CrossFit Gear Essentials: General Training Shoes

CrossFit Shoesby Janice Marie Ferguson

When I first started CrossFit, there was no such thing as “CrossFit Gear.” I showed up to the gym in my Nike Tempo shorts, ratty cotton t-shirt, regular old running shoes (or Chuck Taylors for deadlift day) and ready to workout.

Today is a much different story. My gym bag can’t even hold all the gear I have. There’s at least four pairs of shoes (all with different purposes, and that’s not counting my running and obstacle racing shoes), two different kinds of wrist wraps, three different kinds of knee sleeves, Rock Tape Rock Guards, two different jump ropes, Goat Tape (in three different colors), Natural Grips, two weight belts, and the kitchen sink. Not really. But, you get the point.

Today’s CrossFitter is bombarded with too many products to carry. It can be overwhelming to figure out exactly what you need to simply work out. Who would have thought that being fit requires so much stuff?? (insert sarcasm)

If you’ve been trying to figure out what you should get at the start of your journey, look no further. I’m about to help you figure all of this out–even if you’re a baller CrossFitter on a budget.

The #1 piece of equipment you want to invest in is a good pair of general purpose training shoes. These shoes are typically flat and have very little cushioning. These features give you better stability and protect you from potentially rolling your ankles when squatting or working with weighted barbells or kettlebells, but also allow you to run and jump fairly comfortably, too.

There are several models and brands you can choose from, and it is certainly a very personal choice as to which type of shoe you choose. Unfortunately, the Mississippi Gulf Coast does not have a bulging CrossFit population, so you may not have a lot of opportunity to try any of these shoes on in any local businesses before you purchase them. So, buying your CrossFit shoes through places like Amazon or Zappos, with free shipping and returns, may be a good solution.

Here’s some of the top brands and models of this kind of shoe:

Reebok Nano
: About $129.99 for the latest version, the Nano 7.
Reebok started making the Nano in 2011, when they released the Nano 1. The shoes have seen quite a few changes in the past few years. You can often find deals on the older models. And unfortunately, each one of the models fits differently, and feels different on your feet. If you’re local, we have a Reebok Outlet, in Gulfport’s Prime Outlets, and they often have 50% off deals on earlier models. Warning: Just to reiterate, nearly ALL of the Nano models fit differently. So, if you find a Nano 1 to try on, don’t expect to buy the Nano 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 online and expect to get the same feel out the shoe. Of all the Nanos I’ve tried, I do find that they all fit true to my running shoe size. But, you will have to try them for yourself to see if that is true for you, and also to see which one feels more comfortable to you.

Pro Tip: If you’ve never had your foot sized and your running gait analyzed, I highly recommend you stop in a local running shoe store to have that done. For many years, I was running in the wrong shoe size because I didn’t want to admit that I had skis for feet, so I always bought my shoes too small. It took the good folks at my favorite local running store, Run-N-Tri, telling me how pitifully small my shoes were before I realized it. If you’re local, and you stop in, let them know I sent you! They treat everyone like family, and they are so knowledgeable. This is a MUST DO!!

Nike Metcon: About $170, for the latest version, the Metcon Fly Knit, or to personalize a Metcon 3, but the Metcon 3 is $130
Nike came to the CrossFit market just a few years ago with the Metcon 1. These shoes have seen very subtle changes over the years, and they all fit very similar in my experience. Just like the Nanos, you can find the earlier versions at discount prices at online retailers like Amazon, Eastbay, Zappos, Dick’s and even Academy. You may even find some to try on at Dick’s from time-to-time, but don’t count on it. I find they fit true to size as well. But, again, you will need to try them for yourself to see what feels best for you.

Pro Tip: You may have to try a couple different brands (or in the case of Reebok, different year models of Nanos) over the next few months before you find the shoe that you like the best. 

No Bull Trainer: About $129, for the latest version
No Bull is the newest shoe on the market targeted to CrossFitters. At the time of this post, there is only one version of their WOD shoe out, and it’s called the Trainer. Since they are relatively new, I haven’t heard much about them, and you definitely won’t find them in any store located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. But, Coach Li-Ping has a pair, so you could ask her for a review of them, and give them a try if you think you may like them.

Inov8 F-Lite or Inov8 “Cross Fitness Shoes:” varied price ranges $39-$140
The Inov8 F-Lite 195 and 230 models were around long before Reebok, Nike, and NoBull came into the picture. The different numbers on the models suggest their weight in ounces. Check out the link for some shoes that fit the bill of minimal cushion and flat. The company doesn’t seem to have the 195-230 models on their site, but you can find these models on sale all across the Internet. If the budget is a concern, this may be a good first shoe for you to try. Many early CrossFitters liked these shoes because of their minimal cushioning, despite the fact that they seemed to be designed for a running crowd. But the design of these shoes were a good fit for CrossFitters who were looking to get out of their overly cushioned running shoes. Too much cushion makes you feel imbalanced in squats and when you are working with weights. Again, check online retailers like 6pm, Amazon, Eastbay, Zappos, and more. A quick Google search will help you find prices as low as $39 on this brand of shoes and will give you a variety of models to choose from. Unfortunately, unless you live in a larger city, you probably won’t be able to try these on before you buy. But, I have owned several different models of Inov8 and they have all been true to my running shoe size.

Pro Tip: The only complaint I have with the F-Lite 195 and 230 is that they tear up really easily when rope climbing. Inov8 has come out with some shoes that are a lot tougher and meant to climb ropes now. But, if you aren’t planning on climbing a rope anytime soon, you could certainly invest in a pair of these F-Lites for $39-$50.

Something for the ladies to consider with many of these shoes is that if you’re having trouble finding a great sale on your size, you can often find a man’s shoe size at a great deal.

I hope this is a good start for you. Now, get out there and figure out what shoes work best for you. And, if you find any new ones that I haven’t included on my list, let me know. I’d love to go back and update this list.

PS: Stay tuned to the Bandit blog! I’ve got the next installment to your workout essentials ready to go: “CrossFit Gear Essentials: Weightlifting Shoes.


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