Are Your Shoes Holding You Back?
I know the title of this post may seem a little out there but bear with me. I cringe every time an athlete walks into the weight room wearing their Adidas Ultraboosts, Nike Air-Max, or basically any other soft-soled or air-filled shoe. I know they’re comfortable and I'm usually wearing something like that myself while I'm coaching. However, they are not practical for training. There’s nothing worse than watching an athlete squat some serious weight and then you see their Air Max Bubble Shoes screaming and about to burst.
Shoes can have a huge impact on performance as well as injury risk. For training purposes, you generally want a shoe that has a flat, hard sole with good traction, provides a lot of support to the foot, fits snug but is breathable, and has a hard heel. By missing even one of these qualities, a pair of shoes can put you at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to training. It can also put you at higher risk for injury.
A good pair of training shoes can be a fantastic investment. I’ve had plenty of conversations with athletes about their shoe choices and I always offer my opinions, but I also understand that not everyone can go buy a new pair of shoes because their strength coach said they should. With that in mind I thought I would put together a list of shoes that are great options for strength and conditioning training. I will also provide some other choices for individuals who can’t afford to buy new shoes but would like to be better prepared.
This list is written in no particular order and each of these would be a great option. I will highlight the pros and cons of each one as some might be better choices for you personally based on your anatomy or specific wants.
It’s in the name. These shoes are designed with Crossfit in mind. This means they are a great choice for strength and conditioning training. They can handle heavy lifting, running, jumping, and change of direction drills. Not only this but they’re extremely comfortable. The Nanos have been known to be narrow in the toe box, but this iteration has widened the toe-box making it even more comfortable and providing a little bit more support for exercises like squats and deadlifts. The X’s are the newest model and have some other small upgrades, but you can still get the older version for a smaller price tag. At the time I’m writing this you can pick up a pair of Nano 7’s for $78.
Another shoe designed with Crossfit in mind, the Nike Metcons have been a fitness favorite since they were first released in 2015. The Metcon 5 has improved the toe-box width, just as the Nanos did. They also have inserts that can be added to give a larger heel lift. This is great if you’re lifting weights only. These shoes are very comfortable and offer great stability and support. A solid all-around shoe that can be used for any purpose. However, these are not the best shoes for running distances. They are much more of a weight room shoe. At the time I'm writing this you can also find the Metcon 4's for less than $100.
This is Under Armors attempt at a Crossfit shoe. They are very sturdy and comfortable. They are a great cross-trainer and you can really do anything in them. The heel is especially stable which is great for heavy lifting. The breathable design is nice and really makes a difference in comfort after wearing them for an extended period of time. They are more low-cut than the rest of the trainers, which might or might not appeal to you ascetically. The major concern for these is the width, they tend to run narrow. Along with the Nano's, these are the best options for running longer distances. They do run very narrow, so if you have wide feet you might want to look at other options.
The Adidas Crazypower line was designed for cross-training purposes. They have a really hard sole which is great for weightlifting. The sole is very flat though, which has some limitation compared to other shoes on this list. If you’re doing a lot of Olympic lifting or squats you might be interested in a shoe with a slightly raised heel. The toe-box is very wide and provides enough support to be comfortable but functional as well. These are not the best choice for running, but if your workouts are primarily in the weight room, these could be a great option. The price point is another major positive of this shoe as you can currently get them for under $75.
NoBull is a fairly new apparel company who focuses on shoes, specifically cross-trainers. They are very well respected in the Crossfit community and for good reason. Their shoes are made extremely well, have a clean look, and are quite functional. They can take a beating while providing ample support. Like many of the other shoes on this list they’re not great for distance running. They have a a solid sole, but still remain pretty light overall. They’re great for weight lifting as well as jumping/plyometric exercises. The other main downside here is the price point at $130.
There are certainly other options but, in my opinion, these are the best all-around training shoes on the market. The right choice will ultimately come down to your preference and needs. The type of program you're in can greatly dictate your shoe needs. A strength program with a heavy powerlifting emphasis will likely see more benefits from flat soled shoes. If, however, your training program involves a lot of sprinting and jumping mixed with weightlifting these same flat soled shoes would not be the best choice.
A single pair of shoes is not always ideal either, but by picking a nice well-rounded shoe you can put yourself in a great position to succeed. I have had athletes who bring multiple pairs of shoes to the weight room because they prefer to squat in one pair and do everything else in another. I’m completely ok with this and I admire them for understanding their body and needs enough to make this adjustment.
In a pinch, a good pair of basketball or tennis shoes are usually a good choice for training. They tend to be made well, provide enough support, and aren’t too squishy in the sole. They also are made for change of direction purposes so the toe-box tends to have a good feel for weightlifting exercises. They definitely have their downsides, but I’d much rather see someone wearing one of these options than a pair of bubble shoes. Not only are they a better choice, but they’re usually cheaper and last longer through training.
I know this post was a little different but I hope you enjoyed it. The key takeaway here is that the shoes you wear can make a huge difference on your performance as well as the risk of injury. If you did enjoy this post I encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media so you can stay up-to-date with all the information we post.