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Short on time? Here’s the moral of the story from the details below:
- No, you do not need to buy special shoes for CrossFit, especially when you are starting out
- A “CrossFit” shoe has two characteristics
- Little to no heel to toe drop (the heel is not much higher than the toe box)
- A solid sole with little squish to increase stability during movement
- Any shoe you feel comfortable being active in will work for you
A basic running shoe or cross trainer will absolutely work for you so do not stress. Just get in here!
Now, for those who might be interested in a little shoe history.
THE HISTORY OF CROSSFIT SHOES (MY RECOLLECTION)
When CrossFit was created way way back at the start of the new millennium there is one thing I am certain nobody knew: CrossFit would lead to millions and millions of dollars in shoe sales.
Since the beginning CrossFit has revitalized a brand (Reebok), launched a worldwide brand (No Bull), and been so attractive, the biggest brand in the world (Nike) invested a ton of resources to get their piece of the pie.
You could spend months digging through memes just about CrossFit shoe addiction. NoBull literally sold the exact same shoe for nearly a decade before offering different styles. All they did was change the color and people would buy again, and again, and again.
In the beginning, there was the (New Balance) Minimus. And the Minimus was good. Created at the beginning of the barefoot movement (remember foot gloves aka Vibrams?) to help get closer to being barefoot without losing all foot protection, New Balance unintentionally created the ideal CrossFit shoe (at the time).
The Minnimus is basically a structured sock with a flat rubber sole protecting the bottom of your foot. This allowed for an athlete to move through a full range of motion without compromise or assistance. The squat you performed wearing them was the same squat you would perform being barefoot. You were fully connected with the ground thus increasing stability and allowing for you to be more confident as you continued to practice.
But New Balance did not attach itself to the CrossFit movement. It was a happy accident that the functional fitness community was adopting the barefoot/trail running communities’ shoe.
In 2010, Reebok looked to take advantage of this opportunity by partnering directly with CrossFit through a one of a kind brand sponsorship. The Reebok Nano was the first actual CrossFit shoe. Still made today, the Nano capitalized on the First Mover Advantage during the start of the CrossFit hype cycle that would build from 2011 to around 2014.
Reebok itself had been struggling. Popular in the 90s, and tied most commonly to tennis, Reebok did not really have a modern shoe that anyone was interested in. Their choice to partner with CrossFit positioned them to be the favorite of all of those people who were so proud to be a part of the CrossFit movement (real cult vibes in the 2010s).
FAUX INSIDER INFORMATION: In a past life I ran a shoe department at Academy Sports and Outdoors through 2010. At that time Nike was publicly stating it was not interested in catering to the functional fitness movement and that there was simply not an interest. Something about it all being a fad. They began to change their tune in 2011 but had they taken the place of Reebok, who was a struggling company compared to Nike’s tremendous continued success, the shoe game would be very different.
Nike finally made the move into CrossFit with their MetCon in 2015. Late to the party, they had a strong 3-4 year run of being the most popular shoe. Basically Nike realized they already had shoe molds for their indoor soccer shoes, and an indoor soccer shoe shares many of the same characteristics of a functional fitness shoe, so they began to pump them out.
The Nike MetCon definitely took the title of most popular choice for a while. The Nano still stayed in the game, but Nike seemed to be the top choice.
That is until a little, allegedly community based, NoBull arrived on the scene.
The third and final member of the CrossFit shoe party was sold to the community as something one of the leaders, Ben Bergeron, had a hand in starting (questionable). They had a simple shoe with a flat sole, a basic shell, and wide enough toe box.
Founded in 2015 by two guys who formerly worked at Reebok, NoBull’s rise helped limit the impact Nike could made as a late mover with deep deep pockets. And their success is really impressive. Today they not only are the title sponsor of the CrossFit Games, which is admittedly less of a big deal than it was when Reebok had it’s name blasted on ESPN in the early 2010s, but NoBull now sponsors events in the NFL including the Combine.
All three of these companies still manufacture shoes aimed at the CrossFit community. The Nano, the MetCon, and the NoBull trainer still see new releases each year.
WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE
As for which is best, it is entirely about personal taste. I’d love to help more here, but I am happy with whatever pair of shoes happen to be on my feet. Currently that’s a pair of OnCloud Running shoes that I am currently wearing until they fall a part with the very occasional NoBull running shoe popping in from time to time.
You will, however, meet people that swear by one brand or one style. Older models of the Nanos and MetCons can often be found in shoe stores if you’d like to try them on. NoBull is online only.
And there are plenty of shoe choices outside of these three styles. Even within the brands there are cheaper but equally useful shoes.
Plus companies like OnCloud Running have made their presence known in the fitness space even though the company is not designing specifically for CrossFit.
What is your favorite shoe for working out? Let us know. Your opinion helps others.
And did I leave anything out?
Let me know what you think!