The CrossFitter’s Shoe Guide
As our gym’s resident shoe nerd, I decided to write a post about – surprise – shoes. But, to my credit, I’m not just using this as an excuse to seriously nerd out all over the website – I get a lot of CrossFitters that come into Striders and are confused about the different kinds of minimal shoes or just don’t quite know what they are looking for. So, in an attempt to make this easy and informative, I’m going to break things down into different categories:
1. “As minimal as you can get without getting a ‘minimal’ shoe”
Who would want this:
-Runners who only CrossFit a couple times a week
-CrossFitters who run as often as they CrossFit and don’t want/can’t afford both a pair of running shoes and minimal shoes
-Fragile CrossFitters that seriously suffer from plantar fasciitis and can’t afford to lose the arch support and cushion
New Balance 890
Although this shoe has a traditional 12mm heel drop which is not ideal for lifting, it’s an overall awesomely lightweight (only 9 oz.) and soft shoe. Midsole is built for neutral runners.
Asics Gel Excel 33
A bit more minimal than the New Balance with a 10mm heel drop, this shoe also only weighs a little over 9 oz. Lots of gel cushion to please all the Asics devotees. Midsole built for neutral to light overpronators.
Similar to the Asics, this has a 10mm heel drop and a nice curve in the forefoot that gets you a nice roll through your stride. Midsole built for neutral runners.
Who would want this:
-Frequent CrossFitters who run once or twice a week and don’t want/can’t afford both a pair of running and minimal shoes
-Frequent CrossFitters who suffer from plantar fasciitis
Brooks Pure Project Line
I’m pretty sure almost everyone at CrossFit already has a pair of these. These are awesome shoes that bridge the gap between basic trainers and minimal shoes. There is only a 4mm heel drop in all models but still full arch support and cushion unlike fully minimal shoes. This makes for a great overall CrossFit shoe if you are only going to invest in one pair. The PureConnect has the highest arch and is great for neutral runners, the PureFlow is the softest and is made for neutral to light overpronators while the PureCadence is made for mild to severe overpronators. These shoes are also super eco-friendly if that is any concern to you.
This shoe also only has a 4mm heel drop, but will not biodegrade in a landfill as fast as the Brooks will. These shoes are really cool and super comfortable, but your conscience might be upset that you didn’t get the Brooks.
New Balance Minimus Road 10
Only a 4mm heel drop, but not as much arch support as the Brooks or the Saucony. These are James Read’s favorite shoe, which means they are the best. He loves shoes probably even more than I do. Last I counted, he owns 43 pairs. You didn’t hear it from me.
3. “Cadillac Minimalists”
Who would want this:
-Frequent CrossFitters that like a little softer ride for those box jumps/double-unders
-Frequent CrossFitters who run once or twice a week and have worked their way into a minimal running shoe
A full zero drop shoe with two insert options: one that gives a little bit of arch support, and one completely flat insert. These shoes were created by Utah folks and feature an extra wide toe box that, if used for running, allow your foot to stabilize itself and run more efficiently by pushing off your toes. Otherwise, they just seem to be comfortable for those of you with abnormally wide feet or those of you who just prefer a lot of room up there. Also available in a more aggressive trail version.
New Balance Minimus Road Zero
Also a full zero drop shoe, this one is a lot more flexible than the Altra but still provides a nice layer of cushion.
Inov8 Bare-XF 210
Still in that full zero drop category, this shoe was created specifically for CrossFitters (hooray!). Females might cringe at the bland color options, but the rubber coating on the outside is supposed to be great for rope climbs.
4. “You Might As Well Go Barefoot”
Who would want this:
-Frequent CrossFitters who like lifting in their bare feet
-Frequent CrossFitters who run once or twice a week and have lost their brains
-CrossFitters with good knees, strong muscles/tendons and no issues with tendonitis/achilles/plantar fasciitis
Vibram Five Fingers Bikila
Vibram’s most popular model. Features zero cushion, zero arch support and feels like a rubber sock. Great shoe for lifting and for those who like occasionally getting made fun of.
New Balance Minimus Trail Zero
In the same line as the Minimus Road Zero, but even more minimal. Features a Vibram sole similar to the Five Fingers shoes, but still even more flexible and minimal. Really, these shoes are probably as close to bare foot as you can get. I’ve loved them for lifting, but have bruised the ball of my foot more than once trying to do box jumps in them.
The Altra Sampson/Delilah
Just like the other two – but again, features that extra wide toe box. Doesn’t feature a Vibram sole, but is still a pretty durable minimal shoe.
Hopefully this gives everyone a better idea of what you might want/need if you’re in the market for new shoes. I know a lot of you are only interested in shoes that match your tube socks or only cost 10 bucks, but really, getting in a shoe that is designed for your sport and natural biomechanics, you can maximize performance and avoid injury in the long run. It’s worth the investment. If you’re fairly serious about your training, it’s ideal to own a pair of regular running shoes and at least one type of minimal shoe. I’m sorry for not including any of the Reebok shoes, but I honestly don’t know anything about them except that you get to bake them in the oven before you wear them. Here’s a few of the FAQ’s I get:
Minimal Shoe FAQ’s
“I have a high arch. Would a minimal shoe be a bad idea?”
Not necessarily. Minimal shoes are not tailored for any specific arch type as there is no support.
“Can I use my minimal shoes for both cross training and running?”
Yes, but if you are planning on running in your minimal shoes – start very slow. Our bodies are used to a traditional raised heel shoes, and most problems occur when folks jump into the minimal shoes too quickly and overstress muscles and tendons. If you plan on getting into minimal running, use 10% of your run training time with your minimal shoes and supplement with your regular trainers. Slowly move up from there. Some may progress quicker, while others might progress slower. Pay attention to how you feel and don’t overdo it, unless you want tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. It’s recommended that you take around a full year to work your way into barefoot running. Read about proper mid-foot strike form and practice running efficiently.
“You’ve scared me off of running in minimal shoes completely, but sometimes we both run and lift during a single WOD. What do I do?”
In CrossFit, we rarely run more than a mile at a time, and even then, we are usually only running a couple times a week at most. Your body should be just fine in minimal shoes, unless you really have problems with tendonitis. However, if you’re still worried, it would be a good idea to invest in an “In-Betweener” or a “Cadillac Minimalist” shoe.
“I can only afford one pair of CrossFit shoes. What kind should I get?”
This depends on the person. Browse through my “who would want this” descriptions and see where you fit in. Most people prefer shoes from the “Cadillac Minimalists” section, as they are completely minimal for lifting, but still provide a little bit of cushion for the jumping/running exercises.