There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this question: What’s the difference between CrossFit shoes and running shoes? And does it actually matter what kind of shoes you wear for a CrossFit workout?
Keep on reading our guide to find out everything you need to know.
CrossFit Shoes vs. Running Shoes
Choosing the right shoe for the kind of workout you’re involved in is a crucial part of your training preparation. Taking good care of your feet and shielding your joints enables you to continue with your training and achieve your maximum performance. Choosing the right pair of shoes for yourself thus makes a difference.
Keep in mind that most Crossfit Shoes are actually cross-trainers for sake of comparison.
Running Shoes vs CrossFit Shoes: The Summary
Here’s a brief overview of the main differences between these two types of shoes:
- Running shoes have a heel to toe differential of 10+ mm. CrossFit shoes are usually between 3 and 6 mm.
- CrossFit shoes are designed for all kinds of movement, especially side to side/lateral. Running shoes are only for forward motion.
- Running shoes absorb shock very well. CrossFit shoes do, but not to the same degree.
- CrossFit shoes are usually slightly heavier than running shoes.
- Running shoes have all-mesh uppers, while CrossFit sneakers have more durable materials to protect them from getting torn up on rope climbs.
What are CrossFit Shoes?
CrossFit shoes are designed to provide a ton of support for a variety of activities like weightlifting and jumps. They’re also light and flexible enough to handle sprints or other cardio. Plus, they’re durable enough for rope climbs. They’re usually heavier and offer a bit more protection than running shoes as well as have a lower heel to toe differential.
What is the Purpose of CrossFit Shoes?
The purpose of this kind of shoe is mainly to ensure maximum athletic performance while preventing injuries. You need a shoe that is heavy and stable enough for lifting, but light and flexible enough for running. Plus, you’ll want a ton of durability for a CrossFit shoe for box jumps and rope climbs. The best CrossFit shoes has all three.
What are Running Shoes
Running shoes are light footwear purely intended for stretching or daily running. They can provide more flexibility and cushioning to the foot at running events than regular workout shoes. This padding assists in shock absorption, particularly while impacting the ground. Running shoes are aimed for frontward movements.
They are equipped with denser heels and are suppler in the toe region. Their soles are curved, giving an upward arc to the shoe tip. Moreover, these often have intricate designs that help with moving or running forward. In this way, energy is properly directed from the runner’s legs to his feet, which can reduce fatigue.
Running shoes will often have a heel to toe drop of 8-10 mm or so. This helps to propel your feet forward with each stride.
That said, they have very little support for lateral movement because you don’t really need it!
Here’s one of our top picks for running shoes, the Brooks Ghost.
- SHOE SIZE: "B" = Medium width, "D" = Wide width
- FOOT SUPPORT: Ideal for runners with a medium to high arch looking for neutral support.
- BALANCED, SOFT CUSHIONING: BioMoGo DNA and DNA LOFT cushioning work together to provide a just-right...
- SMOOTH, STABLE RIDE: The Segmented Crash Pad is designed to adapt to each foot fall, so no matter...
- SOFT, SECURE FIT: The newly engineered mesh upper practically disappears on foot with strategically...
All about CrossFit and Cross-Training Shoes
On the contrary, training shoes like these ones from Under Armour are designed to play multiple roles. You can use them in the gym for almost any activity—lifting weights, yoga classes, using the elliptical machine, stretching, basketball, or a Zumba workout.
During a CrossFit workout, you’ll be doing rope climbs, box jumps, sprints and lifting.
They are possibly the most multipurpose of all athletic shoes. Otherwise known as cross-training shoes, these shoes are perfect for sports, as they provide the user with the utmost stability and comfort. Because of their durability, they can also be utilized for many other physical events. However, these events do not include constant running, because most training shoes are heavier than running shoes.
Physical activities like weightlifting, kick boxing, and aerobics require lateral movements of the legs, and so CrossFit shoes are just the right footwear to use. They are designed with extra support at the sides for superior lateral movements of the feet.
As far as heel to toe drop goes, it’s usually around 5-7 mm for cross-training shoes. This provides a bit more of a stable platform for weightlifting in particular.
Cross Training Shoes: Ideal for a Variety of Workouts
Cross training shoes work well for most workouts at the gym, including HIIT, CrossFit, Zumba, lifting, and boot camp workouts. Crosstrainers are a nice mix of:
- Light and flexible for cardio
- Cushioned enough for jumping
- Durable enough for rope climbing
- Sturdy and with a minimal heel toe drop for weightlifting
- Lots of support for lateral movements makes them ideal for agility training
What are Cross Training Shoes?
That’s a great question and we’re happy that you asked. What are cross-trainers? Let’s define it:
According to Asics, cross-trainers are:
“For multi-directional movement, especially lateral (side-to-side) movement. The sole of a training shoe is flatter (than running shoes), making it more flexible to allow a wide range of movement. Take these shoes to the gym.”
We’d add that they usually have a heel height of around 4-6 mm (read more about this in the next section). They are usually light in weight, although slightly heavier than running shoes because they have a bit more support, especially for lifting and lateral movements which running shoes don’t have.
Can I Use CrossFit Shoes for Running?
If you’re looking for a shoe to run your next marathon in, trainers certainly aren’t it. They’re too heavy, not flexible enough are have too low of a heel height.
Since they’re designed for a wide range of movements, they’re not ideal for the one thing you do when you’re running—repeated forward foot strikes.
In order to avoid injuries like plantar fasciitis, back pain, or shin splints, you should certainly stick with a pair of specialized running shoes.
That said, you can use training shoes for a few minutes on the treadmill at the gym, or some sprints during a CrossFit WOD. This is certainly no problem. However, just don’t use them for longer distances.
What about CrossFit Shoes for Weightlifting?
If you lift some serious weight at the gym, then you may want to know if a training shoe like the Nike Metcon 4 will work for you. It depends on your workout style.
If you do weights, along with cardio and other exercises like jumping rope, then a pair of cross-training shoes is a nice choice.
However, if you basically only do weightlifting, then you should stick with some lifting shoes. They have a flat heel, plus a strap across the midfoot. Along with their sturdy, heavy-duty nature, you’ll notice a big difference in how stable you feel when going for that personal best.
Check out some of our top picks for these kinds of shoes:
Cross Trainers and CrossFit
If you ask your coach, or take a look around your box, you’ll notice that a ton of people are wearing cross-training shoes. These kinds of shoes are actually ideal for a tough WOD because of the variety of activities that you might encounter.
You can see some of our top picks in the chart below:
What about For HIIT Workouts?
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. It’s basically short burst of high-intensity activities combined with rest and recovery time (either passive or active).
It’s effective at burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time. You may also experience some calorie burn after the workout for a few hours.
Cross trainers are one of the top picks for a HIIT workout. They can handle lateral movements, jumps, sprints, and more with ease.
You can check out some of our top choices here: The Best HIIT Shoes.
Can Training Shoes be Used for Walking?
In general, if you’re going to be using sneakers for walking, we recommend sticking with running shoes or walking shoes and not cross-trainers. The reason is the same as why you wouldn’t want to use crosstrainers for running: the too low of heel height.
When you’re walking, ideally you’d have a pair of shoes that will transfer energy from foot strike to foot strike, along with absorbing lots of shock to prevent injuries. You’ll want a sneaker with a heel height of 10 mm or slightly more than that, along with a lot of cushioning under the feet.
You can check out some of our top picks for walking shoes here:
Cross Trainers for Tennis
If you’re choosing a pair of shoes for that big tennis match (or just casually hitting around with a friend!), then opt for the cross-trainers over the running shoes for sure. They are designed for a range of activities and have some support for the lateral movement that you’ll encounter a ton of while playing.
However, a pair of tennis shoes can be a better choice if you plan regularly. They have thicker soles and insoles that are designed to absorb the shock from hard courts. Combine that with more support for sideways movement and you’ll be going a long ways towards preventing injuries if you plan tennis regularly.
Finally, crosstraining shoes may mark up a court, which is very bad form if you’re playing somewhere like a private club. The shoes of tennis shoes have a non-marking sole to them.
What About Cross Training Shoes for Other Sports?
If you play sports casually with your kids or just a game or two a month with friends, then a pair of cross-trainers can work well for most activities, from volleyball and basketball inside to soccer or football outdoors.
However, if you’re going to be playing more often, then certainly consider getting yourself a pair of specialized shoes. For example, a pair of cleats will go a long way towards improving your performance on the soccer field.
What Shoes are Best for CrossFit?
Check out some of our top choices for Cross Fit shoes here:
Or, check out this comparison chart below:
The Main Differences Between CrossFit and Training Shoes:
- Training shoes have improved lateral support as opposed to running shoes
- Training shoes are generally heavier than running shoes
- The sole of training shoes is broad and stable, often extending beyond the breadth of the upper portion of the shoe
- Heel to toe drop (around 10 mm for running shoes, and 5 mm for cross-training shoes)
What’s Heel Toe Drop and Why Does it Matter?
You may see something like 5 mm heel to toe drop. Or, 10mm heel toe differential. It basically just measures how much higher the heel is than the front of the shoe.
If you’re running a marathon, you’ll want a drop of 10+ mm. This helps you to transfer energy from stride to stride.
However, if you’re lifting weights, especially squats or deadlifts, you’ll want a much flatter shoe. Olympic lifters for example will use a shoe with a drop of 0-1 mm because it gives them a more stable platform.
Cross training shoes have a drop of 4-6 mm. This is a nice balance between the two extremes, and means that these shoes are ideal for a range of activities, such as you might encounter during a gym workout.
You can learn more about it here: What’s the Deal With Heel Toe Differential?
Choose the Right Pair of Workout Shoes for Your Needs
The issue nowadays with people involved in sports is the unawareness of the proper choice of footwear. In the end, they most likely fail to achieve proper comfort and balance, and as a result destroy their shoes within a short time. The wrong pair of shoes can also quickly lead to pain and injury. This is especially true with repetitive sports such as CrossFit or running.
You can keep the above differences in mind while purchasing your next pair of shoes. These points will assist you in making the right choice, and thus you will be able to achieve the maximum and at the same time won’t end end up with injuries.
Looking for a top-quality CrossFit shoe? Probably the most popular one in the world is the Reebok Nano 8. Learn more about it here:
- Reebook Shoes
Can I use Running Shoes for CrossFit?
A common question that people have is whether or not they can just use their running shoes for a CrossFit WOD. You may already have a pair of these in your closet and are hoping to save a bit of money by avoiding buying another pair of sneakers for this kind of workout.
I have some bad news for you though…most trainers strongly recommend against this. It’ll kind of feel you’re on this wobbly platform, which is very bad news when you’re lifting some heavy weight. And, you’ll struggle with the side to side movements as well because there’s basically no support for this.
For CrossFit, you should certainly wear a pair of cross training or CrossFit sneakers. They’re designed to handle a wide range of activities, from lifting to sprints and jumps. And not that your athletic performance entirely depends on the shoes on your feet, but you’ll want ones that don’t hinder you like running shoes would.
When Should I Replace my Cross-Training Shoes?
Most experts recommend replacing shoes after 100-200 hours of wear. In our experience, that’s about right. You can exercise 2-3x a week for a year before having to replace them.
If you exercise more frequently, then you may have to replace your athletic shoes every six months or so. Of course, if you notice any wear or tear then you’ll want to do it sooner. It’s just not worth it when you’re trying to avoid injuries.
What About Lifting Shoes for a CrossFit Workout?
Another common question that people have is whether or not they can use their weightlifting shoes for a WOD. These kinds of shoes have a very minimal heel toe differential, and often come with a strap across the midfoot for extra support. They’re heavy, durable and have non compressible foam in the heels.
If you’re doing a WOD that’s focused almost entirely on lifting, then you’ll be fine in a pair of these powerlifting shoes. However, if it’s not? You’ll likely be pretty unhappy. These shoes are most certainly not for running, or jumping.
Do you Really Need CrossFit Shoes?
Most people who do CrossFit use CrossFit shoes because they’re a nice all-round shoe that’s supportive, flexible and durable. This allows for maximum athletic performance while reducing the risk of injury. However, some people prefer to use a pair of cross-training shoes because they’re often cheaper but offer many of the same features of Cross Fit shoes.
What Do You Think about the Difference Between CrossFit Shoes and Running Shoes?
What are your thoughts about the differences between these styles of shoes? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
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Last update on 2019-12-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API