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Find The Best Shoes To PR Your CrossFit WODs

[Updated June 6, 2014]

I started CrossFit back in May 2013, so at the time of writing this article, I’ve been doing CrossFit for over a year. One day, I overheard one of the guys at my box (the term CrossFitters use for gym) rave that he PRed (setting a personal record) his Clean & Jerk by 15 pounds.

He mentioned to me that he noticed this sudden improvement after buying a new pair of Nike Romaleos weightlifting shoes. Since he felt more balance and ankle support, he was able to jerk a heavier weight over his head with more confidence and ease.

When I heard this, I started researching the best CrossFit shoes out there. I felt like I plateaued with my workouts. I thought buying the right pair of shoes would help me lift heavier weights with better form.

After extensive research and talking to other CrossFitters about what they thought about their shoes, I thought I’d share my findings here in this review. Hopefully this information will help you in finding the right pair of shoes that will help you achieve your CrossFit goals.

ImageShoesFits Wide or Narrow FeetPricingRating

Reebok CrossFit Nano 3.0 (Mens)Wide$$$$4.4 out of 5

Reebok Crossfit Nano 3.0 (Womens)
Wide$$$$4.8 out of 5

Inov-8 F-Lite 240Narrow$$$$4.4 out of 5

Inov-8 F-Lite 230Narrow$$$$4.5 out of 5

Reebok Mens CrossFit Nano 2.0 (Mens)
Wide$$$4.4 out of 5

Reebok Crossfit Nano 2.0 (Womens)
Wide$$$4.3 out of 5

Importance of Calf and Ankle Mobility

Before I provide a review on the best CrossFit shoes available, I want to stress the importance of having good ankle and calf mobility. Without it, buying a new pair of shoes won’t help much with your performance, so you should focus on improving your mobility even after you buy your shoes.

With tight ankles, you change the mechanics of how you do your squats, which could weaken you and make you more injury prone. In other words, tight ankles cause bad squats, so you end up using more of your quads than your glutes. This is what makes you weaker and injury prone.

Tight ankles are usually caused when your calves are tight or if you had old ankle injuries. Your calf muscles work very hard to keep you walking and help your body stay upright. When you don’t take good care of your calf muscles through regular massaging, stretching and foam rolling, they get very tight. So your calves are working very hard, giving you a limited range of motion. Tight calves contribute to tight ankles.

So how do you increase your ankle mobility? Watch the video below.

So here’s what you can do to increase both your calf and ankle mobility:

  • Use a foam roll from the back of your knee and all the way down to your heels. Make sure you use the foam roll on your Achilles.
  • Warm up your calves before each work out.
  • Use ankle mobility drills

Factors to consider

Here are the five factors to consider when choosing your CrossFit shoes.

Fit & comfort

You’ll want shoes that fit you well, so you can feel secure enough to do your tough WODs (Workout of the day). Pay attention to the width of your shoes. I have wide feet, so I always check to see if the shoes aren’t narrow and that they can stretch a bit for my wide feet. I made the mistake of buying running shoes that were too narrow, so it was so uncomfortable the first few weeks trying to break them in.

With the right fit, your shoes should naturally feel comfortable while doing the WODs. The best CrossFit shoes not only keep you steady and secure, but they also feel comfortable. You don’t want your feet to hurt while you’re in the middle of your Fran WOD. You’ll struggle to complete it with aching feet. It’s tough enough doing 21-15-9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups.

Weight

CrossFit requires a wide variety of movements like running and jumping, so you don’t want to get a pair of heavy shoes. Lightweight shoes are the best for your workout. Make sure they’re also breathable so that your feet stay cool.

Durability

WODs are intense, and your shoes will obviously get a lot of wear and tear. They won’t last long if they’re not durable.

Performance

During your WOD, you’ll be performing multiple functions with a high degree of intensity, such as running, jumping, lifting, squatting and crawling. Your shoes should help you optimize your performance during these gruelling workouts, such as maintaining a steady balance and being grounded.

Heel to Toe Drop

To perform well, you’ll want a “neutral” or close to zero drop from heel to toe. The larger the drop, the less stable you are on your foot, ankles and knees. This makes it difficult to do the WODs, which require a wide range of motion.

Olympic Weightlifting vs Minimalist Shoes

There are two types of shoes you’ll see people wearing at your CrossFit box: Olympic weightlifting and minimalist shoes.

Olympic weightlifting shoes

Sometimes referred to as “Oly’s”, these Olympic weightlifting shoes are great for squats, snatches and any overhead type of exercises. The sole has very little cushion, which is basically made of rubber and foam. These shoes have a higher heel, which is designed to keep your foot at a slight angle. This angle at the back helps get your weight at the back of your shoe, allowing you to drive your weight through your heels.

When you have more weight on your heels, you’ll have better technique since you’ll be using your glutes a lot more, rather than your quad muscles. These shoes also help if you have trouble with ankle mobility, since they’ll help you work on issues related to your ankles’ range of motion.

However, weightlifting shoes have little flex in the front, so it’s not useful for workouts such as a box step ups and running.

If your primary focus is to lift weights while you’re at the box and you don’t plan on doing the WODs, these weightlifting shoes may be a better option. I cover Olympic weightlifting shoes in more detail in another article.

Minimalist shoes

These shoes are lightweight, flexible and have a zero angle. Minimalist shoes are basically flat, and it almost feels like you’re barefoot. They’re great for box step ups and sprints.

Since there’s no angle to the sole, you’ll get your center of gravity on the ground, which is great for deadlifts and other mobility exercises.

Minimalist shoes also minimize the cushion between your foot and the ground, which helps distribute the weight better. They provide good support for side to side rotation of the ankle. However, since the sides are very thin, they don’t provide a lot of stability.

If your primary focus is doing the WODs, these minimalist shoes are a much better option compared to the Olympic weightlifting shoes.

Rating the Best CrossFit Shoes

After extensive research of forums and product reviews, here are the five best CrossFit shoes available. I’ve included both the pros and cons of each shoe so that you can decide for yourself the type of shoes are best for you.

Rebook CrossFit Nano 3.0

Best CrossFit Shoes: Reebok CrossFit Nano 3.0These are the shoes that I personally own, and I absolutely love them. Since buying them, I consistently PR my squats, cleans, snatches and deadlifts.

The Reebok CrossFit Nano 3.0 is the newest CrossFit shoes introduced by Reebok, and it is considered their most versatile training shoe ever created. The Nano 3.0 provides the perfect combination of forefoot cushioning and heel stabilization.

The Nano 3.0 also offers flexibility and protection to the outer shoe, so it’s great for rope climbing.

Pros:

  • The protective cover mesh is durable and supportive, yet flexible and comfortable enough for your feet to move.
  • They have a base that is almost as firm as the Oly’s, but a lot more comfortable.
  • It’s perfect for helping you balance when weightlifting. Users on forums also raved at how the shoes helped improve their performance on box jumps, squats, cleans and overhead squats.
  • It’s versatile enough for WODs that combine weightlifting and running so you don’t need to switch between minimalist shoes and Oly’s in the middle of your workout.
  • The base of the shoe is sturdy enough to keep you grounded for overhead lifting.
  • The shoes are comfortable enough for people with wide feet.

Cons:

  • The sole composition is a little bit too hard.
  • It’s a bit more expensive and not as comfortable as the Nano 2.0.
  • The laces are long. Some users fear that their shoelace will get untied and that they’ll step on it while trying to get off the box.
  • It has very little support in the mid-sole.

buy CrossFit Nano 3.0

Inov-8 F-Lite 240

Inov-8 F-Lite 240The F-Lite 240 is ideal for workouts that involve both weightlifting and running/cardio. It’s reinforced medial and lateral sections increase protection for climbing ropes. It’s sole provides enough grip and stability for running and exercising.

Pros:

  • They are great all-around shoes, which is perfect for any WOD.
  • It’s extremely light and comfortable.
  • It provides excellent support for lifting, and sturdy enough for running
  • There’s no need to break the shoe in – they were comfortable from day one.
  • The shoes have rubber in the right places, which makes it easy to maintain your grip during rope climbs.

Cons:

  • It has a very tight fit, so it might not be good for people with wide feet.
  • It’s sometimes uncomfortable to run in these shoes.
  • It does not offer much arch support.
  • Some users complained it’s not as durable if you’re using it multiple times a week for CrossFit.

buy Inov-8 F-Lite 240

Inov-8 Bare XF 210

Inov-8 Bare XF 210With no midsole, the Bare XF 210 offers authentic barefoot feel. The shoe offers a zero “heel to toe” drop, and the 3mm rubber outsole offers stability for both weightlifting and running.

Pros:

  • It’s super light, which is helpful when doing box jumps, rope climbs, burpees and jump rope.
  • The shoes fit great and are comfortable.
  • Has wide platform for Olympic lifts
  • It helps you develop proper running form, since you achieve a great connection with the ground with a zero heel to toe drop.

Cons:

  • It doesn’t have a strong grip, which might not be suitable for slippery surfaces.
  • Some users with flat feet mentioned it caused some back and knee issues.
  • It doesn’t provide arch support.

buy Inov-8 Bare XF 210

Inov-8 F-Lite 230

Invov-8 F-Lite 230The F-Lite 230 is known for its durability and simplistic design, and it has a 6mm drop from heel to toe (the standard drop is between 12-15 mm). The shoes are great for CrossFit WODs that are longer in time.

Pros:

  • The shoes are very light, comfortable and breathable.
  • The shoe is very durable, and it holds up for a very long time.
  • The heels fit tight, and the shoes never slide.

Cons:

  • The biggest complaint is that the shoes are too narrow, so it’s not comfortable for people with wide feet.

buy Inov-8 F-Lite 230

Reebok CrossFit Nano 2.0

Reebok CrossFit Nano 2.0The CrossFit Nano 2.0 has an upper designed for lateral support. Its low platform provides the optimal balance of cushioning and stability so you can move quick, yet stay safe and comfortable even during your most gruelling WODs.

Pros:

  • They are stable enough to provide a flat base for lifting.
  • They are flexible enough for jumping, sprinting, and agility.
  • It fits great and very comfortable right out of the box.
  • When you jump, it grabs the ground real good so you don’t slip. Perfect for box jumps.
  • The shoes are slightly wide, so it’s great for people with wide feet.

Cons:

  • Not as stable as Olympic lifting shoes, but it’s the next best thing.
  • Some users complained it doesn’t provide good support.

buy Reebok CrossFit Nano 2.0

I hope this gives you a good idea on what type of shoes are best for you to use in CrossFit. Make sure to evaluate your CrossFit shoes by checking out its fit, comfort, weight, durability, performance and drop.

If you plan to do serious weightlifting, you may want to consider buying Olympic weightlifting shoes. Many serious CrossFitters say that minimalist shoes are great for overall performance in your WODs, especially if you’re at the beginner and intermediate level.

Why did I rank the Reebok CrossFit Nano 3.0 as my top choice? The Nano 3.0 and Innov-8 F-Lite 240 were quite similar in terms of durability, style, heel to toe drop, weight, and performance. However, I have wide feet, so Nano 3.0 shoes fit me better and are more comfortable compared to the Innov-8 F-Lite 240.

Regardless of whatever shoes you purchase, always remember to focus on increasing your calf and ankle mobility. The best CrossFit shoes may boost your performance in the short term, but having great ankle mobility will help with your lifting form. You’ll go deeper on your squats, have stronger balance, and prevent yourself from being injured.

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your CrossFit workouts. Rather than comparing yourself to other people in your box, focus on consistent improvement in your WODs. It’s such a great feeling when you finish a gruelling WOD, and find out you PRed your workout with both heavier weights and faster time.

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