Nike’s Metcon training shoe has been A1 since Day 1. Day 1 being 2015, when the Metcon 1 was released, which is a while ago now, and the Metcon is still the most recommended, searched, and popular training shoe there is.
The Metcon 8 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.
Looking for more gym shoe recommendations? Check out our guide on the subject. Every product we recommend is tested, reviewed, and compared against the competition.
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). In our guide to the best gym shoes, we called the Nike Metcon 8 our best gym shoe for weightlifting.
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 wider than some other gym-focused shoes—wide enough to allow the front quarter of your foot to splay out somewhat, as it naturally wants to do while under load—though it could be wider. Overall, 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).
Toe box could be wider
Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and really every other popular athletic shoe maker have effectively conned people into believing every shoe needs to be narrow and aerodynamic—think football cleats, running shoes, and so on. For many athletic endeavors, but especially weightlifting, this is not the case.
A narrow shoe usually means a pointed toe, which means a skinny toe box. A skinny toe box means yours toes are smushed together, which severely limits stability. The logic is pretty simple: smushed toes means a smaller platform to lift off from, which makes a less stable base to lift off from.
With all this said, the Metcon 8s are wider than some weight training shoes I’ve tried—notably the Puma Fuse and Adidas’ Powerlift shoes—but they could and should be wider.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.