What's the best shoe for CrossFit style workouts? In our quest to find the answer, we put 9 of the most popular and highest ranked shoes for CrossFit through multiple workouts and numerous side-by-side tests. We spent over three months testing these shoes for a total of over 150 hours of workouts; we tested these shoes in the dry Arizona heat as well as the humid North Carolina Coast. Each contender was then given scores in a number of categories such as weightlifting, running, support and durability to highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading to find out which shoes rose to the top of the pile in this extensive review process.
Best CrossFit Shoes for Women of 2018
Our CrossFit guru put each pair through the ins and outs, testing each one across the board via a series of metrics. The NO BULL Lifter emerged as our Editors' Choice, while the Reebok Crossfit Speed TR is our Best Bang for the Buck, ringing in at under $100.
Best Overall Women's Crossfit Model
NOBULL Trainers - Women's
The NOBULL Trainers won us over during this review. It consistently scored higher than the other shoes for CrossFit in our review criteria. The NOBULL was by far the best non-weightlifting specific shoe for the heavier lifts that we wore during this review. Our shoe testers were also pleasantly shocked at how grippy the upper fabric is for rope climbs. Even with the tough nature of the fabric, it was amazingly breathable as well. Did we mention this is a very good looking shoe? Looks aren't everything, but they do really look sharp in the gym!
Read review NOBULL Trainer - Women's
Best Bang for Your Buck
Reebok CrossFit Speed TR
Our testers loved that you can run, jump, lift and squat in the Reebok CrossFit Speed TR within a workout and not feel like you need to change shoes between movements. Getting all that in one pair of shoes for under $100 is why the Speed TR receives our Best Buy Award. We preferred this shoe over many of the more expensive shoes even when the price tag was not taken into consideration. You really can't go wrong with this breathable and lightweight shoe that can also take you through Olympic lifts with no problem.
Read review: Reebok Crossfit Speed TR
Analysis and Test Results
Ideally, the perfect shoe for CrossFit would be similar to the perfect CrossFit athlete. When we look at the top athletic performers in CrossFit we expect to find someone that is not overly specialized in one area. An athlete that can deadlift 800 pounds, for instance, is probably not a very good sprinter. On the other hand, a sub three hour marathon runner is most likely lacking in strength. Excelling in one specific movement will inevitably cause weaknesses in other areas. As stated in the October 2002 CrossFit Journal article, "Our specialty is not specializing." CrossFit workouts require athletes to be masters of diversity, so we searched for a shoe designed with the same mindset. The perfect running shoe with a soft, cushioned midsole will not be the perfect lifting shoe. Conversely, a great lifting shoe with a 17mm heel to toe drop would be a nightmare to run in. CrossFitters want a hybridized shoe that can do it all.
In almost any buying choice, we have to make trade-offs in order to prioritize which features we value most. We've compiled which features we think are most valuable in a CrossFit shoe, and created the chart below to help visualize how each shoe stacks up against the competition. The higher the value, the lower and further right a product will appear in the chart, such as the Editor's Choice winner NOBULL Trainers and Best Buy Reebok CrossFit Speed TR.
Types of Shoes
CrossFit athletes have different preferences for the style of shoes they like to wear during workouts. Most CrossFitters have more than one pair of shoes so they can wear the style of shoe that works best for each different type of workout they come across in the huge variety of CrossFit movements. There are benefits to wearing the lightest and slimmest shoes but also merits to shoes with more structure and a substantial sole. We separated the nine shoes in this review into five different general types to help illustrate which workouts the shoes are best designed for. To read more about the different types, cruise on over to our buying advice.
Weightlifting is a key component in CrossFit programming. Therefore, this category comprises 20% of the overall score for each shoe in this review. The broad category of weightlifting gets broken down into Olympic lifting and powerlifting. When training the Olympic lifts, snatch and clean and jerk, athletes, wear shoes with a high heel rise and supportive sole that won't compress under heavy loads. The raised heel helps athletes stand up out of the bottom of a deep squat. Shoes without a heel rise require more hamstring and ankle flexibility from the athlete. One shoe scored a perfect 10 in our testing, and not surprisingly, it's a lifting shoe, the NOBULL Lifters.
The NOBULL Lifters are a thing of beauty, and they even smell amazing! The heel is comprised of many layers of highly pressed leather so as you open the box an earthy leather smell wafts out to great you. Unfortunately, the soft leather uppers, as well as the price tag on the NOBULLs, makes the thought of rope climbs in them seem absurd.
For the majority of CrossFit workouts, we aren't looking for the perfect Olympic weightlifting shoe. CrossFit shoes need to be able to handle light to moderate weights at high repetitions in combinations with running or gymnastics movements. A close second to the two lifting shoes regarding weightlifting scores was our Editors' Choice winner, the NOBULL Trainers. This shoe feels amazingly solid while lifting and is still great for running, jumping, and everything else you do in CrossFit.
We set the bar high in this review. We want a CrossFit shoe that is great for running but also great at everything else! To find the best shoe strictly for running, head over to our Best Running Shoe Review and our Best Trail Running Shoe Review. Some runners are seeking out shoes that mimic what it is like to run with bare feet while still protecting from hazards.
Crossfitters are sometimes attracted to minimalist shoes because they are lightweight which is nice with gymnastics movements, as well as have a low heel to toe drop, which makes it a little easier to get into a good starting position for deadlifts. The minimalist shoe that so many CrossFitters loved was the New Balance Minimus. Unfortunately, the design changed over the years, and the shoe fell out of favor. New Balance claims to have brought back the feel of the original with their newest trail version. This shoe is nice and light but just didn't have enough support and stability for our testers. Even for a minimalist shoe, we could feel a little too much of what our feet were landing on during runs. One tester noted that "I don't like to feel every little rock under my foot."
The best shoe for running workouts in this review was the lightweight Reebok CrossFit alternative to the Nano, which is also our Best Buy Winner. This shoe feels fast and light and yet still has the support you need for the rest of your movements in CrossFit. The New Balance Minimus 40 was also an excellent shoe to run in, but it lacked the versatility of the Reebok Speed TR.
Why do we care about sensitivity and what does it really mean in a CrossFit shoe? When we refer to sensitivity, we are primarily referring to how easy it is to feel where your bodyweight is positioned on your feet. You need to be able to tell if you are fundamentally moving your body weight onto the balls of your feet or if you are balanced with your weight firmly in your heels. The subtle differences in bodyweight shift are key to effective Olympic lifting.
The shoe in this review with the best sensitivity for lifting is the NOBULL Lifters. While it is not a surprise that the lifting shoes excel in this area, we were delighted to find a trainer that was fantastic for our heavy Olympic lifts.
The demands of CrossFit workouts require a shoe that can support not only the weight of the athlete but also the hundreds of additional pounds the athlete might be lifting. Therefore, how a shoe scores in the category of support comprises 20% of the shoe's overall rank in this review.
During heavy lifts, how compressive the sole is in a shoe might be one of the first things you notice about your footwear. A soft, squishy sole will be hard to balance on when trying to remain stable with a heavily loaded barbell. For instance, the spring in our step while running from the compression of the sole in the New Balance Minimus 40 was not welcome on the lifting platform. We really needed a sole with less give to it. The softness of the sole is not the only aspect of support however.
Once again, the NOBULL Trainers were at the top of our list, along with the two lifting specific shoes. The NOBULL Trainers can take you from light to heavy loads with no problem due in part to their supportive sole.
Protection and Durability
CrossFitters like to push both their bodies and their equipment to the limits, so we need a shoe that will protect the athlete and not wear out anytime soon.
The learning curve for double unders is a painful curve indeed. Especially with the growing popularity of super fast metal cable jump ropes, you will have bright red lashes reminding you of your misses. As tempting as it might be, a full body armor of chain mail would be a little impractical. Luckily, we can at least protect our feet from those painful double under misses.
Before you shell out your hard earned money on a pair of new CrossFit shoes, be sure to inspect the durability of the sole and uppers near the instep of the shoe. The friction from rope climbs will literally tear chunks out of soft midsoles. Ten years ago, had you ever seen tennis shoes with added protection on the instep for rope climbs? The popularity of CrossFit is literally changing the shoes on your feet.
As you will see in this review, shoe manufacturers are trying new and creative tactics to keep their shoes from shredding to pieces on rope climbs. Asics has a material they call "Rhinoguard" on the uppers in the Conviction X. Granted it is sturdy material, but the material is "crazy slick" on the rope as one tester put it. Our arms had to work even harder to make up for our feet sliding on the rope. We much prefer Nike's tactic on the Metcon. There is a huge swath of extra sticky rubber on the instep, which really helped our feet stick to the rope and showed no signs of damage at all. As CrossFitters we greatly appreciate these adaptations, it's frustrating to see your favorite shoes torn to bits.
Inevitably you are going to get hot in the midst of high-intensity workouts. Shoes for Crossfit with good breathability will keep you a little more comfortable and hopefully help you push through those sweltering moments when you think you just can't keep going.
Our best buy winning shoes were among the best shoes we tested in the category of breathability. The mesh along the laces and the toebox of the CrossFit Speed helped to keep our feet cool. However, the stuffiest model was the Reebok Nano 7. The NOBULL Trainers, on the other hand, looked like they would get hot but were surprisingly breathable.
If your shoes aren't comfortable, it might be one more reason to avoid going to the gym. We want gear that makes us want to use it! The tricky part of rating comfort, of course, is that everyone has differently shaped feet and different preferences on how a shoe fits.
Opinions about comfort were actually pretty consistent among all of our shoe testers. The New Balance Minimus 40, for instance, were a common favorite for all-day wear around the gym. They are the kind of shoes that you put on your feet in the store and instantly like the way they feel. However, the king of comfort in this review was the NOBULL Trainers. Our reviewers were impressed with how well they fit for all of the movements we put the NOBULLs through. On the other end of the spectrum, we all agreed that Reebok has lost some comfort with their newest Nano. The Nanos feel really stiff at the toebox when running, and two testers on different occasions noted that their smaller toes would go numb after standing in them.
We tasked CrossFitters from around the country to test 9 of the most popular shoes for CrossFit in our search for the best CrossFit shoe out there. We had some pretty seasoned athletes giving us feedback in this review. The accumulated years of CrossFit experience with all our reviewers added up is over 48 years. These ladies have been around CrossFit gyms for a long time! For over three months we put these shoes through the ringer in the programmed workouts for the day at two different CrossFit affiliates. CrossFit programming is all about variety, so these shoes were exposed to many different movements including weightlifting, running and gymnastics movements just to name a few. In addition to exposing the shoes to typical CrossFit workouts, we also performed side by side testing in sprints, heavy weightlifting, and rope climbs.
— Audrey Hammond