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Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in Crossfit, Lifting and Crossfit, Master, Music and Rants, Olympic Lifts, Product Reviews, Strength Training, WOD

The Best Weightlifting Shoe For Crossfit (Bonus Nano vs. Metcon)

The Best Weightlifting Shoe For Crossfit (Bonus Nano vs. Metcon)

I’m weird. So I’ve spent more than my fair share of time drudging through articles and reviews and comments of popular weightlifting shoes. After all, it’s $200 that’s an investment for a lot of people, you want to be sure to get the right one right?! (insert two right’s and something about a left joke here.) I’ve split the criteria for this review into some kind of strange criteria, so I wanted to explain them all, as this is a review specifically for Crossfit, not really for weightlifting or just to squat in, as those are different. I’ll touch on those at the very end. Also, it should be noted that I can only comment on my specific experiences with fit and feel and those to whom I’ve spoken to, but you’re a pretty snowflake with one of a kind feet, so if you can find a way to try some on, I would definitely do that above reading anything below. That being said, I’ve owned and worked out in every pair of shoes below, some of them I’ve even owned multiple pairs of.

The Criteria

  1. Construction
  2. This section will focus mainly on durability, quality of the materials, and longevity of the shoe.

  3. Fit, Feel and Function
  4. This one’s pretty self explanatory, how do they fit, how do they feel lifting, squatting, and in workouts.

  5. Considerations for Crossfit
  6. Again pretty self explanatory, what makes this shoe better or worse for Crossfit specifically.

(Quick note, the effective heel height for all but the Nano and Metcon and PowerLift is .75″ or ~19mm, the Nano is 3mm, the Metcon is 4mm, the PowerLift is ~15mm)

Nike Romaleos 2

IMG_2708
One of the two most popular weightlifting shoes among athletes, it’s easy to see why this one remains at the top of the pile.

Construction

These are by far the sturdiest of the bunch, they feel like squatting in cinderblocks. The heel is molded plastic which is common among most of the shoes listed, though some are rubberier than others. These definitely feel the most “weightlift-y.” The physics of transferring force from your foot to the ground in a simple form, is that the more efficient the material between you and the floor, the more energy gets transferred rather than absorbed or rebounded, thus harder materials generally win out over squishier ones. It’s the reason they used to make the heels out of wood, still preferred by a number of serious lifters in this country and others. The sole is rubber, and so far wears pretty nicely so long as you distribute force evenly. The majority of the shoe is synthetic leather, which breaks in nicely and wears well. The straps are my only real point of contention with construction, the lower strap is nice and something I actually miss in some of the other shoes listed, but the upper strap tends to be too long, and actually touches the ground and can be stepped on in the right conditions. It’s a small consideration but one worth noting, in the past I’ve taped them over on themselves to avoid this.

Fit, Feel and Function

As I’ve said, these are the sturdiest shoe I’ve used. They fit well through the toe and midfoot but are a little loose in the heel, I’ve noticed if I’m ever pulled forward I can feel my heel raise in the shoe. The angle and placement of the upper strap are part of the issue here, but movement faults can also be cited. If you move properly with weight where it should be, there’s no issue. The Romaleos come with a second set of firmer insole’s which I actually prefer quite a bit to the default ones they came with, I felt much more supported and solid in the shoe compared to the originals. While these are the sturdiest of the bunch, they’re also the heaviest, something I don’t personally really mind or notice as I don’t really move my feet much when I lift anyways… but I’ve talked to several people who prefer a lighter shoe to weightlift in and a heavier one to squat in. But the point of this is to pick one. Personally I don’t mind the weight but I’m probably not lifting at a level where the weight of my feet is something I even notice.

Considerations for Crossfit

The two area’s here that I would consider for Crossfit are the weight and feel of the shoe. This shoe is sturdy. Another way of reading that is firm, or slightly inflexible, in other words I wouldn’t really want to do much else in it. It was designed for one thing and does it well. Crossfit asks much more of a shoe than the Romaleos provides. Even a box jump feels laborious, rowing is uncomfortable, and 100 pullups with an extra 4 oz, is 25 lbs of extra work. Yeah if I were doing “Grace” or “Isabel” load em up, pretty much anything else and I’d likely reach for something else.

Reebok Lifter 2.0 Plus

IMG_2706
I bought these on sale, as a compromise, and they feel like a compromise. Comprises aren’t all bad, but you win and lose something by definition.

Construction

The heel of the Lifter 2.0 is probably the least solid of the 3 $150+ lifters I’ve tried, though all three are Thermoplastic Polyurethane. While all three should be identical, for some reason they feel softer, I’ll credit that to the insole and sole. The toe and upper is full grain leather and is probably the most flexible of all the weightlifting shoes. I like the double strap to secure the fit and these straps aren’t absurdly long. It’s really pretty much everything you’d expect from the top rung of shoes. They’ve worn in well and don’t seem to be breaking down at any common failure points.

Fit, Feel and Function

From the onset, I didn’t love the fit of these, the toe even on the Reebok website has a slight upturn, the shoe itself was pulling my toes off the floor. It’s a very odd feeling. The double strap closures are nice, and give a good secure fit that’s adjustable without taking the shoe off and retying. The U-form is a nice touch but I’m not certain it really added all that much to the overall feel. In all honesty not being able to really put my toes down made the rest of the considerations rather distracting. They were on the wider side, and I have decently flat feet, so they felt pretty stable in most of my squatting.

Considerations for Crossfit

The upturned toe makes these better for double unders, and rowing and things that require flexion. Similarly, they did a decent job during rope climbs. These strike a decent compromise between bulk and flexibility, but are still noticeably heavier than a regular shoe. I wouldn’t want to do any box jumps or running in these or any other weightlifting shoe.

Adidas AdiPower WeighLifting

IMG_2702
The follow up to the well known 2008 counterpart of the same name, these used to be my old favorite, I’ve even had a second pair of these a half size smaller. They strike a nice balance between function, style, and fit.

Construction

The heel is again TPU, though feels firmer than the Reebok but not as firm as the Nike. The upper is synthetic like the Nike and wears about as well. The strap has similar issues to the Nike, in one pair I even cut it. The inside of the shoe is more of a sock liner, with a neoprene like material on the tongue to hold your foot in place. It’s one of those things you’ll only notice if it’s missing. The sole is sufficiently grippy rubber.

Fit, Feel and Function

While the narrowest, these never once felt confining, the synthetic upper actually breaks in quite nicely, and widens out as you can see watching videos of some of the larger lifters who wear them. The TPU heel is much lighter than the Nike counterpart which accounts for it’s popularity. Though narrower, they didn’t feel significantly less stable, though I have a tendency to roll my left ankle in, and the narrower shoe didn’t help with that. The toe box also comes to a much more abrupt point that could at times be uncomfortable if tied too tightly.

Considerations for Crossfit

While on the lighter side these are easily sturdy enough for your heaviest days, and their lightness and flexibility make them suitable for rowing and even some small sets of double unders if you felt so inclined. I’ve done it, it’s not the best but it’ll do. I’ve also done box jumps in these, and again, not ideal but no where near the lead weights of the Nike. Still probably wouldn’t opt to do anything seriously aerobic in them unless there was also a significant weightlifting portion.

Adidas PowerLift Trainer

IMG_2704
Thus we transition out of the strict weightlifting category and into an intermediate, I’ve included for completeness and because they were in my closet. My first weightlifting shoe, what a time to be alive!

Construction

The Adidas PowerLift almost don’t belong here, I bought this pair in 2012 before the Adipower even existed and long before I knew what Crossfit was. For $90 they did the job. The heel of these are not TPU but instead EVA, Ethylene-vinyl Acetate, which is a super dense rubber but will eventually give with enough weight applied to it. Though I doubt most of us will reach those weights. The rest of the shoe is made out of common sneaker materials, synthetics and the like, they wore in fine but didn’t end up having that much give to them. They are well made like most of the Adidas and survived many years of squats and even some Olympic work in my youth.

Fit, Feel and Function

Obviously we’re now in a different class of shoe, it would be rude for me to compare apples to oranges directly. These fit more like regular shoes, though share the same narrow base as the Adipower’s above. The heel is also shallower than any of the 3 true weightlifting shoes which is a real concern for those of us without super human ankles. I never once felt uncomfortable squatting in them, and probably was never proficient enough at weightlifting to notice a shoe holding me back at the time I wore these regularly. That being said for the money, they strike a great balance between all three.

Considerations for Crossfit

Why I included these is because of Crossfit, I think these shoes succeed in a lot of the places the Reebok lifter fails. In skewing too far towards weightlifting, you sacrifice a lot in the way of everything else Crossfit demands, by staying closer to a sneaker than a weightlifting shoe, the PowerLift’s are more of a jack of all trades, and cheap enough to run through the mud in a WOD. Granted, jack of all trades and master of none, you won’t see anyone at the American Open in these, but if you’re doing reps for time, maybe thats all you need.

Reebok Nano 5.0

IMG_2712
Why’s a Nano in a comparison of weightlifting shoes?! Froning lifts in them, good enough for me. Truthfully I debated putting these and the Metcon’s in the lineup, but it’s worth considering if you’re only going to buy one shoe for Crossfit. Granted if you’re in the market for a second shoe to keep in the bag, I doubt two pairs of Nano’s are really as practical as a weightlifting shoe.

Construction

These are probably the best constructed iteration of the Nano yet in my opinion. They’ve learned a lot from previous iterations. The 3.0’s tend to rip around the toe’s as they put seems right there, and the 4.0’s in general just don’t fit that great, so far I’ve found the 5.0’s a nice marriage of the two. The upper is made of a kevlar infused mesh, which could just be fancy marketing, but I have yet to put a dent in them. The heel and midsole is actually EVA just like the PowerLift. The rest is sufficiently sneakery. I will also note the tongue is significantly changed over the previous iterations, I don’t know what it’s made of but it took the most getting used to.

Fit, Feel and Function

These are my favorite Nano, I say with no hesitation. I’ve had every Nano since the 2.0, and I found the 2.0 to 3.0 jump to be a big one, the 3.0 to 4.0 jump almost a step backwards, and the 4.0 to 5.0 jump to be an order of magnitude larger than any of the others. It’s strange how sturdy they feel as a regular sneaker, from heel to toe I found myself really comfortable in almost any position, the only exception so far being an extremely bent toe, like the back foot of a lunge. They have a rather roomy toe box as is common in most iterations save maybe the 4.0. Functionally if I could only pick one shoe to train in I think this would be it, something I would not have said about previous versions.

Considerations for Crossfit

This shoe came up with Crossfit, I think it’s entire existence is a consideration for Crossfit. What else is there to say?

Nike Metcon

IMG_2710
I’ve included the Metcon honestly from my own curiosity, I told myself whichever pair lost the Crossfit fight, would win the casual Saturday afternoon slot.

Construction

In my experience Nike’s build quality in non-weightlifting shoes has been sub-par, ever since I was little they just had that reputation in our house, but that’s just anecdotal. Just as with Reebok and the kevlar, Nike has it’s own versions of sneaker materials, flywire, hyperfuse, etc. The majority is what Nike calls hyperfuse, which is something plastic melted together with something else plastic to be light and durable, so far I haven’t ruined it yet. There’s a lot of breathable mesh, so I wouldn’t recommend any serious puddle stomping. The sole is sturdy and grippy, but also rubber, so should function about as well for heavy sets as the Nano. Durability wise the only flaw I’ve noticed is that white gets dirty faster than black and red, otherwise they’re holding together just fine.

Fit, Feel and Function

The toe box and shoe in general is quite large, not so much that it’s concerning, but enough that I noticed. The shoe feels bigger than the Nano. The laces and tongue are a bit nicer than the Nano, and as such you can get a better fit through the middle of the foot, though sometimes I’m feeling a little lost in the toe. The heels are about the same with the Nano cupping the foot maybe a bit better than the Metcon. In general these are very comfortable to wear around the gym, squatting, and even short runs. Functionally they’re okay for weightlifting, but the extra room can be a bit unnerving when trying to settle a load. They also share the slight toe upturn with the Reebok Lifter that bothered me so much, it’s much less pronounced but still a concern, I’m hoping I can wear them enough to get it out of there, or maybe I’ll just adapt. The Nike has a 4mm lift, though you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference, and still over a cm shy from a true lifting shoe.

Considerations for Crossfit

Again, this shoe was designed with high intensity exercise in mind, so they’ve covered a lot of bases. There’s a little less thought put into durability than the Nano and as such they feel a bit more fragile unfortunately. Not to say they are, but it’s in the back of my mind. In general nothing really concerns me about these as it pertains to Crossfit specifically.

Conclusions

That was quite the wall of text, stick with me, we’re almost done. Final thoughts. There’s no perfect shoe for everything Crossfit demands these days, in a strange sense the perfect shoe might be no shoe if you prescribe to that sort of thing. Basically it comes down to two things, first, is how many pairs of shoes do you want to have just for Crossfit, if the answer is one, then you need a Nano. If the answer is two, then the most logical next step is to look at a weightlifting shoe. The second consideration is how functional you require your weightlifting shoe, on the far end of the spectrum is the Nike, built like a German automobile, there’s just enough frill to keep you interested, but what excites you is the function. Next step down is the AdiPower, but really more of a step to the side, just different, not worse; perhaps even a bit more flexible in the Crossfit world. Really the choice will come down to fit for you personally, and how heavy you like your feet to feel. The next step down we have the compromises, the PowerLift and the Lifter Plus. Perhaps I’m being to harsh on Reebok but when you come into the market at that high a price point, you need to realize who you’re going up against, and in this fight there’s really not much of a contest. It’s not a bad shoe, but it leaves plenty to be desired for the price tag. For the money the PowerLift is really a great shoe and an awesome first time investment. It’s the shoe that started it all for me.

  1. Romaleos 2 / AdiPower (94/100)
  2. Reebok Lifter 2.0 Plus (85/100)
  3. Adidas PowerLift (84/100)

I included these two as a somewhat related but really not category. This was really about a weightlifting shoe, but the reality is that many high level athletes opt to use only one shoe, always ready for what comes next I suppose. I know several athletes that lift heavy and squat heavy in both the Nano and Metcon. The point here is not to feel pressured into a weightlifting shoe. The truth is, if you’re comfortable in whatever shoe you’re using, then it’s doubtful that that is holding you back. I have to give the nod to Reebok on this one though, the 5.0 is a great shoe, it might soon overtake the 3.0 as my favorite Nano of all time. The Metcon is remarkable but again, going up against the stiffest competition possible, literally the company that built this sport (sort of, not really, yes I know, don’t write me an angry e-mail Castro).

  1. Reebok Nano 5.0
  2. Nike Metcon 1

Finally, I know there were a lot of shoes left out of this review, other iterations of Reebok shoes, Inov8’s and Inov8’s lifter, the No Bull shoe, just to name a few. This wasn’t a comprehensive review, I don’t have time for that frankly. This was just a summary of my experiences with each of these very popular segments. Hopefully it helps you make a more informed decision for yourself.

Sources

WLShoes.com
Wikipedia.com
Reebok.com
DSStuff.com

2 Comments

  1. Dan – just wanted to send you some encouragement to post more! Hope all is going well!

    and more puppy pictures…can never have enough of those.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Chris. I’ve enjoyed some time away but look forward to posting again soon! Puppy pictures will be included, though he is a monster now!

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