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If the Shoe Fits

Our grinder looks back at his evolution in training shoes as well as CrossFit’s changes and what the future could hold (shoewise) for the CrossFit Games.


When I first began CrossFit in 2010, there was no “official” shoe of fitness (gasp!). I don’t want this to turn into a “back in my day” tale, so just know that I am providing this information as a reference. Because there was no official shoe back then, people trained in anything from Nike Free to Converse Chuck Taylors, or if you were a serious CrossFit athlete, inov8.

At that time, the sport side of CrossFit was in its infancy. The CrossFit Games were still at the Ranch in Aromas, California, and each year, it built an individual website for the event. So the thought of a major shoe company catering to the CrossFit community was not really a consideration during those years.

The “five-toes” shoes really caught on in the early years. I had a pair. There — I said it. They were fine. The major complaint I had was that if the temperature dropped too much, then I basically couldn’t feel my toes. I think later a lot of wearers complained about foot, calf and ankle problems, and I really don’t see anyone wearing them anymore. The New Balance Minimus was one of the first of the new wave of shoe that featured more of a zero drop or real feel. This was a shoe that CrossFit athletes went out to buy and pre-order. The best thing about this shoe was that it was available at stores and running centers and we could put them on and try them out before training in them.

Inov8 was still the main shoe if you were serious about competing. But at more than $100 per pair, these were pricey and largely only available online, which meant a lengthy process to return them if they didn’t fit.

Then in 2010, Reebok and CrossFit signed a deal that would change everything. In addition to becoming the lead sponsor for the CrossFit Games, Reebok worked with CrossFit execs and CrossFit athletes to produce the first shoe designed specifically for CrossFit training and competing: the Nano. I never wore or owned the original Nano, but some people still swear by them. Others in the CrossFit world see them as the shoe that took CrossFit down the metaphoric “rabbit hole” in terms of mainstream selling out and catering to a company.

Every year following the Nano, Reebok and CrossFit have sat down together in between the Games and developed a new and improved shoe. The Nano 2.0 is considered by many (myself included) as the best CrossFit shoe that Reebok ever made. I review a lot of gear for my website, so I don’t buy much of my own stuff anymore, but the 2.0 is the only shoe that I have bought multiple pairs of with my own money.

Not every year has been an overwhelming success. Few people who I have come across enjoyed the Nano 3.0, known in some circles as “the tank” because of its heavy and bulky style. I wore, and really didn’t like, the Nano 4.0 — so much so that I ended up giving them away. The 5.0 was a good shoe for training in. I didn’t care for it in regards to running, but it was a great trainer, especially for CrossFit WODs that involved a combo of gymnastics movements and Olympic lifts.

Then, two years ago, Nike decided to dip its toe in the CrossFit waters. The legend goes that CrossFit officials had approached Nike and other brands when they first realized that they really had something in the CrossFit Games and were told, “Thanks but no thanks.” It would be years later before Nike would even entertain marketing or developing a shoe. Now Nike has produced the Metcon and Metcon 2. These shoes have been very popular because they are Nike and because they are in the category that some people seek out, which is the “not Reebok” category. Either way, the Metcon was used by just less than half the competitors at this year’s Regionals, and Nike sponsors some of the top CrossFit Games athletes. I like these shoes, and the changes Nike made between the Metcon and the Metcon 2 are subtle but well-done.

So what’s next? The Nano 6.0 comes out in July as well as a redesigned lifter and new less expense trainer called the TR. Nike has the Metcon 3 coming out at the end of 2016 or early 2017.

While other mainstays like inov8 and others are still hanging around, the shoe battle remains between Reebok and Nike. The other looming question is centered on the Reebok contract with CrossFit, which expires in about three years. Will CrossFit re-up with Reebok or look in another direction?

Only time will tell.

What are your favorite shoes to train in for CrossFit? Share your top five with us.

Stay on the grind.