CrossFit has grown so fast over the last ten years; even companies like Nike are taking notice and developing shoes for the CrossFit market. Now on its fourth version, Nike released the Metcon 4. The Nike Metcon 1 and 2 showed Nike's lack of true understanding of what the CrossFit community needs in a shoe. In 2017, Nike released the Metcon 3, which redeemed themselves as a dominant player in the CrossFit market. With the success of the Metcon 3, Nike has a lot to build on with the Metcon 4.
Nike Metcon 4 Review
Cons: Some experienced heel slip, sole is stiff for long runs
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Metcon 3 won the Editors' Choice Award in 2017 and 2018 for Best Men's CrossFit Shoe. In 2019, it has earned our Editors' Choice once again. It provides a high-performance balance between the constantly varied demands of weightlifting, running, and gymnastics inherent to CrossFit. The Metcon 4 outperformed other top contenders, including the New Balance Minimus 4 and the NO BULL Canvas.Here's a summary of the changes:
- New Upper — Nike's use of haptic technology on the upper is the most significant update this shoe has seen. The tri-star shapes can be printed large or small anywhere on the shoe, and are intended to add durability to high-wear areas such as the toe box and sides while leaving breathable and flexible mesh elsewhere.
- Forefoot Cushioning — On the upper, a two-layer mesh with vertical fibers running through it, called sandwich mesh, is intended to provide additional cushioning on top of the foot.
- Tongue — To provide more cushioning between the foot and laces, a soft tri-star is used at the tongue of the shoe.
- Eyelets — There are now six eyelets for laces (as opposed to 5 in the Metcon 3), allowing for increased adjustability.
- Heel Counter — The carved out heel counter is less pronounced than on the Metcon 3 and doesn't impact performance.
Given that much of CrossFit involves moving weights around, the fact that the Metcon 4 performed so well at weightlifting contributed strongly to its success as a CrossFit shoe. It was one of the best shoes for weightlifting. The Metcon 4 provides a wide base for a stable foundation for lifting. An athlete can push the laterally limits of the wide base of the Metcon 4 without hesitation or fear of rolling their ankle. When driving your knees out from trying to spread the floor, you can feel the stability of the wide base sole. The lightweight construction also allows an athlete to move their feet quickly in a lift like the snatch or clean and jerk.
The Metcon 4 performed equally well in faster, explosive lifts as they came up in workouts. Kettlebell swings, power snatches, and dumbbell snatches all felt stable in Metcons. Testers preferred it while performing heavy cleans in workouts combined with other movements such as box jumps or sprints. It has a solid, stable heel for landing, and also has enough stiffness along the sole from the ball of the foot to the heel to provide plenty of power transfer when launching the barbell. The sole is grippy enough to stick the landings and flexible enough to provide a good feel for the ground when toes are transitioning out to land in either a squat or a split position.
The Metcon 4 brings the capability for high performance on sprints and shuttle-runs. The sole's forefoot is flexible for good ground feel but solid enough to provide great power transfer and acceleration. It lost points on longer runs since its stable heel absorbed less shock. Given that CrossFit workouts tend to prioritize shorter, faster runs, the Metcon 4 earned a high score here. One common issue with Metcon shoe is the laces; we found the laces come untied very easily especially with double under. Nike has to figure out a new lave material as this has been a common issue with Metcon shoes.
The Metcon 4 earned high marks for the support metric. The upper fit our testers well, and the tongue was thick enough to allow secure lacing without discomfort. The flywire system distributes tension from the laces well around the foot. The structural elements of the heel provide good stability for lateral movements.
This shoe provided good protection against bumps, stubs, and scrapes. It shielded the testers from the effects of repeated toes-to-bar and missed double-unders as well as most.
It provided good protection from rope burn when descending after a rope climb, and the grip on the inside edge of the sole provided more grip on the way up the rope than any other shoe we tested.
The highlight of the Metcon 4 is its sensitivity in the flexible sole from the ball of the foot up to the toes. This gave it high performance on sprint accelerations, jumping, landing, and weightlifting. The Metcon 4's wide sole in the toe box also feels like it's a slap when hitting the ground.
The balance of protective material and mesh in its upper gives this contender good breathability. Though it didn't rank the highest, it did allow for decent performance. Testers enjoyed wearing it, and it didn't accumulate moisture.
The Nike shoe finished behind the New Balance Minimus 40 in the breathability metric. Both shoes have a higher proportion of mesh in the upper and our testing indicated that the Metcon 4 was as breathable as the ASICS Conviction X V2. Both have a fair amount of mesh in the toe box and ranked considerably higher than other models when it came to this metric.
Our testers enjoyed wearing the Metcon 4. Not only did this pair fit our feet well, but there were no interior seams or pressure points to become an issue during long workouts. The two criticisms lowering the score were the stiffness of the heel on long runs and loaded carries, and some slipping at the heel on lunges, burpees, and carries.
This is an all-around high-performing CrossFit shoe. Two of the testers expressed a willingness to use it as their primary shoe in workouts. If you are looking for a single shoe to take to the gym for CrossFit workouts, you've found an excellent choice. Anyone who is nervous about rope climbs in a workout would benefit from putting this model on; the traction on the inside of the shoe's arch provides more grip on rope climbs than any other shoe we've tested.
CrossFitters interested in local or regional competition would also benefit from wearing this model. Competitors often don't know the specifics of a workout at an event until the last minute and knowing you wear a versatile, high-performing shoe can provide a little peace of mind. For athletes who are experienced weightlifters coming to the CrossFit gym for variety or conditioning, the Metcon 4 will provide familiar support and stability close to that of weightlifting shoes, with the added benefit of decent comfort while running or jumping.
The price tag is about the same as other high-performance CrossFit shoes. Its overall high performance on a wide variety of qualities make it worth the cost. If you are on a budget, we do offer a budget-priced shoe recommendation; the ASICS Conviction X only costs $90.
CrossFit asks a lot from athletes and shoes alike, demanding performance across a wide variety of movements. The Metcon 4 balances the performance aspects of weightlifting, running, jumping, and climbing in a way that impressed our testers.
— Chris McNamara