nike metcon 8 in black

Are Nike Metcons Worth the Hype?

Are Nike Metcon gym shoes popular because they're good or because they're Nikes?

Nike’s Metcon training shoe has been A1 since Day 1. Day 1 being 2015, when the Metcon 1 was released, which is nearly eight years ago now, and the Metcon is still the most recommended, searched, and popular training shoe there is. 

Now the Metcon 8, the shoe hasn’t evolved that much since the early days—it’s still trying to ride the line between movement, responsiveness, and stability. Here’s how the newest iteration fared under load. 

What Are Nike Metcon 8s?

The Metcon series is Nike’s mainline training shoe model. Since 2015, the line has been designed for and marketed at weightlifters and CrossFit types, and has done well to keep itself at the top of the ever-growing stack of training shoe competitors (many of which we’ve reviewed: NoBull, Puma Fuse, Reebok Nano X2). 

nike metcon 8 green at gym
Obnoxious overbranding aside, the Metcons are an excellent option for heavy weightlifting and short burst cardio.

What’s Good About the Nike Metcon 8? 

Exceptional for weightlifting

This is the best shoe I’ve worn for squatting, deadlifting, overhead pressing, lunges, and so on. If you’re yearning for stability in your lifts (you wobble a bit, or you frequently shift your foot position), this shoe will go a long way for you. The heel—literally built with a carbon plate beneath the sole—is stubbornly hard and secure. The midfoot and the forefoot areas have some vertical give that relieves a hair of tension on heavier squats and the like, but keep the foot rooted to the ground. The toe box is wide, allowing the front quarter of your foot to splay out as it naturally wants to do while under load. The design is objectively very good for weightlifting. 

Good for quick sprints and burst cardio

Many (most, really) shoes that excel in the weightlifting arena lack comfort and responsiveness when you’re moving quickly. The Metcon 8s are rigid and blocky from the middle of the foot to the heel, but that doesn’t hinder the exercises that keep you on the front foot—sprinting, box jumping, sled pushes, and so on. This is mostly thanks to Nike’s React foam present in the forefoot and toe region. It’s not Nike’s most comfort-forward ride (far from it) but it offers enough bounce, responsiveness, and give to support your more athletics-focused sessions. 

Strong for CrossFitters

Good for weightlifting? Good for athletics- and agility-focused training? Sounds like a good CrossFit shoe. This shoe’s mix of stability and just-enough responsiveness makes things like barbell lunges, kettlebell movements, rope climbs, etc. 

What’s Not Good About the Nike Metcon 8?

Lots of over-branding and obnoxious decals

I’m not going to pretend the look of a training shoe is a make-or-break for me, but I truly cannot understand why Nike thought this shoe needed “ENGINEERED TO THE EXACT SPECIFICATIONS OF CHAMPIONSHIP ATHLETES” emblazoned on the ankle, or METCON printed in three different sizes on the sides and sole. I prefer a quieter gym shoe, and these are anything but quiet (even the black or gray colorways jump out at you).

Hurts to jog in them

The Metcon 8s are in their element when your feet at planted to the ground (squats, deads) or you’re on the front foot (sprints, sled pushes). The Metcon 8s are not in their element if you go for a quick jog. Even something as brief as a 2-mile run was uncomfortable to the point of calling it off near the end. The shoe seems to offer decent support through the Hyperlift foam sole, but from midfoot to heel it is completely locked in place. This means the shoe’s only flex point is the very middle, which makes for a rocky and somewhat painful ride. Cardio is a key part of fitness, and these are great shoes for lifting and cross-training, but you will need another shoe if you want a do-it-all trainer. 

The Experience

Nike Metcon 8s are meant to be the creme de la creme of cross-training shoes. They’ve been around for a while, the design is intentional and mostly logical, and they’re Nike sneakers, which elevates them in the minds of some brand loyalist types. 

First Wear

My first wear with them wasn’t good. I put them on—bothered by the word vomit stitched to the sides, back, and soles—and went to the gym. I usually warm up for leg day with a quick 1-mile jog followed by some hip and ankle mobility work (I am as stiff as a 2×4 otherwise), but I quickly found the Metcon 8s uncomfortable for light jogging. I strike the ground with my heel when I run, and the support in the heel is completely overridden by the carbon plate fixed between said support and your foot. The plate does have utility while lifting, but it hinders jogging. For lack of a better description, you feel like there’s a hard plate under your food with every stride, which isn’t comfy. 

Squats

Once I got into my squat sets, though, things changed. Because of that same plate and the rigid midfoot construction,  the back half of the foot is completely secure and rooted to the gym floor under load. Experiences lifters will know this is a very good thing, as any whiff of a wobble or lack of stability when you have hundreds of pounds resting on your shoulders can be unsafe. 

The shoes did what all good training shoes do through leg training movements like split squats and lunges, too—they didn’t get in the way. The shoe flexes in the middle, so bending the foot in place isn’t an issue. I even did a single rope climb just to see how the instep grip performed, and didn’t have any issues (other than my hatred for rope climbs). 

Sprints

During another session aimed at burst strength and cardio, I put them through sprints, sled pushes, and various slider plate workouts. I was wary from my first experience and attempted jog in the  Metcons, but they excelled throughout. I believe the shoes were designed for exercises in which the wearer is either on the front foot (sprinting, pushing) or mostly stationary (squatting, deadlifting). 

gym shoe review
A handful of gym and lifting shoes we've reviewed, including the Nike Metcon 8.

The Competition

Reebok Nano x2

Reebok’s popular Nano x2 ($135) are a contender for best cross-training and lifting shoe. They’re slightly less focused on stability, with a bit more cushioning and responsiveness for those who like to weave more cardio work into their routines. If I wanted a shoe for lifting and running, I lean toward the Nano x2s; if I wanted a shoe to load up plates in the power rack, I’d lean toward the Metcon 8s. 

Puma Fuse

If you’re balling on a budget, consider Puma’s Fuse sneakers ($90) instead. They give and flex a bit more throughout the shoe than the Metcons, and also support weightlifting very well, but similarly don’t make for serviceable runners. 

NoBull Trainers

If you are as bothered as I am by Nike’s obsession with slapping decals all over their shoes, consider NoBull’s boring-but-functional trainers ($129), which also performed well in weight training and CrossFit-type exercises. 

Vivobarefoot Barefoot Prime

Maybe you’re looking for something more niche? We tested and reviewed Vivobarefoot’s barefoot-style training shoe ($160) favorably, with high scores for lifting stability and, surprisingly, comfort. 

The Bottom Line

While Nike’s Metcon 8 isn’t a totally do-it-all training shoe—we found running cardio uncomfortable—they do excel in all gym lifting and cross-training environments. The aesthetics may put some potential wearers off, but the functional design is good enough to ignore the blatant over-branding.

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