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Inov-8 F-Lite 235
The 235 is a minimal cross-training shoe with a zero drop, meaning that the heel height is the same as the forefoot height, making the shoe “flat”. It offers a wide toe box for most people. The 235 is a highly flexible trainer that allows the foot to move as it wants. The heel is dense, making for a more stable platform when performing movements such as the squat and the deadlift.
Takeaway: A minimal shoe that allows the foot to move and get stronger. Lightweight and flexible, it is great for the gym, but be leery if you are coming from a highly supportive shoe, as it is lacking in any amount of support.
Inov-8 F-Lite 250
A cousin of the 235, this shoe offers a bit more support, due to its 8mm heel to toe drop, than the 235. It is still flexible, but it is less “minimal” than the 235. This is a great transition shoe if you are used to a more supportive piece of footwear. It boasts a good-sized toe box and also has a solid heel that performs well when doing movements like the squat and deadlift.
Takeaway: This is my #1 choice for the majority of members at SOF. It will allow the foot to move as it should, providing the opportunity for natural movement and an increase in foot strength, yet would not be a “shock” if a person is used to a more supportive shoe.
Nike MetCon 2
The MetCon is a very durable and comfortable shoe. It provides a good amount of cushion, without having too much. Therefore, it does not take away from proprioception. It also has a 6mm heel to toe drop. It is on the heavier side, but that is what makes it durable and cushioned. The MetCon also has a roomy toe box, but is not as flexible as other cross trainers. If I had to describe this shoe, I would say that it is a “very comfortable tank, capable of any fitness activity”.
Takeaway: A very comfortable shoe, solidly built, and good more the majority of fitness activities. Not a good shoe for running in, but great for squats, deadlifts and the occasional agility ladder.
Reebok Nano 5.0
The Nano is a tried and proven shoe. It provides a 4mm drop and is fairly flexible, allowing for proprioception and natural movement. It offers a wide toe box, allowing the toes to move as they want. The newest model, the 5.0, is made out of Kevlar on the upper, making it basically indestructible. I have heard that fits big, so be careful when ordering online.
Takeaway: It is hard to go wrong with one of the Nano models. They offer a everything making a good cross-trainer, are very durable, and are not too minimal for most. These are a top pick.
Price: Many styles on sale for $110 (Not available at Playmakers)
Another minimal shoe, the Metconviction is very flexible and lightweight. Its toe box is not as roomy as the Inov-8, but it still provides ample room for the toes to move naturally. The conviction has a low heel to toe drop and a low profile under the sole. Running slightly snug and narrow, it might not be for all foot types.
Takeaway: The Metconviction is a new Asics training shoe that is minimal in nature, making the wearer feel light and agile. It is not for everyone, as it runs snug and does not provide any support.
Asics Gel-Craze Trainer 3
The Gel-Craze is overall a good training shoe that has been around for a few years. It provides the most cushion of any training shoe I know, making it a little unstable compared to firmer or more minimal shoes. It has a perfectly sized toe box and a durable design. Due to the increased amount of material underfoot, the Craze is not as flexible as most trainers. It also has a higher heel to toe drop (around 10mm), making it an easier transition from a normal running shoe.
Takeaway: A highly cushioned shoe that feels closer to a running shoe, but is built to withstand the rigors of the gym. The Craze would be good transition shoe if coming from a more supportive or cushioned shoe.
Asics Gel-Exert TR
The Exert is a fairly minimal shoe, with a moderate amount of cushion underfoot. It has a lower profile and a somewhat more narrow fit compared to other cross trainers. Having rubber overlays on the upper, it is a very durable shoe that will not blow out when doing a large variety of movements. It has a fairly low heel to toe drop, allowing for natural movement.
Takeaway: The Exert is a great value shoe that allows for natural movement and is flexible, yet cushioned. A solid choice for any SOF member.