What’s in the Bag: Part III
This weekend really got away from me, time to be productive! The first of these posts covered WOD wear, the second covered all my mobility tools, next up I figured I should give shoes a fair shake. I’m going to split them into three categories, running shoes, Crossfit shoes, and Olympic shoes. Really the only distinction I’m making between the running shoes and Crossfit shoes is their ability to do other things, like lifting and rope climbs – for some people this distinction will be larger than others; for me it is quite large. Also, I mean to present shoes I have tried along with those that are popular and reasons I have or have not considered them. Take it for what it’s worth.
I really know nothing about running, or feet. In my search for shoes however it became apparent there were two main veins of running shoe. One I will call “full suport” and one I will call “minimals.” I tend toward later even though the former is probably better for me. I haven’t really given this a ton of thought, but the argument for minimal style shoes is that if your mechanics are good then it is healthier for your feet and legs to have less support thus making them work harder and keeping you in better shape. The problem is if your form sucks and you don’t want to fix it, you’ll keep hurting yourself and blame it on your shoes. Like I did. Now the more supportive shoes help to fix these mechanical issue by putting your foot, ankle, knee in more ideal situations but then without the shoes it doesn’t fix any of your issues. In short, fix your issues.
Here are some great MWOD videos about running and fixing your run
When I first started working out I loved the idea behind the Nike Free shoes. They had training shoes and running shoes and I bought them both. I still have both – though I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to them. I still like the free’s for running but the problem with them for Crossfit is the multi-faceted nature of Crossfit. They are so light and flimsy that anything but running and I feel remarkably naked in the shoe department. Any amount of weight on my back or even a clean or thruster feels very unstable, even something as simple as a KB swing and I miss the stability of a normal shoe. For running however, I love them, the tactile feedback they give while running is fantastic.
When I started Crossfit a quick google search revealed an entirely different list of shoes, obviously the nano’s were first, then inov-8’s, then a mixture of other minimal style “fitness” shoes like new balance minimus, and asics then finally were the vibram five finger crowd. I knocked the vibram’s off the list first because let’s face it they look ridiculous, they take your dignity down a peg or two. I found a deal on the Inov-8 F-Lite 195’s on Again Faster, so I bought a pair right before my intro class. I wish I had waited, for these suffered the same fate as nike free’s – they were just too minimal. In a couple ways they were actually worse, they were far narrower which meant balance was a struggle especially on one-legged exercises. Also, the 0 or 6 or whatever it was degree heel-to-toe drop meant I started heel striking when running, I didn’t realize it at first but after a 2-mile run I couldn’t walk for 3 days. Totally my fault, but I haven’t done a WOD in them since.
The Reebok Nano’s are probably one of the most hyped shoes in fitness, maybe I just don’t pay attention to shoes that often, but I think they’re marketed pretty hard. I didn’t take them seriously for a long time and I’m not sure what made me buy a pair, but I was really glad I did. There’s really nothing you can’t do in them. Sure BB Gymnastics are easier in OLY shoes and running is easier in running shoes but if you have to do both, the Nano’s are fantastic. While the Nano’s are marketed as exclusively Crossfit shoes I want to mention that running in them isn’t that bad. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the toe box and your feet are slipping all around but I really didn’t notice it. I’ve gone on several runs in them, occasionally my calves will tighten up but none of the heel issues the inov-8’s gave me. If you must choose only one shoe – The Nano wins in my book.
Olympic shoes are a tough sell for a lot of people, they don’t put much weight in their value. Second to my Nano’s I would hands down have an Olympic shoe – they’re phenomenal. I started with the standard Adidas Powerlift at the advice of my trainer at the time- the solid sole and raised heel was great for starting strength programming. Squats, deadlifts even pressing movements felt more solid, well grounded. I even started learning my Olympic lifts in them and I would wager for the average Crossfitter they will be more than plenty. If you’re looking to compete or improve seriously though, the next step up is a full on Olympic shoe. There are two main types, the Adidas Adipower and the Nike Romaleos 2. Of course there are many more brands, reebok, pendlay, do-win’s etc etc.
An old school Olympic shoe or weightlifting shoe was designed with efficiency in mind, not practicality. It had a flat sole, a raised heel typically made of wood and some kind of metatarsal strap to reduce lateral movement. The key was make you as efficient as possible in powerlifting positions, most notably the squat. The raised heel makes it easier to reach proper knee position, the flat sole increases the area of contact between you and the ground which translates to better force carryover, and the lack of lateral motion means as much of the force generated as possible is transfered directly to the ground rather than in side-to-side motion. Secondarily, the wooden heel does not compress, meaning no force is lost in compressing material like air or gel, and an increased force is applied directly to the ground. Furthermore, the added stability means cognitive focus can remain on the lift itself and the reproducibility of the motion rather than focusing on the instability created by the shoe.
This thread on the Crossfit Boards has further information if so required as well as a comprehensive list of shoe links.
Also check out this link to WLShoes.com – they have unbiased reviews of all the major brands.
In my experience fit trumps quality, the most expensive shoe will still suck if it does not fit your foot. Case in point, I bought Adidas Adistar Olympic shoes, they were $199.99 and bright red, to date it was my most expensive fitness purchase. I bought them in my regular shoe size, 12, and therein lay the problem, they aren’t designed to fit like a regular shoe, so they didn’t, they were at least a half size too big if not a full size. Which meant all that fancy science to fit your foot, transfer power, and reduce movement was all but wasted as my foot was in the wrong position. By the time I came to my senses and realized it was not meant to be I had had them for almost 6 months and couldn’t return them. Luckily they found a home with a fellow big footed Outlaw devotee. Learning from this mistake the second pair I bought were the Nike Romaleos II – Volt’s, yes the bright fucking green ones, they draw some attention but I love them. Probably because I ordered them in a 10.5 and they fit like a glove. My feet are rock solid and I barely even think about them when lifting. I won’t say that I PR’d the first time I wore them, or they fixed all my problems in the bottom of a squat, but they go a long way and if there is a WOD involving heavy anything odds are I’ll find a way to wear them.
Here’s my list and the order it’s in, first is the Reebok Nano, purely for its versatility, I’d rather have a shoe I can do everything in than a shoe that’s really good at only a couple of things. Get it in the right size and you’ll be set for awhile. Second are the Volt’s, yes they’re bright green, yes they cost $200, but I wouldn’t want to do a day of BB Gymnastics work without them. Like I said, if you’re happy squatting in Nano’s and don’t see a problem with your progress, then be my guest; but if you really want to excel on strength and olympic work, a good foundation is critical. Then third is a good running shoe. With the endurance domain increasing in popularity I’d be surprised if there wasn’t another marathon style WOD in this years’ games, so be sure to have a shoe you can run a marathon in, though I think I’d still do this in the Nano.