In my last post I tried to give some straight-forward guidance to the beginner or budget-minded CrossFit enthusiast. Bottom line – stick with your standard running shoes or cross trainers for a while. They should serve you for around six months, or until such time as you’ve “mastered” the powerlifting and olympic lifting techniques. I use quotes around mastered because there’s no way you’ll have mastered those moves at that point. But, you will have a much better appreciation for good form and natural biomechanics. At that point you’ll likely become interested in selecting shoes that enhance natural body movement and proper technique. But, if you’re the typical beginner, your current shoes should be fine. If you absolutely want to spend some money, pick up some Chuck Taylors. They’re cheap. And, as an added bonus, they combine great with a pair of jeans for a nice classic look.
But, what about intermediate CFers? How serious should they be about upgrading their CF footwear? As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, you’ll be hard-pressed to find objective, scientific, opinion-free direction at this point. If you’ve been working out at your local CF box for any amount of time you’ve probably noticed a couple different cults. Some folks are into the barefoot thing. Others go ninja with the Vibram Fivefinger line. Some opt for mimimal footwear or transitional footwear. And yet other change shoes mid-WOD for olympic or powerlifting (this doesn’t happen that often but it’s not unheard of). You’ve probably also noticed that opinions fly freely about which shoe is best. How do you sort through it all?
I believe the answer is more simple than it first appears. If you’ve reached the intermediate level it’s time to upgrade your CF kicks. But, you don’t need to go crazy. In fact, don’t get rid of those Chuck Taylors. They will continue to serve you well for your low bar squats and deadlifts (assuming you have sufficient flexibility and ankle mobility to maintain an nice, upright trunk). My recommendation? First, limit your options. Giving yourself too many options will just get you confused, waste your time, and likely won’t yield significant or measurable benefits. As an intermediate CFer, you should be able to excel with all-purpose shoes (i.e., they can handle almost anything your typical WOD will dish out) from:
Inov-8 is a newer company (first model debuted in 2003), based out of the UK. Their shoes are designed in the UK and US and are manufactured in China. You should check out their website if you get a chance because it’s full of good information. But, if you don’t have the time, here’s what you need to know…
Their shoes are all designed with an emphasis on allowing the body’s natural biomechanics to operate unhindered. This requires what they describe as “lightweight, minimal, and functional” footwear. You could easily get overwhelmed by all their models. There are 8 models just in the F-Lite line (5 in the Precision and 3 in their newer Natural line). Additionally, they label their shoes as either ZERO, 1 arrow, 2 arrow, or 3 arrow. This relates to the “drop” or the variance between your foot’s heel and it’s ball. A woman’s stiletto would be an example of a shoe with a 3-4″ drop. In the case of the Inov-8s, each arrow corresponds to 3mm. So, one arrow corresponds to a 3mm drop from heel to ball, two arrows, 6mm, and so on.
If you haven’t spent time learning the POSE running method and you’re still predominantly a heel striker, you’ll want to stay in the 2 arrow (6mm) drop area. This will also provide you with a shoe that can do double duty in your olympic lifting.
Guys with wider feet should consider their F-LITE Natural line, specifically the F-LITE 262.
If you have been training in the POSE running method and you have a well-developed natural running style you could also explore F-LITE 195 Classic or the F-LITE 252 (for wider feet). Both of these have only a 3mm drop. An additional benefit of the lower drop is that you’ll gain a lower, more stable platform, which could help you on your deadlifts.
Reebok was the first shoe company with the foresight to jump in on the CrossFit craze. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just a gimmick. But, a lot of folks are using and abusing their Nanos and the verdict is pretty impressive. The idea was to create a shoes with the perfect combination of stability, minimalist platform, and cushioning. Options include:
- The original CrossFit Nano
- Its sequel, the CrossFit Nano 2.0 (same basic platform as original with greater flexibility and breathability)
- Completing the trilogy you have the CrossFit Nano 3.0 (provides a 4mm drop, greater flexibility and protection, and “Dual Density” platform providing forefoot cushioning and heal stabilization)
- The CrossFit Nano Speed (provides a 3mm drop, supposed to do double duty for both running and weightlifting)
If you’re not longer a beginner, you should definitely think about adding to your CrossFit wardrobe. But, don’t waste too much time. You’d be safe limiting your decision making to the Inov-8 F-LITE line and the Rebook CrossFit Nano line. Please, if you haven’t developed your natural running style and you are still primarily a heel striker, don’t go with a zero-drop shoe. Start in the 6mm drop range and work on your POSE method for a while. The added drop will assist you a bit with your olympic lifts and squats. When the time is right, go ahead and think about moving to a 3mm shoe. At this point you should have stretched out your achilles and strengthened your calves and feet to the point where risk of injury is minimal.
As my Czech friend used to say, “Beef It!” Huh? Oh! Be Fit! Got it!