Comprising high-impact, high-intensity interval training, CrossFit has participants running, rowing and weight-lifting, as well as performing a variety of gym exercises, strength exercises and rope climbs.
CrossFit is designed to strengthen the whole body but the nature of the training means your gear has to be able to cope with a variety of punishing workouts, and finding suitable shoes can be a problem. Perhaps surprisingly, a large number of people use Chuck Taylors.
Often known simply as ‘Converses’, Chuck Taylors have a long history. First designed in 1917, and improved through the 1920s and 1930s, these iconic trainers were originally for basketball.
The patch on the ankle was for protection, the rubber sole gave flexibility and the over-the-ankle tight lacing provided stability. Today the shoes are very similar in their fundamental design, so a lot of the same points could still be made.
As a completely flat shoe, these Converses were ahead of their time. The current trend is for zero-drop shoes, emphasising stability without sole-compression for weight-lifting, and a forefoot strike for aerobic gym exercises and short runs.
These shoes are not purpose designed, nor are they as technical as many modern shoes but the principle behind the shoe’s design still stands.
They’re fairly standard ‘high-street’ sizing, and the lacing on these shoes allows them to be adjusted for an individual fit, with the exception of very wide feet.
For a few people, the point where the outer toe guard meets the canvas can cause rubbing.
The massive international popularity of Chuck Taylors, for both leisure and athletic wear, must say something about their comfort.
The flexibility given by the simple canvas and rubber construction is second to none, however for anyone used to a more padded or cushioned sole, these can come as a bit of a shock. It’s definitely advisable to allow some time to get used to exercising in them, since they will feel very different to many other training shoes.
How comfortable they are will often depend on the particular exercises in the CrossFit WOD. Whilst they’re great for some exercises, particularly lifts and squats, they’re less appropriate for running. Other exercises such as rope climbs really come down to your personal opinion as to how comfortable they are.
The big advantage these shoes have over some of their more technical rivals, is actually in their simplicity. The flat, rubber sole gives the wearer a natural, neutral stance and the lack of compression in the sole definitely improves stability during lifts and squats.
For athletes with a pronounced forefoot striking gait, these shoes may be great for running relatively short distances. However some people find there simply isn’t room for their toes to spread when they’re running longer distances, and the sole is not shock absorbent enough when completing high-impact gym work.
Converses probably won’t last as long as many other training shoes, as the canvas can wear through relatively quickly, as well as the inners. However they are considerably cheaper than many other shoes, so it’s probably less of an issue.
Not as lightweight as many purpose-made CrossFit shoes but not heavy enough to be used as an excuse for a slow run or poor WOD time.
At approximately $45 (c. £28) these won’t break the bank. For the fashion conscious, fancy patterns and styles can be more expensive, and it’s even possible to custom design a pair.
In summary, how do Chuck Taylors stack up?
Great for lifts and squats
Compression free sole, providing good stability
Less suitable for longer runs
Not cushioned enough for some people
Not very durable
Ultimately, these shoes are very much a personal decision as to their suitability for CrossFit training. Some people will defend them to the hilt; others wouldn’t touch them with a barge-pole!
Here are some additional reviews for reference: