Have you caught the CrossFit bug? If you have, you’ve probably noticed that CrossFit folks are pretty particular about their footwear. And, for good reason. As you bust your butt in each WOD, striving to beat your last PR, you really put a whooping on your body.
A good CrossFit shoe is one in which you feel you have no limits! Jumping, running, lifting… you should be able to rely on it at all times, no matter what the exercise or movement!
So how exactly do you choose the best CrossFit shoes?
If you’re thinking: I already have an expensive pair of running shoes that give me a lot of support. Can’t I just wear it to my local CrossFit gym?
In a word “no”.
CrossFit shoes are designed and manufactured a little differently than your usual running shoes or trainers that you wear to the gym all those years ago. When you think about it, your feet are on the front line of every workout. They are directly involved in almost every task. So, if you don’t take care of them, you’re not only asking for an injury, you’re also putting your future performance at risk.
Best CrossFit Shoes For Women
So what are the best CrossFit shoes according to the most important criteria, such as stability, flexibility or comfort? If you’ve ever trained in a CrossFit gym or seen CrossFit workouts, you’ll agree with me that the demands placed on CrossFitters’ feet are incredibly high. Those feet need as much support and protection as possible to give you a solid foundation for your lifts and interval training.
Below are the best CrossFit shoes for women in 2021. Not all are created equal and some are specifically designed for cross training, some are dedicated weightlifting shoes and some are suitable for mixing CrossFit and running.
With CrossFit’s meteoric rise in popularity, it was inevitable that commercial sponsors and partnerships would be on the horizon. Then, in 2011, Reebok signed a 10 year deal with CrossFit and we had the first Reebok CrossFit Games. Fortunately, all indications are that Reebok has truly adopted the CrossFit culture and their CrossFit branded lines are legit.
Reebok has developed a complete CF clothing line but I’m primarily concerned with their footwear. The shoe’s tenth iteration, Nano X , feels a decade in development. The Nano X strikes the perfect balance of cushioning and stability. It feels just as comfortable jumping on a box as hitting a clean PR.
This quick review will focus on Nano X. Reebok’s website has a promotional video with Rich Froning and Christmas Abbot. Both speak very highly of the shoe (of course they would, it’s a promotional video!) specifically mentioning how the shoe allows them to complete most WODs without having to change shoes.
The stability of previous versions of the Nano was a hallmark. Users complained that the Nano’s toeboxes were too small and that the shoe’s firm stability compromised comfort when performing non-weighted activities, especially cardio that involved long runs. This shoe solves these issues, but has a wider toebox, and an EVA midsole. This midsole offers softer cushioning for heel strikes and subtle upturns at the toe-and-heel, which allows for smoother running.
Amazingly, stability is not compromised by the raised support at the heel cup. The rubber sole rises halfway up to the body of the shoe, increasing lateral stability and ensuring that leg drive force goes straight to the ground instead of out to either side.
As you know, this shoe is Reebok’s tenth Nano iteration. With each one they’re taking feedback from CrossFitters, and building it into the shoe. It looks like a success at this point as the Reebok website lists an average user rating of 4.7 stars.
Overall, as the 4.7 stars would indicate, folks love their Nano X. What specifically do they mention? Comfort, durability, flexibilty, and stability are all on the list. Bottom line, you can run, jump rope, box jump, burpee, and lift in these shoes. That being said, be aware that these shoes have only a 4mm drop from heel to forefoot. So, if you’re accustomed to cushy running shoes with a large drop, these may be too drastic of a change. Also, if you are still working on developing flexibility, especially in your ankles, and if you’re still working on developing proper lifting form, you may want to try something with a little more drop, like the Inov-8s discussed below.
When it comes to Crossfit shoes, the Inov-8 Fastlift is highly respected as one of the best on the market. This shoe is able to deliver everything you need in footwear for Crossfit. It is a minimalist sneaker which is lightweight, flexible, supportive and durable. If you are just starting out with Crossfit, it is a good transitional trainer to get. A lot of people are used to wearing traditional athletic shoes that have a ton of cushioning and arch support. This is a minimalist sneaker which has very little of those features.
The design of this shoe makes it ideal for pose running; but take note, it is not the best distance runner available. It is still a pretty good all-around WOD shoe. You should have no problem doing your WOD in these sneakers.
A cool feature of the Inov-8 line is their “Arrow” ranking systems. Each arrow represents 3mm in drop. Their highest drop (in the F-LITE line) is 6mm (2 arrows). As you improve your natural running form you can gradually decrease to their 3mm and zero-drop offerings. Also, it took me a while to make the connection, but the number in the model name refers to the shoe weight in grams. So, if you’re looking for a lighter shoe, look for a lower number.
These shoes were created for women’s CrossFit training and powerlifting. The women’s CrossFit shoes come in three attractive colors, as well as a variety of sizes and a classy design. These shoes have a 67% “fit as expected” rating, which is good news for online shoppers. The sneakers have a durable, imported rubber sole that provides excellent grip and support for CrossFit and other intense training sessions. META-FLEX technology allows for freedom of movement. These shoes have a hook strap that provides grip and lock support.
I like this shoes because it provides that extra 2mm drop over the Nano. That doesn’t necessarily make it a better shoe. But, it does make it a better option for those just beginning to develop their natural running form or who need the extra drop to assist with challenging lifts. Finally, if you have a wider foot, go with the Inov-8 Womens F-lite 260 Knit. It’s manufactured on a wider last, giving your more room in the forefoot.
Puma, a well-known brand in athletics, is known for its stylish shoes and apparel. Puma, a German company, has been producing products for over 30 years with great success. Although they don’t specialize in running shoes Puma does offer a wide selection of high quality athletic shoes. One such model is the Puma Tazon 6 FM.
Puma Tazon6 FM’s outsole is made from a standard rubber compound. Functionally, this rubber compound is quite similar to other rubber compounds in that it provides good gripping and durability. Although it is not particularly good in these areas, it does a decent job overall.
In the middle of the outsole, there is also thermoplastic urethane. This plastic-like material provides additional support and protection underneath the feet. The outsole’s heel also contains EVA foam. This provides cushioning and some springiness. The outsole is strong and diverse, with many different materials. It is more versatile than other shoe outsoles that may only have rubber compounds. The solid TPU shank protects the sole unit. For additional shock absorption in your rearfoot, the trainer features an EVA heel pod.
If we had to choose just one, the Nike Metcon 2 would definitely be the Crossfit shoe we would recommend: it’s never a bad choice, no matter what the model! Since its release, it has been considered by many crossfitters as the most versatile shoe, the one that is the most effective in adapting to the different types of movements in WODs. And Nike has also managed to never release a lesser model than another: from the Metcon 1 to the Metcon 4, they are both light and strong shoes, and they also have the ability to support the foot while stabilizing it in an ideal way for all heavy movements.
In detail, the Nike Metcon stands out thanks to its textured mesh that combines strength, lightness and breathability. The Flywire cables that surround the foot and are integrated into the laces ensure a secure and solid fit. Stability is provided by a flat rubber outsole, which offers both the necessary grip and the feel of being close to the ground to ensure explosive relaxation. And inside the shoe, the midsole is designed to be firm in the heel but soft in the forefoot: stability when landing jumps and cushioning when running are both assured!
Read also: How You Can Combine CrossFit With Olympic Weightlifting
What Qualifies as a CrossFit Shoe?
There’s really no such thing as a “CrossFit Shoe”. Yes, I know, Reebok makes a pretty popular shoe specifically for CrossFit called the CrossFit Nano (they’ve since come out with the Nano 2.0, Nano 3.0, Nano 4.0 and Nano Speed). But really, barring frigid temperatures and unforgiving terrain, you could CrossFit in your bare feet. I think CrossFit founders would say there’s no such thing as a CrossFit shoe. The whole CrossFit ethos dictates that you’re ready to do anything, anywhere, regardless of equipment and conditions.
There’s really no definition for what qualifies as a CrossFit shoe. So, I’m going to give you my own personal criteria for what qualifies a pair of kicks as being CF-worthy:
- Running. To be CF-worthy, running shoes must be designed in such a way that they assist the CrossFit endorsed POSE running method. This likely means the shoes will be considered transitional or minimalist and that they will have less drop than their traditional, heavily cushioned counterparts.
- Weightlifting. To be CF-worthy, weightlifting shoes (for both powerlifting and Olympic lifting) must provide athletes with a firm heel (which minimizes dangerous and performance sapping compression), and adequate stability. Serious lifters can’t afford to lift in shoes that allow valuable energy to dissipate through spongy running shoes or to run the risk of rolling an ankle. Whether or not they include a tall heel is up to the user. Athletes with the right build and adequate flexibility may only require a low to moderate heel. Others, may require conventional Oly shoes, which can have a heel that’s one inch or taller.
- All-Purpose. To be CF-worthy all-purpose trainers must allow the athlete to successfully and safely perform 80% of your standard WODs. This would exclude the rare WODs focused on endurance running or those which are Oly-centric. Such shoes would allow for comfortable running, rope climbing, box jumps, burpees, etc. They would also provide the stability and foundation for all but the heaviest lifting. Options in this category could be as humble as the classic Chuck Taylor or as advanced and flashy as the latest Nike Metcon 6 or Nanos.
How To Find a Pair of Kicks That Meets Your Needs
Okay, so I’m going to assume that you’re bright enough to realize that there’s (pardon the stupid pun) no, “one size fits all” shoe out there. Die hard barefoot advocates might try to convince you that your best option is no shoes at all. But I have a hard time accepting that notion. Some folks have wide feet, some narrow. Some have short, others long. Some have arches that make you think of St. Louis. Others have feet that are flat as a two-by-four.
Your feet are like a snowflake (what?), they are unique. So there’s no one best choice. There are simply too many individual variables that must be taken into consideration. So, how do you find a pair that meets your needs? Your answers to the questions below can help guide you…
Are you a a beginner?
If you are it’s very likely that:
- your feet are out of shape due to to overly cushioned shoes that inhibit your natural bio-mechanics,
- you’re probably a heal striker (when you run), and
- you’re probably not as flexible as you think.
That being the case, don’t run out a buy the latest pair of minimalist, zero-drop shoes. If you do, you’re just asking for an injury. Instead, pick up a pair of shoes that has some cushioning and a drop in the 6mm+/- range. You also want to look for a trainer (a.k.a, all-purpose) pair of shoes. These should get you through everything from moderate running, jump roping, burpees, box jumps, rope climbs, wall-balls, kettle-bell swings, and thrusters to your powerlifting and olympic lifting.
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CrossFit is very demanding on both your body and your shoes. Climbing ropes, sprints, burpee jumps and crate jumps are very stressful on your shoes. You need a shoe that is strong enough to withstand this abuse. The outer material should have an element of grip. Stay away from shoes with shiny, slippery plastic uppers.
Lateral support adds to the overall stability of your foot and legs when you are engaged in any dynamic movement. Lateral sprints and panting, for example, exert a lot of lateral force on your foot. It is imperative that the shoes you choose can provide your feet with as much lateral stability as possible.
Width of the toe box
To ensure that a Crossfit shoe is going to be comfortable to wear, it is important to check that it has been designed wide enough to accommodate the foot, especially in the toe box. The toe box is the front part of the shoe, and generally the wider the better! In order to send out effective impulses, the toes need room to spread out, so they should not be too tight. This is a criterion to check because, as we have seen, some brands offer shoes that are sometimes a little narrow!
Light and breathable upper
The upper is simply the top of the shoe. And if it is necessary to be interested in it, it is because the materials used for its manufacture must present several assets. They must allow the shoe to be solid and resistant without cracking after a few WODs, they must let the foot breathe and they must not be too heavy. Generally, TPU and mesh are considered the two most effective materials. It is also important to know that a reinforced upper on the sides can also provide a better support for the foot while fighting abrasion better!
Do you have limited ankle mobility or range of motion?
If you’re performing low bar squats with proper form your heels should remain firmly planted on the ground. While doing so you shouldn’t experience any ankle pain or discomfort. If you do, this could be a sign that you have a weak link that needs to be addressed. This could also be a sign that you need a pair of shoes with a higher heel (a bigger drop). By reducing the acute angle between the top of your foot and your shin, a higher heel takes pressure off you ankle joint and also allows you to keep your trunk in an more up-right position, improving your posture for key lifts.
Are your feet particularly wide or narrow?
You’ll want to take this into consideration. Certain brands, like Inov8, tend to run a bit narrow, so they may be better for you. Bottom line, you’ll want to remember this as you’re ordering your shoes. If your feet are too cramped, you’ll be miserable. And, if you’re slipping around in shoes that are too wide, your lifts will suffer and you’ll be at risk for injury.
Do you intend to be the next CrossFit Games champion?
Well, you very well may need one or more pairs of shoes to help you with your powerlifting and olympic lifting. Powerlifters tend to gravitate toward flat-soled shoes for the deadlift (something like the Chuck Taylor or the Risto Deadlift). Olympic lifters tend to gravitate toward a shoes with a high, in-compressible heel. Both powerlifters and oly lifters are looking for a shoes that provides stability, control, and a firm foundation.