Choosing the Best Shoes for Your Training Needs

By Mary Ann Brown

CrossFit Shoes inov8

CrossFit Shoes Overview

When determining what shoes are best for your training, generally, flat-soled shoes are the way to go.  They provide a stable, wide surface, whether you’re lifting, running, or jumping.  They also provide good ground contact via a minimally padded sole, allowing for more force feedback versus padded running shoes.  Early on, most CrossFitters trained in indoor soccer shoes or Chuck Taylors, both of which meet these criteria.  Recently, several companies have built shoes specifically for CrossFit training.  Inov-8 and Reebok are battling for the market; reviews of their offerings are below.


Starting in 2009, these stalwarts gave way to the Inov-8 F-lite 230s, shoes that were built for short-distance trail running.  They are light, flat, and comfortable and the CrossFit Community adopted them in droves.  Inov-8s are still widely used in CrossFit, training with three principal models available.

CrossFit Shoes inov8 inov 8 

Inov-8 F-Lite 230s and 195s

  • Flat and Stable
  • Performance Last
  • Sticky Rubber Sole, Aggressive Tread Pattern
  • Lightweight


Available in a variety of colors, the F-lite shoes are extremely light.  The number in the model name refers to the gram weight of each shoe.  For those not familiar, the 230s weigh just over half a pound per shoe, and the 195s weigh just over .4 pounds per shoe.  Both models have a very small differential (the difference in height between the toe and the heel) making them very flat and providing a low and stable platform.  The 230s drop only 6mm from heel to toe, while the 195s drop 3mm.  Both feature a sticky compound sole for high grip and a performance last.  The “last” is the form used to determine the shape and fit of the shoe.  A performance last is very close to the foot, allowing minimal internal movement during activity.

CrossFit Shoes inov 8 inov8

Inov-8 Bare-XF 210s

  • Extremely Flat, Zero Differential
  • Anatomic Last
  • TPU Rope Climbing Support
  • Lightweight


Designed specifically for CrossFit, the Bare-XF 210s are Inov-8’s contribution to minimalist training.  These shoes have no differential, with a 0mm heel to toe drop.  They have no midsole padding, making them absolutely flat and providing very sensitive ground feel.  They feature a TPU (plastic) support on the sides of the shoe to aid rope climbing, and an anatomic last.  An anatomic last is based on the natural shape of the human foot, with a wide toe box that allows the toes to spread.

Reebok CrossFit Nano & Reebok CrossFit Nano 2.0

In 2011, Reebok released the RealFlex CrossFit Nano to the public.  These shoes were the result of a yearlong development process, performed in concert with high-level CrossFit Games athletes.  Available in a variety of colors and both men’s and women’s styles, the RealFlex CrossFit Nanos are a compromise between minimalist shoes and their padded brethren. 

Reebok CrossFit Shoes - Reebok CrossFit Nanos

Reebok CrossFit Nano

  • Extremely Flat, Zero Differential
  • Anatomic Last
  • Minimal padding
  • Lightweight
  • U-Form Custom Molding


The original Reebok CrossFit Nano shoes have a flat sole and wide toe box, like the inov-8 XF-210s, but the sole itself is thicker and stiffer.  They have a feature called U-Form, which allows the user to custom mold the insole to their foot.  After heating with a hair dryer for four minutes and wearing the shoes (in a seated position) for eight minutes, the shoes are customized to the wearer.  The instep is aggressively molded to provide grip during rope climbs, and the area under the ball of the foot is padded to protect against hard landings.

Final Recommendations for Selecting the Best CrossFit Shoes for You

Both the Inov-8s and the Reebok CrossFit Nano are suitable for general CrossFit training.  Model selection is generally a function of personal preference. 

In the absence of rope climbing, all models hold up well, although the 230s and 195s have a foam piece on the sole that breaks down quickly under high-speed rope descents.  Long-distance running can be awkward in the Nanos due to their stiff sole, and in the XF-210s due to their lack of padding, although both work fine for quick sprints.  On wet surfaces, the F-lite 230s and 195s provide better grip than the CrossFit Nanos or the Bare XF-210s due to the sticky rubber sole.

If most of your training time is spent indoors, with considerable rope climbing and running limited to the occasional 400m sprint, go with the Nanos or the XF-210s.  If you are frequently outside, subject to variable weather conditions, running frequently, and rarely rope climb, the Inov-8 f-lite Series is your best bet.  Choosing the 230s or the 195s then becomes a matter of heel height: if you like more heel, get the 230s.  If you like less, get the 195s.

Visit our store: All CrossFit Shoes  | Inov-8 | Reebok CrossFit Nanos 2.0