The need for a higher level of Crossfit training continues to grow, and so does the shoe selection. We researched over 70 models, ultimately choosing the best 7 to test side-by-side for three months and over 100+ hours of training sessions. Our expert testers did as many reps and rounds as possible, jumping, squatting, lunging, and hitting the floor for burpees in each model. We pushed these shoes to their limits so you didn't have to, determining which designs incorporate the stability required for weightlifting while also allowing the flexibility and comfort needed for running. Choosing the perfect pair is tough, but our extensive review guides you through the process, whether you're looking for the best performance, all-around function, or the best bang for your buck.
The Best CrossFit Shoes For Men in 2018
This June brought spring cleaning to our award podium: Reebok not only lost its position at the top of our ratings, but they also didn't win any awards. What gives? Well, we feel other brands like Adidas, Nike, and NOBULL have stepped up their game in a big way. We still like Reebok offerings; they're just no longer our favorites.
Best Overall Shoes for Crossfit
Nike Metcon 4
If we had to pick one shoe for all our workouts, we choose the Metcon 4. Though it didn't take the top score on any of our metrics, the Metcon 4 performed near the best in each category with no major weaknesses. Its heel and sole are stable enough for heavy squats, deadlifts, and carries, but its flexible forefoot shines on burpees, jumping, and sprinting. It handles some of the trickier CrossFit movements well — being exceptionally grippy on rope climbs. Choose the latest shoe from Nike for a performance boost.
Read review: Nike Metcon 4
Best Bang for the Buck
Adidas Powerlift 3
The Powerlift 3 showed surprising versatility for a weightlifting shoe. While remaining stable on heavy squats, cleans, and deadlifts, its heel also takes the sting out of short runs. Given the trend toward heavier lifts in competition events, the Powerlift 3 may be a smart choice for athletes seeking an edge. With a price tag around $90, it also makes sense as a first lifting shoe or an all-around budget shoe.
Read review: Adidas Powerlift 3
Top Pick for Busy Lifestyle
NOBULL Trainers live up to the hype. They provide a strong all-around performance with no glaring weaknesses. The NOBULL was the most comfortable shoe tested, easy to wear for hours before or after the WOD. With a clean, stylish look, it won't look out of place under a pair of khakis or jeans. NOBULL Trainers provide an elegant solution for the busy professional, or new father, who doesn't want to keep track of multiple pairs of shoes and may have to squeeze a workout into his schedule on short notice.
Read review: NOBULL Trainer
Analysis and Test Results
As the sport of fitness, CrossFit is gaining more attention and becoming a bigger part of people's lives. It involves many ways to move one's body and/or an external load through space, and to do so effectively requires the right shoe. All the force generated by jumping, landing, gymnastics, and weightlifting passes through the shoe, and great shoes for CrossFit can make a big difference. Two main categories of athlete are searching for better shoes for CrossFit: those starting their journey, and those who have decided to compete (whether aiming for the CrossFit Games, or a local charity event). Those new to the sport will want a shoe that performs well enough that it won't distract them from learning new ways to move their bodies. Competitors will want shoes for CrossFit to give them every possible performance edge.
We looked at the dozens of shoes for CrossFit available and tested eight popular shoes to see which performed best at the wide variety of movements involved in CrossFit. We put them through the paces in head-to-head comparisons in a variety of categories. We tested weightlifting with heavy squatting, moderate explosive lifts for higher reps, and loaded carries. We took the shoes for CrossFit through sprints, long jogs, and shuttle runs with quick direction changes. We tested some movements you may only see in CrossFit: rope climbs, handstand pushups, and jump rope double-unders. And we wore each shoe for a series of workouts to get a feel for its ability to handle the varied needs of a CrossFit shoe.
Having the right shoes can make or break your workout, and with prices ranging from $90 to $200 in this review alone, it can be a daunting task to figure out which shoe is going to be a good value and get the job done. Considering how each shoe performed and its CrossFit specific features relative to its price tag, we came up with the graph below. As the value of a product increases, it lands further to the right and lower down, such as the Best Buy winning Adidas Powerlift 3.
Moving an external load through space used to mean squatting or bench pressing. CrossFit has opened the public's eyes to the myriad ways to lift a barbell and reintroduced a host of varied implements to popular exercise culture. CrossFit workouts can require anything from a heavy deadlift or explosive kettlebell snatches to sandbag carries or runs with a weight vest. The force necessary to move the weight gets transmitted to the ground through your shoes, so shoes for CrossFit have to be able to provide you the stability to transmit as much force as possible while maintaining the flexibility to get your feet into the right position. The sole's traction also makes a difference — no one wants to slip under a heavy load. We tested weightlifting movements in three categories: heavy squats, explosive Olympic lifts (snatch or clean & jerk), and loaded carries.
Squatting is a critical movement in CrossFit. A shoe that performs well at squatting provides lateral stability between the upper and the sole, as well as stable contact between the sole and ground. The second consideration for many is offering a slight rise at the heel to mitigate inflexibility in the calves. This allows a more upright body position, and the ability to squat more weight. Finally, the sole needs to avoid compressing much under heavy loads. We had our testers perform heavy back squats with each of the shoes for CrossFit. Testers loaded the bar with anything from 185 to 455 pounds, depending on the strength of the tester.
The explosive Olympic lifts add another set of requirements to shoes for CrossFit. In addition to being able to catch heavyweight in a squat position, the shoe needs to help the lifter launch the weight off the ground. A good lifting shoe provides stability in the sole along the long axis of the foot, from heel to ball. This allows maximum power transfer as the athlete jumps the weight up. Additionally, the shoe should have enough sensitivity and flexibility in the forefoot to allow the athlete to land in the right position lightning-quick. We asked our testers to perform lots of reps with a moderate weight, to give plenty of opportunities to feel performance differences. Kettlebell and barbell loads varied from 50 to 305 pounds depending on the specific exercise and the tester's ability.
Strongman events have been trickling into CrossFit over the years, but have become great crowd-pleasers at the CrossFit Games. Pushing sleds, carrying yokes, and hauling monster kettlebells across a field adds a layer of complexity to shoe requirements. The most stable way to walk a heavy load (often more than twice bodyweight) is to take small, quick steps, rolling from heel to toe to minimize bouncing the weight. The shock absorption necessary for this is often at odds with creating a stable heel for squatting or the long-axis stiffness for explosive lifting. We tested loaded carries with farmer-bars weighing 200 pounds, and sandbags between 100 and 150 pounds.
The top contenders in the weightlifting category were the two lifters: the Inov-8 Fastlift 370 and the Adidas Powerlift 3. Most of the testers preferred the Fastlift 370 for moderate-weight squats and explosive lifts but wanted the extra support of a traditional lacing system for the most substantial lifts. The inclusion of loaded carries brought the Powerlift 3 back into the lead since its lower heel height made it easier to walk with heavy weight. The Nike Metcon 4 was almost as stable as the two weightlifting shoes. It performed well under heavy squats and explosive Olympic lifts and was slightly smoother on the loaded carries than the lifters. The Reebok Nano 7 offers a similarly supportive heel for squatting and good stiffness for Oly lifts as the Metcon 4, but was not quite as smooth for the loaded carries.
The ASICS Conviction X scored lowest in weightlifting. Its flexible upper provided the least lateral stability for heavy squats, and the flexible sole failed to transfer as much power as the other tested shoes during explosive lifts.
For sprints, we looked for the ability to transfer power through the sole into the ground with minimal distortion. Also, we want the shoe to handle rapid changes of direction by having good traction on a variety of surfaces and minimal slip on the athlete's foot. Testers ran repeated sprint efforts from 50-meter shuttle runs to 400-meter efforts within workouts. Sprints were performed on concrete, asphalt, and dirt. All shoes for CrossFit were used on both level ground and hill sprints.
For longer runs, we looked at sole comfort, especially when landing on the heel. Weight was also a factor in our ratings here. CrossFit workouts that include running tend not to accumulate more than a mile and a half, with a few exceptions. Our test runs lasted between 10 and 30 minutes per effort, with each shoe tried for several efforts. The Best marks for running went to the Minimus 40. Its lightweight and thin sole helped give it the edge on endurance efforts. While sprinting, its sole lost only a little power from twisting between heel and toes. Although light and flexible, the snug upper performed very well in the direction changes on shuttle runs.
The Nike Metcon 4 and NOBULL Trainer both scored only slightly lower on running than the Minimus 40, though for different reasons. The Metcon 4 had great power transfer on sprints, but its heel was less comfortable on longer runs. The NOBULL absorbed more impact in the heel on long runs, but its sole didn't provide quite as much grip on sprints and changes of direction. Though similar to the Minimus on our first impression, we found the ASICS Conviction X felt less powerful on the sprints because it had more sole flexion, allowed more pronation on long runs, and lacked as much lateral stability on the shuttle runs.
The lowest score on running went to the Inov-8 Fastlift 370. Its design was meant for maximum stability under load. Not surprisingly, the stiff elevated heel that made it superior at weightlifting was a huge obstacle to running performance. Sprinting performance was good at maximum acceleration, but beyond 40-50 meters it started feeling clunky. Direction changes during shuttle runs felt wobbly due to the heel elevation, despite having a ton of lateral stability between the upper and sole.
While it was not a top scorer on the running metric, our testers were pleasantly surprised by the Powerlift 3. Its heel felt lower and more shock-absorbent than other lifters the testers had worn, allowing it to earn fairly high marks on longer runs. The Powerlift 3 performed only slightly below the Nano 7, impressive for a lifter. Though similar in lateral stability to the Metcon, the Nano 7 ranked lower on running due to more stiffness in the heel, resulting in less comfort on longer runs.
CrossFit places a rigorous demand on a shoe, requiring an athlete to generate force against the ground from myriad less-than-ideal foot positions. In addition to the specific requirements for weightlifting, we looked for the ability to provide stability through movements like lunges, burpees, and box jumps in shoes for CrossFit.
Support also played into the ability of the shoe to help the athlete land safely after jumping down from a box, pull-up bar, or rings — often immediately changing direction to get to the next part of the workout quickly. We paid attention to the shoe's ability to keep the sole working with the foot during force transfer, having a fairly stiff interface between the upper and sole toward the heel, with flexion at the ball of the foot.
Top rank in support went to the Adidas Powerlift 3. Its stable heel, firm sole and relatively rigid upper kept the foot in a good position to transmit force to the ground. The lacing system allowed testers to customize fit by introducing different amounts of tension at the toes versus the ankles. This was also supplemented by a wide velcro strap over the instep. Of all the shoes for CrossFit we tested, the Powerlift 3provided the best combination of features to keep your foot in a good position to lift, jump, or land.
Close behind the Powerlift 3 were the Inov-8 Fastlift 370 BOA and Nike Metcon 4. The Fastlift 370 BOA provided a very stable, rigid heel like the Powerlift 3, but the BOA lacing system did not provide our testers with the ability to create different tension at the ankle and toes. The Fastlift's strap tended to shift up and down on the instep unless cranked uncomfortably tight; it was not as stable as a velcro strap. The Metcon 4 has a little less rigidity than the two lifting shoes, but provided plenty of stability at the heel. The Metcon 4 fit our testers' feet well, with its lacing system also able to provide variable tension from toes to ankles. Trailing just behind the Metcon 4 on support, was the Reebok Nano 7. Both are very stable shoes for CrossFit, with plenty of support at the heel. The Nano 7 had more rigidity from the ball of the foot to the heel than the Metcon 4, but allowed our testers to pronate more on loaded carries.
Feet endure their own risks when introduced to CrossFit. The upper must shield the foot from rope abrasion, impact during toes-to-bar, and the sting of missed double-unders with a steel wire jump rope. Beyond those, there is always the risk of bumping into equipment during intense efforts. We performed rope climbs, toes-to-bar, and double-unders in all the shoes for CrossFit to assess their ability to protect the athlete during these movements and made note of incidents when shoes protected (or failed to) in other situations. The most protective shoes had sturdy toe boxes and either a thick upper or one with a protective outer coating.
The Powerlift 3 scored highest on Protection. It has a thick upper, plenty of overlap between upper and tongue, and a nearly-solid toe box. The wide Velcro strap provides an additional layer. The Nano 7, Metcon 4, and NOBULL Trainer tied as the next most protective shoes. All three have protective layers added to the outside of the upper. NOBULL's seems to be the most abrasion-resistant, with hardly a scuff-mark after our testing. The Nano 7 and Metcon 4 both have a slightly stiffer upper above the toenails, with more flexible fabric behind.
A CrossFit athlete needs to feel the ground (or box or rope…) as readily as possible to make the minute adjustments necessary to stick the landing, change position or direction, or start the next movement. Sensitivity is a combination of flexibility and responsiveness. Sensitive shoes for CrossFit allow your foot to feel the ground and also transmits the force of your movements. Weightlifting and gymnastic movements require sensitivity for top performance.
The Conviction X scored highest on Sensitivity. The thin, responsive sole allowed testers to feel whatever surface they were on, and make rapid adjustments. This was particularly useful on high-rep explosive lifts like power snatches and kettlebell swings. The Conviction X allowed testers to feel when they were starting to come out of balance and make fast corrections. Right behind the ASICS on sensitivity was the Minimus 40. It has a slightly thicker sole than the ASICS, making it just a bit less sensitive. The Metcon 4 was also very sensitive due to its flexible forefoot, though its stable heel kept it from scoring higher. The sole under the Metcon 4's toes was about on par with the Minimus 40, but not as sensitive as the Conviction X.
The best shoes for CrossFit help the athlete shed heat so the focus stays on performance, rather than foot discomfort. In hot and humid environments, this becomes even more of a factor.
The most breathable shoes were the Minimus 40 and nov-8 FastLift 370 BOA. Both the Minimus and FastLift have a very high proportion of mesh in their uppers, providing plenty of ventilation. Next-best for breathability were the Metcon 4 and Conviction X. Both have less ventilation on the back half of the shoe, but well-ventilated toe boxes.
We looked for a shoe that provided a baseline level of comfort during the wide variety of movements in CrossFit workouts — minimal distraction from our efforts, as opposed to cloud-like squishiness. The best competitors for CrossFit felt like extensions of our bodies. The tested shoes fell on both sides of the ideal balance — some proving a bit harsh for one or two activities, others failing to provide the performance edge because they got a little too squishy under load.
The NoBull Trainer proved the most comfortable for our testers. It had enough cushion in the sole to lessen the impact of running and loaded carries. Its upper matched the contours of our testers' feet very well, with no noticeable seams or pressure points. The lacing system and tongue worked well to allow a secure fit without digging into the instep.
The NOBULL was followed closely on comfort by the Metcon 4. The Nike Metcon 4 appealed to all of our testers but rated lower than the NOBULL on comfort due to the Metcon 4's stiffer heel.
Least comfortable across our tests was the Inov-8 Fastlift 370 BOA. While it was top of the heap in most weightlifting movements, it lost points on events involving runs, lateral movement, or loaded carries. The testers also preferred traditional lacing to the BOA system. Testers were unable to get the FastLift 370's BOA "lace" to provide differential tightness at the toe or ankle to provide the most secure fit.
There are so many shoes for CrossFit on the market that choosing one balanced pair is a real challenge. First, think about what aspect of CrossFit challenges you most or what comes up most frequently in your gym's workouts. Then, use the comprehensive test results and reviews present here to help you narrow down your choices to a few models that suit your unique needs. If you're still undecided as to which pair is best for you, look at our Buying Advice, as we offer additional tips for choosing a pair.
— Scott Francis