If the Shoe Fits …

By Richard Grimes

In Equipment, ExPhysiology

April 09, 2010

PDF Article

Athletes have a host of footwear choices for WODs. Richard Grimes surveys experts and top athletes to determine what their advice means in a GPP fitness program.

I remember the first time I thought about the importance of shoes in CrossFit.

I was in my garage looking for my shoes so that I could work out. I had been looking for 20 minutes already and I was itching to get started on my box jumps. When I couldn’t find the shoes, I decided that I was just making excuses, so I walked up to the box, planted my socked feet and started jumping. I performed exactly three perfect box jumps. On the fourth jump, my socks slid like butter on a hot skillet and I fell backward and ended up in a position my less polite friends call the “Hucklebuck.”

While I was in the air, though, I could see both of my huge, gorilla-like feet with the ceiling just beyond them. I remember my thought at that exact moment: “Maybe I should have worn shoes.”

So when the CrossFit Journal asked me to survey people about what shoes they wear when they CrossFit, it seemed like a slam dunk. But look around the gym lately and you’ll see people exercising barefoot or in lifting shoes, runners or Chuck Taylors. Even Nike, the biggest athletic-shoe company in the world, is selling a shoe called the Nike Free for people “who want to reap the benefits of barefoot training.” Some CrossFitters are even wearing Vibram Fivefingers.

What are you wearing—and why?



61 Comments on “If the Shoe Fits …”


wrote …

Any of Puma's "Street" versions. Low profile, thin heal/sole, light weight.


wrote …

Vibram KSO's, for sure.


wrote …

KSO Fivefingers for everything except massive amounts of Box Jumps, A workout similar to that I'd wear NIKE Free's.


wrote …

Vibram sprints or KSO for everything except power cleans and split jerks/split snatches, they tend to hurt when you slam your feet on the ground, in that case definitely some lifting shoes.


wrote …



wrote …

Inov-8 230's or Nike Free TR have really helped me. Since finding the Inov-8's, my four pair of Nike Air Max 2009 runners have turned into a knockaround shoe.


wrote …

barefoot, KSO treks(primary), or toms.


wrote …

VFF KSO or Chuck Ts for WOD. Occasional runs under 2-3 miles can be done in VFFs and/or barefoot on a grass playing field or golf course, though jumping rope barefooted or in VFFs accomplishes the same lower chain strengthening. CFE workouts in Nike Frees or racing flats- there is a lot to be said about running in a minimalist shoe. Inov-8 230s are also in the rotation. Caveat, I having run since I was 10 (25 years, mostly seriously) I would seriously caution jumping right into VFFs. Slow progression is key to preventing achilles and calf injuries. Quick TTP: we used to have the high school XC teams run in racing flats for warm up runs (1 mile) to get the lower body used to running in less padding. We would gradually work up to having them run speed workouts in racing shoes or spikes.


wrote …

I think that anything you can do in Vibrams, you can do barefoot. So why waste the money?


wrote …

every WOD i've ever done that didn't involve running i've done in some nike mid-calf socks.

i do all my Olympic lifts and powerlifts in my socks too. I tried to squat in my running shoes this week and it felt like squatting on a mattress, and i had no power from the floor.


wrote …

Nike Sparq S9 baby.


wrote …

inov8 roclite 295s for runs; chucks for anything less than 400 meters and GPP, and oly shoes for the big lifts in isolation


wrote …

Vibram KSOs for 90% of my WODs


wrote …

old school vans


Gerard Mcauliffe wrote …

I wear indoor soccer shoes for any wod involving running jumping etc. For weightlifting and powerlifting and heavy wod's i wear adidas ironwork 111.


wrote …

A dude in my gym bought a pair of wears track shoes at Ross for $10 and simply removed the cleats.


Adam Kayce wrote …

VFF Sprints. I used to rotate my Sambas in, but now the Sprints get all the action.

@ Derrick - why Vibrams, and not barefoot? Try a pair on and walk outside, and you'll understand immediately. You feel the ground (temperature, texture) but without any fear of stepping on glass or sharp rocks; it's a feeling you have to try to understand. If I walk on gravel barefoot, it's a slow, ungainly, painful process. But if I walk across gravel in my VFFs, it's smooth sailing.

So, if you were only training in a box, with rubberized flooring and no danger of glass/bee stings/rocks/etc., barefoot is fine. Take one step outside, though, and VFF's are like a golden ticket.


wrote …

Fantastic article. Entertaining and informative, Richard is skilled writer. Thanks for a great article.


wrote …

Chuck Taylors all the way! No better crossfit shoe than the chuck!


wrote …

Do-Wins for anything that seems reasonable (no running or jumping generally)
Keen Coronado as the all around shoe
VFF KSO for running/walking the dog and the occasional workout


wrote …

I have worn every type of shoe I can get my hands one. I like to vary it up, but will lean torward Vibrams most the time.


wrote …

These ain't bad

competition wushu shoes.


wrote …

Nike free's, VFF sprint, and do-wins


wrote …

Tried on a pair of Nike Free's today, didn't find them too comfortable. Do they need to break in?


wrote …

Most competition wushu shoes have a thicker "bubble" in the middle of the sole (running vertically down the center of the shoe by length) to help wushu athletes keep ultra-low stances. I find it disruptive for most activities, including non-wushu MA practice.

I used to alternate between an ancient pair of Chucks and old workboots for lifting, but now I lift in VFFs and Do-Wins, depending on the workout.

For MA, I like wrestling shoes. I have small feet, so I can buy boys' shoes for less than half the price of women's wrestling or MA shoes.

For misc. workouts (or an "all of the above" situation), the VFFs.

For everyday casual running around or when I'm not sure what I'll get into that day, Vivos. They're A) really cute and B) a good all-purpose shoe. The soles curve up at the toe and heel--nice for walking and running, but less than ideal for some kinds of MA, though not debilitating or anything. They're also silly expensive, but mine have been indestructible so far.


replied to comment from Geoffrey Else

Nike Free 5.0


wrote …

Personally me and my wife prefer Nike Free's for most wods and Chuck's on max days...just my two cents. Great article enjoyed the read.


wrote …

Great Article... There's a lot of science to explore. And I guess asking people their favorite shoe is like asking them their favorite car. Personally I lean toward the clean organic paleo way of things... I purchased the Vibram KSO's and while they were tough to get on I remembered thinking "Wow I actually have toes!". I've run in them and I felt like a kid - my back loves me and my calves are stronger. I do like the idea of Chucks for Olympic days and heavy iron.... Bottom line I don't want to cheat my God given structure. Feet are incredibly complex and amazing when you look at their kineseology.... Didn't the first Olympians participate in the buff?


Nico Bartke wrote …

Personally I really like the idea of running barefoot. Unfortunately my left leg is about one centimeter shorter than my right leg. This forces me to to wear insoles. I don't know if any of you are familiar with orthopaedic insoles for this kind of problem. They are only elevated at the heel, even the ones for sports. So if you don't land on your heels while running they sort of don't work.
Also they don't fit into any kind of shoe, like for example Vibrams.

The problem with the insoles does not only apply to running but also to lifting, as the insoles generally put my feet into a higher position which sort of undermines the stabilizing effect you get from flat shoes, as for example Chucks. Also the insoles are designed to "support" the foot in certain areas, like under the arch.
I feel like this is contraproductive. On the other hand I feel, like I need them because of my shorter left leg.
So I'm kind of in a tricky spot here.

Any ideas on what to do?


wrote …

I first heard about "barefoot shoes" in this article from a few years back.


Since then I have only worn Terra Plana's Vivo Barefoot (for both Crossfit and anytime I don't need to have on dress shoes for work). Up until last month I used the Aqua style which works for both running and lifting. The Evo line just came out and its great, more stability around the sides of the heel and ball, but still 100% flat/barefoot.


wrote …

Vibram KSO or NikeFree 7.0 for most WOD's, Chuck Taylors for Max Effort (ME) Powerlifts.


wrote …

I'm working out in VFFs - all of the in gym stuff (classics) as well as road running (sprints) and trail running (KSO Treks). I have a history of ankle injuries from a bad high bar dismount in high school - I'd roll roll an ankle probably every other month when would try to run. Since transitioning to vffs, no rolled ankles, and I am actually beginning to enjoy running.

As far as using them for lifting, since there is no real padding, no extra foam to compress, so both olympic and power lifting, which I am new to, feel pretty natural.


wrote …

Dunlop Volleys - an old style tennis shoe that has been aropund for 50 decades much like the Chuck Taylors. Not sure if they sell them outside Australia though.


wrote …

Barefoot when I can, especially for running on the beach, Vibram Five Fingers Sprints for almost every CF workout I do, and Nike Free's for running any significant distance on a hard surface.

I'm working towards running in my Vibrams, but it will take at least 12 months before I feel confident to run 10KM in them.

Day to day wearing, I go bare foot or my Vibrams most of the time.


replied to comment from Derrick Howard

The gym gets upset when you train bare foot...


wrote …

Do-wins (for olympic lifts); Nike Free 7.0s for everything else. Seems to be working out well...


replied to comment from Derrick Howard

I agree, except that my school has hex pattern flooring in the weight room. It really doesn't feel good doing squats, presses, deadlifts, or anything else with heavy weights barefoot on flooring that will dig into your feet. VFFs help with that.

Also, I like walking barefoot in general, so it's nice to have VFFs and not be kicked out of restaurants and shops that say 'no shoes, no shirt, no service' :)


wrote …

Vibram 5F Sprints have changed my workout. Everything I do seems lighter and quicker, whether running, jumping, squatting, etc. I hated to run, but changing my shoes changed my mind. I no longer suffer from shin splints, rolled ankles, sore knees and back and am faster than ever in these things.


wrote …

I wear an old pair of volleyball shoes.


wrote …

I use the Vibram KSO for all of my workouts now, and wear Sprints for daily walk around shoes. My deadlift went up dramatically day one i started using them, and no more shin splints for me. Also made POSE running way easier. All my clients wear them now.


wrote …

I feel shoes are important and I don't feel comfortable in bare feet. I use a great flat soccer shoe that is made by addias and I am female and bought a pair of boys soccer shoes. They give support and when I lift they keep my feet flat on the ground.


Ian Kellogg wrote …


wrote …

General Crossfit wods: Onitsuka Tiger's Ultimate Tiger
Running: Asic's Hyperspeed
Oly: Do-Win, 2010


wrote …

high top chuck taylors - classic black unless its a run then i break out some adidas running shoes...small heal.


wrote …

I wear the old school Adidas 72's. Lightweight, flat sole and good for WOD's that incorporate sprints and box jumps.


wrote …

Chucks, Tigers - CF WoDs

Oly - Rogue Do-wins


wrote …

thoughts on hi-top chucks over low for heavy lifting? do they give you more stability or do they tend to restrict movement?


wrote …

Asics Ontisuka Tiger Fencing LAs are my official footwear. I've had them for 2 years now and do everything in them. I just got a pair of the Vibram KSOs and they are pretty sweet as well. I am starting to use them more now that it isn't snowing out and can't wait to do a 5k in them.


wrote …

Vibram sprints or high top chucks for everything except WODs with running, then I wear ASICS or Saucony.
I used to just use my retired running shoes to workout but found the thin soles of chucks and the Vibrams dot get in the way. When I cant find them (for whatever reason), I go barefoot.


wrote …

I wear Vibram FiveFingers (Sprints, Classics or Flows, depending on the weather). I feel much more confident doing box jumps in VFFs than in traditional running shoes, especially since I broke my wrist more than a year ago during a failed burpee box jump (wearing biq, squishy traditional running shoes). Now I know exactly where my feet are; proprioception is a great thing. :)


wrote …

Just got a pair of Asics Dirt Dogs; they are a cross country racing spike that you can take the spikes out of. They are very minimal and i picked them up off Eastbay for $20. Helps keep my off my heels and when running, enough protection for out doors, and work fine for lifting. Spending a lot of money on minimal footwear seems recidulous but Im sure all companies will start charging more and more for less.


James Zipperer wrote …

VFF KSO's. I went my first 5 months of doing CrossFit wearing some really good Nike crosstrainers. This morning I wore my KSO's and it was a whole new world.


replied to comment from Derrick Howard

some gyms don't let you go barefoot--that's why


wrote …

I wear my Five fingers or Chucks for any WOD that has no running or box jumps, as my ankles and knees take the load. In which case I just wear my Asics running shoes. I find that Five fingers are great to run with on a track but on the street, they are torture for the feet.


replied to comment from Nico Bartke

Hi Nico I also have a leg length discreptancy. But mine is of 2.5cm. It's a pain in the ass and each pair of shoes/trainers requires a different solution.

With hi-top chuck taylors I can fit all the lift inside. Other solutions involve both a partial lift on the sole (by a cobbler) and an orthotic inside - which I make myself. Be wary of podiatrists. I have been quoted £300 for a pair of orthotic inserts which I could tell would be useless. I make my own out of UVA plastic chopping boards from IKEA! It took ages to get the right density and flexibility but now I just add or take away depending on the shoe. The material needs to be dense enough not to compress under your weight but also flexible enough to bend with your foot. Here is a WFS link:


I've been looking at vibrams and can't see a solution for them. The toes in particular make the lift troublesome. The velcro fastening is a major plus point though; allowing lifts to be inserted easier than laces. I was looking at weight lifting shoes but the last thing I want is more sole when im adding 2.5cm/ 1 inch to the right side anyway. I think there is no perfect answer in our case. However making a lift of 1 cm should be far easier than my lift. So the tip of the day is - plastic chopping boards!!

I hope this helps you. I'm not a doctor/podiatrist etc but I've had to put up with the same problem for 37 years.


replied to comment from Tim O'Neil

I love thoseshoes i recentlypulled my hamstring and afterfour weeks i ran the 55 meter for the first time in them and iran my fastesttime ever crushing everyone by a good 10 metersi love the ksos


wrote …

anyone else using Karhu-race ride's? I have now had Inov8-230's and the Karhu's and I like running in the Karhu's better (on the hills) as I have slightly limited forward mobility in my (left ankle) from a motorcycle injury that gets inflamed on steep uphill runs? The Karhu's are more flexible especially the top fabric of the forefoot toe box.

Tim R-58, 5-8, 175lb, CFDOB 9/2/2009 CF Untamed


Antonio Sunzeri wrote …

Adidas Samba 3/4's.


wrote …

There's a decent review of the Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81's here. I really like these shoes for my crossfit workouts.


wrote …

Merrell Sonic Barefoot TR shoes. Good for every WOD even mild distance runs.


wrote …

I allways train barefoot just becose i think it's better, more natural, i don't need to pay anything, you allways barefoot on the judomat and it was that way i was born, just sound good in my ears and it feel very good to done it for years now :)

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