Imagine this, mid-WOD, trying to lock your feet correctly during a rope climb and you look down to see your running shoes slowly shred down the rope. Then you hop off the rope and head over to squat snatches, and your now shredded “marshmallow” shoes are wavering as if you were standing on thick pillows. Therefore, shoes you wear make a huge difference in CrossFit. The first contact you make with the ground is your feet, so why would you spend money on hand grips, knee sleeves, and gadgets, yet neglect the most important connection between you and overall balance/coordination; the contact between your feet and the floor.
In this article we will strictly cover the CrossFit specific trainer shoe, weightlifting shoes will be in a separate article.
Just as a field sport shoe requires a spiked bottom to dig into the field, a basketball shoe requires high-tops for ankle support, so does the CrossFit shoe for maximal efficiency in squats, jump ropes, rope climb, dead lifts, snatches, ect.
There are 5 main attributes when considering which of the numerous shoe brands there are that curtail to the specifics required for a fully functional CrossFit shoe that hits all the marks. The reason why you want a shoe that is the Jack-Of-All, is that you wouldn’t have time to switch from your running trainers, into your Olympic lifting shoes, and then into your Converse Chuck-Taylors for a WOD including running, cleans, and deadlifts, ect.
Most running shoes have a thicker, softer sole that are designed to absorb the shock of continually striking the ground with your foot while running. Unfortunately, this results in a lot of lost power and stability/balance when you use these same shoes to weightlift. The stiffer the sole, the more stability you have in your jumps and rope climbs, as well as more efficient power transfer from the ground during a lift. It would be increasingly difficult physically and with confidence to set a PR deadlift standing on thick fluffy pillows.
CrossFit requires you to master a variety of endless movements. Some movements that destroy typical trainers/tennis shoes are rope climbs, lateral moving, box jumping, and running. A solid and durable shoe will be able to move with you without breaking down quickly.
Typically, CrossFit shoes will have an increased toebox, or the space from the distal-end of your laces to the tip of your shoe where the toes would sit. This area is wider with more room for your toes and feet to move correctly, opposed to the narrower toebox from most other shoes. While lifting weight, the added pressure on your feet spread your feet out, increasing your stability cross your entire foot. Therefore, footwear that forces your feet into a narrow position makes it harder to lift correctly and safely.
Most common CrossFit shoes have a minimal (4mm) heel rise. Meaning the thickness difference between the sole near the toe and near the heel only changes a minimal amount. Running shoes are thought to have thicker heel to toe ratio, to propel you forwards (think falling forwards so you run faster). The problem with this is it makes it more difficult to evenly distribute your weight across your foot and maintain stability during wallballs. But, with a minimal heel rise, you can still squat but have enough of a heel rise to still comfortably run.
A lot of the CrossFit movements calls for a more flexible shoe. Such as jumping, running sprints, jump rope, agility drills, lateral movements, all destroys thick and inflexible shoes. Imagine doing all these movements in a stiff, leather dress shoe. Most ‘flexibility’ in CrossFit shoes comes from the material used on most of the shoe (top of shoe, or everything else besides sole and heel of shoe). This can also factor into breathability of the shoe, so you don’t finish a WOD with a swamp foot from sweating.
Some of the brands that make CrossFit specific shoes are as follows:
No Bull Trainer
Reebok CrossFit Nano
ASICS conviction X2
New Balance Minimus 40
Nike Free V6 (more akin for running, not as solid of sole as others)
It is suggested that you do your own research with each shoe, as each brand can be much different in shoe width, feel, weight, flexibility, sole hardness, ect. Also, some shoe brands may be a size smaller or larger than your typical running trainer, all of which is only assessed when trying on the shoe.
Also, be aware that a lot of shoes will be marketed as a ‘minimalist’ style shoe, or a ‘cross-trainer’ style shoe that will more than likely meet some of the previous requirements stated but will not have exactly all the attributes that can make a shoe labeled a CrossFit shoe.
“[Correct] Shoes are the only piece of personal equipment that you really need to own…. Unstable footing interferes with the reproducibility of the movement pattern, rendering virtually every squat a whole new experience and preventing the development of good technique.”
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