CrossFit Shoes: What Should I Wear?

Not all CrossFit shoes are designed the same: different shoes are designed for different tasks in the world of fitness.

While the average gym goer can easily stick to a basic tennis shoe, you might find that your specific goals might require more specific footwear.

If you’re looking to get started with weightlifting movements like squats or olympic lifts like the clean and jerk, you’ll want to seek out specially designed weight lifting shoes.

If you’re a runner, you might find wearing shoes with cushion and support will aid the muscles of the feet and ankles with the rigors of running on hard surfaces.

And if you’re looking to combine these into a workout (hello, CrossFit!) then you might find yourself in cross trainers, a functional fitness shoe that can fit modestly into both roles, to an extent.

Weightlifting shoes

Often referred to as “lifters,” this shoe has a great deal of thought put into them, especially as it pertains to body mechanics.

Generally these will be a relatively flat sole with an elevated ankle. You most likely will see some sort of velcro strap across the midfoot for a more secure fit.

The reason for the elevated heel is to increase the range of motion for the ankle joint to aid in getting into a deeper squat.

The angle of the ankle joint also causes more recruitment of the quadricep muscle, which can aid in moving more weight. These shoes should not be used for running, as the sole will be flatter and harder than the average shoe.

They are not built for support or cushioning to absorb the shock of running and your knees and ankles will not be happy.

Running shoes

Like the lifter, the running shoe is both meticulously designed and heavily subjective.

Runners can be very particular about their shoes due to the fact that serious runners need a perfect fit if they are going to put dozens or hundreds of miles on their shoes.

Where the lifter is flat and lacks support, the running shoes is the total opposite.

Most running shoes feature a heavy tread to dig into the ground and a fair amount of support throughout the foot to displace and absorb shock.

Some designs are quite minimal and lighter, while others favor more cushion, depending on the personal preferences and needs of the runner.

You want to look for a secure fit with no slippage, a toe box that is tough to protect against stubbing, but will allow full flexibility, and a shape that will match your foot. All of this while being light and maneuverable to match your natural gait and positioning. 

Runner’s World provides a great fitting guide to running shoes here, which is a great place to start!

Many running specific stores will offer a free fitting and consult, and often times they will let you put the shoe on and watch you run in it to see if it’s a good fit.

This can be tremendously helpful if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for!

CrossFit shoes

Last but not least, cross trainers or functional fitness shoes are an extremely common shoe that many a CrossFitter will be familiar with.

The CrossFit shoe will be worn the most due to their versatility for Crossfit style training without sacrificing too much of any one feature.

These shoes should have a flexible midsole while still not allowing slippage, a lower drop heel so you are closer to the ground, and good traction without adding weight or bulk.

These are great for being able to change direction, pivot, and push off the ground.

When I wear my CrossFit shoes, I keep the lifting to moderate loads as they do not have the tight fit or elevated heel. I also keep the running distances relatively short as I need a great deal of heel and arch support when I go for long runs. 

If you are serious in your training you will most likely have pairs of each type of shoe. I have around 5 pairs of training shoes.

You may even see people change shoes mid workout – while this can be beneficial if it aids in your specific goal, it is not mandatory.

Whatever style you wear on any particular day, just remember that your shoes should be true to size, comfortable, and should aid in whatever the day’s workout is.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with various brands and styles to find that perfect fit. Sometimes it can take a few wrong answers to get to the right one!