Oct 14, 2023
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NOBULL Shoes Review (2023): Tested in 100+ Workouts

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When I started CrossFit in 2015, it only took about a week for me to develop an unhealthy obsession with shopping for the best CrossFit shoes. Even though the NOBULL brand launched in that same year, I didn’t buy my first pair of their trainers until 2019. Having put them through hundreds of workouts since then, I’m well-equipped…
The post NOBULL Shoes Review (2023): Tested in 100+ Workouts appeared first on Breaking Muscle.

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When I started CrossFit in 2015, it only took about a week for me to develop an unhealthy obsession with shopping for the best CrossFit shoes. Even though the NOBULL brand launched in that same year, I didn’t buy my first pair of their trainers until 2019. Having put them through hundreds of workouts since then, I’m well-equipped to deliver this NOBULL shoes review.

Based on comments I used to hear at the box where I started my CrossFit journey, and from the feedback I’ve collected from other Breaking Muscle staff members, one thing is clear: NOBULL trainers can be quite controversial. Below, I’ll explore why this is and discuss the shoes’ benefits, drawbacks, key features, and who they’re best suited for.

Key Takeaways

  • The NOBULL trainers retail for around $129 to $149, depending on which colorway you choose. 
  • The SuperFabric technology used for the upper is durable, but breathability may be an issue — something to consider if you live and train in a hot climate.
  • NOBULL trainers fit true to size, though the toe box runs narrow.


NOBULL Trainers


3.8
  • Heel-to-toe drop: Four millimeters
  • Weight: 11 ounces (Men’s 9 / Women’s 10.5)
  • Material: SuperFabric®
  • Width: Wide


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NOBULL Shoes Pros

  • NOBULL shoes come in lots of colors and prints. If you want to stand out in the gym or like wearing color-coordinated gym attire, you should be able to find a colorway that suits your style.
  • They are durable. I still have the first pair of NOBULL trainers I bought in 2019, and they don’t look much different now than when I first took them out of the box.
  • The lug-patterned outsole provides a lot of traction whether you’re training indoors or outdoors.

NOBULL Shoes Cons

  • The trainers aren’t good for running or lots of jumping due to the lack of cushioning, poor arch support, and minimal forefoot flexibility.
  • While their price point of around $129 to $149 is on par with other CrossFit shoes, other brands regularly offer sales and discounts. NOBULL shoes are rarely on sale, which can be a drawback for budget-conscious CrossFitters.
  • The SuperFabric® material used for the upper can be stiff, and the trainers may take a few weeks to break in.

NOBULL Shoes Rating

At Breaking Muscle, we’ve tested dozens of training shoes, including the latest models of  CrossFit-specific shoes, like the Nike Metcons and Reebok Nanos. I personally have also bought and trained in at least 20 different CrossFit shoes throughout the years. Here’s how the NOBULL trainers scored after we put them through our proprietary factor methodology system.

Factor Rating (out of 5)
Appearance 4.5
Materials 3.5
Outsole 4.3
Midsole 3
Heel-to-toe drop 4.2
Versatility 3
Price 4
Durability 4

NOBULL Shoes Overview

NOBULL shoes are meant to be a somewhat minimalist, back-to-basics type of training shoe. They’re designed to withstand rope climbs, burpees, handstand push-ups, powerlifting movements, Olympic weightlifting movements, and anything else your workout of the day (WOD) has in store.

However, they can be quite polarizing. Some CrossFitters claim NOBULL trainers are the most comfortable shoes they’ve ever worn. Others claim the shoes lack design ingenuity and don’t perform as well as other well-known shoes, like the Nike Metcons.

While NOBULL has released new shoe models over the years — for instance, the Rec Trainers and the NOBULL runners — the original trainers haven’t changed much. The NOBULL Trainer+ came out in 2022 with some improvements over the original trainer, which I’ll discuss in the comparison section later on. But in general, NOBULL hasn’t strayed too far from the design of their original trainers.

Who Are NOBULL Shoes Good For?

  • The overall stability of the shoe and the rigidity of the flat sole can make NOBULL trainers good for athletes who focus primarily on strength training.
  • In our experience, NOBULL trainers don’t have a super wide toe box, so they are more suitable for athletes with narrow feet.

Who Are NOBULL Shoes Not Good For?

  • Because of the hard bottom, lack of arch support, and minimal cushioning, the NOBULL trainers may not be suitable for anyone who wants a comfortable sneaker they can wear all day.
  • Athletes who prefer to wear heeled weightlifting shoes for squats will likely not enjoy the four-millimeter heel-to-toe drop on the NOBULL trainers. (Note, however, that NOBULL sells weightlifting shoes with 17.5- and 18.5-millimeter heel-to-toe drops.)

NOBULL Shoes In-Depth Review

Appearance

The design of the NOBULL trainers is one thing that makes them so controversial. Some people love the minimalist aesthetic while others consider it quite basic and uninspired. I’m part of the latter camp — I don’t necessarily think that NOBULL has accomplished anything groundbreaking or unique with its trainer.

However, NOBULL makes up for this by offering their shoes in unique colors and prints. For example, as of this writing, the women’s shoes are available in fun colorways, such as neon blue, bright pink camo, multiple floral patterns, and highlighter yellow. If you prefer more understated footwear, you can opt for solid colors, like black, gray, or navy.

I don’t like my gym shoes to be too flashy, but I don’t want them to be too boring, either. When I bought my first pair of NOBULL trainers, I chose a gray upper with a blue, pink, and purple patterned sole and matching laces. I like that this colorway has a small pop of color that keeps them from being too drab without being so bright that you can spot me from a mile away when I wear them.

The NOBULL trainers also have one of the largest selections of prints and colors I’ve seen in any gym sneaker, let alone a CrossFit shoe. You can even get them in high tops, similar to the Converse Chuck Taylors. They get a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars for aesthetics from this CrossFit shoe junkie.

RELATED: Is CrossFit Bad for You?

Materials

NOBULL shoes are made with SuperFabric® technology. NOBULL takes normal mesh fabric and applies tiny guard plates to it, resulting in a material that is highly resistant to abrasions. I’m not always gentle with how I treat my shoes, but my NOBULL trainers hardly have any scuff marks or imperfections on them.

However, the SuperFabric® material is not very breathable. I appreciate this in the winter when I’m training in my cold garage because it helps keep my feet warm. But I don’t particularly enjoy the lack of breathability in the summer because it makes my feet overly hot and sweaty. The suede tongue has holes for ventilation, but I don’t think they do much.

The material is also stiff. I still have to loosen the shoelaces nearly all the way to get the shoes on, and I’ve had the trainers for four years now. Because of the material’s stiffness and minimal breathability, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Outsole

NOBULL trainers have a flat, stable carbon rubber outsole with a grippy lug pattern and a reinforced sidewall. The shoes don’t slide around easily when I’m lifting on the rubber gym flooring in my garage, and on the rare occasions that I have worn them for outdoor runs, I haven’t felt like I was going to slip.

The bottoms have less traction now than when I first got the shoes, but the outsoles haven’t worn down as quickly as many of my other cross-training shoes. I gave the outsole 4.3 out of 5 stars for this reason.

Midsole

The midsole features a lightweight foam material that doesn’t compress. This is a great feature when you’re lifting heavy weights, as you want your shoes to help you feel balanced and stable. However, it’s a drawback for sprints, jumping, and other high-impact activities because the midsole isn’t very shock-absorbing or responsive (meaning it doesn’t offer much energy transfer when your feet hit the ground). I only scored the midsole 3 out of 5 stars because, as I’ll discuss below, the shoe’s minimal midsole limits its versatility.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

NOBULL trainers have a four-millimeter heel-to-doe drop. The low heel-to-toe drop makes it ideal for heavy lifts because it keeps you more balanced and stable. In fact, the NOBULL trainers are my go-to shoes for days when I’m only doing strength training.

I give them 4.2 stars for the heel-to-toe drop, however, because I prefer a heeled lifting shoe for heavy squats. I’m 5’8 and have long legs, and a higher heel-to-toe drop makes it easier for me to squat below parallel.

That said, I do think they’re a good shoe for lifters who prefer squatting in a flatter shoe. They just don’t work for me for most barbell squat variations.

RELATED: Best Weightlifting Belts

Versatility

When it comes to versatility, I only give NOBULL trainers a 3 out of 5. They’re supposed to be all-purpose shoes that are good for running, jumping, and lifting weights. However, in my experience, they don’t work well for anything high-impact.

I’ve long since given up on wearing them for any workouts that include a lot of running (even short distances), box jumps, or double-unders. I only wear them for my strict strength training days, when my CrossFit WODs call for mostly static movements, or when I’m using a low-impact cardio machine like a rower or exercise bike. I have flat feet and have had multiple foot and ankle injuries. For high-impact movements, I reach for shoes with more cushioning and arch support.

I wouldn’t even recommend wearing the NOBULL trainers for running errands or walking around town. I’ve tried wearing them while strolling through a shopping mall and while walking my dog, and my feet ached for hours afterward. If you’re looking for a shoe that can double as a workout shoe and a recreational, a NOBULL pair of shoes may not cut it.

Price

NOBULL trainers cost between $129 and $149, depending on which style and colorway you choose. I give them 4 out of 5 stars for the cost. Even though the price tag may seem high, I don’t fault NOBULL for it too much. It’s hard to find CrossFit shoes that are much cheaper unless you’re lucky enough to get them on sale.

Durability

The NOBULL trainers get 4 out of 5 stars from me for durability. I’ve had my first pair since 2019, and they look nearly the same now as they did when they arrived at my doorstep. The only reason I knocked off a point is that I train at home in a cramped garage gym with a low ceiling and zero empty wall space, so I don’t have room for things like rope climbs and handstand push-ups. I can’t give the shoes a perfect score for durability since I haven’t really put them through a complete test.

NOBULL Trainer Customer Reviews

The NOBULL women’s trainers have over 19,500 reviews on the brand’s website, with the majority of customers rating them 5 out of 5 stars. Buyers praise the trainers for their stability, wide color selection, and true-to-size fit. Those who left negative reviews state the shoes aren’t breathable and take a long time to break in.

NOBULL Trainer vs. NOBULL Trainer+

The NOBULL Trainer+ boasts a thicker EVA midsole and a more cushioned heel cup. I haven’t personally tested the NOBULL Trainer+, but a Breaking Muscle product tester who wore them said these updated features can be both good and bad. For instance, the thicker midsole and increased cushioning offer more shock-absorbing capabilities for running and jumping but make the shoes feel less stable when lifting heavy weights.

Another new feature on the NOBULL Trainer+ is the herringbone-patterned outsole. While I never had a problem with slippage when wearing the original trainer, the new outsole is designed to provide even greater traction. The Trainer+ also has a larger toe bumper and a sturdier sidewall guard for enhanced durability. The SuperFabric material has carried over from the original trainer to the Trainer+.

The Trainer+ costs around $139 to $149, though some colorways are priced even higher at about $169. You can find some colorways in the original trainer for cheaper, but in general, the prices of the two versions are about the same.


NOBULL Trainer+


3.5
  • Heel-to-toe drop: Four millimeters
  • Weight: 13.13 ounces (Men’s 9 / Women’s 10.5)
  • Material: SuperFabric®
  • Width: Wide


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NOBULL Trainers vs. Nike Metcons

Up until a few months ago when I bought my first pair of TYR CXT-1 trainers, the Nike Metcons were my go-to shoes for all of my CrossFit workouts. I haven’t tried the Metcon 8s or 9s — I still have two pairs of Nike Metcon 6s that I rotate through sometimes. I also used to own a pair of Metcon 2s and a pair of Nike Metcon Flyknits (which it looks like Nike no longer makes). I pretty much wore both of them into the ground because I loved them so much. Suffice it to say, I would generally recommend the Metcons over the NOBULL trainers any day.

Like the NOBULL trainers, the Nike Metcons have a four-millimeter heel-to-toe drop. They aren’t overly cushioned, so I’m still able to push against the floor when doing heavy static lifts like squats and deadlifts. While I don’t enjoy doing any jumping movements in my NOBULL trainers, I can tolerate them in the Nike Metcons. 

The Nike shoes aren’t the best for running long distances because the hard plastic heel can be uncomfortable (especially if you heel strike, which I tend to do when I get fatigued). But overall, I find the Metcons more comfortable than the NOBULL shoes.

At around $150, the Metcons cost about the same as or slightly more than the NOBULL trainers (depending on which color you get). Nike tends to run sales on their sneakers from time to time, though. If price is a determining factor for you, it may be worthwhile to keep an eye out for sales and opt for a pair of Metcons.


Nike Metcon 8


4.2
  • Heel-to-toe drop: Four millimeters
  • Weight: 12.5 ounces (size 10)
  • Material: Lightweight mesh with textured overlays
  • Width: Neutral to wide


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NOBULL Trainers vs. Reebok Nano

I’ve never really loved any of the Reebok Nano’s I’ve tried, but I haven’t hated them, either. I’ve actually found Nano’s to be more comfortable for running than the NOBULL trainers. They are springier and more responsive and therefore also better for box jumps, double-unders, and other high-impact movements.

However, I don’t feel as stable lifting near-maximal loads in the Nanos as I do in the NOBULL trainers. I only reach for my Nanos when I’m lifting at around 70 to 75 percent of my one-rep maxes or doing CrossFit WODs with a lot of running or cardio machine work.

The Nano X3s have a seven-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, which is three millimeters more than the NOBULL trainers. Based on the feedback I’ve received from other Breaking Muscle staff members, the Nano X3s are more breathable.

The Nano X3s cost around $140 to $150, about the same as the NOBULL trainers. But if you need a more cushioned CrossFit shoe, the Nanos may be a better choice.


Reebok Nano X3


4.0
  • Heel-to-toe drop: Seven millimeters
  • Weight: 12 ounces (unisex size 9)
  • Material: Synthetic and textile upper
  • Width: Ideal for wide feet


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Final Thoughts: Are the NOBULL Trainers Worth It?

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or a competitive CrossFit athlete, the NOBULL trainers can be worth it. Understand, however, that they may not work for all types of exercises, depending on your foot anatomy and how much support you like in a cross-training shoe. They can be uncomfortable for high-impact activities due to their rigidity and minimal cushioning, but they’re ideal for heavy weightlifting because they offer a stable platform and allow you to still feel connected to the ground.

Before shelling out at least $129, consider the type of movements you do most often in your CrossFit WODs. If you do a lot of heavy barbell cycling or machine work, the NOBULL trainers may be a good choice. But if you like to program a lot of running, box jumps, and double-unders in your WODs, you may want to consider a shoe that will be more comfortable for those movements.

FAQs

Is NOBULL a good shoe brand?

NOBULL is a good shoe brand and has a strong following within the CrossFit community. They also sponsor NFL players, Olympians, pro golfers, NHL players, and other professional athletes. However, their suitability for you depends on the type of training you do. In our experience, NOBULL trainers are best for general weight training and low-impact activities. They aren’t ideal for long-distance running or lots of jumping due to their lack of cushioning and rigid soles.

Is NOBULL owned by Reebok?

NOBULL is not owned by Reebok. However, NOBULL did take over for Reebok as the title sponsor for the CrossFit Games beginning in 2021. 

Should I size up for NOBULL shoes?

In our experience, NOBULL shoes fit true to size. Breaking Muscle staff members who have worn them have all gotten their usual size and had no complaints about the fit.

Can you run long distances in NOBULL shoes?

We don’t recommend running long distances in the NOBULL trainers. They have a hard, rigid bottom and don’t offer much cushioning or arch support. If you’ll be running any distance over a mile, opt for traditional running shoes instead.

Note that you can also buy NOBULL runners, but we don’t necessarily recommend those for serious running, either. We found durability to be an issue, and they weren’t quite as supportive as shoes from Brooks (a brand with a solid reputation in the running community).

The post NOBULL Shoes Review (2023): Tested in 100+ Workouts appeared first on Breaking Muscle.

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