Let me make this clear before we start: no pair of shoes will make you a better athlete. They will not lift barbells for you, and they will not run for you. But the right pair of shoes can help.
Why Shoes Matter
Earlier this month Nike released its newest functional fitness shoe, the Metcon 2's. Everywhere I looked there was that iconic swoosh, from Instagram posts to ads on Facebook.
This event inevitably started the debate of whether shoes were worth the price. After all if we are to be prepared for life's demands shouldn't we be able to perform with any shoe?
I believe that a good pair of CrossFit shoes are worth their weight in gold. It's not that they will make you better, but they will bring out the best in you. Not only physically but mentally.
Every sport has footwear that's constantly redesigned for better performance. Soccer players have cleats, basketball players have sneakers and sprinters have spikes. CrossFit is no different.
The movements and workouts have special requirements, and wearing cross trainers won't cut it. In 2011 the Reebok Nano was released which was the first shoe ever designed for CrossFit. Since then other companies began selling their own functional fitness shoes.
All of these shoes have these three common characteristics:
1. No Heel Cushion
Conventional shoes are designed to absorb force and provide cushion. This design is supposed to prevent injuries and add comfort.
This extra padding makes it harder to stabilize during movements like squatting. This is why CrossFit shoes feature a minimal heel lift (usually only a few millimeters). This lower profile allows you to move naturally.
2. Rope Guards
Your feet and shoes take a harsh beating during all CrossFit movements, but especially during rope climbs. Several times have I seen athletes make the mistake of climbing rope with running shoes. Every time the soles get ripped to shreds.
Reebok and other brands have now equipped their shoes with rope guards on the medial sides. This extra layer of rubber provides optimum friction for the "J hook" necessary for rope climbs.
3. Durable Fabrics
One of the main virtues of CrossFit is function over form. Movements are prescribed to make you move better not look better. It is only reasonable that our shoes should follow suit. All of the fabrics are built to last and able to withstand a nasty beating. I have worn my old pair of nano's every day for 18 months and I still wear them for workouts. The most recent pair of Reebok Nano's also feature a kevlar lining.
It's true that a new pair of shoes won't make us stronger, but they can make us feel stronger. Most times the only thing standing between you and a PR is fear. Its a scary thing to put your self under a heavy barbell and stand up with it. Lacing up a pair of fresh, new Nano's might give you the confidence that you need to get there.
Workout gear can also be great motivation to recommit yourself to fitness. After you throw down some hard cash for a pair of shoes, you will feel responsible to go to the gym. You wouldn't want those shoes to go to waste, would you?
At the end of the day the only thing that matters is the work you put in. Shoes won't make workouts easier, but they can help you feel more confident and move better. Check out some of the shoes below.
From Left: Nike MEtcon 2, Reebok Nano 5.0, Inov 8 F-Lite 235