CrossFit workouts demand footwear that can handle a formidable array of challenges. And sure, cross-training shoes usually work fine for your everyday WOD. But when your week-to-week workload is a hellacious hybrid of deadlifts and rope climbs, power cleans and box jumps, shuttle runs and handstand pushups, then you’re gonna want some kicks that will perform as tough as you do.
Scroll through the gallery for eight top picks.
All-Around: Reebok Nano 6.0
Head into any box, and you’re bound to see Nanos everywhere. Essentially the “unofficially official” CrossFit shoe—Reebok is the fitness phenomenon’s big sponsor—the new Nano 6.0 has myriad features designed to take whatever your WOD dishes out: a Kevlar upper for maximum durability, a rock-solid but responsive midsole, and a grippy outsole designed to increase stability during both dynamic movements and dynamic lifts.
One quirk: As with Rocky movies and Beethoven symphonies, people tend to like either the even-numbered Nanos or the odd-numbered Nanos. (Reebok has introduced new models each year since its sponsorship began in 2011.) “Personally, I like the even numbered Nanos, so I'm excited to get a pair of the 6.0 models,” says Keith “Panda” Wittenstein, a CrossFit trainer at Guerrilla Fitness CrossFit Morristown in New Jersey.
If you’re just starting out with CrossFit and you want a solid baseline shoe to wear to the box, then you can’t go wrong with the original Chucks. The gym-class icons shine in CrossFit settings that demand stability and a firm stance—like deadlift workouts, says Sean Collins, C.S.C.S., who wears them when he's teaching classes at Crow Hill CrossFit in Brooklyn. Plus, they’re durable, relatively cheap and available in myriad colors, so you’re sure to find some that will match with your go-to gym clothes.
The "other" CrossFit shoe is so popular, Reebok banned it from the CrossFit Games. Nike’s latest offering to the CrossFit crowds, the Metcon 2, is slightly more flexible and thinner in the heel than the beefy Nano, particularly in the forefoot. It's designed with several signature CrossFit moves in mind—namely rope climbs (there’s extra knurling, aka grippy material, in the arch) and handstand pushups (Nike introduced a “zero-friction heel” to make it easier for your feet to slide up and down the wall.)
“The Metcons seem to reign supreme,” says Collins. “They’re clearly designed for whatever comes your way.”
And for the style-conscious, there are far more colorways available (18) for the Metcon than for the new Nano 6.0, which only comes in four colors so far.
If you’re looking for more cushion and support than the Metcons or the Nanos offer, consider Inov-8’s F-Lite 250 cross-trainer. Known primarily for trail-running shoes, Inov-8 crammed the F-Lite 250 with every WOD-friendly feature a CrossFitter could want. The chunky sole is 40% denser in the heel than in the midfoot, making it plenty stable during big lifts but forgiving during explosive plyometric movements. Like weightlifting shoes, it offers a considerable 8mm heel rise for an advantage in Olympic lifts. The upper is also layered with 360-degree Rope-tec for extra friction on rope climbs.
Most CrossFitters get by just fine with a single pair of shoes. But if you want to really dig deep on powerlifts and Olympic lifts, you might want to spring for a pair of dedicated weightlifting kicks.
“During strength WODs that focus on powerlifting or Olympic lifting, you’ll want a stable shoe that helps you get into great depth positions,” Collins says. His recommendation: The Adidas Powerlift, which is engineered with a thick, elevated rubber sole, an extra-wide toebox, and over-lace strap.
“The heels on the Powerlifts aren’t quite as high as those on shoes designed for Olympic lifting, like the Adidas Adipowers or the Nike Romaleos, which means the Powerlifts enable you to better leverage your hamstrings,” Collins says.
Reebok’s challenger to the Powerlift is the CrossFit Lifter, which has a hefty, but light, polymer clip in the sole and a hook-and-loop strap to keep your feet secure as you whip through power cleans. It’s hardly limited to the weightlifting platform, though—the Lifter’s grooved, flexible forefoot is forgiving enough to carry you through jump-rope workouts or box jumps. That makes it a good choice for WODs that blend weightlifting and other moves, like Elizabeth (cleans and ring dips) and Fran (thrusters and pullups), although they're probably a little too unforgiving for sprinting.
Weightlifting purists might prefer the CrossFit Lifter Plus (shown above), which has a beefier polymer sole, dual hook-and-loop straps, and a stiffer Strobel board for maximum security at the same heel rise. Bottom line: “They’re super comfy,” says Wittenstein.
The Inov-8 235 was a popular CrossFit shoe even before Reebok came along, and for good reason: The 235 is brawny for a featherweight, flexible for a stability shoe, and stylish for a box-stomper. Its most notable feature is its zero-drop heel—meaning it’s perfectly level across the sole—which arguably makes it a true "minimalist" shoe. Plus, at only 8.5 oz., it’s anything but a clodhopper, although it packs plenty of rubber on the toe for burpee cushioning.
If you prefer a lightweight, zero-drop shoe for your workouts, then the Minimus is a great way to go. It’s the official shoe of the US National Rowing Team—so yeah, it’s ideal for long sessions on the rower—while its durable Vibram outsole and clever “burrito tongue” (not our phrase) make it a good choice for fast-paced, multifaceted workouts that blend calisthenics and running, like Jackie (rowing, thrusters, and pullups) and even Murph.