Everything you need to pick the best crossfit shoes
Crossfit is an intense sport. Having the right crossfit shoes makes a world of difference. Read this article to learn about the benefits now.
One of the first questions you are likely to run into in your training is, "What do I need to look for in CrossFit shoes?"
The first thing you have to address in answering this question is what kind of exercise you'll be doing on your CrossFit regimen. CrossFit focuses on full-body fitness, and so uses a wide variety of exercises that will target different areas of the body.
So what do you need to look for when shopping for the best CrossFit shoes? Read on to find out, or jump straight to our ratings table!
Why Having CrossFit Shoes Is Important
If you're starting out, you may be asking, "Why do I need specific CrossFit shoes? Won't my usual running shoes do fine?"
Because CrossFit is focused so heavily on full-body training and diverse exercises, the demands it puts on shoes are unique. You need support for weightlifting, flexibility for running, sturdiness for gymnastics, and the shoes have to balance all three factors at once.
To be frank, no one pair of shoes can fit all the demands your CrossFit training will put on them. They will be better in some areas and weaker in others. Which compromises you make will depend on what type of training you plan to focus on.
Features to Focus On
When you're trying to pick the best CrossFit shoe for you, there are a few features you'll want to pay attention to. We'll talk later about which characteristics will be best suited to which workout styles. But no matter how you plan to structure your training regimen, the following characteristics are important.
Shoe Drop: The "drop" of a shoe is the difference in height from the heel to the toe of the shoe. High support running shoes tend to have a very high heel drop (about 8 mm). This is meant to help with moving the foot from heel to toe, an excellent thing for running.
By contrast, CrossFit shoes tend to have a 4 mm drop. If you're trying to keep the proper position for weightlifting, this is much better than a shoe that shifts you more off your heels. The lower drop helps distribute your weight more evenly across your foot, making it generally more suited to CrossFit training.
Hard Sole: Most running shoes tend to have more flexible soles to better facilitate movement through the entire foot. Weightlifting shoes usually have a firmer sole in order to better support you and keep you in proper position during lifts. You want your CrossFit shoes to ideally fall somewhere in the middle.
Having a harder sole will help you feel the floor solidly while weightlifting, something you definitely want. They will also help keep you more firmly in position during lifts. Make sure you also have enough flex in the sole to make running in the shoes a reasonable idea.
Durable Outer Shoe: CrossFit training is notoriously hard on shoes. The sheer amount of wear they get, combined with rigorous exercises, can break down a pair of shoes in a hurry. Since CrossFit shoes tend to run around $100-$150, you don't want to have to buy a new pair every six months.
When shopping for shoes, make sure to take a look at the outer part of the shoe. Exercises such as rope climbing can cause soles to start peeling away from the shoe, so make sure everything looks sturdy. You may also read specific product reviews to see how certain shoes hold up over time.
Lightweight: The demands of a CrossFit work output plenty of strain on your body without having bulky, heavy shoes dragging you down. You want to get a shoe that's going to be lightweight enough to not be a hindrance to you during training. Of course, this has to be balanced with support and durability; as in everything else CrossFit, it's a matter of trying to find the best balance for you.
Some people like to go to the extreme in terms of shoe weight - minimalist or "barefoot" shoes. You may have seen some of these shoes that have been described as "gloves for the feet." If you're looking for something that will most closely mimic natural foot posture and is extremely light, these may be the shoes for you; just keep in mind that what you gain in natural feel, you will sacrifice in stability and support.
Breathability: As you'll know if you've ever stuck a foot out from under the covers on a hot night, a lot of the body's heat is released through the feet. When you're working out and producing extra heat, the last thing you want, especially if you live in a warmer climate, is shoes that don't allow your feet to breathe. Just like all workout clothes, you want to make sure your shoes are well-equipped to keep you cool.
Mesh uppers are an excellent feature to address this problem. Some shoes also come equipped with special technology or extra "vents" to allow for better breathability. Keeping your feet cool will help make your workouts much better.
Lateral Support: It's hard to overstate how important support is in your CrossFit shoes. Both running and weightlifting aspects of CrossFit require excellent support and having the right support for your feet can make a huge difference in how you feel during your workout, allowing you to push harder and meet goals more effectively. Lateral support is a big factor to consider when looking at shoes.
During CrossFit workouts, torque is created from the hips, driving the knees out and shifting your weight to the outside of the foot. If your shoes don't have adequate lateral support, your feet can slide out over the edges of your shoes, increasing the risk of injury. Look for external "cages" or other forms of support on the outer sides of your shoes.
What's it best for?
Our Expert's Rating
All around top choice.
Women's only. Very lightweight and excellent all-around.
Good all around shoe. Excellent grip on the sole.
Nice barefoot feel and super lightweight.
Definitely geared toward lifting. Excellent stability and support.
Extremely lightweight, durable shoe with great shock absorption. Particularly good on long runs.
Little known brand making a solid all around shoe.
Nordic lifting makes some nice lifting shoes. This effort at a crossfit shoe comes up short.
What's Your Poison?
With so many factors to juggle in choosing CrossFit shoes, it's unreasonable to think that any single pair of Crossfit shoes could perfectly meet all expectations in all of the areas listed above. You're going to have to make some compromises when it comes to your shoes. The important question is which compromises to make.
Which features you hone in on will depend primarily on how you're training and what you're training for. Different exercise focuses will mean different priorities when it comes to shoes, as will different training goals. You want to keep your exercise intentions in mind when choosing shoes.
Weightlifting, Running, or Gymnastics?
Weightlifting: If weightlifting is going to be your primary CrossFit focus, you're going to want to go for shoes that focus on stability and durability rather than flexibility. You want to make sure that when you go to execute a lift, your shoes aren't going anywhere and will help keep you firmly in position. You also want to get shoes that can keep up as you add more and more weight to the bar.
It may sound counterintuitive, but you don't want shoes that have a lot of cushion for weightlifting. Running shoes are designed to absorb force, but in weightlifting, you want the force you exert to go directly to the floor, helping you push back against gravity and execute the lift. Having shoes that connect you more directly to the ground will help you get under the bar better and then push yourself up into position once you are under it.
Running: In many ways, the things you're looking for in a shoe if you're primarily focused on running are the complete opposite of what you'd look for in a shoe for weightlifting. For running, you want a shoe that has a lot of support and flexibility. Breathability is also going to be a very important factor.
At this point, you may be saying, "But I already have a perfectly good pair of running shoes. Why should I buy a separate pair of CrossFit shoes if I'm going to be looking for all the same things anyway?" Even if your regimen is primarily focused on running, CrossFit will still have you doing weight and gymnastics exercises, and you'll need extra stability and durability for those workouts.
Gymnastics: While weightlifting and running may be common exercises outside of CrossFit regimens, gymnastics workouts tend to be less common. This means it can be harder to know what to look for when choosing a shoe for a gymnastics-focused plan. The main factors you'll want to look for are lightness, durability, and support.
Whereas weightlifting-focused shoes can be a little heavier in pursuit of the needed stability, you want to make sure your shoes aren't a burden if you're climbing ropes or scaling walls. Gymnastics can also put stress on unexpected parts of your shoe. You want to make sure they have the durability and support to stand up to the test and help you do the same.
A note about rope climbing: This particular form of exercise can be particularly hard on shoes. Since rope climbing puts so much strain on the insides of your shoes in a way most exercises don't, it can cause the soles of the shoe to start peeling off relatively quickly. Especially on the descent, your shoes are going to take a beating, so if this is going to be a large part of your workout plan, be sure to choose shoes designed to stand up to it.
Some CrossFit shoes have a sole that extends up onto the side of the shoe. This is great not only for helping to grip ropes while you're climbing up them, but it also helps keep the Crossfit shoes from peeling apart. Read reviews, try on a few pairs of shoes, and make sure to take into account the primary type of exercise you'll be using your shoes for.
Competition or Training?
Competition: If your primary goal in CrossFit is to prepare for a competition, you may want to get a few pairs of specialized shoes rather than just one pair of more versatile shoes. For example, if you're wanting to enter a weightlifting competition, you won't want any extra force absorption in your shoes. That might be wonderful for the running portion of your training, but it will work against you in a competition.
Having different pairs of shoes will allow you to make fewer compromises on your shoes. This will help give you an edge in competition, and while it will be more money up front, it is likely to extend the life of each pair of shoes. There is something to be said for having the right shoe for the job.
Training: If you are doing CrossFit as general fitness training and your focus is to get your entire body stronger, you'll most likely want to go with one pair of shoes that can handle any type of exercise. If you want to have a different pair of shoes for each exercise, there is nothing wrong with that. But outside the demands of a competition, it isn't crucial.
Everyone's feet are different, and everyone's training regimen and goals are different. You'll still likely wind up with a shoe that is a little more suited for a certain exercise, but overall, you want your shoes to be able to work for your entire workout routine.
Try on several pairs, evaluate what your CrossFit training will most likely look like, and pick the shoe that is going to provide the best balance for your needs.
The Best Pair of Crossfit Shoes Depends on Your Goals
In the end, your decision about CrossFit shoes will be just as personal as your fitness journey. Talk to other CrossFitters about what has worked best for them; decide what your priorities for your shoes are; if possible, visit a store for an in-person fitting.
If you keep in mind everything listed above, you'll end up with a pair of shoes that will be great companions on the way to your fitness goals.
Looking for ways to make your shoes fit a little better? Check out these shoe fitting tips to make sure you get the most out of them.