Footwear

Brian Articles

As a sport, CrossFit requires very little in the way of equipment. Most everyone owns workout clothes and shoes that can be used at the gym. We don’t really care what kind of clothes you wear, but we do think that your shoes can affect your ability to work out effectively. Start here with How We’re Wrecking Our Feet With Every Step We Take.

Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty about the movements that we perform at CrossFit. We do gymnastic body weight movements, we run, we row, we do barbell movements, or we do some combination thereof. Are there certain types of shoes that are better for some movements, but not others? Absolutely.

Have you ever seen a gymnast flipping around with big clunky boots on? I’m guessing, no. More often than not, gymnasts go barefoot because any extra weight on their feet makes flips and complex movements a whole lot harder. We aren’t elite gymnasts, but we do some gymnastic movements where balance is crucial. Your balance can be totally altered by what’s on your feet, so let’s work out in a shoe that is relatively light-weight.

When most people think of running shoes, they think of a light-weight shoe that cushions the heel and has arch support or some sort cushioning to help prevent pronation or supination. That’s all well and dandy, but you know from the article above that all that cushioning can be detrimental to your movement, right? The most natural way to walk or run is barefoot, that’s how our bodies are biomechanically designed. This is not to say we don’t need shoes at all, because we do. I certainly wouldn’t want to walk through a city or run a trail without shoes on. Your shoes are there to offer your feet protection from the elements and terrain, but that cushioning affects us as CrossFitters because we don’t just run and we need to get more out of our shoes. We do a lot of things in any given workout and we need footwear to encompass all these movements. Moving on…

Imagine setting up to deadlift: narrow stance, narrow grip, lumbar curve engaged. Now imagine setting up to lift on a hard platform versus a soft mattress. Which would you rather lift on and why? The unanimous response should be, “hard platform”. And the reason in some shape, way, or form should be because lifting on a bed is difficult! You can’t drive into the ground with your feet if the surface isn’t stable and hard. Now, relate that to the shoes you wear to CrossFit. How much power and energy do you lose when your feet sink into those cushiony running shoes that you love to wear? A lot. Especially when you are working at max loads. Furthermore, most running shoes tend to drive balance toward the balls of your feet due to the raised heel that is built into the shoe. Don’t we always say to drive through your heels? How can you do that if your shoes position your feet in such a way that you are out on your mid to forefoot? At the end of the day, we’re going to tell you to wear what is comfortable, but if you want to operate at maximum capacity while doing CrossFit, more often than not, running shoes aren’t going to cut it.

What do we know about good CrossFit shoes so far? We want our shoe to be light-weight, flat, and hard soled. The flat and hard sole helps us to maximize power output and drive through the floor. For Olympic style weightlifting or weightlifting of nearly any variety, weightlifting shoes are number one. They have super hard flat soles and help to maximize force output when we drive through the heels. They can be found on-line through a variety of sources, ask around at the gym and we can direct you to some websites that we like. A pair of these shoes will set you back around $100. A little expensive, we know, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you consider being stronger and hitting PR’s a worthwhile cause. These are for lifting days only. I wouldn’t run in them because A) it would ruin the shoe, and B) it would be horribly uncomfortable. For more information, read this article from Lon Kilgore and Mark Rippetoe.

A cheaper, but still effective substitute for weightlifting is the fantastic standby: Converse’s Chuck Taylors. These shoes are great for any CrossFit occasion and many CrossFitters swear by them. They have flat hard soles and they are light. Plus, there are lots of color options, you can buy a pair to match every outfit you own. Check plus!! (author commentary: I don’t actually endorse buying shoes to match your outfit at the gym) Personally, I don’t care for running in these shoes because it’s not comfortable, but some people love them. They more than adequately serve their purpose for weightlifting and if you can be comfortable running in them, more power to you. A pair of these bad boys will set you back a cool $40 at most retail outlets.

Continuing with the theme of shoes that are flat and hard and hopefully comfortable enough to run in, I’m partial to the Nike Free line of running/cross-training shoes. While not ideal for a strict weightlifting day, they can serve the purpose in a pinch. I find that they are a great shoe for the days when we have a mix of movements such as a chipper with running, gymnastic movements, and weightlifting. It’s an all-purpose shoe that is good for almost everything at the gym. Another shoe that falls into this category is the Vibram Five Finger. Wearing a pair of these out in public is sure to get you strange looks and stares. Most of you are familiar with toe socks, these shoes are essentially toe socks with a rubber sole. Before you totally discount this option, take a look at the bottom of your hiking shoes (if you own a pair), you’re probably going to find a little yellow emblem that says “Vibram” on it. All I’m getting at here is that these guys are legit. These shoes are good for running and weightlifting that doesn’t involve a lot of dynamic pounding on the ground (Olympic weightlifting).

By no means is this list all-inclusive. There are plenty of different types of shoes out there that will serve your purposes just fine. If I haven’t given you enough information, or you just have a craving for more because you’re an inquisitive individual, I would suggest you head over to CrossFit.com and take a look at the Message Board, specifically the section on Equipment (or if you’re lazy click this link). Take advantage of your community both at the gym and on the internet. You’ll find plenty of people with varying opinions to help you form your own.

At the end of the day, pick a shoe that is comfortable for you. But please, try to pick one that is functional!