Best CrossFit Shoes for Women
Best Overall Crossfit Shoe for Women
Reebok Nano 9 - Women's
The Reebok Nano 9 won us over during this review, scoring consistently higher than the others in our fleet. The newest Nano on the block is the best non-weightlifting specific shoe for the heavier lifts, and we were pleasantly surprised by the new construction and the comfort the padded tongue offered during rope climbs. Even with the robust nature of the fabric, it was amazingly breathable; not to mention, this is a very good looking shoe. Reebok ditched their delta logo for a new face on the Nano 9; looks aren't everything, but they are a head-turner in the gym!
Reebok took a massive step in the right direction with the Nano 9, but no shoe, even our best overall, is perfect. As seen in Nanos of the past, the toe box still bunches up if you lace your shoes tightly or have narrow feet. We're hoping that Reebok continues with their field testing and feedback from athletes to make even more progress with their next release. Insanely comfortable, you'll never want to take these off. The worst part is choosing from over 20 color options!
Read review Reebok Nano 9 - Women's
Best Bang for Your Buck
Reebok CrossFit Speed TR
Our testers loved how comfortable and lightweight the Reebok CrossFit Speed TR was during training sessions and intense workouts. This shoe was surprisingly versatile, and we didn't feel the need to change shoes between movements, win! With all that in one pair of shoes for a wallet-friendly price, it's hard to go wrong. We preferred this shoe over many of the more expensive shoes, even when the price tag is not necessarily taken into consideration. You really can't go wrong with this breathable and lightweight shoe.
Since we were looking for the best of the best when it comes to an all in one CrossFit shoe, this one is an excellent bang for your buck, but not the top dog. Although comfy, it isn't our first choice when it comes to heavy lifting; especially Olympic weightlifting. The sock-like construction doesn't offer enough support on the lateral sides of the foot to keep it from moving during cleans and snatches. The heel itself might be great for running and bodyweight but does have some give during lifts, which was a bit distracting; the high heel collar also rubs on the back of the leg.
Read review: Reebok Crossfit Speed TR
Best for Comfort
NOBULL Trainers - Women's
NOBULL Trainers are everything you've heard about them and more. The hype is real. These shoes performed well in all areas of testing and showed no major weaknesses; NOBULL was at the top of our comfort metric. Beyond the WOD, these trainers can be worn all day. The Trainers come in many colorways to choose from; pair these with jeans or some leggings and go from work to workout.
If you CrossFit, you know NOBULL. You might have even dabbled on their website to check out their sleek and sexy gear donned by big-name athletes. That seems to be where the fun stops, though, as their pricing tops the charts, especially when you start looking at their patterns and limited releases. Be ready for new releases too, as they sell out quickly and rarely restock a color. The major downside when it comes to the Trainer is the harsh creasing in the toe box after being broken in. Nevertheless, our gear reviewers might have a pair…or five of these, for every occasion.
Read review: NOBULL Trainers
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab Review Editor Brittany Page. She is a Level 2 certified CrossFit instructor since 2011. She owned a CrossFit gym for six years, has coached for over nine years, and has been training with CrossFit for over ten years. Furthermore, she holds specialty certifications in Weightlifting, Strongman, Rowing, Movement & Mobility, Goal Setting, and Nutrition. Her active involvement in CrossFit and a strong background in health and fitness well-equip her to understand the finer points of items essential to this pursuit.
Finding the best Crossfit shoes for women started with reaching out to women in the community for their take on their favorites, and hours of internet searches pouring over ratings. We delved into the market offerings and selected the 11 pairs discussed here, of which most were promising. Over two months and over 100 hours working out, we tested the shoes indoors and outdoors in colorful Colorado.
Testing was comprised of a period of general use where our female tester used the shoes for the daily WOD at the gym, followed by a side-by-side comparison between three control tests. Three rep max back squat, weighted walking lunges and five rep clean & jerks were tested for weightlifting. Five consecutive rope climbs, 20 burpees, and ten handstand push-ups added to our gymnastics testing. Although not everyone's favorite, we had to throw some metabolic conditioning in there for testing as well. This included a one-mile run, 50 double under, and a five-minute EMOM on the bike. After the testing phase, we gathered feedback from both parts of the testing process and compiled it into relative ratings for each pair.
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 excels at all areas of fitness. An athlete that can deadlift 600 pounds, for instance, might not be the best runner. On the other hand, a sub three-hour marathon runner most likely doesn't have the biggest lifts in the gym. 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. Our goal was to search for a shoe designed with that same mindset. The perfect running shoe with a soft, cushioned midsole will not be the ideal lifting shoe. On the flip side, a great lifting shoe with a stiff, 17mm heel to toe drop would be a nightmare to run in. CrossFitters love their gear, but we also want a hybridized shoe that can do it all.
In almost any buying choice, we have to make trade-offs to decide what we value most in our shoes. We've compiled which features we think are most valuable in a CrossFit shoe for women, and compared their price vs. value. The Reebok Nano 9 is a higher value pair from our test lineup.
Types of Shoes
Just like their workouts, CrossFit athletes have different preferences for the style of shoes they like to wear during them. Take a look in the gym bag of most CrossFitters, and you will find they have more than one pair of shoes. Almost always there is a pair of lifting shoes, training shoes, and these days you might see a pair of running shoes in there as well. There are benefits to wearing the lightest and slimmest shoes but also merits to shoes with more structure and a platform sole. We separated the 11 shoes in this review into five different general types to help illustrate which workouts the shoes are best designed for.
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, weightlifting, and powerlifting. When training the Olympic lifts of the snatch and clean and jerk, athletes, wear shoes with a high heel rise, sturdy platform, and supportive sole that won't compress under heavy loads. The raised heel helps athletes squat into a deeper position with more range of motion in their ankles. Shoes without a heel rise require more hamstring and ankle flexibility from the athlete. Since we were looking to find the best hybrid, all around CrossFit shoe, we did not test any weightlifting specific shoes and had none that scored a perfect 10 in our testing.
For the majority of CrossFit workouts, we aren't looking to wear a full-fledged weightlifting shoe. CrossFit shoes need to be able to handle light to moderate weights at high repetitions in combinations with running or gymnastics movements. When it came to our weightlifting scores, the Reebok Nano 9 earned high scores. Even with the newly added cushioning in the midsole, this shoe feels incredibly solid while lifting with its minimal drop. This shoe can handle those heavy lifts and is still great for running, jumping, and everything else you do in CrossFit.
The Vivo Primus Lite scored lowest in weightlifting. The flexibility of the shoe overall provided the least lateral stability when it came to heavy squats. The minimalist design and barefoot-like sole weren't able to transfer power from the floor as the other shoes tested.
Like it or not, running is becoming more prevalent in CrossFit. Because of this, we set the bar high in this review. We want a CrossFit shoe that is great for running but also great at everything else! Some runners are seeking out shoes that mimic what it is like to run with bare feet while still protecting from hazards. Our tester performed runs on concrete and dirt, on a 400m loop and one mile of mixed terrain and hills.
Related: Best Running Shoes for Men of 2020
Minimalist shoes have always drawn the attention of CrossFitters, due to their light weight and flat design; this makes them great for gymnastics and some running. When looking into a good CrossFit shoe that can handle the WOD and long runs, we are looking for a shoe that can handle quick changes of direction, good traction on both indoor and outdoor surfaces, and one that is comfortable enough to wear when we see distances accumulate a mile or more.
The best shoe for running specific workouts in this review comes from one of CrossFit's favorite brands, the NOBULL Knit Runner. The knit upper is lightweight, breathable, and its seamless, sock-like design moves with your foot, not against it. The 10mm heel to toe drop was perfect for running, but our testers don't recommend these for weightlifting. The Reebok Nano 9 scored a few points behind on running than the NOBULL Knit Runner. Both of these shoes provided versatility and comfort in running plus the support needed for the rest of your movements in CrossFit.
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. A good CrossFit shoe needs to be flexible and responsive. Both gymnastics movements and weightlifting require sensitivity, and any CrossFit athlete should be looking for the best of that when it comes to their next shoe decision.
The shoe in this review with the best sensitivity is the Vivo Primus Lite; it's not a surprise that the ultimate minimalist shoes excel in this area. The thin sole allowed our testers to have a barefoot feel that let them make quick changes in balance and allowed the foot to feel planted on the ground or box. Scoring right behind Vivo on the sensitivity scale is the Inov-8 F-Lite 195. Take a trip back in time to the early days of CrossFit, and you saw Inov-8s on most athletes. The Inov-8 F-Lite 195 shoes have thicker soles than the Vivo Primus Lite, making them less sensitive.
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, compression in the sole and mid foot 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 NOBULL Knit Runner was not welcome on the lifting platform. Beyond lifting, we looked for a shoe that was able to provide stability to the athlete during common WOD movements like burpees, box jumps, and lunges.
The NOBULL Trainers were at the top of our list, right next to the Reebok Nano 9. The NOBULL Trainers can take you from light to heavy loads with no problem due in part to their supportive sole. The Reebok Nano 9 can do the same, but our tester made note of slight foot movement with the wide toe box.
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 would be a little impractical. The same goes for the abrasiveness of rope climbs, sliding up and down the wall during handstand push-ups, and impact during toes to bar and box jumps.
We tested all 11 pairs during rope climbs, handstand push-ups, and double unders in search for a shoe that can protect us, and our feet during the gnarliest of CrossFit WODs. Our top picks all had common characteristics of sturdy toe boxes and tough upper construction with specific protection on the outers.
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, training shoes had no added protection on the instep for rope climbs. Luckily, the popularity of CrossFit is changing the shoe game as we know it.
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. The Nike Metcon 4 for Women and Reebok Nano 6 all stood out during our testing. Reebok's tactic on the Reebok Nano 6 is a sturdy material, but our tester felt the material is still "slick" on the rope as compared to the Metcons. Our arms had to work harder to make up for our feet sliding on the rope. We much prefer the cross-hatched, textured material that wraps around the medial and lateral sides of the Nike Metcon 4. This really helped our feet stick to the rope and upon returning to the ground, showed no signs of damage at all. As CrossFitters, we much appreciate these adaptations, as it's frustrating to see your favorite shoes torn to bits.
Inevitably you are going to get hot amid high-intensity workouts. The last thing you want to be worrying about during your WOD is the feeling that your feet are on fire. 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.
When it came down to breathability, the Vivo Primus Lite were the best shoes we tested. The breathable, recycled PET mesh made our feet feel like they were wearing next to nothing at all. The NOBULL Trainers, on the other hand, looked like they would get hot but were surprisingly breathable.
If your shoes aren't comfortable, you are going to suffer more during your WOD than you normally do. 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. The best shoes in this category aren't too firm or too squishy. They feel just right during a workout. So much that you hardly notice you are wearing them.
Opinions about comfort were actually pretty consistent among testing. The NOBULL Trainers, 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 once you open that box and instantly like the way they feel. However, the king of comfort in this review was the Reebok Nano 9. Our reviewer was impressed with how well they fit for all of the movements we put them through. Reebok's significant changes to the newest edition of their Nano 9 were greeted with open arms. The newly constructed split outsole and added cushioning in the midsole is the perfect amount for performance and comfort in CrossFit workouts. The bootie design of the heel helped with ankle stability and heel slippage with no risk of blistering.
We tasked CrossFitters from around the country to weigh in on 11 of the most popular shoes for cross-training in our search for the best CrossFit shoe out there. For over two months, we put these shoes through the wringer in the programmed workouts of the day at our local CrossFit gym. CrossFit programming is all about variety, and 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 heavy weightlifting, gymnastics, and mono structural conditioning.
There are so many options on the market specifically designed for CrossFit these days that choosing the right pair that performs well in all aspects is extremely difficult. Think about the significant components that matter to you in your shoe. Take some time to compare our test results and reviews to help you pick the best pair for those hardworking feet.
— Brittany Page & Audrey Hammond