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If you’re struggling with your CrossFit workouts, you might want to think about ditching your beat up old running sneakers for a better pair of kicks designed for the rough and tumble life in the box.
This switch-up is especially important if you’ve been rocking the same shoes for your WODs that you wear out on a long jog. Many running shoe models have what’s called a “drop,” which means the heel is raised, putting it at a level higher than your toes (the difference between heel height and toe height varies between models and brands). A fat heel can be great for cushioning your foot during a run—but not so awesome when you’re pressing a barbell over your head and planting your heels squarely on the ground.
Shoes that are designed specifically for weightlifting and CrossFit keep that drop to a minimum, preventing you from pitching forward onto your toes during Olympic lifts. Generally speaking, you want a heel-to-toe drop of 4 millimeters or less (there are some exceptions, as you’ll see in the selections below).
You’ll also want to pay attention to the base of the shoe, the sole. A CrossFit shoe’s sole should be flexible yet firm, according to San Francisco CrossFit’s Christopher Wong. “A firmer sole allows better transfer of energy and stability when squatting, cleaning, deadlifting, and snatching,” he told Mens Health, adding that the “soft, squishy soles in running shoes will mute an athlete’s power” and create an unstable surface.
CrossFit sneakers should also have plenty of room up front. A wide toe box helps you spread your toes and distribute your weight while maintaining proper knee and hip alignment, according to Wong. Your new kicks shouldn’t weigh a lot, either, or that 100-box-jump WOD will magnify every extra gram.
Durability should also be a focus, even more than in rugged road running shoes. Extra material on the inner arch helps protect the upper (and your skin) from shredding during abrasive movements like rope climbs. That’s also why you don’t only want a pair of platform weightlifting shoes for all your WODs—you’ll never get off the ground.
Here are 12 of the best footwear options for your next CrossFit session. If you wear these to the box, your feet will be well-positioned to smash your PRs and look great while you’re doing it.
Nike’s latest version of its reliable training shoe wowed us when it was released earlier this year. The fifth iteration ratchets up the stability, grip, durability, and cushioning, and includes a removable Hyperlift insert for squats and other movements that will make it a favorite for weightlifters.
The latest iteration of the ever popular Nano, the 9 was built to fulfill the needs of the CrossFit community. The Flexweave upper was redesigned for comfort and movement, while the cushioned midsole is friendlier to the sprints and short runs you might find in your WODs.
These high performance trainers from Under Armour uses the brand’s responsive Hovr foam. That tech is meant to provide energy return for more explosive burpees, box jumps, and more.
If you’re sick of the low profile designs offered by other CrossFit shoes, opt for the high top version of No Bull’s respected trainers. This low-drop shoe features an upper made of SuperFabric, a durable, abrasion-resistant yet breathable material that gives these kicks a distinctive look (a look that works well outside the box, too).
Nike’s Metcon line has long been a favorite in CrossFit boxes everywhere—but the Swoosh stepped up the game by mashing up its stable, sturdy design principles with the more flexible and light Free line, which is focused on running. The result is a versatile trainer that’s just as good for your set of thrusters as it is for sprints.
Tactical outfitter Lalo worked with one of our favorite strength coaches, Bobby Maximus, to produce this beast of a trainer. While the shoes are strong enough to take on any weightlifting challenge and versatile enough so run well, be careful when you hit the rope for climbing exercises.
Inov-8’s third version 235, which the brand claims to have been widely recognized as the best shoe in the box when it dropped in 2014, uses many of the same principles as its progenitor. The V3 is its own beast, though, with a new 4mm toe-to-heel drop (updated from zero for better lifting sessions) and other features that make it a “supernatural functional” trainer. The shoe isn’t just stuck to the ground—extra grippy Rope-tec soles will come in handy during rope climbs.
These bouncy shoes from Adidas are built with the explosive athlete in mind, someone who wants to jump from one station to the next without missing a step. Weightlifting, running, and jumping will be particularly well-suited for these kicks.
This updated colorway of the fan-favorite fourth edition of the Nano line is simple utility at its finest. A low 4mm drop, forefront and heel shock absorption, and a super-tough outsole for rope climbs make it a top-performer.
New Balance’s trainers are meant to fill the space between barefoot training and the brand’s super-cushioned runners. Padding in the engineered knit upper gives way to a Vibram sole, which aims to handle your toughest workouts.
Under Armour has made some great trainers in the past, but the company really upped it’s game for this low-profile shoe aimed at the box. The lockdown keeps the foot in place, while the grippy sole keeps helps to keep your balance during tricky lifts.
These multipurpose trainers from Lane Eight aren’t necessarily designed for the box—but they can perform just about everywhere, with a utilitarian design with an eye toward high fashion. Put them to the test in your more general WODs, and you might like how they feel.
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