The Metcon 3 vs. The New Metcon 4
Nike built the new Metcon 4 from the popular features of the Metcon 3, while attempting to improve other areas. No changes were made to the outsole and underfoot cushioning, while the most significant change is intended to enhance the overall durability of the shoe. The side-by-side comparison below shows the Metcon 4 on the left, and the version we tested on the right.
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 6 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.
We haven't yet had a chance to test the Metcon 4, so the extensive review below is based on our experiences with the Metcon 3.
Hands-On Review of the Metcon 3
This model is a jack-of-all-trades. It scored near the top of every metric we tested, and the testers enjoyed wearing it. It won the Editors' Choice Award because it performed very well at both weightlifting and running, which show up in a lot of CrossFit workouts.
The 3 provided the best balance of performance across our weighted metrics. It excelled in the two most important metrics: weightlifting and running, and scored consistently high on each of the other metrics as well. Since this competitor performed consistently well, with no significant weaknesses, it earned the Editors' Choice Award.
The Metcon 3 felt great during Open WOD 17.2.
Given that much of CrossFit involves moving weights around, the fact that the Metcon 3 performed so well at weightlifting contributed strongly to its success as a CrossFit shoe. It was one of the best shoes for weightlifting, finishing only behind the more specialized weightlifting shoes. Our weightlifting metric included three main categories: a head-to-head squat test, explosive Olympic weightlifting, and strongman-style loaded carries.
The head-to-head squat test left our lead tester impressed with this model's lateral stability and heel height. It provides less lateral stability than the Inov-8 FastLift 370 BOA or the Adidas Powerlift 3 because the Metcon has a little more rounding on the edge of the sole. The rounding provides benefits in other metrics, but makes the shoe just a little less stable side-to-side for squatting. The other component of lateral stability is the stiffness between the sole and the upper at the heel of the shoe. Here the Metcon is reinforced with a wrap-around polymer insert that cups the back of the heel and provides stability in plenty. The head-to-head squat results were confirmed in the final workout of the 2017 CrossFit Open, which included thrusters — a squatting exercise. One tester performed the workout a second time just so he could wear the Metcon 3 and was very pleased with how it performed.
Catching a squat clean felt natural in the Metcon 3.
Nike's latest offering 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. While again finishing behind the FastLift 370 BOA and Powerlift 3, the Metcon 3 scored higher than all the other shoes.
The final wrinkle in the weightlifting metric was to test the shoes' ability to perform on strongman-style loaded carries. Loaded carries like farmer walks, yoke carries, and sled drags have become more popular in the CrossFit Games and are trickling down to local competitions as well. Loaded carries provide a useful test for CrossFit shoes because they require both stability to support the foot under heavy weight, and a degree of either flexibility or cushioning in the sole to keep the athlete's gait smooth. Here, the Metcon 3 surpassed the FastLift 370 and Powerlift 3. Adidas's other CrossFit offering, the CrazyPower Trainer was slightly better than the Metcon 3 due to a slightly less solid heel. The NOBULL Trainer was just behind the Metcon 3; its heel was more comfortable on the carries, but felt a little too unstable at heavy weights.
Most supportive shoe: Adidas Powerlift 3, flanked by the Inov-8 Fastlift 370 BOA and Metcon 3.
The 3 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 3 tied for second place of the shoes we tested on the running metric.
This Editors' Choice winner also scored second-highest in running behind the New Balance Minimus 40 and tied with the NOBULL Trainer. Both shoes were more comfortable on longer runs, lasting 10 to 30 minutes. Both have heels that are more comfortable than the Metcon3 because they absorb more shock. The Minimus 40 also weighs less, and has a more flexible upper, making it more enjoyable on longer runs. The NOBULL tied with the Metcon 3 since sole on the Nike shoe was grippier, handling sprint accelerations and shuttle-run direction changes more readily.
Medial aspect of the top running performers: New Balance Minimus 40, Metcon 3, NOBULL Trainer.
This contender earned high marks for the support metric. Its 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.
The 3 provided almost as much support as the Inov-8 Fastlift 370 BOA and Adidas Powerlift 3, but the 3 felt slightly less stable than either. The FastLift beat the Metcon by having more structural support in the sole and heel — which was evident when jumping up or forward. The Powerlift 3 had a closer heel and sole to the Nike offering, but provided a more supportive upper which kept the foot in place. The Powerlift's velcro strap also allowed customized support along the top of the instep. This award winner was ranked slightly higher on support by our testers than the Reebok Nano 7. Both had very solid, stable soles and heels. The Metcon 3 held the edge on support by resisting pronation a little better than the Nano 7 — especially when carrying a load or wearing a weight vest.
Stable heels of the Nano 7 and Metcon 3.
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.
Only the Adidas Powerlift 3 provided more protection. The Nike shoe uses a more flexible, breathable upper than the Adidas, so it didn't win this metric. The Metcon 3 scored as well as the Nano 7 and the NOBULL Trainer. All three provided good abrasion resistance, with the NOBULL having the best. The Nike and Reebok shoes had a little more sole material on the front of the toe, giving them better impact resistance.
Rope climbs felt secure in the Metcon 3.
The highlight of the Metcon 3's sensitivity is its flexible sole from the ball of the foot up to the toes. This gave it high performance on sprint accelerations, jumping, landing, and weightlifting.
This Editors' Choice winner ranked lower than both the ASICS Conviction X and New Balance Minimus 40 for sensitivity. Both shoes have thinner, more flexible soles across their length. The Nike shoe has a thicker, less sensitive sole from the ball of the foot back to the heel. The Metcon's sensitivity was rated higher than the Nano 7 and NOBULL because those shoes both had a slight up-curl at the toe. By contrast, this Editors' Choice award winner had a flatter sole under the toe, which our testers felt gave them a better feel for the ground. The Adidas CrazyPower Trainer also had a flatter sole, but was ranked just behind the Metcon's more flexible forefoot.
Cranking out jump rope double-unders in the Metcon 3.
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 Inov-8 Fastlift 370 and 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 3 was as breathable as the ASICS Conviction X. Both have a fair amount of mesh in the toe box and ranked slightly higher than the Reebok Nano 7 and NoBull Trainer on breathability.
Most breathable shoes: Minimus 40 and Fastlift 370 BOA, followed closely by Conviction X and Metcon 3.
Our testers enjoyed wearing the Metcon 3. 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 contender scored lower than the NOBULL Trainer, which had better cushioning on the loaded carries and a toe box that matched more of our testers. The Metcon scored slightly higher on comfort than the CrazyPower Trainer, which had a toe box a bit too large for most of our testers.
Most comfortable shoes: the Trainer, followed by Metcon 3 and CrazyPower TR.
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. 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 3 will provide familiar support and stability close to that of weightlifting shoes, with the added benefit of decent comfort while running or jumping.
The Metcon 3's sensitive forefoot made for quick jump rope double-unders.
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, the Adidas Powerlift 3; not only does it come in second place, but it only costs $90.
CrossFit asks a lot from athletes and shoes alike, demanding performance across a wide variety of movements. The Nike Metcon 3 balances the performance aspects of weightlifting, running, jumping, and climbing in a way that impressed our testers. It earned the 2017 Editors' Choice Award for Best Men's CrossFit Shoe.