8 Best Functional Fitness Shoes in 2024

Author: Ihor Shymechko (26 years of Oly Lifting & Training experience)

Reviewed by: Oleksiy Torokhtiy (Olympian with 21 years of Oly Lifting experience)

These days choosing fitting gear for a functional fitness workout is a must-have point every gym attendee considers first to bring more comfort and efficiency to their workout. There are dozens of training shoes nowadays on the market targeting to please everyone’s needs. The represented best fitness shoes meet the requirements and specifications of all kinds of HIIT activities, no matter whether you prefer cardio, strength-oriented workouts, or those who prefer a mix of high-intensity sets with weight sessions. For fitness WODs devotees, we gathered the top 8 functional fitness shoes reviews that stand out most on the market and preserve the key needs of superb fitness shoes.

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REEBOK NANO X2.

Reebok Nano X2 shoes work with a combination of HIIT sets and strength workouts. These best fitness shoes for men are equipped with the Floatride Energy Foam for better underfoot stability on any surface. They have wide and strong foundations with anatomical toe form. The shoebox gives enough space for the foot, still, the kicks don’t look wide.

8 Best Functional Fitness Shoes

Top 8 Best Functional Fitness Shoes Reviewed

  1. REEBOK NANO X2 — Top Pick
  2. NIKE METCON 8 — Runner-Up
  3. REEBOK NANO 9.0
  4. NOBULL TRAINER+
  5. INOV-8 F-LITE 260 V2
  6. Reebok Nanoflex TR Training Shoes — Budget Pick
  7. GORUCK BALLISTIC TRAINERS — For General Fitness
  8. Rebook Legacy Lifter II — Best for Olympic Weightlifting Exercises

ProductTotalStabilityMaterialDurabilityBreathabilityGrip
REEBOK NANO X249.510109.51010
NIKE49109.59.51010
REEBOK NANO 9.048.5109.59.59.510
NOBUL48109.59.5910
INOV47.59.59.59.59.59.5
Reebok Nanoflex46.599.599.59.5
GORUCK46.59.599.599.5

1. REEBOK NANO X2 — Top Pick

Reebok Nano X2 shoes work with a combination of HIIT sets and strength workouts. These best functional fitness shoes for men are equipped with the Floatride Energy Foam for better underfoot stability on any surface. They have wide and strong foundations with anatomical toe form. The shoebox gives enough space for the foot, still, the kicks don’t look wide.

REEBOK NANO X2
  • Heel Lift Height: 4 mm (0.16”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: Flexweave woven textile knit
  • Sizing: true-to-size, for wider feet
  • Weight (1 shoe): 8.3 oz. (226.7 g) - women’s; 10.2 oz. (283 g) - men’s

Reebok Nano X2 best fitness shoes have durable and soft upper, and flexible forefoot to perform pistol squats, jumps, weight lifting, and other fitness exercises without movement shortage.

Flexweave knit technology brings more protection during tough training and breathability, additionally with the integrated heel support to perform multiple directions without losing speed and tempo. With a well-designed sole and heel, and 7 mm heel-to-toe drop, Reebok Nano X2 helps you to find proper balance while doing bodyweight squats and one-leg exercises.

REEBOK NANO X2

Photo by @infamousvic

The lug-patterned RopePro outsole provides reliable traction for explosive movements and perfect bike for rope climbing and sled pushes. You can easily perform any functional fitness exercise like box jumps, squats, sprints, burpees, and dynamic lunges with no sliding. Due to the almost flat sole and a moderate rise, these shoes are great for powerlifting too.

These fitness boots have plastic elements on the back and end of the shoes to provide better heel stabilization. So, they’re designed to keep an athlete flat and stable on the ground. Generally, these shoes are excellent trainers for highly intense workouts, such as HIIT sessions and lifting as well.
49.5Expert Score

These best functional fitness shoes for men are equipped with the Floatride Energy Foam for better underfoot stability on any surface. They have strong foundations with anatomical toe form. The shoebox gives enough space for the foot.

Stability
10
Materials
10
Durability
9.5
Breathability
10
Grip
10

Positives:

  • Good grip, perfect for sprints, wall walks, and rope climbing

  • wide toe box

  • Lightweight trainers 

Could be better:

  • short laces, may come untied 

  • Material starts to fray around the top of the tongue at the edges

 2. NIKE METCON 8 — Runner-Up

Being the next model of the Nike cross-training line, these shoes have been highly anticipated by the functional fitness athletes and lifters. They’re the second-best shoes for fitness and lifting that enable athletes to perform deadlifts and squats with considerable weight due to their stability. The design allows you to wear them both for heavy WODs and intense cardio sessions including box jumps and double-unders.
NIKE METCON 8
  • Heel Lift Height: 4 mm (0.16”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: mesh
  • Sizing: fits true to size
  • Weight(1 shoe): 12.4 oz. (352 g)

Lightweight fabric and beefed-up textured outer layer preserve the shoe's breathability and prevent feet from sweating. They have a Velcro tab on the top of the tongue to keep laces down while working out.

The reworked upper mesh around the toe box is more durable and secure. Specific heel blocky construction makes this model rigid and quite limiting for foot articulation. With the feature of slim and athletic construction, these shoes aren’t a perfect fit for athletes with wide feet.

NIKE METCON 8

Speaking about other key specs, Nike Metcon fitness shoes possess light, yet thick uppers with improved airflow. Nike React foam elements are designed to bring additional comfort and cushion effect, with grooves in the sole making them perfect for cross-training sessions. So, you’ll get an appropriate position for Olympic lifts, snatches, overhead squats, split jerks, etc.

Lock-down laces won’t untie during the workout, and a flat and flexible heel with an inner plate distributes weight evenly and adds stability. Durable laces with flywire cables vouch for better foot fixation and midfoot stability. Rubber wrap around the midfoot brings extra grip and friction for rope climbs.

49Expert Score

Nike React foam elements are designed to bring additional comfort and cushion effect, with grooves in the sole making them perfect for cross-training sessions.

Stability
10
Materials
9.5
Durability
9.5
Breathability
10
Grip
10

Positives:

  • flat and wide heel provides superb stability while lifting weight

  • fit for explosive and short cardio sets due to good amortization

  • Well-balanced cushioning

Could be better:

  • rigid heel clip

  • Not too soft to perform heavy lifts

These gym shoes are believed to be the leading ones in the functional fitness world by uniting all the beneficial features of the prior models and were designed with the consideration of the direct comments from the world fitness community.

REEBOK NANO 9.0
  • Heel Lift Height: 4 mm (0.16”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: synthetic Flexweave mesh
  • Sizing: a bit big, need to take a size down
  • Weight(1 shoe): 12.8 oz. (363 g)

Flexweave technology brings a higher level of flexibility breathability and durability to the shoe upper. The forefoot area got new cushioning for more comfortable sprints and short-distance running. The midsole wrap with the RopePro tech guarantees good protection and a superb grip element for rope climbs, box jumps, and a wide range of pivot movements.

An outsole has a slight tread, and 3 Metasplit grooves for stability improvement. A little elevation on the heel promotes lifting weight and the heel-to-forefoot drop is 4 mm making them ideal for cross-training and lifting workouts.

REEBOK NANO 9.0

Speaking about the overlay, the used Flexweave fabric feels a little bit plastic that lays on the inner breathable mesh material. There are lots of gaps that prevent your feet from overheating during the training. Flexweare brings more durability to the shoes while staying light and breathable.

A solid foundation has an anatomical wide-foot construction, with a low-cut design to perform natural movements freely and vouching for ankle high mobility. Reebok Nano 9.0 functional fitness training shoe provides proper gravity center and weight distribution for the whole foot when performing lunges, kettlebell swings, and jumps.

They are perfect for weight training, and HIIT thanks to their stability, balance improvement, and material durability. To sum up, these fitness shoes are a must-have for performing squats and deadlifts due to their deep heel sock, wide toe box, rigidity, and superb ankle range of motion.

48.5Expert Score

These gym shoes are believed to be the leading ones in the functional fitness world by uniting all the beneficial features of the prior models and were designed with the consideration of the direct comments from the world fitness community.

Stability
10
Materials
9.5
Durability
9.5
Breathability
9.5
Grip
10

Positives:

  • Low-cut design that gives more range of motion in the ankle area

  • Deep heel sock that is good for training with heavy weights most

  • best used for stationary workouts and lifting

Could be better:

  • not for long-distance running, better to wear for 1-3 mile runs because of a 4mm drop

  • May feel slippery on the wet surface because of slight tread

These are the latest training shoes for fitness  from Nobull that are a good option for lifters and functional fitness athletes. Compared to their prior model Trainer, they have a wider design in forefoot and midfoot. The redesigned outsole makes the shoes work well during outdoor WODs due to better gripping on the rubber floor, wood, or outside the gym. The outsole wraps the whole toe box which makes shoe durability fit the specs of the fitness exercises.

NOBULL TRAINER
  • Heel Lift Height: 4 mm (0.16”)
  • Sole material: mesh
  • Upper material: rubber
  • Sizing: true-to-size
  • Weight(1 shoe): 12.7 oz.

They are featured with SuperFabric guard plates that together with a flexible mesh base layer provide full-featured all-angle training. EVA midsole brings more cushion and stable foundation, while an outsole with a herringbone pattern with deep grooves brings excellent traction with a wide range on surfaces.

NOBULL TRAINER

Their lace system involves internal webbings for more foot stability, along with protected durable lace eyelets. 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, with anatomical sock liner, and solid toe bumper brings you better bouncing and smooth jumping. Additionally, there is extra heel and collar padding for secure fit and comfort.

48Expert Score

They are featured with SuperFabric guard plates that together with a flexible mesh base layer provide full-featured all-angle training. Their lace system involves internal webbings for more foot stability, along with protected durable lace eyelets.

Stability
10
Materials
9.5
Durability
9.5
Breathability
9
Grip
10

Positives:

  • Good for athletes with wide feet

  • has more volume in the forefoot and midfoo

  • Internal lace webbings

Could be better:

  • Not for plyometric exercises because of their thickness

  • It’s difficult to ground toes while performing deadlifts, cleans, or kettlebell swings because of the raised toe ca

These shoes were designed in collaboration with Scott Panchik, 10x functional fitness Games competitor to provide an athlete with maximum comfort while WODs of any intensity. They are good for lifting exercises, rope climbs, burpees, and other intense floor training. Knitted upper material can adapt to foot movements during tough workouts.

INOV-8 F-LITE 260 V2
  • Heel Lift Height: 8 mm (0.31”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: knit mesh
  • Sizing: true to size, the midfoot runs a bit narrow
  • Weight(1 shoe): 260 g (9.17 oz.)

A great spec is that these shoes for fitness training are versatile: they work well for lifting, carrying, climbing, jumping, and even running. Also, these best running functional fitness shoes are good for short running training paired with weightlifting and some plyo movements.

A wide-toe box brings a more stable basis for lifting weight and a low-top design provides maximum mobility for the ankle, along with a full-lace system for better support. Power Flow midsole with shock absorption features, returning more energy during squats, jumps, jerks, and other fitness workouts.

INOV-8 F-LITE 260 V2

Photo by @omrmagazine

They have better protection around the toes and midsole that generally gives better comfort fit. CrossTrainers are true to your size, they’re not too wide and fit narrower feet. Thanks to their flexible knitted upper, an athlete won’t find any hot spots or pressure while performing various side-to-side movements.

Well-designed outsole tread vouches for great contact with the ground and makes these fitness shoes applicable both for gym and outdoor WODs.

48Expert Score

A great spec is that these shoes for functional fitness training are versatile: they work well for lifting, carrying, climbing, jumping, and even running. Also, they are good for running training paired with weightlifting.

Stability
9
Materials
10
Durability
10
Breathability
10
Grip
10

Positives:

  • Good for running during WODs

  • won’t have breakdowns from rope climbs thanks to the RopeTec technology

  • Knit upper conforms foot shape that brings good ventilation

Could be better:

  • there’s not much arch support, need to buy an additional supportive insole

  • Narrow midsole limits overall comfort

These budget-friendly gym shoes are tailored specifically for HIIT, but they’re not true kicks for functional fitness. Instead, they feel and look more like a combination of training and running shoes. Equipped with durable breathable net mesh, your feet stay well-ventilated during intense training.

Reebok Nanoflex TR Training Shoes
  • Heel Lift Height: 4 mm (0.16”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: net mesh
  • Sizing: sizing up half a size for normal feet, and skip it if having wide feet
  • Weight(1 shoe): 283 g (10 oz.)

Flexible grooves in the forefoot bring mobility and a full range of motion. TPU heel clip provides extra support and stability while take-offs and landings. These shoes have a narrow forefoot that can bring some discomfort during the first uses, but soon they fit well. They can be worn for performing some functional workouts like lunges, squats with light weights, kettlebell swings, and push-ups.

Reebok Nanoflex TR Training Shoes

Generally, you can use them for training that doesn’t involve feet greatly. But, when performing more intense WODs like jumps, power snatches, and cleans, you’re likely to miss better balance and stability. On the contrary, you’ll enjoy them when doing any jumping and quick moves, and plyometric exercises.

They have better cushioning and shock absorption than functional fitness shoes, so your knees and joints won’t suffer much during ultra-intensive HIITs. EVA foam midsole provides comfort for your feet, and the TPU heel clip guarantees that you won’t rub your heels.

46.5Expert Score

These budget-friendly gym shoes are tailored specifically for HIIT, but they’re not true kicks for functional fitness. Equipped with durable breathable net mesh, your feet stay well-ventilated during intense training.

Stability
9
Materials
9.5
Durability
9
Breathability
9.5
Grip
9.5

Positives:

  • decent HIIT narrow shoes

  • Superb shoes for plyo workouts

  • Good arch support

Could be better:

  • springly innersole that makes them inappropriate for deadlifts with heavy weight

  • Not so durable because of the absence of extra toe box support

7. GORUCK BALLISTIC TRAINERS — For General Fitness

Upper made of dual material: breathe knit cover and two panels of ballistic CORDURA nylon offering extra protection. Midsole made of EVA gradient density, cushioned forefoot with good vibration effect for running, jumping, and explosive workout.

GORUCK BALLISTIC TRAINERS
  • Heel Lift Height: 8 mm (0.31”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: knit mesh/nylon
  • Sizing: true to size
  • Weight(1 shoe): 283 g (10.8 oz.)

Thanks to 3X Support, you actually get three arches: medial and lateral longitudinal and anterior transverse that prevent knee strains and plantar fasciitis when performing sprinting, weightlifting, or rucking workouts. 8 mm heel-to-toe drop with the 3-tier support brings you better comfort and stability for lifting weights with squats, snatches, and cleans. This feature brings more stability and prevents strains on the Achilles tendon while weight lifting.

GORUCK BALLISTIC TRAINERS

Photo by @shoe_queen

The wide toe box and lace-lock eyelets bring a tight fit for heels during sled pushes. A firm heel keeps your feet grounded while lifting and weight squats by getting a well-balanced gravity center. The outsole has three-compound gripping rubber, meanwhile providing a flat base to the surface.

Goruck cross-trainers bring you good performance for short-distance runs, barbell lifts, kettlebell swings, plyo, and other intense complexes. These gym shoes are designed to work out in the functional fitness box by performing snatches, jerks, and other well-known WODs without challenge.

46.5Expert Score

Thanks to 3X Support, you actually get three arches: medial and lateral longitudinal and anterior transverse that prevent knee strains and plantar fasciitis when performing sprinting, weightlifting, or rucking workouts.

Stability
9.5
Materials
9
Durability
9.5
Breathability
9
Grip
9.5

Positives:

  • 3x arch support for better stability

  • perfectly stable for heavy training due to 3-tier support

  • Low break-in period

Could be better:

  • Too stiff for running

8. Rebook Legacy Lifter II — Best for Olympic Weightlifting Exercises

UPDATE! Here's a new model - Reebok Legacy Lifter III that can become a true discovery for those who are fans of the Legacy Lifter model, or their Lifters II are already out.

REEBOK LEGACY LIFTER III - MEN'S

Despite the model has lots in common with the Legacy Lifter II, it has a novelty - the pump technology which can be useful for enlarging the volume of the tongue. This feature can benefit athletes with narrow feet by bringing better support and security, so the shoes hug the feet wholly.

It’s a premium Reebok fitness shoes for weightlifting with a 22 mm heel height, with textile upper for sufficient airflow with lockdown straps for extra feet safety, and raised heel for maximum stability. A grippy rubber outsole provides good traction and protection while lifting extra heavy weight, with a fully foamed lining adding comfort and cushioning to the Achilles area.

Rebook Legacy Lifter II
  • Heel Lift Height: 22 mm (0.86”)
  • Sole material: rubber
  • Upper material: textile
  • Sizing: fits true-to-size
  • Weight(1 shoe): 575 g (20.2 oz)

With the anatomical shape, you’ll transform your explosive power to lift heavy barbells at a glance. With the Reebok Legacy kicks, you’ll improve your technique, i.e., performing deeper squats. Concerning the construction and fit, they are tightly fitted, still giving enough space for toes to spray when doing lifts.

Rebook Legacy Lifter III

Generally, you’ll get sturdy shoes with heavy textile upper material, with a TPU strip that keeps feet steady without slipping. These features enable lifters to sit back while deep squats, cleans and snatches.

47.5Expert Score

Generally, you’ll get sturdy shoes with heavy textile upper material, with a TPU strip that keeps feet steady without slipping. These features enable lifters to sit back while deep squats, cleans and snatches.

Stability
10
Materials
9.5
Durability
9.5
Breathability
9
Grip
9.5

Positives:

  • perfect for weightlifting, Olympic lifts

  • Equipped with a Velcro strap that makes them differ from fitness shoes

  • superb stability for performing heavy loads

Could be better:

  • Absolutely not suitable option for functional training

Why Get Functional Fitness Shoes?

Functional fitness is believed to be quite a hot, intensive workout that aims to improve your performance in workouts that combine various styles of training known as the fitness  WODs. It includes weightlifting, plyometrics, HIIT, rowing, numerous styles of squats and push-ups, and so on. Let's figure out the key benefits of wearing functional fitness shoes and define why they surpass other standard sneakers and cross-trainers.

Enhanced Durability 

It’s a common problem among dedicated functional fitness athletes to wear down multiple pairs of shoes throughout the year. So, fitness shoes are highly durable and made from high-quality materials, and no tough training won't kill them after several months or even a year of regular workouts.

Such abusive exercises as rope climbs, burpees, handstand push-ups, and other explosive movements can beat the upper construction of your shoes. Moreover, the additional friction coming from these exercises results in uppers becoming thin, ripping, and breaking down faster.

By using thicker upper materials and several layers in high friction areas like the toe box and midfoot, your fitness trainers will serve much longer.

High Level of Versatility

These boots are produced to provide superb performance and boost athletes' productivity in a wide range of disciplines. Functional fitness includes diverse WODs: you can train your overall conditioning by performing cardio, and strength-oriented exercises, working out your balance, and improving responsiveness and speed. While other cross-trainers are targeted to specific sports directions.

Improved Stability

Fitness trainers give you more stability that you can notice especially when performing weight lifting. This is due to the reinforced midsole and outsole that reduces compression under different loads. Manufacturers use medium or high-density foam to prevent an athlete from losing balance or stability while working with a loaded barbell. Another perk is a full rubber outsole for extra grip when training heavy and lifting workouts.

WBCM athlet is lifting in flat shoes

All-Inclusive Support

Good fitness sneakers keep not only the heel in the right place, but also provide lateral support. This point is highly important in this sports activity because athletes perform diverse motions of three different disciplines: weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio. Predominantly, the pressure from weight training exercises goes from the hips, by shifting the athlete's weight to the feet outside. This means fitness athletes need extra lateral support to avoid sliding over the shoes' edges while doing lunges, squats, jumping, and running.

Medial arch support helps to cope with pains caused by flat feet, it also puts your ankles, knees, and hips in the right position to perform weighty lifts, i.e., squats and deadlift variations. So, wide supportive sidewalls on your functional fitness shoes will cope with this task well.

How to Choose the Best Functional Fitness Shoes?

Heel’s Firm Construction & Cushioned Sole

This is a characteristic that makes functional fitness sneakers different from other training boots and daily sneakers. A firm heel aims to add extra support and responsiveness when weightlifting and generally performs any WODs with lifting weight. Some sports brands design the heel with additional plastic components for more rigidity and firmness.

Generally, heels on fitness shoes are much firmer which makes them great for weight-bearing exercises. Here you are the leading materials used for shoe heels, such as TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), high abrasion rubber, and EVA foam.

Another spec of the heel construction is its extra support that is visually noticeable and makes fitness kicks different from standard training sneakers. This additional heel support, or heel clip, brings an extra plastic layer.

You can notice some shoe models have blocky heels: this feature makes them great for all kinds of static lifts while decreasing your performance slightly during cardio HIIT workouts. A rigid heel provides better stability and anchoring during lifts and also presents high responsiveness when an athlete performs most dynamic exercises.

WBCM woman hold nike functional fitness  shoes

Cushioning 

At the same time, functional fitness kicks should have a cushioned foundation for athletes to perform sprints or short-distance runs without hurting their forefoot or heel. High-quality and well-designed fitness shoes involve balance support and cushioning to perform multidirectional explosive movements of any intensive WOD. Foam sole also provides great energy return during short sprints, and can bring plenty of support for Olympic lifts, i.e., cleans and jerks.

Midsole Construction

This is a distinctive feature of fitness boots that provides shock absorption and good grip for exercises like rope climbs, squats, and med balls to assist an athlete in performing these movements more efficiently. Its mission is to limit compression and provide reactivity and responsiveness. However, this construction can benefit or bring some discomfort. So, you should know exactly what type of workout you plan to perform. Therefore, if you prefer more static WODs with weights and gym machines.

Heel Drop

The heel drop size can differ from shoe to shoe. A high heel drop with 12mm like running shoes have, provides more support to avoid leg muscle strains and particularly Achilles injuries. But, such a height doesn’t suit lifting exercises and functional fitness generally, you need a smaller one for greater stability and balance. That’s why the majority of functional fitness shoes come with 4mm, 6mm, or a maximum of 8mm drops by helping athletes work efficiently under the bar.

Although true fitness trainers are zero-dropped because athletes benefit from flat soles mostly to perform deadlifts, lunges, rowing, jumping rope, etc with feeling the surface well without extra layers and amortization.

Shoes with a 22 mm drop are designed specifically for weightlifting because they transform all the effort and power to perform powerful clean and snatch.

WBCM Oleskiy Torokhtiy performing mibility exercises

Durable Material & Design 

Material durability and the use of specific design technologies mean that these trainers can be worn for a workout that includes static and intense exercises. The mesh upper material should be durable enough to withstand the most active sets. Athletes shouldn't worry that their cross-trainers will tear them apart during the grueling training.

So, it's important to pay attention to the uppers, and shoe sidewalls that have reinforced fabric, and extra layers of support that can help extend shoe´s lifespan, especially when you attend the gym regularly and perform diverse agility sessions, rope climbs, sled pushes, and numerous lifting exercises and dynamic movements.

Roomy forefoot and midfoot can not only bring extra comfort for functional fitness athletes with wider feet, but also make deadlifts, weight squats, or box jumps more efficient thanks to adding extra confidence. Since there's more space, a sportsman can splay their toes more naturally, so they feel more stability and optimal balance. Thus, they won't be disturbed by unwanted toe compression during the workout.

Speaking about the material and layers, they also matter for better performance since they improve the shoe’s durability, and provide more resilience when squatting, Olympic lifts, and explosive movements such as jumping. Manufacturers use such common materials as synthetic knit mesh, textured rubber, Flexweave, CORDURA®, and nylon.

Outsole Material and Pattern

The outsole of the functional fitness shoes should be highly grippy to provide good traction on any surface. For instance, a herringbone outsole pattern provides better traction during agility training. A lug pattern also offers an excellent strong grip on various gym floor surfaces. Functional fitness boots usually come with a rubber sole to aid the resistance to rope climbs and transfer weight to the floor. Also, it’s useful when performing weight-lifting movements, functional fitness athletes put power into the floor to produce enough force to move objects.

WBCM Oleksiy Torokhtiy performing lifting from the plate

Reinforced Lacing 

Extra eyelets on the top of the shoes vouch for a reliable lace lock structure, so your heel won’t slide during hard and agile training. The most effective and innovative lacing system like BOA guarantees quick, easy lockdowns whether in-training or post-workout. It provides extra solid foot fixation and supports predominantly for the heel and midfoot area.

Lace lock technology means that your laces won’t move around while you work out. Lockdown is an important point for worthy functional fitness shoes since it ensures your feet and ankles are supported during a wide range of movements, without being too snug or sacrificing comfort.

Is It Better to Functional Fitness Barefoot?

Working out barefoot isn’t a big surprise today, even the most serious lifters try to pull weights shoeless to improve their power distribution and increase stability. Barefoot functional fitness sessions are believed to build strength in feet muscles, by involving the back, hips, knees, and ankles, and promote training sessions generally, improving balance, stability, and coordination.

The reason why athletes don’t mind working out barefoot is the feel of a more solid connection with the surface. So, it’s absolutely possible to perform standard fitness WODs without wearing your trainers. For example, if you want to do deadlifts barefoot, you’ll get a power boost.

The reason is that when deadlifting, an athlete lifts weight with the help of the ground and shoes to weigh it off. So, cushioned soles absorb some force that you use to lift the barbell. Being barefoot this force is applied directly for lifting, and also adds better muscle support and strength.

Another sample is barefoot powerlifting and weight training: being shoeless when performing kettlebell swings facilitates feet to grip on the gym floor. Moreover, you need to activate larger leg and hip muscles that allow you to do heavier lifts. The same is with squats: when your feet are placed flat on the ground, you involve smaller muscles in the lower limbs. Thus, you get more mobility, balance, and grip. Such barefoot workouts increase balance, reduce unnecessary ineffective movements, and engage more muscles.

Nevertheless, to protect your feet from sharp objects and obstacles while dynamic WODs, you can try a good pair of functional fitness barefoot shoes. If it’s a novelty for you, you’d better start wearing them for strengthening-based exercises that include more upper body, and static strength work. Since barefoot shoes have less material separating your feet from the surface, you’ll get more gripping to the ground because of extra comfort and support shortage. 

WBCM athlet is prepearing shoes for training

Zero-drop barefoot boots also provide enough space to allow your toes to spread naturally. Some models can have upper padding and go with laces to stiffen the heel cup to provide extra support. You can see another design of such shoes that imitates the real foot anatomy: they’re designed with separated toes to enhance better connection between the toes and the surface.

What is The Difference Between Weightlifting Shoes and Functional Fitness Shoes?

Workout Type

Basically, functional fitness shoes are perfectly fitted for weight training, plyometrics, light short-distance, or explosive runs that are assembled in one workout. They provide more stability in their midsole and outsole construction and have lower heel-to-toe drops.


This spec makes these boots a suitable option for lifters and functional fitness athletes who plan to train heavily. Generally, functional fitness kicks are versatile boots for a wide range of dynamic functional training such as HIIT, lifting, athletic training, sprints, and agility training.


Meanwhile, weightlifting shoes are made specifically for weightlifting to perform strong snatches, clean & jerk sets, and weight lifting generally. They have elevated heels to provide the body with seamless support to get into the dorsiflexion position.


Being equipped with stable outsoles, weightlifting shoes provide lifters with maximal amounts of stability under the loads. They aim to optimize performance and technique while squatting, snatching, and clean & jerks.


Weightlifting boots are used in weightlifting competitions and overall sports training. Also, you can wear them to perform Olympic lifts of high volume, and when you want to refine positioning performance.

Raised Heel

Weightlifting shoes differ from other gym boots with a raised heel that limits the range of motion for the ankles. This peculiarity makes it easier to transit into deeper squats while keeping the back straight. While the heels of the functional fitness shoes are more flexible and with smaller heel-to-toe drop to provide athletes with stability for heavy lifting. It also gives enough shock absorption effect for sprinting during WODs.

WBCM Oleksiy Torokhtiy performing lunges with bar

For instance, we have a premium Reebok Legacy 3 weightlifting shoes that come with a solid and durable 22mm heel. Some boots have 19 or 20 mm drop, or even milder one (although, we prefer not to consider such model for Oly lifts).

Midsole Strap

Another distinctive feature of weightlifting shoes is the availability of the in-step and/or midsole strap. Being located over the midsole, it's targeted for extra support to keep feet secure and prevent slipping or shifting. Most weightlifting boots have Velcro straps that enable quicker taking on and off. This feature prevents sliding and slipping with power transfer while an athlete jerks or snatches a weight overhead.

Tips From the Champ

Functional fitness is believed to be quite a hot, intensive workout that aims to improve your performance in workouts that combine various styles of training known as the fitness WODs. It includes weightlifting, plyometrics, HIIT, rowing, numerous styles of squats and push-ups, and so on. Let's figure out the key benefits of wearing functional fitness shoes and define why they surpass other standard sneakers and cross-trainers.

Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Rigidity

Since functional fitness workouts include quick movements and transitions, the shoes for these exercises should be sturdy enough yet flexible to simplify switching from squats to sprinting, rope climbing, and jump rope. Weightlifting shoes usually have limited padding and cushioning, so they have a solid heel and rigid sole to bring more stability, which is made of such materials as wood, plastic, or leather.


The more rigid the sole is, the more efficient power transfer you get during the lifts. It’s obvious that it’s almost impossible to walk in such shoes, they’re made purposely for lifters to perform the Olympic lifts quickly and make it technically correct, by generating maximum strength to lift the weight.


Another interesting fact is that some lifters prefer training in zero heel-to-toe drop trainers like Converse Chuck Tailor. Sure, it’s quite unexpectedly to hear, but it really works. Having no drop, these sneakers go with a firm and grippy sole that makes them appropriate for performing deep squats. The reason is that a lifter can develop ankle flexibility and range of motion.

WBCM athlet performing overhead lifting

Breathability

functional fitness trainers should have a breathable design and materials, compared to weightlifting shoes. The use of mesh and other breathable fabrics helps prevent feet from sweating and overheating. These shoes should withstand long training sessions and bring a functional fitness athletes' feet more airflow inside the boots.


On the contrary, weightlifting shoes are made of solid upper material such as leather, thick mesh, or canvas, some fancy models may have suede upper (although, we suppose it’s more for training purposes). It’s possible to consider perforated leather upper and a thick mesh upper that can ensure both breathability and durability.

Can You Use Running Shoes for Functional Fitness?

You can theoretically use running shoes for functional fitness workouts, but you'll face some drawbacks unavoidably. Also, you won’t find fitness running shoes on the market because “fitness ” and “running” are two notions that come separately. A running shoe’s construction will cut your potential and performance output during the WODs. So, to avoid such unwanted outcomes, no matter whether you are a pro fitness athlet, or start performing some functional fitness exercises, you need to pick up versatile trainers that can handle any dynamic WOD.


By choosing proper shoes for functional fitness training, first, you'll prevent injuries, knee pains, joints, and muscle strains. These kicks should comply with explosive cardio exercises, short running, deep squats, and heavy cleans. Meanwhile, running shoes can't provide an athlete with the stability, support, and grip needed for more dynamic drills.


For instance, for performing lifts, push-offs, box jumps, sled pushes, med ball throwing, etc you need high stability and support for your feet. Unfortunately, running shoes can't meet these requirements. Doing side-to-side motions, and Plyo exercises in running shoes may result in injury because of too much cushioning.


What's more, running shoes can tear apart quickly because of the stress and tension that come with functional fitness workouts.

WBCM WF exercises functional fitness shoes

Functional Fitness Shoes Vs Cross-Training Shoes

Selecting fitting shoes does matter for your performance and progress in functional fitness WODs. Good cross-training shoes will be stable, have durable upper construction, and provide the versatility to execute functional fitness workouts of any intensity.


Functional fitness shoes are purposely designed to excel specifically in the functional fitness activities like rope climbs, burpees, squats, kettlebell swings, jumps, and so on. Sturdy and thick construction will promote better performance and the long-lasting durability of the shoes.


Shoe drop is the major feature that separates fitness shoes from other trainers, particularly cross-training ones. For functional fitness, the lower drop a shoe has, the better the result you'll get. For a good fitness shoe, a drop of no more than 3 – 4 mm is a perfect option. It helps to distribute the weight evenly inside your shoes, almost like being barefoot.


Functional fitnessshoes are more about stability, balance, and support. They should have a firm, wide sole but with slight flexibility to allow you to perform dynamic movements. On the contrary, regular cross-training shoes provide more movement to your foot and have moderate cushioning for shock absorption. For functional fitness boots, a hard sole helps you feel the surface better.


Good cross-training shoes have cushioning in the heel and forefoot areas, and also provide stability for side-to-side movements. It's something between solid boots for fitness, volleyball, and running. If you’re running long distances, you’ll probably need a pair of running shoes as well. If you need shoes that can take you from a weight training workout to a running session, and then to functional training, cross trainers will satisfy your expectations.

WBCM  clean in functional fitness shoes

What Are Functional Fitness Shoes Also Good For?

You can try out wearing functional fitness shoes for running. Sure, they are designed to be applied to running sessions, but not for long distances and what's more, not to wear for running marathons. You'll get more benefits from running in functional fitness kicks for short runs and sprints during the WOD. This way you'll manage to transform your power and energy in the right direction.


Also, some gym devotees wear these shoes every day for walking to the gym. Although they choose better-looking models that look like casual trainers. Fitness shoes are heavier but more supportive and firmer than typical running shoes. Protection, balance, and injury prevention are key points for functional fitness.

FAQ

Do Shoes Make a Difference in Functional Fitness?

Sure, high-quality durable, and comfortable shoes are a must-have for any workout. First, you need to take care of your feet and joints' health, second, you're likely to be interested in improving your training performance and the quality of the workout. Perfect functional fitness kicks should be comfortable, versatile, supportive, flexible but firm, and light but durable enough to withstand the intensity of your WODs. Reliable gripping and outsole patterns also play a crucial role in explosive take-offs and safe landings.


Generally, fitness includes many disciplines and modalities. It can involve Olympic lifting, gymnastics, cardiovascular exercises like running, rowing, biking, plyo exercises, etc. Thus, to choose the most fitting shoes for functional fitness workouts, you should consider the peculiarities of the particular type of training you plan to join.

Is It Ok to Run In Functional Fitness Shoes?

To be short, no. Fitness and running shoes are absolutely different footwear designed for diverse types of training. However, if you run a short distance of less than one mile, and some short runs are included in the WOD, you can perform such exercise in functional fitness shoes.


If you want to start running for long distances, consider buying good running shoes to receive maximum comfort and benefit for your health. At least, you'll avoid injuries. Also, there's another reason to refuse functional fitness shoes for running: they are quite heavy and don't have enough padding to cushion your heel while running on the pavement.

Conclusion

Having reviewed the 8 best fitness shoes that the majority of users prefer to wear for their workouts, we chose for you the best variant for crushing your next WOD. Our top pick shoes are Reebok Nano X2 which will provide you with exceptional stability and responsiveness to push the limits during each training session.

So, if you’re searching for a new pair of durable shoes, then consider our recommendations before the purchase. In any case, if you still hesitate about what pair of kicks to choose, write to us directly or leave comments below this article. We'll gladly assist you and give a comprehensive response to any tricky query.

References:

  • The Link Between Exercise and Healthy Bones // Very Well Fit: https://www.verywellfit.com/bone-density-and-exercise-3120770
  • Effects of Footwear on Performance in a Barbell Backsquat // Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijesab/vol2/iss8/61/
  • Practicing Sport in Flat Shoes// NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8471173/ 

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With over 20 years in Olympic Weightlifting, our team does its best to provide the audience with ultimate support and meet the needs and requirements of advanced athletes and professional lifters, as well as people who strive to open new opportunities and develop their physical capabilities with us.

All products we select are primarily approved and tested by the Olympic Weightlifting Champion Oleksii Torokhtiy. Under his guidance, we provide honest and reasonable assessments of the products we review by checking their characteristics, packaging, design, comfort and durability features, and general product rating. We select products from only high-quality and trusted sports brands, thus vouching for their quality.

The product testing process is described in more detail here
REEBOK NANO X2
  • Author
  • Reviewer
Ihor Shymechko

Coach, PRO Olympic Weightlifter

Experience: 26 years

Best Results: Snatch - 208 kg,

C&J - 240 kg

My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.

I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.


If you have any questions/suggestions/any other inquiry, you can reach out to us via email - reviews@torokhtiy.com

Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Experience: 21 years

Best Results: Snatch – 200 kg,

C&J - 240 kg

My name is Oleksiy Torokhtiy. I am a professional athlete with 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. I have won multiple European, and World titles and have taken part in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012).

After finishing my career, I have committed myself to coach, and as of 2022, I’ve hosted 200+ weightlifting seminars all over the globe. I’m the founder of an international sportswear and accessories brand, Warm Body Cold Mind (my motto), author, and creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.


If you have any questions/suggestions/any other inquiry, you can reach out to us via email - reviews@torokhtiy.com

This article was written by our qualified author and proofread by an expert with proven experience. When writing the article we've used our expertise and data from authoritative, scientific, and evidence-based sources. The list of references is provided at the end of the article.


Our team of authors and experts includes professional athletes (Olympians, winners of European and World titles), PhDs in Sports Science, certified coaches, sports nutritionists, CSCSs, physiotherapists, and others. Read more about the team here, and more about how we test here.

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