The Best Women’s Shoes for CrossFit Training

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The Author in the Nano 3's
What is the best shoe for the sport of fitness? CrossFit embraces a broad variety of physical activities so we tested seven of the most popular shoes to determine which would hold up the best. After countless runs, squat cleans, rope climbs, and pistol squats we began to see which shoes could handle the constantly varied aspect of CrossFit. Testing the shoes in workouts that involved all three categories: weightlifting, gymnastics, and mono-structural exercises, definitely pointed out where certain shoes were superior and others failed to rise to the occasion. We evaluated each shoe on the basis of weightlifting, running, support, comfort, protection, and sensitivity. Our in-depth reviews are designed to guide you in choosing the best shoe for your CrossFit needs. Also see our How To Choose a Shoe For CrossFit Training.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Kate Brierley ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab March 23, 2014

Top Ranked Shoes for CrossFit - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 7 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Reebok Nano 3.0 - Women's
Reebok Nano 3.0 - Women's
Read the Review
Reebok Nano Speed - Women's
Reebok Nano Speed - Women's
Read the Review
Reebok Nano 2.0 - Women's
Reebok Nano 2.0 - Women's
Read the Review
Inov-8 F-Lite 185 - Women's
Inov-8 F-Lite 185 - Women's
Read the Review
Merrell Crush Glove - Women's
Merrell Crush Glove - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award     
Street Price $98
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$80
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$85
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$85
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Varies $50 - $70
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Comfortable, stable, good for weightlifting, protective.Lightweight, supportive, good for running.Comfortable, stable, great for weightlifting, contours well to the foot.Comfortable, supportive, good for bodyweight movements.Comfortable, good for walking, minimalist.
Cons Slightly big around the toe area.Not best for weightlifting, forward inclination.Not as protective, wears easily.Too sensitive, don't protect well.Unstable, over-sensitive, hard to balance, bad for lifting.
Best Uses Weightlifting, running, bodyweight movements.Running WODs.General CrossFit.General bodyweight movements, short runs, gymnastic movements.General bodyweight movements.
Date Reviewed Mar 23, 2014Mar 23, 2014Mar 23, 2014Mar 23, 2014Mar 23, 2014
Weightlifting - 20%
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Running - 20%
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Sensitivity - 10%
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Support - 20%
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Protection - 10%
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Breathability - 10%
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Comfort - 10%
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Product Specs Reebok Nano 3.0 - Women's Reebok Nano Speed - Women's Reebok Nano 2.0 - Women's Inov-8 F-Lite 185 - Women's Merrell Crush Glove - Women's
Upper Synthetic/mesh, rubber Synthetic/mesh Synthetic/mesh Synthetic/mesh Synthetic/mesh
Weight (oz/grams) 9.8oz/278g 9.5oz/269g 9.3oz/263g 6.9oz/195g 7.4oz/210g
Heel to toe drop (mm) 4mm 3mm 4mm 3mm 0mm

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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Reebok Nano 2.0 - Women's
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Nike Free TR 4 - Women's
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Inov-8 F-Lite 185 - Women's
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Merrell Crush Glove - Women's
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New Balance Minimus 20v3 - Women's
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Selecting the right product
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Credit: Chris McNamara
There is no doubt that CrossFit might be one of the most physically demanding exercise programs out there. Choosing a shoe for this carries a lot more weight then one might think. We decided to do the work for you and test seven of the most popular CrossFit shoes and determine which of those is best for the sport. We want to emphasize that these shoes are for this specific purpose, and we encourage you to read the best trail running shoe review or the best barefoot shoe review if you have a wider range of activities in your daily life. These shoes were tested specifically to endure a combination of weightlifting, gymnastics, and mono-structural workouts that typically don't last more than a few hours.

Criteria for evaluation
Weightlifting
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165lb Snatch wearing the Nano 2.0
One of the primary aspects of CrossFit, weightlifting, requires stability and flexibility in a shoe. It is important to be able to feel your heels driving into the ground when executing a PR deadlift, so a thick-soled shoe might not be best. Too much upward curvature at the toe of a shoe made squat cleans difficult, encouraging weight to be shifted toward the toes and lifts to be missed. Probably the worst shoe for weightlifting was the Nike Free TR 4. The curved toe, thick sole, and soft back of the shoe made it nearly impossible to determine where I was putting my weight in my feet. Other shoes like the Reebok Nano 2.0 and Reebok Nano 3.0 proved to be much more stable and the sturdy sole had me feeling much more confident when trying to execute a “3 rep max” front squat.

Running
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Running in the Nano Speeds!
Credit: Jacob Jizrawi
Running is a specific criteria for evaluation. We are definitely not trying to determine which of these shoes is the best running shoe, but when running comes into contact with kettlebell swings and pull-ups it is good to know which shoe will help you get the best “Helen” time. Of course we want some of the impact to be absorbed when running on pavement, so the Merrell Crush Glove is probably the least cohesive for running, while the Reebok Nano Speed was specifically designed for running “WODs.” It is important to have enough support so that we don't run the risk of shin splints, while maintaining some of the ergonomic and minimalist qualities in a shoe. What I look for in running shoes is not being able to notice my shoes. If at any point during a run I lose focus because I have noticed that my toes are crammed or the heel of my shoe is slipping, I get side-tracked and the rest of my workout may suffer. It is important that we find out which shoe is going to allow the best ease-of-mind.

Support
Support is something that most everyone looks for in a shoe they plan on wearing to the gym. There is no worse feeling then showing up to CrossFit and seeing “pistol squats” on the whiteboard when you're wearing minimalist shoes with no support in the heels. When executing seven minutes of burpees, it is vital that there is minimal movement in the shoes and that you feel supported when jumping at the end of the movement. The shoe that stood out as the sturdiest was the Reebok Nano 2.0 due to its closer fit and hard sole. The material of the shoe as well as the thickness of the upper part was crucial. I noticed that the Inov-8's were a little flimsier, and the “toe-cage” on the Reebok Nano 3.0 allowed too much side-to-side movement in the toes.

Comfort
This is one of the biggest determining factors in buying a new pair of shoes. If you try on shoes and they are uncomfortable, why in the world would you want to wear them for an extended period of time? It is almost the unsaid goal that we don't notice the shoes on our feet because they are so comfortable. We want a level of “cushion” to provide some ease when doing jumping or running, but enough stability to weightlift in the shoes as well. I think the Reebok Nano 3.0 and Inov-8 definitely take the cake on this category. Both shoes are shaped very well and have the perfect amount of “cush” for a long day of training. I think the thinner the shoe and the harder the material, the less comfortable it will be. The Merrells and New Balance Minimus 20v3 definitely tie for least comfortable due to their rigid frame and lack of movement in the material.

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Aisha Zaza in the Nano 2's
Credit: Corey Rich

Protection
CrossFit demands a lot of your body. Sometimes the movements we do can be a little dangerous in terms of avoiding scrapes, bruises, and discomfort. Movements like rope climbs, double-unders, and toes-to-bar are first to come to mind in terms of demand for protection. This means that a strong toe-cage, durable material, and multiple layers are of utmost importance in this category. Obviously the Reebok Nano 3.0 with the rubber toe-cage is going to offer the most protection against that awful wire-slice of the jump rope. Certain shoes stood out for how little protection they offered, like the Nike Free and the Inov-8 due to their thinner material. This has a lot to do with how long the shoe might last, its durability, and really how valuable it is. If you are training multiple times a day, five days a week in these shoes it is important that you can wear them for every activity and feel protected.

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Michele Gregory in the Nano 2's
Credit: Corey Rich

Sensitivity
Being able to tell where your weight is in your feet is a key factor in CrossFit. Most of the time there aren't any mirrors in the gym, so it is up to you to know what “having your weight in your heels” feels like. For any Olympic lift, a popular cue that coaches use is “stay in your heels.” If you are setting up for a snatch in your super squishy running shoes, it might be difficult to determine where exactly you're trying to focus. Body awareness is key in CrossFit and the right shoes play a big part in that.

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Three award winners from left to right: Nano Spped, Nano 3 and Nano 2.0.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Editors' Choice Award: Reebok Nano 3

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Deadlifting in the Nano 3.0
Credit: Jacob Jizrawi

After many years in making athletic shoes and apparel, Reebok decided to create a line specific to CrossFit. The latest version of the Reebok Nano is the 3.0 version. Meant for all aspects of the sport, the Reebok Nano 3.0 is by far superior to all the shoes that we tested. Outstanding in all evaluation criteria, these shoes definitely take the cake for best CrossFit Shoe. They have enough support for heavy weightlifting while being light enough to be unnoticeable during gymnastics movements. Side-by-side tests were done by running 400 meters — the Reebok Nano 3.0 provided comfort and ergonomic stability, even more so than the Nike Free and the New Balance. After we tested seven different shoes, there is no doubt that this shoe is our number one recommendation for someone looking to purchase a shoe for CrossFit.

Best Buy Award: Reebok Nano 2.0
Reebok Nano 2.0
Reebok Nano 2.0
Credit: Reebok

After testing seven of the most popular shoes that we see in CrossFit gyms, the Reebok Nano 2.0 is the best shoe for the CrossFitter on a budget. Although some of the protection that you would see in the Nano 3.0 is lacking, the support in these shoes is unparalleled. The shape contours perfectly to the foot and is a comfortable and reliable shoe for the sport. For about $20 less then the Nano 3.0, you are getting the same amount of support for weightlifting, a light enough shoe for gymnastics, with just a small sacrifice of some durability in the material of the shoe.

Top Pick for Running WODs: Reebok Nano Speed

Reebok Nano Speed
Reebok Nano Speed
Credit: Reebok

For those athletes with a running background or running focus, these are the shoes for you. The Reebok Nano Speed is unparalleled in its class. These shoes are a great lightweight and flexible running shoe that can also withstand a typical CrossFit workout. Although these are not the best shoes for the average CrossFit athlete, they are perfect for a “WOD” with a lot of running. I wore these shoes during “Helen” (running, kettlebell swings, and pull ups) and was extremely satisfied with their performance. Not only are they comfortable and breathe very well, they are sturdy enough to support the movement required for a kettlebell swing. The price of $99 makes these shoes a great deal, especially if you are looking for an accessory shoe for those training days at the track. I would highly recommend the Reebok Nano Speed for any athlete looking for a shoe for a running workout, but not necessarily for an everyday CrossFit shoe.

If you'd like to read the men's version of this review, check out our Men's CrossFit Training Shoes review.

Kate Brierley
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