I was sitting in second place going into the final event. The event coordinator cut the field of 25 athletes down to 5 for this final workout. And then he announced it:
30 American Kettlebell Swings
“The final men’s event will start in 10-minutes!”
This was my fifth and final workout of my first-ever crossfit competition. I only had one problem… I didn’t know what a thruster was.
In the warm-up area, I saw two of my competitors doing kettlebell swings while the other two were doing squats and presses with a barbell. I walked over to one of them…
“I know this is kinda embarrassing, but is that a thruster?”
This guy, my competitor who was sitting in first-place, laughed. “Wait, are you serious?”
“Haha no,” I responded. “I just wanted to get in your head.”
Except, I wasn’t kidding… I really had no idea what a thruster was. But his response answered my question that a front squat + push press was a thruster. So I grabbed my own barbell and started to practice the movement.
Our 10-minute warm-up time was now over and it was time for the final’s WOD. We lined up in a straight line facing the crowd (mainly full of spouses and children).
“3… 2… 1… Go!”
The rest was a blur. I went as fast as I could without taking a second to rest. Those thrusters took my breath away.
I laid down immediately following my 30th thruster and looked over. I took second place in the heat… I was disappointed so I put my forearms over my eyes and just tried to recover.
I didn’t realize that the guy in first place was still going…
Fast forward 15-minutes later and I was standing on top of the podium in first place. We took some pictures and then started packing up to go home.
The guy that I leaped frog for first place came over to me with his shoes in his hands…
“Anyone that doesn’t know what a thruster is, but still beats me in a crossfit competition, deserves his own pair of crossfit shoes,” he said.
“Do yourself a favor and retire your running shoes. Here, take mine.”
He gave me his shoes! They were my first pair of crossfit shoes.
It wasn’t until that moment that I realized there were different shoes for different circumstances in the world of crossfit.
A running shoe should be round and a little “squishy” (to provide comfort). This will reduce the impact on your feet (especially heels) when running long distances.
The top choices I see from our members are: Saucony, Brooks, and any kind of Nike running shoe. I’m also beginning to hear good reviews about the new NoBull Runners.
Metcon Shoes (the “crossfit” shoe)
A metcon shoe should be flexible around the toes and stiff at the heel. You also want a shoe that is relatively flat with a hard heel to allow for good stability when squatting, deadlifting, or pressing loads overhead.
Additionally, a good metcon shoe will be durable against a climbing rope (running shoes will quickly fall apart if you J-hook your feet around the rope). They also should have a piece of plastic around the heel to allow for efficient sliding against a wall for handstand push-ups.
The top choices I see are: Reebok Nanos (definitely the preferred choice), Nike Metcons, and the NoBullTrainer.
Lifting shoes should be flat and allow for no flex at all. Remember, these are made to only lift weights in. This is one of the reasons why they are so uncomfortable to walk around in.
They also will have an elevated, hard heel to help you get into better squatting positions. You will find that catching a squat clean or squat snatch becomes a little bit easier in lifting shoes because your back stays more upright–this is because your heels are elevated in the lifting shoe.
The top choices I see are the Nike Romaleos. I also see a good amount of Reebok Lifters. I rarely see anything else, including NoBull’s new lifting shoe.
You don’t need a crossfit shoe; you need consistency in your workouts. As a rule of thumb, wear whatever shoes you have until you know what a thruster is… Once you know the different weightlifting movements, and have established the habit of working out daily, one or more of these pairs of shoes will make sense.
But I understand that sometimes it goes the other way around: if you buy something in advance, you’re more likely to adopt the habit. If that’s you, buy the shoe.
As a final note, here’s the order that I would buy them in: first, Metcon shoes. Then, Running shoes. And finally, a Lifting shoe.