What Are CrossFit Shoes? Why Proper CrossFit Shoes Are Key

What are CrossFit Shoes?

CrossFit is intense.

It is a whole new breed of workout goers and gym rats that want to workout at maximum intensity at maximum capacity for of course, you guessed it, maximum results.

Personally, I have only been doing CrossFit for about half a year, but I am starting to accustom myself to the level of fierceness that makes up the CrossFit industry and am even starting to like putting my body through extreme physical exertion and overcoming my limiting beliefs to trust that I can accomplish any task put in front of me.

Still not sure what CrossFit is?  This one minute video provides a glimpse into what CrossFit represents and attempts to accomplish.​

But that is likely not why you are here. Likely you are here because you are a new or now regular CrossFit attender and want to know what exactly are CrossFit shoes?  What separates a CrossFit shoe from that of any other shoe, like a running shoe or basketball shoe? Those are the questions that we are looking to answer today.

In this article we are going to break down why CrossFit shoes are important and what shoes for CrossFit must have and secondly, we will provide a few recommendations from our favorite CrossFit brands at the end of the article.  But first, let’s look at the anatomy of a CrossFit shoe.

What Is a CrossFit Shoe??? Breaking Down the Essential Elements

A good CrossFit shoe must be able to withstand the rigors of all different types of CrossFit movements. Some of the common movements include squats, deadlines, sprints, box jumps, and even scaling a long rope.  Basically, the movements to be a fit human being (ever see those athletes in the CrossFit games?  CrossFit is the ultimate workout.

A true CrossFit shoe can provide support during heavy lifts and jumps, but also have the versatility to not be a hindrance during runs or rope climbs. Thus CrossFit shoes are generally heavier and more protective than a running shoe. The sole of the shoe is normally broader than other shoes and usually more supportive and stable than that of a running shoe.

Best Nike Shoes For CrossFit, Best Nikes For CrossFit

Often times, CrossFit shoes have unique, cool features like the Reebok CrossFit Nano 5, which has the RopePro carbon rubber that helps provide traction and helps you get a good grip on rope climbs.

Or take for instance, the Nike Metcon 2 Synthetic Trainers that have a Flywire midsole technology that helps lock the foot into place and helps prevent blisters and ensures comfort.  And if you can accomplish those difficult, handstand pushups, the zero-drag heel helps ensure smoothness next to the wall.

So these are just a few of the reasons that CrossFit shoes are different than the norm.  Below we simplify further what separates a CrossFit shoe from the rest of crowd. Looking for our recommendations?  Either check out this in depth guide or head down to the bottom of this article for our top 3 CrossFit sneaker recommendations.

Main Difference Between a CrossFit Shoe and Running Shoe

First, it is important to point out that CrossFit is an offshoot of cross training and thus CrossFit shoes offer similar features to a cross training shoe. However, as you would expect, CrossFit shoes are more specialized to meet the demands of CrossFit workouts, or WODs (CrossFit workout of the day).

What Is A CrossFit Shoe?, Why CrossFit Shoes

Typically, a good CrossFit shoe would be more supportive and a little heavier than a running shoe. The lifts are heavy and the movements are quick and demanding. They must provide the proper support on the ankles to prevent injury and thus the minimalist running shoes really aren’t recommended here.

One of the biggest complaints people have with CrossFit is the injuries. But if the training is coached and the lifts are done correctly then you have a good chance of avoiding injury. But don’t expect to walk into any Box (CrossFit gym) with any old shoes.

Running and jogging is one long, continuous exercise while CrossFit involves lots of quick cuts and lateral movements.  Running shoes generally don’t have great traction as you are traveling in one linear path and must be lightweight to make the running smooth and effortless.

On the other hand, CrossFit involves lots of different movements in all different directions and some serious heavy lifting (especially on max days). You must have the support to withstand tall box jumps and comfort on all those double unders with the jump rope. Thus, the CrossFit shoes are generally heavier and more supportive and often times have unique features for things like rope climbs.

Both shoes must be durable to withstand the severities of continuous exercise, but if you are serious about CrossFit, we suggest you get serious about your shoes. Sure, you can you make it by with running shoes, but eventually the fluffiness of the running shoes might catch up to you.

What About Basketball Shoes?  Do They Work For CrossFit???​

Lastly, you might be thinking basketball shoes might be able to work for your CrossFit workouts. We generally recommend staying away from that assumption. The makeup of the shoe can be similar and the movements comparable with lots of sprints, running, and jumping. However, basketball shoes are generally bulkier and are often high-tops which restrict some movement in the ankles.  Quite frankly, they are just not that comfortable to workout in.

What Are CrossFit Shoes?

CrossFit shoes have a nice, flat sole which allows your foot to make even contact with the floor during heavy lifts.  How many basketball shoes do you know of that have flat soles?  Maybe the old school Converse shoes (see picture on the right), but those are the only ones I can think of.

​The main issue is basketball shoes are made to provide excellent cushion on high jumps which is great, but can often take away from the all important lifting components in CrossFit.  Generally, we recommend staying clear of basketball shoes as we believe they are often times overly cushiony at the heel.

Why Wear CrossFit Shoes? A Case to Buy Specialized Shoes

Why Wear CrossFit Shoes?

I once heard the analogy: have you ever tried lifting a barbell on a mattress?  Next time you are at home go stand on your mattress and see how comfortable it is to lift something heavy.  It's so difficult it might as well be a CrossFit WOD.  Likewise, we want a supportive shoe that doesn’t restrict us in running and is comfortable and stable enough to be used during lifting movements.

So, needless to say, we recommend you buying a CrossFit specific shoe when you are working out.

Makes sense right?  Can you make it by using running or basketball shoes during workouts at the box? Sure, I did it for a couple months, but I think you will be amazed at the improvement and enjoyment of the workout when you get the right shoes.  I, for one, will never go back.

Ready to make the jump and purchase your first pair of CrossFit shoes? Check out our concise recommendations below.

Top 3 CrossFit Shoe Recommendations

Nike Metcon 2 Synthetic Trainers

Nike Metcon 2 Cross Training Shoes

Nike has pulled out all the tricks on this excellent CrossFit sneaker. Arguably known as the worlds number one in athletic apparel, they have put together a superb combination of support and style.

It has all the features you could need in a CrossFit shoe. The Metcon 2 has the Flywire technology to help lock your foot into place and keep it from slipping. The support on the heel is outstanding and they feature a nice breathable, mesh exterior. Also, it should be noted, they are a little wider than the usual Nike shoes. If you like Nikes, you will have no problem finding your favorite look and style as there are over 20 to choose from!

Reebok CrossFit Nano 6.0 Cross-Trainer

Reebok CrossFit Nano 6.0

This is Reebok’s (Official sponsor of CrossFit) newest and greatest offering to date in the CrossFit industry. It has an excellent Kevlar infused upper to make the shoe more durable. The mesh exterior makes the shoes really nice and breathable and the shoe also has a nice anatomical shaped fit. They also feature a Ropepro+ textured grip on the inseam to help you scale a rope with ease.

Weightlifters and CrossFitters have found these shoes to be excellent for a variety of CrossFit activities and they excel in offering comfortable support during heavy lifting. The stability when squatting is second to none. If you like Reebok and want to go with CrossFits top brand, than we recommend you check these out!

Reebok CrossFit Nano 5

Reebok Men's CrossFit Nano 5

This shoe was truly made for the CrossFitter in mind (yes, it does have CrossFit written on it). These shoes are tough and durable and perfect for heavy lifting. The soles are a little harder than the Nike Free shoes and provide all the support you need when squatting or deadlifting.

We believe that these are the perfect all around gym shoe and is specifically designed with the CrossFitter in mind. Particularly, we liked the nice breathable exterior and RopePro Carbon to make scaling ropes effortless.

However, it is important to keep in mind if you are doing lots of running than this might not be the best shoe as it is on the heavier side due to the superior support and protection. But for regular CrossFit workouts, this is your shoe!

Summing It All Up - Picking The Right Shoes

We hope by this point, we have convinced you that the right CrossFit shoes are essential to a great workout.  CrossFit is an excellent workout because it offers such a great variety of lifting activities while mixing in sprinting and running. It is rare to find one workout the same as the week before.  

Think you can hang with the best?  Check out the “Murph” workout if you really want to test your fitness level.

CrossFit shoes are heavier, but more supportive and sturdier than your typical running shoes.  However, they are not as heavy and bulky as the traditional basketball shoe.  Protection and prevention from injury is key in CrossFit. When you have your foundation correct, your feet, then that translates to the rest of your body.

Lastly, CrossFit shoes are specifically designed for the Box and are made to support your feet long term.  Many times they offer the cool, fun features to make your workout a breeze. Let us know what wearing the right CrossFit shoes has done for you in your workouts.

Did I convince you that the proper CrossFit shoes are crucial to your success? Now that you are ready to take CrossFit more serious, we put together all the best CrossFit shoes on the market in this in depth GUIDE. This is the best resource factoring your price-point and footwear needs.  Lastly, for those dudes out there that just want to see the top shoes for guys, men check this out.  And for those ladies that want a guide to the best womens CrossFit shoes, check out this concise post.

About the author

Nate Alger

Nate is avid CrossFitter who loves pushing his body to the max in his attempt to look stronger. He loves toppling outrageous hiking adventures. Some of his most recent excursions include the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the Half Dome hike in Yosemite National Park.

Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: