Despite its intense reputation, CrossFit is a sport that’s accessible for people of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels. Get ready for the WOD with the best CrossFit shoes of 2021.
CrossFit athletes know no two days are alike. The sport asks a lot of you — and your shoes. With activities ranging from heavy deadlifts and Olympic weightlifting to gymnastics and distance running, it’s no surprise that finding the best CrossFit shoes can be a challenge.
We researched and tested a variety of shoes that are excellent for specific forms of functional fitness, as well as some that do well in every form that CrossFit can take. After much sweat, some blood, and maybe a few tears, we are proud to present our list of the best CrossFit shoes for 2021.
Feel free to go through all of our recommendations, or if you’re looking for a specific category, you can jump to it using this list:
Reebok, the first company to make a CrossFit-specific shoe, has had 10 years to refine its Nano line. And the shoe’s 10th iteration, the Nano X ($130), feels like a shoe a decade in the making. Striking the perfect balance between cushioning and stability, the Nano X feels as good jumping onto a box as it does hitting a clean PR.
Previous iterations of the Nano were known for their stability, but complaints among users were that the shoes’ toeboxes were too narrow and that the shoe’s firm stability sacrificed comfort during nonweighted movements, particularly cardio that entailed anything longer than short runs.
The X solves these problems, however, with a wider toebox and an EVA midsole that provides softer cushioning during heel strikes and a subtle upturn at the toe and the heel that allow for a smoother cadence during runs. Amazingly, this doesn’t sacrifice stability, thanks to the raised support on the heel cup — the rubber sole rises halfway up the body of the shoe, adding lateral stability and ensuring that the force from a leg drive goes straight to the floor, rather than out to either side.
- Best for: Athletes who want one shoe for every workout
- Drop: 4 mm
- Bonus: Extra cushioning on the tongue and around the ankle cuff gives the shoes a much more luxurious feel than most CrossFit shoes
Possibly the best-known CrossFit shoes on the market, the Metcon line took the world by storm with its wide toebox, soft cushioning in the heel, and impeccable styling — many athletes use their Metcons as everyday sneakers. As the years went by and Nike refined the Metcon based on athlete suggestions, the Metcon’s comfort and attention to CrossFit-specific detail has only grown over time.
One of the shoe’s most noticeable features is the rope guard — the outsole wraps up the sidewalls and instep of the upper, providing grip and protection on rope climbs, which are notorious for tearing up shoes’ sidewalls.
Another great detail is the hard plastic point on the end of each heel: an athlete’s heels slide up and down a wall during handstand pushups — heel rubber sticking to the wall adds resistance to an already difficult movement, and this plastic point all but eliminates that friction. Another case of the little things making a big difference.
While it feels great during a variety of different movements, the Metcon 6 ($130) shines the most during run WODs without sacrificing stability on lifts. Testers have reported feeling faster in the shoe (even if their times didn’t reflect it), thanks to the springy heel cushion and flexible forefoot giving excellent rebound and resulting in a smoother stride.
The Metcon also prevents overheating, thanks to the all-mesh upper, which keeps air flowing through and adds a softer feel during runs, as well as jumping movements like double unders and box jumps.
- Best for: Everything, with a slight bias toward running
- Drop: 4 mm
- Bonus: The collapsible heel on the FlyEase version allows you to slide into the shoe without untying it
Early on in CrossFit, there was a wave of athletes who wanted to lift as naturally as possible, so they worked with training shoes that had the least amount of material between their feet and the ground as possible. Remember those Vibram Five Finger toe shoes?
The trend has moved away from shoes with no cushion, but there is something to be said for having a good feel for the terrain beneath your feet. Luckily, you don’t have to wear foot gloves to achieve that feeling thanks to U.K.-based footwear company inov-8, whose Bare-XF 210 V2 ($110) is the latest iteration of its barefoot shoe.
The Bare-XF sports a completely flexible sole — we’ve rolled the shoe up like a cinnamon roll during testing — allowing your foot to move and flex naturally during movements. The tacky rubber outsole is grippy on boxes and lifting platforms, and is only 3mm thick, allowing the sole maximum flexibility and keeping your feet close to the ground. Testers noted that the shoe felt like wearing a sock, only with more protection.
Early versions of the shoe were notoriously fragile. We had a pair rip in half after a few months of use, but inov-8 has solved that problem with a more durable outsole and a flexible plastic cage covering the upper, which provides excellent protection from rope abrasion. Our current pair has been in rotation for months without any signs of wear.
- Best for: Athletes who want a lightweight, barefoot feel during workouts
- Drop: Zero
- Bonus: Each pair includes a 3mm cushioned insert for athletes who occasionally want a touch of cushioning
As comfortable as CrossFit shoes can be, it’s understandable that athletes want to use them for everyday wear. But, like many athletic shoes, some CrossFit shoes are built more toward function than form (notable exceptions are certain color schemes in Nike’s Metcon 6 and Nano 8 and the understated NOBULL line). However, New Balance’s Minimus Prevail ($120) perfectly rides the line between looks and performance.
Built on the wildly popular (if less durable) original Minimus line, the Minimus Prevail sports a grippy, durable Vibram outsole with a low tread that offers plenty of stability on lifts and lateral movements (so no slipping on bar-facing burpees). Paired with a thin midsole — it’s not as minimal as inov-8’s Bare-XF line, but it provides a good tactile feel of the ground underfoot and plenty of support.
The upper is made of a knit perforated mesh that’s infused with TPU fibers. It not only blends ventilation and durability, but it also gives the shoe more of an “everyday” look than most workout shoes. While the wraparound outsole adds traction and durability on rope climbs (though not as much as the current Nano and Metcon).
On to the form factor. The Black with White color scheme looks as good with jeans as it does with sweat shorts, and the gum sole provides a great contrast to the understated upper, making it likely that you’ll get more total hours in and out of the gym with these shoes than you will with any other on this list.
- Best for: Athletes who want a shoe that looks as good out of the gym as it feels in the gym
- Drop: 4 mm
- Bonus: At only 10 ounces, it’s one of the lightest all-around pairs of shoes that we tested for this buying guide
In a departure from the usual stripped-down design from other shoes on inov-8’s line, the F-Lite G 300’s ($150) CrossFit-specific build is apparent at first glance. The midsole extends up the sides of the shoes in a ridged pattern that extends into semi-rigid TPU guards that extend to the laces, providing outstanding grip and protection during workouts with rope climbs.
From there, the engineered upper on the forefoot allows air to move through the forefoot, while the ripstop covering the heel adds durability. With a 6mm heel-to-toe drop, it sits a bit higher than the standard shoe, which is great for running, but it can affect balance on CrossFit workouts that include overhead lifts like snatches or kettlebell swings.
Where the shoe really shines, though, is the sole — the graphene rubber outsole (used in tires and other industrial applications) provides the best grip of any shoes we’ve tried on every gym terrain. Traction was great from horse stall mats to wooden boxes and lifting platforms to asphalt and concrete during sprint and run WODs (graphene is also flame-retardant, but we haven’t found any workouts where this is applicable — yet).
Combine that with the sole profile, which expands outward as it goes from insole to outsole, and you have one of the most stable CrossFit shoes on the market. If you’re looking for a pair of CrossFit shoes that will make you feel as sure-footed as a mountain goat during your workout, the F-Lite G 300 is the choice for you.
- Best for: Workouts with jumping, running, or any situation where grip is essential
- Drop: 6 mm
- Bonus: The integrated tongue creates a sock-liner feel making the shoe comfortably snug; you could probably forgo the laces completely with these shoes
Best Shoe for Ankle Support: Reebok Nano X Unknown
One of CrossFit’s standards of fitness is to be prepared for anything and everything, also known as the hopper model. The implication is that you can pull any task from a hopper and you’ll be fit enough to perform it well.
This was made literal in the first CrossFit Games in 2007, when Dave Castro, the director of the Games at the time, created a workout by selecting random tasks out of an actual hopper (the tasks were a 1,000m row, pullup, and push jerks).
Inspired by this standard, Reebok developed this variation of its flagship Nano X shoe with the Nano X Unknown ($150), so named because athletes should be prepared for the unknown. Based on the same solid platform as the Nano X, but with a redesigned midheight upper for more ankle support.
Ideal for athletes with weak ankles, who are recovering from or managing a previous ankle injury, or who just want more lateral support, the higher ankle cuff and additional lacing add more support around the ankle without adding any bulk (or weight).
- Best for: Athletes who need extra lateral support
- Drop: 4 mm
- Bonus: The upper is so light that even with the extra coverage, the Unknown is 1 ounce lighter than the Nano X
NOBULL’s Trainer ($129) is pricey, but the shoes are so durable that you may never need to buy another pair. Firstly, the shoe features a one-piece upper, so there are fewer weak points in the shoe. That one piece is made of SuperFabric, made by applying a layer of protective guard plates to a fabric.
These guard plates are basically tiny pieces of hard plastic. The plastic acts as a shield over the fabric, making it resistant without sacrificing breathability or flexibility. This also gives the shoes a distinct dot pattern.
The low-profile lugs on the outsole provide both traction and a stable platform, while the firm midsole provides ample support during heavy lifts (though some athletes find them clunky on runs).
NOBULL takes pride in being an understated company. Its shoes are solid, stable, and durable, without any of the extra bells and whistles. They may not be flashy, but they’ll get the job done — and they’ll do it for years without showing any wear.
- Best for: Athletes who want a shoe that will survive years of abuse
- Drop: 4 mm
- Bonus: Understated styling makes them work as everyday shoes as well
Weightlifting shoes (aka “lifters”) are exactly what they sound like. They are great for movements like clean and jerks, snatches, and squats, but they offer zero shock absorption. This means that they aren’t ideal for much else, however. The unforgiving stiffness of the heel feels brutal if you try to run with them. It can also damage the heel’s integrity.
That said, weightlifting is a major part of CrossFit. You can lift with a regular shoe, but most athletes have a pair of lifters in their gym bags.
The AdiPower series holds a special place in the hearts of many lifters. For this iteration, Adidas has completely reworked the AdiPower weightlifting shoe with its AdiPower Weightlifting 2 shoe ($200).
The hard, ridged plastic heel has been replaced with a smoother sidewall made of non-compressive TPU (plastic). This prevents loss of power and provides plenty of support under heavy loads.
The most noticeable difference in performance with the AdiPower 2 is the upper. Adidas replaced the solid upper with a woven textile upper for more ventilation and breathability. It also gives a bit more sidewall stretch to let your foot expand under load.
- Best for: Olympic weightlifting, workouts that have heavy cleans and no running, like the King Kong WOD: 3 rounds of one deadlift (455 pounds), two muscle-ups, three cleans (250 pounds), and four handstand pushups.
- Drop: 20 mm
- Bonus: A Velcro strap over the midfoot locks down the laces and provides added midfoot stability.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose
Cushioning & Heel Drop
Cushioning and heel drop are two of the most important factors in choosing a shoe for CrossFit. It’s also the first thing you notice when you put on a pair.
As far as cushioning goes, there’s a delicate balance to maintain. Too little cushioning can be wildly painful during high-impact movements. Unless you’re used to barefoot shoes, these movements can give your feet a beating on long runs.
Too much cushioning, however, can lead to a loss of power and responsiveness, especially during weightlifting. Most CrossFit shoes strike a balance between cushion and support, with some leaning toward one end or the other.
Heel drop refers to how high the heel is off the ground versus how high the toe is. For CrossFit, 4 mm seems to be the sweet spot. It strikes the perfect balance between cushioning on runs and balance on lifts.
A rigid sole, particularly in the heel, is ideal for Olympic lifting. A soft sole’s cushioning will absorb the power that an athlete produces in her leg drive during explosive movements. Nike’s Romaleo or adidas’ AdiPower have hard plastic or non-compressive TPU sole material for explosive lifts.
This is one of the biggest differences between CrossFit Shoes and running shoes.
Wider toeboxes are a matter of preference. Athletes with wider feet will appreciate the way that a wider toebox allows the toes to splay out.
Athletes with narrow feet will feel like their feet aren’t getting any sidewall support. When you buy online, make sure the company has a good return policy. When they arrive, try them on immediately to make sure they’re a good fit.
Lateral support is especially important for athletes with previous ankle injuries or who tend to roll their ankles. Shoes utilize different designs to combat this.
Nike’s Metcon line and Reebok’s Nano line sport slightly wider outsoles for a wider base. And NOBULL’s mid-top shoe provides additional support for the ankle.
CrossFit is as hard on the shoes as it is on the athlete (maybe more so). We’ve seen every failure that a shoe can experience, from delaminating materials to a sole literally breaking in half.
By far the most common failure is a sidewall blowout. From lateral pressure on the sidewalls to abrasion from rope climbs, shoes’ sidewalls take a lot of abuse. Many shoemakers add TPU reinforcement on the sidewalls to shield the foot from these kinds of wear.
What Is the Best CrossFit Shoe?
The best CrossFit shoes for men and the best CrossFit shoes for women will vary by individual. The best cross trainer will be as versatile as the sport of CrossFit itself. The best shoes in the sport will allow you run, climb, jump, lift, and squat with relative ease.
Can You Run in CrossFit Shoes?
Yes, you can. The best CrossFit shoes are made to accommodate a variety of sports, including running.
How Are CrossFit Shoes Supposed to Fit?
CrossFit shoes should fit just like a regular shoe: snug enough to provide support without compressing on the foot.
Can You Wear CrossFit Shoes Every Day?
You absolutely can. Many athletes use some of the better-looking CrossFit shoes as their everyday walking-around shoes. We know athletes who would buy multiple pairs: one for the gym, and another pair for everyday use.
The Nike Metcon Line — What’s All the Hype About?
Nike and Reebok were early adopters of CrossFit with Nike’s Metcon Line and Reebok’s Nanos. Initially, Reebok skewed closer to the lifting side with its harder midsole. This worked well for lifting weights but was less comfortable during gymnastics- and run-heavy WODs. Nike made a big splash by erring on the run side being a running shoe with a softer midsole material.
CrossFitters loved this, as well as the wide toebox. Over the years, Nike and Reebok refined both of their lines, striking a better balance between running and lifting.
As CrossFit grew, Nanos and Metcons became more visible in the public eye as the CrossFit games became televised. Now the two brands are synonymous with the sport, with other brands carving their names out in the space.
Should I Wear Socks With My CrossFit Shoes?
Yes. We recommend taller socks, as this also protects your shins during bar moves like deadlifts and snatches. It’s also a nice extra layer during rope climbs.
How Often Should I Replace My CrossFit Shoes?
Normally, we’d suggest that you replace your shoes when they wear out or blow out. However, you should expect to get at least a few years out of each pair before they become unusable. And with new styles and designs coming out every year, you’ll be buying shoes before they do.
Have a favorite CrossFit shoe we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.