Top 3 Non-“CrossFit” Training Shoes, Perfect for “CrossFit” Athletes

16 02 2015

Back in the day when I started CrossFit, people wore one of two types of shoes:

1. Running Shoes (Specifically Nike Frees)
2. Converse Chuck Taylors

Matt Chan rocking some Converse CTAS at the 2010 CF Games. Photo courtesy of

Matt Chan rocking some Converse CTAS at the 2010 CF Games. Photo courtesy of

Back in the old videos of years past, Chris Spealer, Matt Chan and Chuck Carswell would never be seen without their Converse on. Maybe it was their way of sticking it to the “man” and letting the fitness world know, “just like you don’t need treadmills and lat-pull-down machines to get fit, you don’t need $130 shoes either.” It may also have been the fact that the dudes from Westside Barbell had been wearing Chuck Taylors to set world records in Squats and Deadlifts (the building block movements of CrossFit) for decades, and the early adapters of the CF program took notice. Whatever the reasoning was, Converse ruled the CF footwear game for nearly a decade before Reebok entered the CF shoe market, and I still believe their is validity to the reasoning why.

Fast forward a few years to an interview with Brian MacKenzie, founder of CrossFit Endurance. McKenzie, a California dude that loved his skate shoes, who would immediately take his clients out of whatever $160 Asics they were wearing and put them into a pair of $60 DC skate shoes – easily found at TJMaxx or Journeys in even the most rural of towns. The funny thing was, he wasn’t only having his people wear them for strength work (people didn’t wear Oly’s for EVERYTHING yet), he also had people doing their 100m to 1-Mile runs in them. I never saw a lot of videos of people wearing them for 5Ks, but who knows – MacKenzie is a badass and probably wore them for 50K runs in the sahara.

 Video courtesy of Brian MacKenzie’s Vimeo Profile.

Reebok Nano U-Form (aka, Nano 1)

Reebok Nano U-Form (aka, Nano 1)

Now, back in 2012 when I grabbed my first pair of Nanos, I felt a connection to the original skate shoes and basketball shoes I wore as a kid. They felt more like Airwalks than running shoes, but the styling looked like a Nike Dunk Low or a Jordan 1 Low top. They were kinda cushy, didn’t have much arch support and had the overlaying toe wrap that skaters and ball players were always looking for in terms of durability (great for stopping, pivoting and sliding around, ie. agility). Slap a $100+ price tag on them and people were scrambling towards the next “new thing.”

Now that we have all had our fair share of Nanos, it’s not surprising that other brands like Nike have entered the CF shoe market; offering yet another $120+ option for us CrossFitters to slap on our feet.

BUT, what if I told you there were already shoes perfect for CF that you could buy for 1/2 the price… See the list below

Altra Instinct 3.0. Photo Courtesy of

Altra Instinct 3.0. Photo Courtesy of

3. Altra Instinct 3.0 – Available online for $60-110 – Try to find older models like the Instinct and the Instinct 2.0 – you don’t need new technology when it comes to KB swings and Box Jumps.

Altra came onto the scene a few years ago boasting the answer to all of our running shoe problems; a wide toe box with a zero drop heel to toe angle, on a flat, cushioned sole. Sounds too good to be true? No sir, they are available at a multitude of running store as well as online! These running focused shoes may not be quite as durable as the Dunks (see below), due to their mesh uppers, but the fit and sole is a metcon junky’s dream. They are soft enough that dropping from the rings doesn’t hurt during your “30 muscle ups for time,” and snappy enough for your mile runs during “Murph.” Plus, the flat sole means your coaches can keep yelling ‘HEELS!” during your air squats, forcing you to move correctly. Snag a pair on sale or a past year’s model to see if you like them before dropping 100 bucks on a pair.

2. Nike Dunk (Low, Mid and High tops) – Available online for $40-1000, but seriously, you don’t need the $1K ones unless you care more about your fly points than your butterfly pull ups.

Nike SB Dunk Low Pro - Photo Courtesy of

Nike SB Dunk Low Pro – Photo Courtesy of

What happens when you take the Nano 1 or Nano 2, put a Nike swoosh on the side and add a comfortable Zoom Air insole into the mix? You have the Nike Dunk. Available in both the SB (Skateboarding) and Lifestyle/Basketball versions, you can’t go wrong with a pair of these. They offer a sticky gum outsole which grips the pavement, rubber and wood flooring (lifting platforms for you fancy pants gym members), since, well, they were designed to do that back in the 80s when they were made for elite athletes. Yes, you could have done “Fran” in 1986 wearing a pair of Dunks and would have felt almost exactly as you do now in your $170 custom Nanos. The Dunks feature durable laces, a overlayed toe box (wanted when running and stopping on a dime, ie. agility training yo) and premium leather, suede and vinyl materials for added durability. Add in ventilated tongues and and cushioned ankle support and you have a durable shoe that is just what the WOD doctor ordered. Available in High Tops, Mid Tops and Low Tops, your ankles can have an much or as little support as they desire.

1. The Converse Cons CTAS PRO: Available online or at random Ross stores for $18-75. You can get Highs or Lows. Awesome, I know.

Converse CTAS (Chuck Taylor All-Star) Pro. Photo Courtesy of

Converse CTAS (Chuck Taylor All-Star) Pro. Photo Courtesy of

I couldn’t complete the list of CF shoes without including a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors. Luckily for me, Converse did me a solid by taking every aspect of the original CT All Star that made people say they were bad for CF and fixed those issues with the CONS CTAS Pro.

Issue Number 1: Regular CT don’t have any cushion – The Cons CTAS pro features a natural vulcanized gum (they add sulfur to the rubber to make it stronger) sole with a lunarlon insole. They are like walking on marshmallows – in a good way.

Issue Number 2: The tongue has no padding so the top of my feet get bruised – The Cons CTAS Pro features a memory foam tongue so you don’t even feel your laces. Better than that? Once you take your shoes off, the tongue goes back to being perfectly spaced out. It’s like you have pillows on your feet.

Issue Number 3: The canvas material is too flimsy and tears through – The Cons CTAS PRO feature 1 of 3 materials – a higher denier canvas upper to prevent tearing (i think it’s treated to prevent rips as well), a suede upper for extra strength, and a smooth leather practically impenetrable from anything you can find at the Box.

Overall, nothing is more old school than going RX on “Diane” while wearing Converse. NOW, your feet can feel as happy as your ego does post WOD. Best part about these? I’ve seen them at Ross and TJ Maxx, and the workers there don’t know these are special, so they put $18 price tags on them. Scoop them up! If you are wondering if the ones you are holding are Cons CTAS Pros or not, check to see if there is a lunarlon insole or a lobster on the tag.

*The “CrossFit” name is trademark of CrossFit, Inc. For more information on CrossFit Training, please visit For local CrossFit training, at a licensed affiliate, please visit




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