To bring things up-to-date for this year, two new shoes were added to our top seven chart!
These were the limited-edition Reebok Men’s Nano X Hero and the Inov-8 Men’s F-Lite 245, for those wanting something a little lighter.
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These demanding CrossFit workouts require shoes that are up to the task. This means you’ll need to find a pair with plenty of heel and arch support, durable soles, and a flexible upper that can move and breathe with you, yet won’t break easily under pressure.
While you might be tempted to just buy a pair of standard trainers, shoes made specifically for CrossFit and similar activities will provide better support for your workouts and outlast the alternatives.
Thankfully, all of the pairs we’ve highlighted in our top seven chart below are optimized for CrossFit users, making it easy for you to pick a set and get to the box quicker!
We’ll start by breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each model on our list. Afterwards, we have prepared a buyer’s guide and a couple of frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision.
Note that, while many training shoes are designed to be unisex, the models discussed below are all optimized for men. To find training shoes designed specifically for the female foot, make sure to check out our article on the best CrossFit shoes for women!
Size: 7 to 14
Upper Material: Flexweave textile
Sole Material: High-abrasion rubber
Features: Unique Hero design, interior midfoot cage support, polyurethane NanoShell, Metasplit flex grooves, extended padded collar, TPU heel clip
Even though Reebok have stripped away the CrossFit branding from their new Nano X shoes, there is no doubt that these shoes are built for crushing whatever your WOD can throw at them.
The Nano X’s build on previous iterations, with balanced cushioning, a good degree of flexibility and decent stability. While they aren’t quite as firm as the Nano 9’s, they still perform well for all kinds of functional fitness and feel well-suited for run-heavy WODs.
New for summer 2020, the Hero version is a wonderful tribute to emergency first responders such as nurses and firefighters. They show off a sophisticated grey and blue color scheme, with small details like the ‘not all heroes wear capes’ motto subtly branded on the outsole.
Size: 6.5 to 14
Upper Material: Flexweave textile
Sole Material: High-abrasion rubber
Features: Interior midfoot cage support, polyurethane NanoShell protects sides and sole, flex grooves make movement easier, TPU heel clip, large toe box
Reebok is the official footwear supplier of CrossFit, so it’s no wonder that their cross trainers always make it onto our lists of the best CrossFit shoes! One of their latest designs, the CrossFit Nano 9.0, is a solid choice thanks to its combination of form and function.
With a Flexweave textile upper and low-cut heel, these shoes are sleek enough to adapt to every exercise in your workout. The midfoot interior cage structure keeps you supported without restricting movement.
While the Nano 9.0s are flexible, they’re certainly not weak! The TPU heel clip keeps your heel locked into place, while the heavy sole at the back of the shoe provides a strong base for pushes and lifts. Finally, an exterior polyurethane NanoShell keeps the rubber sole scratch-free across all surfaces.
Size: 9 to 15
Upper Material: SuperFabric
Sole Material: Rubber
Features: Breathable SuperFabric upper, flexible sole, multiple colors, high carbon lateral grip, medial rope grip, heavy-duty sole traction
These popular NOBULL trainers are designed specifically by CrossFit devotees for use during CrossFit workouts. Their combination of comfort and strength puts them towards the top of this list – but it’s the simple, stripped-back design aesthetic that really sets them apart from the pack.
The one-piece SuperFabric upper promotes breathability and flexibility while also resisting rips and tears. The inner mesh base layer adds another level of protection for your feet during difficult workouts. Meanwhile, reinforced SuperFabric plates ensure that your feet don’t slip during heavy lifts.
Whether you’re inside or outside the CrossFit box, the classic design of these trainers is sleek enough to show off. They’re great to take from the street to the gym, but won’t struggle in comfort or durability during even the toughest WODs.
Size: 7 to 15
Upper Material: Reinforced mesh
Sole Material: Rubber
Features: Flywire reinforcement, TPU heel counter, low midsole fit for extra stability and comfort, tri-star sole pattern increases traction
Nike’s answer to Reebok’s Nano series, the Metcon 4 XD has garnered praise from CrossFitters for aspects like its snugger fit and outstanding stability. Along with many other training shoes, this model uses a rubber sole with a TPU heel counter to provide stability against the mesh upper.
That mesh upper is breathable and keeps the shoe lightweight. It’s reinforced with Nike’s Flywire system, which both strengthens the material and tightens the fit, particularly around the midsole.
The tri-star pattern on the rubber sole helps your feet achieve steady traction across all surfaces. Rather than the spongier padding you’ll find on running shoes, we have to complement the Metcon 4 XD for its grippy, locked-in feel. Ultimately, they are an outstanding choice for weightlifting and CrossFit alike.
Size: 7 to 15
Upper Material: Synthetic and mesh
Sole Material: Abrasion-resistant rubber
Features: External heel counter, ripstop material with mesh upper, UA TriBase design in the outsole, Micro G foam midsole, low toe drop
Another offering from Under Armour, the Men’s Speedform Feel shoe combines the flat sole of a lifting shoe with the flexibility and durability necessary for CrossFit activities. It’s a great all-around fitness shoe with a comfortable feel to match its performance.
The sole of this shoe is built from abrasion-resistant rubber, designed with Under Armour’s TriBase pattern. This pattern helps you stabilize for heavy lifts without restricting your mobility for other exercises (ideal for CrossFit then!). The minimal toe drop also gives you a solid platform to lift from.
The upper is made with both a lightweight mesh and a synthetic ripstop material, protecting your shoes against notoriously rough exercises like rope climbs. Inside the shoe, an insole fashioned from Micro G foam keeps your feet comfortable and secure throughout your workout.
Invo-8 are well represented across the shoe spectrum, offering everything from sturdy lifting shoes to trail running shoes. Their F-Lite 245’s are perhaps their most popular pair of cross trainers – excellent for CrossFit.
This versatile shoe features a cool knitted mesh upper and durable sticky rubber sole, with a total weight of just 245 grams (hence the name). The Exteroflow midsole offers both shock absorption and energy return to keep you going.
With the lightweight build, these are marketed as ‘the most runnable cross trainers’ out there, which will appeal if you enjoy a little short-distance running alongside your regular WODs. But whether you are running, jumping or lifting, the 245’s feel comfortable and supportive, while rope climbing is also catered for with the added Rope-Tec protection.
Rounding out our list, the Puma Tazon 6 Fracture offers a budget sneaker that provides plenty of support and durability for activities like CrossFit. The synthetic leather upper is sturdy enough to handle even the most demanding workouts, while a rubber sole keeps you secure with plenty of traction.
These trainers offer a low-cut silhouette that’s not too restrictive and allows you to move around; while the leather isn’t as flexible as the mesh designs on some other shoes, it does provide more structure for your feet, particularly during lateral movements.
Finally, the Tazon 6 incorporates a slightly higher heel-to-toe drop than some other shoes on our list. This makes them more comfortable to run or walk in over long periods of time. Outside of the gym they’d make great work shoes as well!
CrossFit shoes may seem simple, but they’re far more complex than your average pair of sneakers. Because they need to stand up to so many different movements throughout a typical workout, you must carefully evaluate each pair before you pull the trigger.
To help you get a better picture of how all of the shoes on our list compare to each other, we’ve broken down the different features individually. You can take these aspects and use them to analyze the pairs on our chart and in the market in general to make a more informed decision.
After running through all of the features, we’ll also answer a few common questions first-time buyers have about purchasing new CrossFit shoes to help make the process easier!
In shoes, as with many other products, design is far and away the most important feature. The design of a CrossFit shoe affects both its shape and its functionality – from how well it supports your feet during lateral cuts to how much space you have for your toes in the front of the shoe. As you evaluate which shoes you might purchase, you should keep design at the front of your mind.
Most CrossFit shoes follow a few general design guidelines, but the variations between models can lead to large differences in the comfort and durability of a specific pair. The best option for you will depend upon your specific needs, as well as your foot shape and size.
Many CrossFit shoes incorporate lots of heel support, particularly in the form of a solid heel cushion. This heel cushion often incorporates thicker, more durable materials than the rest of the upper in order to keep your feet anchored throughout your workouts.
Many athletes love shoes with lots of heel support; they’re particularly useful for CrossFit devotees, who need to be able to perform explosive movements both forward and laterally without slipping. A surface for your heel to push off from can help increase your speed and strength in these departments.
However, other CrossFit athletes find that too much heel support can impede the comfort and fit of a shoe. While lighter uppers without reinforced heels might not be able to mimic the same push, they’ll still keep your foot generally secure in your shoes – and they’ll be able to more easily accommodate users who prioritize a comfortable, seamless fit.
Beyond heel structure, shoe design also comes into play with the shape of the sole and the upper. These design elements vary from model to model, and are mostly dependent on personal foot shape and feel. For example, if you have larger, bulkier feet, it might be a good idea to look into CrossFit shoes with a wider toe box.
These models will provide you with more room to move without cramping your toes; the extra space will come in handy for exercises involving pushes and jumps, where you need as stable of a base as possible.
If your feet are smaller, more streamlined shoes will keep your toes snug without squashing them, and will ensure a better fit that keeps your shoes secure throughout any WOD.
Finally, some of the shoes on our list include extra support through the arch, around the midsole. These shoes work well for CrossFit exercises that require you to walk, run and move side-to-side, but many weightlifters don’t like the raised arch. Flat-soled shoes will work better for lifting, since they give your feet a more stable base to push off from during heavy reps.
If you work out through CrossFit exclusively, shoes with a raised midsole will work well. On the other hand, weightlifters who do a bit of CrossFit on the side might want to stick with flat-soled shoes. These will ensure that you can consistently hit your maximum weight without struggling to clear the sets or wasting excess energy.
Finally, you should also notice the pattern on the sole of each shoe. While CrossFit soles are all designed to maximize your traction and grip, some are more flexible than others.
These lighter, sleeker sole treads will shine in activities like running and dynamic movements. Heavier soles with extra tread will establish a solid foundation for powerlifting moves. Which type of sole you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference, but the choice you make can impact your performance and exertion across the board.
Like the design used to create a specific shoe, the materials used to make your CrossFit trainers also play an essential role in style, fit and dependability.
While buying a pair of shoes made with the best materials usually means shelling out more cash, the extra expenditure is often worth it. Over time, shoes made with high-quality fabrics and soles will breathe better and withstand difficult workouts more easily than cheaper, knockoff counterparts.
Because CrossFit is one of the most demanding fitness regimens around, CrossFitters in particular should make sure that their shoes are built to last with the right materials!
Most shoes use a textile or synthetic mesh material for the upper. These are designed specifically to be breathable and lightweight without sacrificing durability. Mesh shoes are also far more flexible than tennis shoes that use canvas or suede. Woven mesh shoes will move much more easily with your feet, providing a bit less rigidity throughout the toe box and middle of your foot.
Some of the shoes on our list also incorporate leather accents on the upper. While these aren’t as flexible as textile or mesh materials, they stand up better to high-friction movements such as rope climbs, while also providing extra protection if you happen to drop or spill something on your feet.
Because many of these leather accents are simply sewn onto a mesh base layer, finding a shoe with leather accents shouldn’t significantly constrict your decision.
As we mentioned above, CrossFit shoes often include extra support built into the heel. This is designed to keep your feet steady throughout a workout and help you generate more push during tough lifts. Depending on the shoe, the actual heel support may vary. For example, some shoes include extra additions sewn into the heel for support, while others simply offer thicker fabric across the heel section.
Finally, rubber is the material of choice for soles on almost every model on our list. Its grippy texture and outstanding durability make it the perfect sole material for CrossFit athletes.
However, not all of the soles on our list are non-marking – if you want to use these shoes for other activities, or if your gym has a policy against marking shoes, you should look or white or gum-colored soles. Unlike darker soles, these colors won’t damage the floor of your gym.
Fit is one of the hardest categories to quantify, but it’s also extremely important for any athlete. If your shoes don’t fit right, you won’t be able to perform your best in any exercise. With that in mind, it’s important to make sure that you find the right fit for your shoes!
The exact way you want your shoes to fit is largely a matter of personal preference. Some athletes like tighter shoes, while others prefer a bit more room. Having said that, there are still some general guidelines you can follow to ensure that you don’t end up with a completely ill-fitting pair!
The fit around your heel is one of the most important parts of a shoe, particularly for athletic shoes like CrossFit trainers.
At the very minimum, you should make sure that your foot doesn’t slip in and out of the heel of the shoe when you run. Try pushing off of each foot, laterally as well as forwards and backwards. Your foot doesn’t need to be locked completely in place, but it should remain snug, without any major movement.
For CrossFit, you should also look for a shoe that’s close-fitting through the midfoot. Lacing your shoes up tight will help prevent your feet from sliding around as you move from side to side, and the closer fit will also help you channel all of your energy through your shoes and into the ground on lifts.
Remember, this doesn’t mean that you want your shoes to cut off circulation! You should just make sure that your feet don’t slip and that you can move without restriction or sliding.
Finally, the toe box is another important factor in determining the proper fit of a shoe. While you don’t want your toes to feel crushed, you should also make sure that you’re not leaving too much empty space in the front of your shoes.
Aim for a little room in the front of the toe box (around a finger’s width) and look for a pair that keeps your toes relatively secure. Your feet should be able to breathe, but you should still be able to feel the shoe.
This is all relevant for both buying in a store as well as online. The only consideration when buying online is that you cannot try the shoes on first.
If this is the case, we suggest using a shoe fitting guide (usually found on websites of popular shoe manufacturers like Nike and Reebok), then buying from a reputable online seller that allows for convenient returns, should you need to swap sizes.
Beyond the three main categories covered above, there are a couple of other features that you can use to evaluate CrossFit shoes.
While these extra features aren’t included with every model on our list, they are certainly great perks to have! If you’re looking at higher-end shoes with more bells and whistles, these extra features might be some things for you to consider.
Some of the pairs on our list include midfoot straps. These are small Velcro straps which fasten over the laces of your shoe for a tighter fit. While you might not find them necessary for running activities, they can help lock you in when you’re performing deadlifts, squats and Olympic lifts.
Other models also include sole inserts, which you can use to change the heel-to-toe drop of your shoe. If your CrossFit trainers don’t offer a lot of drop between the heel and toe, placing one of these inserts into the sole can change its contours to make your trainers better suited for the task you’re performing (such as squatting).
Often these come in the form of an extra insert, although some shoes also feature removable sock liners which can also slightly affect the heel drop.
Finally, some of these shoes offer rubber wraps built into the sidewalls. Many traditional CrossFit exercises, like rope climbs, can tear up shoes that aren’t built to withstand the stress. Rubber wraps or other exterior pieces (like the polyurethane NanoShell on the Reebok Nano 9.0s) can protect both the uppers and the soles of your shoes from damage during these activities.
If you’re just getting into CrossFit for the first time, it can be tempting to simply use a pair of standard running shoes in the gym. While this may seem like a good idea at first, there are a couple of important differences separating running shoes from CrossFit shoes.
Pay attention to these differences and you’ll be able to find a pair of shoes that work much better for your routines.
The most important distinction between running shoes and those designed for CrossFit is the padding. Because running shoes are optimized for sprints and distance runs, they are built with bracing only to help you move forward.
CrossFit shoes, on the other hand, offer much more built-in support throughout the heel and sides of the shoe. This gives you more ability to move laterally while keeping your feet protected from injury.
Running shoes are also formed differently from CrossFit models along the sole. Many running shoes feature a drop of 8-10mm between the heel and the toe box. This extra boost through the heel and arch of your foot works great for running, but it doesn’t provide an even base to push off for lifting weights.
Training shoes feature a less extreme heel drop – usually between just 3-6mm. This reduced drop still provides some extra boost for running activities, but is flat enough to help you reach your max as you lift weights.
It’s important to note that the extra heel drop increases how much shock running shoes can absorb from your legs and joints. While CrossFit trainers absorb some shock, the flatter sole means that your ankles and knees will bear more of the impact than they would in form-fitting shoes.
This makes running shoes by far the best choice if you plan on training outside of CrossFit gyms. If you struggle with knee and leg pain, you might also want to consider a pair of CrossFit shoes with more arch and toe support; the larger heel drop can help alleviate joint problems.
Finally, CrossFit shoes use slightly different materials from running shoes. Because running shoes are designed to be as lightweight as possible, they often use only mesh materials for the upper and lighter, flatter soles.
The extra padding incorporated in CrossFit shoes makes them a bit heavier and less flexible. However, that padding comes in handy on exercises like rope climbs. You won’t have to worry about damaging CrossFit trainers in a WOD, but some normal running shoes might not survive!
Many people wonder if they can use running shoes to perform CrossFit workouts (see above). Some athletes also have the opposite question – can you use these training shoes to run?
The answer may hinge on the specific model of CrossFit trainer you want to run in and the kind of running you wish to do.
Ultimately, some shoes are more versatile than others. But in general, the answer is probably no. Here’s why.
Running shoes excel at propelling you forward. They are lightweight and stripped-back to provide just the essential padding you need. The lack of extra weight, along with their contoured soles, makes them much better at absorbing shock and returning energy to your body as you run.
CrossFit shoes, on the other hand, are designed to withstand lateral movements and keep your feet protected in difficult workouts. The added weight and materials of CrossFit trainers play a role in their suitability as running shoes. The heavier structure prevents your feet from breathing and moving as well within the frame of the shoe.
This can be a particular issue if you run outside, where the changing running surfaces require a more flexible shoe to adjust.
Because you are lifting weights more than you are running long distances during WODs, CrossFit trainers also minimize the drop from heel to toe. This flat surface is great for generating more push as you lift, but it reduces the amount of shock that these trainers can absorb.
In certain scenarios, you might be able to use CrossFit shoes as running shoes without issues – after all, CrossFit trainers are built to be comfortable for short bursts of running. In a pinch, they’re certainly close enough to make do.
However, if you’re planning on doing CrossFit and running consistently, it’s a good idea to invest in a separate pair of quality shoes. Over the long term, you’ll protect your feet, legs and joints, and improve your performance in both activities.
Weightlifting shoes lie on the opposite end of the spectrum from running shoes. Like running, though, CrossFit incorporates a significant amount of weightlifting.
This leads many beginner CrossFitters to wonder if they can simply work out in standard weightlifting shoes and save the cost of a new pair of CrossFit-specific kicks. Is this a good idea to maximize your potential and avoid injury?
As with running shoes, it’s probably best to just buy a pair of new cross training shoes instead. Here are a few of the biggest differences between CrossFit and weightlifting shoes, which might help you consider a switch.
Weightlifting shoes are designed to help you transfer power into the ground as effectively as possible when you lift. This means that they often feature flat, broad soles without much soft padding. The lack of padding prevents them from absorbing energy from your feet – energy which your body can then put towards lifting heavier weights.
Unfortunately for CrossFit athletes, the focus on stability and lack of padding comes at the expense of support for the rest of your foot. In fact, many advanced weightlifters will simply use a pair of standard skate shoes, like Converse Chuck Taylors or Vans lace-ups, to lift.
While these shoes work surprisingly well for pushing against the ground, the flimsy uppers don’t provide the support you need for the lateral movements and dynamic exercises of CrossFit, such as running, jumping and climbing. Showing up to a WOD in Converse can lead to serious injury if you’re not careful!
Even shoes designed specifically for weightlifting, which are often heavier and fit more snugly, might not be flexible enough to withstand the pressure of CrossFit. The mesh portions of CrossFit shoes retain the support of weightlifting shoes without restricting your feet; they’re a better all-around choice for working out in.
The good news is that CrossFit shoes can function well as weightlifting shoes in addition to CrossFit workouts. If you want to stick to a lifting routine outside of a CrossFit gym, trainers designed for CrossFit will transfer easily to other workouts. That added versatility can make the cost of a new pair much easier to swallow!
While we have touched briefly on some other uses of CrossFit shoes, many users are still not sure about whether or not they can use CrossFit trainers outside of CrossFit-specific workouts.
For novice athletes, buying a pair of shoes that only work for one specific set of activities might seem like a luxury expense. Thankfully, CrossFit shoes are useful for plenty of exercises outside of WODs! If you’re on the fence about purchasing a pair, you may find these extra uses very persuading. You can also check out our list of the best CrossFit shoes for beginners for more information.
As we mentioned above, CrossFit shoes excel for standard weightlifting exercises. They incorporate flat, wide soles like most traditional weightlifting shoes, and they have plenty of padding to keep your feet secure during your lifts. As a nice perk, their extra mesh construction also makes them more breathable than some standard weightlifting pairs.
Beyond weightlifting, you might find that CrossFit trainers work well for a variety of other fitness-related activities. They’re designed to withstand tons of lateral stress, which means that they work well for exercises which require you to change direction quickly. Tennis, squash, and racquetball are a couple of great examples. You’ll also find that CrossFit shoes can even make decent training shoes for sports like futsal!
While the extra support and lower heel drop on CrossFit shoes makes them less suited to distance running, they work well as walking shoes for casual exercise. If you enjoy hiking or taking long strolls, the models on our list will be comfortable yet supportive across many different types of terrain.
Whatever brand you prefer and whatever features you like the best, we hope this guide has helped you find the best CrossFit shoes for you.
All of the shoes on our list have their own advantages and drawbacks. If you’re a first-time buyer looking for the right pair for you, make sure you evaluate the chart, as well as the other shoes on the market.
Our buyer’s guide and FAQ section should give you all of the information you need to find the perfect pair, so you can go and crush your next workout!