Meet the lovechildren of lifters and running shoes.
Step into a CrossFit box for the first time and, admittedly, you may feel mind-boggled by all the new movements, workout formats, and terms. Even what you should wear on your feet can seem overwhelming.
Since CrossFit combines movements from a variety of other sports, such as gymnastics, rowing, running, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting, by definition, a CrossFit trainer is a shoe that is versatile enough to support you throughout a wide variety of exercises, according to Khan Porter, seven-time CrossFit Games Athlete. “It’s a shoe that can support your feet when you run, jump, lift, as well as hold up during movements like rope climbs,” he explains.
Fact is, the best CrossFit sneakers are essentially the lovechild of lifting shoes and running shoes. They offer the stability of a lifter and the flexibility and cushion of a running shoe. Typically, they also include a variety of other features, such as a (slightly) lifted heel for squats, grippy outsole and arch for rope-climbs, reinforced toe bed for toes-to-bar, and heel-glide for handstand push-ups. As a whole, this unique combination keeps you safe when you move laterally, stable when you lift big, comfortable when you run far, and protected when you climb, swing, press, and pull.
So, what are the best shoes for CrossFit? Here’s our list, with input from CrossFit coaches (like myself), and even three CrossFit Games athletes (neat!).
Reebok may be as ubiquitous in the CrossFit space as Kleenex is in the tissue space. Reebok, after all, was the title sponsor of The CrossFit Games from its inception in 2011 all the way until 2020. So it should come as no surprise that the brand is responsible for the shoe we’re awarding gold: The Reebok Nano X3.
This sneaker is a do-it-all CrossFit shoe that can be worn while you run, jump, lift, and pull (to name just a few of the movements it’s suitable for). This versatility is thanks to its revolutionary midsole technology—coined the Lift and Run Chassis system—that makes the heel rigid enough for lift, but soft enough for plyometrics.
“I’m fit, but I’m lazy in that I don’t like having to wear different shoes for different things,” says CrossFit Games athlete and coach Christian Harris, founder of MFLH (Move Fast Lift Heavy) training gym. That’s why he likes to wear a shoe like the Nano X3 which can do everything in and out of the gym, “no matter what the workout is,” he says.
2022 CrossFit Games rookie and Underdogs athlete Alex Gazan also swears by the Reebok Nano X3. “Not only do they look really awesome, but they’re the best shoe at providing all-round support for anything and everything we get thrown at in CrossFit,” she says.
Sizes available: 5.0–12.0
Heel-to-toe drop: 7mm
Weight: 12 ounces
- Lift and Run Chassis System in midsole offers versatility
- Design provides stability and support
- Heel comes up higher than other trainers
- Requires some break-in time
Beloved swimsuit brand TYR entered the CrossFit space with a cannonball-sized splash: In 2021, the brand dove in with sports sunglasses and athleticwear (for land sports). But during the 2022 CrossFit Games, the brand provided many athletes with the trainers they wore during the 13 events at the Games: The TYR CXT-1 Trainer. (The shoe that both the men’s silver and bronze medalists wore).
So what makes the shoe worthy of a podium finisher? Its versatility, according to Porter. “The TYR CXT-1 Trainer is the most versatile CrossFit shoe I’ve trained in to date—I don’t worry about finding it hard to do a movement in them.” Despite the fact that different CrossFit exercises generally benefit from different degrees of stability and cushion, he can squat, snatch, run, box jump, toe-to-bar, and more in them.
“Thanks to the stability platform and wrap-around side gripper around the heel, they’re stable enough to wear when I lift weights,” he says. “Meanwhile, the wide toe box allows proper foot mechanics when lifting, running, and all other movements where the feet are in contact with the ground.”
The one downside of these trainers is that they are not rope-proof. While the insole offers a hearty clamp when going up the rope, the friction of the rope against the shoe can ruin its integrity. (While these are my go-to trainers, I keep a pair of the Nano X3s in my gym locker to put on for rope climb workouts).
Sizes available: 6.0–15.5
Heel-to-toe drop: 9mm
Weight: Not Specified
- Reinforced toe bed (for toes-to-bar)
- Secure laces
- Equal parts stable and comfortable
- Can get worn down from rope climbs
The Nike Metcon 8s are as commonplace in the CrossFit box as metabolic conditioning workouts are in a CrossFit class—and for good reason.
“Nike is the GOAT and these CrossFit training shoes showcase that,” says Andrew Girard, MS, an assistant coach at Golden Goose CrossFit in Connecticut. At the midsole of the shoe is Nike React foam, which helps absorb some of the impact of plyometrics, as well as boost stability during mid-workout lifts. “The sturdy heel and rubber outsole also adds to the sense of stability when you lift, without adding weight or bulk to the shoe itself,” he says.
The front of the shoe is as CrossFit friendly as the back: The toe box is wide enough that you can (as you should!) splay your toes for increased stability while you lift. “The sole at the front is flexible enough that your foot can flex naturally during running and double-under workouts,” says Girard. Three cheers for versatility!
While many CrossFit athletes and coaches (like Girard) swear by this shoe for all types of CrossFit workouts, I personally find the Nike Metcon 8s to be a little heavier and stiffer than Reeboks or TYRs. While their stiffness is fab for squats, deadlifts, and cleans, my foot cramped up the one time I wore these during a timed 5K. In other words, they’re a CrossFit shoe, not a running shoe.
Sizes available: 5.0–12.0
Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm
Weight: 12.4 ounces
Variety of colorways available
Wide toe box for toe splay
Flexible toe sole allows for toe flexion
Grippy rubber at the arch supports rope climbs
Not the best for running
In the wonderful world of CrossFit, R.A.D shoes are as coveted and hard to come by as Taylor Swift tickets. Yes, really. A brand that has learned to manipulate the supply-and-demand model for monetary gains (and notoriety), R.A.D. releases a batch of shoes in one colorway, then does not restock that color once they sell out. And sell out they do… usually within minutes.
While this sense of exclusivity has certainly created buzz, it makes it insanely difficult to snag a pair if you have popular foot size. As a women’s size 7, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try them personally. But my coach Kyle Baughman, owner of Golden Goose CrossFit in Connecticut, has a less common shoe size (men’s size 12).
“R.A.Ds are the most comfortable CrossFit shoe I’ve worn by far,” he says. (Actually, thanks to their signature Swell Foam midsole, many reviewers report that they’re better-cushioned than the Nike Metcons). “Best, R.A.Ds have every feature a CrossFitter needs to train all movements, including side-grip for rope climbs, stable base for lifting, and padding for plyometrics and running,” he says.
Sizes available: 6.0–14.5
Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm
Weight: 12.5 ounces
Fit true to size
- Cushioned enough for runs
Stable enough for lifting
Sleek enough to wear socially
Side grips for rope climbs
Popular sizes sell out quickly
- Each colorway is released just once
Given that NoBull has sponsored the CrossFit Games since 2021, it should come as no surprise that Games athletes are often spotted on the competition floor (and social media) rocking NoBull’s signature CrossFit shoe.
But amongst regular ‘ole CrossFit-goers, the simple shoe is a more controversial subject. Some athletes love the no-nonsense silhouette of the shoe, adoring the way the no-frill frame functions while they, well, fitness functionally. Other athletes, however, wish the shoe had a few more bells and whistles.
Thanks to the sturdy flat sole, these sneaks will keep you stable while you pick things up and put them down. And the padded heel and collar provide a little extra padding while you run, jump, and burpee. However, the shoe doesn’t have some of the gymnastics accoutrements (like a rope-grip along the arch and reinforced toe bed for toes-to-bar) that competitive CrossFit athletes like.
So is the NoBull Trainer+ for you? If you’re new to CrossFit (and therefore not yet doing high-skill gymnastics movements) or generally prefer a simple shoe, it could be! This trainer is also a good option if you do CrossFit in addition to other training modalities like Orangetheory or Barry’s. After all, this shoe is fab on the rower or treadmill.
Actually, it’s this cross-sport usability—as well as durability—that allows me to accept its slightly higher price point. (It rings up at $169.)
Sizes available: 5.0–11.0
Heel-to-toe drop: 4mm
Weight: 9.1 ounces
- Simple frame
- Very durable
- Fits true to size
- No break-in time
- No rope-climb reinforcement
- No reinforced toe bed for toes-to-bar
- Doesn’t provide a ton of arch support
The TYR Women’s L-1 Lifters aren’t a CrossFit trainer, they’re a pair of lifters—a very good pair of lifters.
For the uninitiated: Lifters are especially sturdy shoes with a raised heel. A far cry from heels decorating Carrie Bradshaw’s dogs, lifting shoes feature a baby heel that typically measures in at 18 to 25mm. The point? To angle the ankle joint so that your body has greater access to a deeper squat without being held back by limited range of motion in the ankle.
Significantly heavier than the average CrossFit training shoe, a pair of lifters will impede performance during gymnastics and plyometric movements. But for functional fitness vets, lifters are a great thing to have to wear during lift-only sessions, Olympic lift clinics, and while one-rep maxing. (Bluntly, CrossFit beginners would be better served spending their coin on a nice jump rope or gymnastics grips).
Personally, I credit the TYR Women’s L-1 Lifters with helping me reach new heights (read: weights). The heel height allows me to stay perfectly upright when I squat snatch and front squat, despite having imperfect ankle mobility. This, combined with the overall weight of the shoe, makes me feel like I’m one with the ground, even when I’m going heavy-heavy. (At risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I can squat nearly 300 pounds, so that’s pretty darn heavy!).
Sizes available: 6.0–13.5
Heel-to-toe drop: 21mm
Weight: 19.05 ounces
- Generous 21mm heel drop is helpful for squats
- Hearty and stable
- Wide toe box allows for toe spread
- Heavier than other popular lifters
- Not a versatile shoe for all CrossFit events
- Midsole may be too wide (and therefore less stable) for people with narrow feet
Originally $200, currently on sale for $141
Failing to include the Nike Romaleos in a round-up of CrossFit trainers would be like failing to include Annie Thorisdottir on a list of most notable female CrossFit athletes. Much like CrossFit’s Golden Girl, Nike Romaleos have been beloved in the sport almost from the beginning. And despite the fact that there may be some fresh up-and-comers, nobody really does it better than the Nike Romaleos.
Designed for strength and stability during power and Olympic lifts, Nike Romaleos—currently in their fourth generation—are heavy enough to ground you and keep you sturdy. The shoe’s heft combined with its 20mm heel-to-toe drop makes them optimal for squats, snatches, cleans, and pulls.
Worth noting: Despite the fact that Nike shoes are typically on the narrow side, the toe box of these bad boys is much wider than the typical Nike trainer, or even previous Romaleos variations. This newfound width gives your toes plenty of room to wiggle around, and helps encourage you to ground through your entire foot while you lift.
Sizes available: 5.0–16.5
Heel-to-toe drop: 20mm
Weight: 20.01 ounces
- Generous heel-to-toe drop
- Arguably more stylish than other lifters
- Often sold-out on Nike website (though, available elsewhere)