Every CrossFit movement, or sports related movement for that matter, starts with our foundation and set up. Many of you have experienced the importance of this when setting up for an olympic movement such as the clean & jerk. Start with a bad set up and you are likely to miss the lift. If you have a correct set up and take off, the likelihood you are going to make the lift is much higher.
Our feet need to be in the correct platform in order to lift or move more efficiently. Many people who are new to CrossFit start out in the shoes they have been exercising in for years, their super comfy running shoes. Though I don’t have a no shoes no shirt, no service policy in place we need to be aware of the implications of wearing improper shoes during a CrossFit WOD. I hate to break it to you, but those super awesome and expensive running shoes you own are probably junk for CrossFit. Why you may ask? Running shoes have a very soft and heavily cushioned sole and heel. This can cause a multitude of problems when it comes to CrossFit. Performing olympic lifts in tennis shoes does not provide what we need most in a shoe, a hard and flat sole that doesn’t give much when we apply great amounts of force towards the ground in order to get the weight up. The soft and squishy sole of a running shoe has too much give and are very inconsistent when trying to use them in this application.
The other reason your traditional running shoes are horrible for CrossFit is the fact that they promote heel striking when running. I know, I know, you have been taught to heel strike when you run since you were in middle or high school. I hate to break it to you again, but it’s a horrible way to run. If you haven’t heard me talk about Pose running yet, you can catch up here. The other reason that your standard tennis shoes are bad for CrossFit is they have a high heel to toe drop ratio. You want to look for a shoe that has a minimal or zero heel to toe drop ratio. If you have never trained in these types of shoes, it is important to gradually work yourself into them as they require the use of muscles you probably didn’t think you even had. You body needs to acclimatize to the change.
So….What kind of shoes am I suppose to wear then jackass? Below is a list of shoes appropriate for CrossFit, their benefits and proper implementation for specific WODs in no particular order
- I have three pairs of these, yes 3. I am a total shoe nerd and absolutely love these shoes. When I bought my first pair of these I was extremely reluctant to purchase a pair of Reebok shoes based on my experience of their quality in the past. These shoes have been their saving grace for me when it comes to a CrossFit shoe. They have a very flat bottom sole with minimal heel to toe drop (If any at all….Reebok doesn’t list it in their specs.) They have enough flex in the forefoot to allow for movements such as box jumps, double unders, short runs etc. but have enough of a hard flat bottom to perform surprisingly well during olympic and powerlifting movements. These are your all around CrossFit shoe that can take you from an endurance based MetCon to a day of hard and heavy lifting without batting an eye. For those of you looking to buy one pair of shoes for all of your CrossFit needs, this would be a pretty good option. They run $119 for the original Nano’s and $109 for the Nano 2.0’s
- These shoes are the OG of general use CrossFit shoes. They are a UK based company with functional fitness and natural movement in mind. Just like above, these shoes are great for everyday CrossFit applications. They can be taken from the endurance arena and dropped into a day of deadlifting and come out the other side alive. The only negative feedback I have seen these shoes given is that they apparently disintegrate when used during rope climbs and they have a very narrow toe box. I think they are trying really hard to make their shoes more durable for the CrossFit community but they weren’t designed specifically for CrossFitters like the Reebok Nano’s. I have never used these shoes myself, but if you pop your head into anytown CrossFit, your bound to see several people sporting these bad boys.
- These shoes are the mac daddy when it comes to old school anything. They have a hard flat bottom sole, have a low profile and are cheap. They are fantastic for any in the box MetCon or heavy lifting day. I don’t however recommend these for longer runs or run biased MetCons with anything over 400-800 meters. Because of this, they loose a few points in my book. They are not as well rounded as the shoes mentioned above. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on shoes, I would rather you get something like this and keep your tennis shoes in your bag for run specific days if nothing else.
- wlshoes.com has a great write up on several olympic lifting shoes and the pro’s and con’s of each. Olympic shoes are not an essential piece of CrossFit equipment. They are expensive and specific to olympic lifting only….They really aren’t that great when it comes to powerlifting, but they are friggin amazing when it comes to the olympic lifts. They have a super hard sole with an elevated heel to put you in better position for the olympic lifts. They aren’t that great for deadlifts as the elevated heel puts you in an improper position for the lift. These shoes are very specific and cost a lot of money. I own a pair and absolutely love them ~ see shoe nerd above ~ but they are not necessary when it comes to everyday general use. Try running a 400 in these and let me know how it works out.
These are only a few examples of shoes that are appropriate for CrossFit and there are many more out there. The important thing to remember is that you need to find a minimalist shoe with a flat sole which has a low heel to toe drop ratio. Beyond that, it’s entirely up to you. Don’t think you have to go running out to the store to get some new shoes TODAY, but then next time you purchase a pair of shoes, take heed to what they will do for your CrossFit game
Stay strong and WOD on