CrossFit-ready sneakers aren’t built the same, but the brands designing them agree on one thing: Making a great shoe for the sport isn’t easy.
“CrossFit shoes have been the most challenging to build,” Tal Short, Reebok’s senior product manager for CrossFit Footwear, told Footwear News. “With the versatility of CrossFit, where you never know what you’re going to do when you walk in a box, the shoe has to be able to do everything.”
But the most important thing the shoes must have, according to the sport’s footwear developers, is exceptional durability.
“The CrossFit environment and the way the product is used, you abuse your gear,” Michael Schaeffer, co-founder of Nobull, told FN.
Nobull, for example, opts to use SuperFabric on its upper to give its Trainer silhouette longer life. Reebok, especially with its midsole wrap, uses TPU for added toughness.
“It’s like an M&M candy: hard on the outside for protection, but on the inside it’s got cushioning,” Short said. “It not only guards against wear and tear, but when you’re lifting heavy weights your foot is going to compress and push out that foam. The TPU stops that foam from going out over your foot and keeps you locked in.”
The shoes must also be stable and supportive.
“You do lift, in some cases, very heavy weights, and you want to make sure you’re securely connected to the ground,” Schaeffer said.
Short added, “If you’re doing some sort of squatting or Olympic lifting, you’ll hear coaches yell, ‘Get in your heels.’ If you execute a squat or any sort of Olympic lifting the right way, you’re always going to be in your heels and you want to feel that sensation of being locked in.”
Another activity done in CrossFit (often omitted from other functional fitness workouts) that requires significant thought throughout the sneaker design process is rope climbing.
“If you have a beautiful running shoe and do a couple rope climbs, they’re going to fall apart; they’re not engineered to take that kind of abuse,” Schaeffer said. “The friction on a rope climb, especially on descent, is extreme, and if you just have a mesh upper with no protection those shoes won’t last very long.”
But according to Short, not all aspects of a CrossFit workout need to be taken into consideration when making a great all-around shoe for the sport, such as running.
“Yes, the shoes need to be able to run, but you’re not going to run a 5k or a marathon in them; that’s why we have running shoes,” Short said. “Your CrossFit shoe should feel good for a mile without hurting your foot and still allow you to do everything you need to for CrossFit.”
And Schaeffer believes any brand making shoes for CrossFitters deliver the best product when the shoes are stripped down to only the sport’s necessities.
“Every brand creating products for CrossFit, including ours, tends to be minimal; we don’t stuff pseudo-technology into the product that you don’t need,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of gimmicks.”
Regardless of the brand you choose to work out in, having the proper footwear is vital to keep yourself safe throughout your WOD.
“When people work out with inadequate footwear, it doesn’t offer the right stability,” Schaeffer said. “ With running shoes, for example, you can see what it does to people’s posture and setup, they wobble around through their movements.”