoe. Ultimately, yes, CrossFit shoes are good at many things, but they aren’t a miracle shoe!
Note that some CrossFit shoes do lean more towards certain activities, with some proving better for running and higher-impact activities, while others are better for weightlifting. What style you go for will depend on what you want to focus on and what area you feel you need more support with.
For example, some shoes will have more cushioning and a greater heel drop (e.g. Reebok’s Flexagon collection), while others will be firmer and flatter, and therefore better for lifting (e.g. Nike’s Metcon range).
After you have found a shoe that offers the right stability, flexibility, support and comfort, you may want to consider the design. After all, you will feel more confident walking into the CrossFit box in a pair of shoes that aesthetically suit your style!
Luckily, even when shopping on a budget, you will find a wide world of shoe designs open to you. Some will be conservative and stealthy, while others will be louder, with a rainbow of colors to choose from.
Next, take a look at the materials that make up the shoe. This is very important, as these materials tend to make or break how lightweight, breathable, comfortable and durable the shoe is.
While shoes are much more complicated than a simple accessory like a CrossFit grip, they can usually be split into three main parts: the upper, the midsole and the outsole.
The upper will be the most flexible part of the shoe, often made from a synthetic mesh or knitted textile. These materials are very popular with modern users, and therefore make up the majority of training shoes on the market.
They hug the foot nicely, and offer a soft and comfortable feel. They are also breathable materials, which is an important quality when the heat starts to rise and your feet start to sweat – and, if you are doing CrossFit right, they will! This breathability will allow air to flow around the inside of the shoe for a cooler, more comfortable experience.
Now, mesh may well be comfortable and breathable, but it’s certainly not durable. To remedy this, parts of this mesh will be covered by panels of synthetic material. This will increase the durability in certain areas – especially those parts that bend or come into contact with other surfaces (such as ropes during rope climbing sections).
If durability is particularly important to you, keep an eye out for shoes with a synthetic leather upper. While it is more often found used on strict weightlifting shoes, some cross trainers utilize synthetic leather. However, due to the impermeable nature of this material, it will often have ventilation holes cut into the top or sides, to aid breathability.
Next, the midsole. This is the bed of material your foot sits on (covered by inner sockliners and internal padding). The midsole of a cross trainer needs to offer some level of cushioning to absorb shock while running, while remaining relatively firm to give stability for weightlifting and lateral movements.
For this reason, the midsole will usually be made from EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam with a medium to high density, although different shoes will offer different densities.
At the bottom of the shoe is the outsole, which will usually be made from rubber. This adds the flexibility, durability and traction required on a good CrossFit shoe.
Each brand tends to offer a different rubber pattern based on what the shoe is built for. Often, you will find multidirectional patterns to offer forward and lateral traction. As flexibility is important in CrossFit, some shoes will feature special grooves to allow for easy flexing, while others will split the sole into separate panels (often referred to as ‘decoupling’).
Being a beginner to CrossFit, you will naturally be looking for things to help you feel confident during your first sessions. Slipping around in a pair of shoes that are too big for you, or limping through the session because your shoes are giving you blisters, are probably not the confidence boosters you want!
This highlights the importance of finding shoes that fit you well. However – whether you are shopping online or in a store – don’t just assume that your ideal CrossFit shoe will be the same size as your leisure shoes.
Shoe manufacturers are all different. A Nike size 10 will usually feel different to a Reebok size 10, which may be smaller around the toes than an Inov-8 size 10!
If you are shopping in a sports store, be sure to try on a few pairs of the same shoe in different sizes. Then walk around in them to ensure that the shoe isn’t too loose, or rubbing in certain areas. After a little experimentation, you will know which shoe offers the best fit.
The advantage of shopping online – aside from the fact that the price may be cheaper – is that you can usually find more color and size options than a physical store, including half sizes and wide sizes.
The main problem with online shopping is that you cannot try on the shoes before you buy. To remedy this, be sure to follow a sizing guide. Simply measure your feet (usually the length between your heel and big toe) then refer to the sizing guide offered by the manufacturer of your prospective shoe.
Before you buy, also be sure to browse user reviews on sites such as Amazon. This will help you gauge whether or not the shoes run big, small or just right.
Finally, if shopping online, buy your shoes from a reputable retailer that offers a good returns policy. If you have measured your feet correctly, chances are you won’t need to return the shoes, but it’s worth knowing that you have the option to swap for a different size if the shoe arrives and it doesn’t fit.
Truth be told, if you can find an affordable shoe that fits well, looks good, and offers the right blend of comfort, flexibility and stability, then that’s all you really need. However, some shoes go a step further with extra features to try to improve your CrossFit experience.
For example, a common feature you will come across is textured rubber or plastic wraps that run up the sides of the shoe. These wraps offer traction and protection for rope climbing, giving you a bit of a boost where you need it. Some shoes will also add 3D printed rubber on the upper portion for a similar reason.
More expensive shoes will sometimes boost the versatility by providing special inserts that can be added to boost the firmness and heel-drop for squatting and other heavy lifting. These can then be quickly removed for a flatter feel. Nike’s Hyperlift insert is a good example of this.
Midfoot straps are a feature more often seen on strict weightlifting shoes, but do appear on some CrossFit shoes, such as Reebok’s CrossFit Transition LFT. These Velcro straps allow you to ‘lock in’ the midfoot for a secure feel that is ideal for heavy lifting.
However, just like you wouldn’t buy a good spinning bike because of the water bottle holder, you shouldn’t buy a pair of CrossFit shoes simply because it offers extra grip for rope climbs. Fit, stability and materials are all paramount!
If you are a beginner to CrossFit, finding the right shoes is essential to your performance and safety. In fact, wearing the wrong shoes can hinder you in certain movements, as well as cause injuries.
Luckily, many shoes are good for CrossFit – they don’t need to be specifically branded as CrossFit shoes. A good cross trainer will do.
As we discuss below, cross trainers differ from running shoes and weightlifting shoes, even though they implement some aspects of both. A good cross trainer will strike the balance between the flexibility offered by a running shoe and the stability a weightlifting shoe will provide.
If you are looking for more information, the buyer’s guide on this page offers everything you need to know about finding the right shoes for you. However, in brief, this is what you should be looking for in a good CrossFit shoe:
That’s not too much to ask, is it?!
For specific recommendations, check out the top seven chart above, which highlights some of our favorite affordable CrossFit shoes that we deem suitable for beginners.
Whether you are buying a training shoe that is marketed specifically as a CrossFit shoe, or a more general cross trainer, there are differences between these and other sports shoes.
While there is a lot of crossover between shoe types, you will usually find one end of the spectrum offers running shoes, while the opposite end offers weightlifting shoes.
Running shoes offer flexibility, cushioning and heel-drop, while weightlifting shoes offer stability, firmness, and – usually – less of a heel (unless you are buying a squat-specific shoe).
Cross trainers sit somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
Because CrossFit is such an unpredictable mix of movements – combining lifting, running, gymnastics and calisthenics – having a shoe that sits between a running and lifting shoe makes sense. Wearing one of the others may result in bad performance or possibly injury.
For example, wearing running shoes won’t give you the lateral support needed for sideways movements or quick changes in direction, which could result in a twisted ankle or other instability-related issues.
Running shoes also offer a lot of cushioning. This is ideal for pounding the sidewalk, but this compression will cause instability and diminished power transfer into the ground when lifting (i.e. squatting or deadlifting).
On the other hand, wearing rigid weightlifting shoes may be fine on the deadlift platform or in the squat rack, yet trying to run or jump in them will be uncomfortable due to the lack of cushioning. The lack of flexibility and traction will also make lifting shoes unsuitable when performing other dynamic CrossFit movements, such as climbing ropes.
If we are talking about professional CrossFit athletes – i.e. those who compete in the CrossFit Games – the shoes they wear will usually be the newest high-end models on the market.
To them, price is not an issue because: a) CrossFit is pretty much their job, and b) they are given the shoes by their sponsors.
Up until a few years ago, all participating athletes wore Reebok shoes during the games. However, even though Reebok are still the official apparel sponsor of CrossFit, from 2019 onwards there is no longer any restriction on what brand the athlete wears on their feet.
Just like us regular folk, top CrossFit athletes all prefer different shoe brands, which all offer different materials, fits and features.
Professional CrossFit athletes always change their preferred brands, but – at the time of writing – Sara Sigmundsdottir, Mat Fraser, Laura Horvath all wore Nike shoes; Kristi Eramo and Brooke Wells wore NOBULL shoes; James Newbury wore Under Armour shoes; and Dani Speegle wore Inov-8 shoes.
CrossFit Games aside, other CrossFit athletes wear a wide range of shoes. Many will be affordable and midrange shoes, as featured in the chart above, while others will wear higher-end shoes – some of which we highlight in our article on the best CrossFit shoes on the market.
There are some things you should never buy used, like mattresses, beauty products and underwear! But what about shoes for CrossFit?
There are a few reasons you may want to buy used CrossFit shoes. Possibly you want to own a high-end pair of shoes at a budget price. Perhaps you want to try out some different shoe styles, or just want to own multiple pairs depending on your activity. We hear you!
Of course, buying new shoes is always the best strategy. While they will cost a little more, you can guarantee the shoe will reach you in the condition the manufacturer intended. There will be no dirt, no damage, and no wear and tear.
They will also be clean and free from bacteria and odors. Consider the sweat that may have been absorbed by the shoe during somebody else’s workout. This isn’t meant to put you off, but to reinforce the fact that shoes – especially those used for working out – can harbor millions of bacteria, which can result in bad odors and poor conditions for your feet.
However, buying used shoes is generally fine, providing you follow a few precautions.
If you are buying from a friend, a flea market, a Craigslist listing, or a sport store, be sure to thoroughly inspect the shoes for any damage or wear before you buy them. Check the outsole grip is intact, there are no rips or splits in the upper, and the inner padding is in good condition. Then try the shoes on to ensure they are comfortable and fit well. If not, don’t buy them!
If you are buying second-hand shoes online, make sure to purchase from a reputable online seller with a clear returns policy. Also ensure there are multiple photos of the exact shoes you are buying, in particular highlighting any damage to the interior, exterior or sole of the shoe.
When you have the shoe and are happy with the fit and condition, determine how the shoe can be washed – then wash it. This may be by hand with detergent, warm water and a brush, as well as bleach or rubbing alcohol to disinfect the inside of the shoe.
You can also often throw most cross trainers in the washing machine, although double check with the manufacturer of the shoe whether this is suitable – better safe than sorry.
After washing, always ensure the shoe is completely dry before using. Enjoy your new used shoes!
Whether you are about to embark on your first CrossFit WOD, or have already tried a few sessions in your old running shoes and realize it’s time to upgrade, we hope this article has given you some food for thought.
Our top seven chart will have offered insight into what shoes are worth the investment for beginners, although there are plenty of other models worth your time and money.
In particular, you may wish to check out our individual articles on the best CrossFit shoes for women and the top CrossFit shoes for men for more inspiration. Then go shopping and crush your first WOD like your CrossFit heroes!