I like to distinguish a great fitness shoe as one that not only performs and looks great, but one that is unique enough for me to own more than a single pair. If you’re serious about fitness, but also enjoy a quality shoe, here are a list of my favorites. Most are still readily available, some may be a little harder to find, but all of them are great shoes.
I’m sure this will be a controversial pick since it’s only a few months old. However, I’m fully ready to argue that this is one of the better designs Nike has had in a while. I’ve even written a glowing review of it recently. Yes, it does look like a Puma Velcro shoe, yes “grown up” shoes should have laces, but, Nike shatters that perception. These shoes are not only comfortable but fit surprisingly well. No heel slip because of an added reinforced heel insert. No infamous “Metcon Squeak.” These are a solid pick up at $100 and come in some great colors. I can’t wait to pick up a second pair.
For some, it should be no surprise that Reebok makes the top five of anyone’s list of functional fitness shoes. They do after all, have the exclusive contract with CrossFit to produce them with their branding emblazoned on the side. But, my favorite Reebok shoe for functional fitness (surprisingly enough) doesn’t have that designation on it. It’s built on a nearly identical platform as the Nano 6, but offers more flex in the toe box and is comfortable on longer runs. Despite being released in 2015, it is still the number one shoe I recommend as a coach to CrossFit newcomers, who are still unsure about the sport. It’s style is lowkey and understated, which makes it perfect for life after functional fitness. So if you ditch the sport, or just need something comfy to wear day-to-day, this is a solid pick for under $60.
Three: The New Balance Minimus 40v1
New Balance gets a bad rap for being a “dad shoe,” but one look at these will let you know; “this isn’t your father’s tennis shoe.” This shoe was probably one of the happiest surprises I’ve ever had in buying a “first time” design of functional fitness shoe. Sure, a lot of people wear the Minimus 20 for functional fitness, but this is the first (v1-version-one), built specifically for it. It’s great on normal lifts, okay on Olympic (lots of bounce here), but they absolutely excel on the run. If you’re a runner first and CrossFitter second, this might be the shoe you’ve been looking for. It’s still available pretty much everywhere for about $100, and if you keep your eyes open, you can find them even lower than that.
Two: The Nike Metcon Flyknit
Sometimes the first is the best and this is no exception. There are currently two other iterations of this shoe (aptly named with subsequent chronological numerals), but the “one” is still king. It’s built off an identical base as the Metcon 3, but the Flyknit upper adds to its comfort, breathability, and flexibility. It makes this shoe great for not only every lift in the gym, but can easily be used to run a mile or a 5k without destroying your feet. Unfortunately this is the hardest shoe to acquire as they only come in odd sizes at Rogue Fitness and you’ll be taking your chances with retailers on eBay.
Maybe I’m completely biased because these shoes are gorgeous to me, but I absolutely love this shoe. It’s stylish, comfortable, great inside the gym, pretty good for Oly (a little bounce in the heel), and outstanding (for a functional fitness shoe) if you have to run over a mile. There are some minor issues with the shoelace material (they slip and come undone), but the TPU upper is easily used to hold them in place. They are a steal at under $80 at most retailers, but unfortunately the newest version (which is not better) is out which will make this shoe soon-to-be obsolete. Grab multiple pairs while you still can.
Honorable Mention: The Reebok Froning
I’m not a fan of Nano’s. They have a history of the “even numbered” shoes being a better fit than the “odd.” They have a huge toe box for my narrow foot and are an absolute nightmare while running. I own almost every pair of them and keep hoping that they’ll improve them. My favorites are still the Nano 6.0, but even then the Workout 2.0 beats it every time.
It was refreshing that they took CrossFit’s (arguably) greatest athlete and not only gave him a shoe but kept him involved in the testing process. This is a sturdy shoe that’s great for every single lift in the gym. When I say sturdy, I mean it, it’s built like a tank, so much so that it’s heavy on long runs, but serviceable nonetheless. They’re hardly a steal at $150, but if you’re lucky (and quick), you can pick them up as low as $90. They’re not great, but they’re definitely a much-needed step in the right direction for a company that used to have a lock down on what shoes could be worn during the CrossFit games.