Nike’s best cross training shoe – the Nike Metcon 4 – is now available online on “Nike iD” (this is what they call their online shoe customization service) on nike.com, at select retailers, and online via Rogue Fitness.
The majority of my workouts in 2017 were done in Nike Metcon 3s – and I love them. So to set the stage for the new model, let’s review what made the Nike Metcon 3 shoe special – and find out what they’ve improved upon in the new Nike Metcon 4. But first, a teaser about the Metcon 4…
Nike’s premier cross training shoe in 2017 was the Nike Metcon 3. The Metcon 3 is not a pure weightlifting shoe, but rather a durable and versatile cross training shoe that was designed and built for the rigors of CrossFit workouts. Box jumps, rope climbs, sprints, and heavy weight lifting all factor into these workouts – and Nike designed this shoe to work for all those things. And they look pretty darn good doing it.
Special Features of the Nike Metcon 3
The Nike Metcon 4 cross training shoe is available globally at retailers and online as of January 4, 2018.
The Nike Metcon 3 design incorporated a lot of features that made that shoe special. First, let’s talk about lifting heavy weight. As we discussed in our article on weightlifting shoes, there are a few important points to consider. First of all, running shoes are not appropriate for lifting heavy weight. For big squats and deadlifts there’s simply too much cushioning and movement in all the thick padding in the heel and sole of a running shoe. It’s like trying to lift weights on a mattress. And if you’ve never tried proper weightlifting shoes – maybe you don’t know better. But try them once, and there’s no going back. And therefore the Metcon 3 has a very firm, maximum support heel – for ultra-stability. In this regard it’s much like a purpose built weightlifting shoe – which often have solid heels made from wood – or other rigid material. Squishy soles is not a problem in the Metcon 3.
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But the problem with a weightlifting shoe is they are so purpose built and specialized you really can’t do anything but lift weights in them. And therefore while the Metcon line has a very firm rubber heel that will work for heavy weights, it lacks the extreme heel elevation found in most weightlifting shoes. That extreme heel elevation is great for minimizing knee flexion and helping you get low on a big squat with ease, but it’s not good for much else. In shoe terms “low profile” refers to the difference in height from the heel of a shoe to the toe of a shoe. A low profile (or “low drop”) shoe means that the heel and toe height are more even which allows you to land more on your mid foot. In the Metcon, the offset (heel to toe drop) is a mere 4mm – that’s low profile. This equates to more support for more weight under load, but it also means you can jump, run, climb, and cut.
All this means we can manage big weights in these shoes, but still move when we need to. The Metcon 3 will work great for heavy squats and deadlifts. Most people prefer flat heels (no heel elevation) for deadlifting, and while not ideal for deep high bar squats and other movements related to the Olympic lifts – you certainly can get the job done. It just requires a little more ankle mobility and range of motion. And it’s worth it to be able to do a whole lot of other stuff in your Metcon 3s.
So, the Metcon 3 can be used for big weights. But there’s a lot more to CrossFit workouts – like rope climbs, box jumps, and a lot of fast movement. In shoes, the midsole is designed to provide cushioning and shock absorption. And in the Metcon 3 a drop-in midsole is used for this purpose. For even more flexibility there’s molded flex grooves in sole of the forefoot. Why is this? Because with all these dynamic movements you’ve got to have some flex in the shoe.
The Metcon 3 also utilizes Flywire technology – these are lightweight filaments that integrate with the laces (you can see them pretty clearly in the photo – they are the red strings around the laces). These provide structure and support because those filaments run in a criss-cross fashion through the inside of the shoe. It’s much like the mid-sole strap you’d see in a weightlifting shoe. It really helps lock your foot into the shoe.
Those Flywire filaments look pretty thin and weak though, don’t they? They are actually made from Vectran which is a high-performance multifilament yarn spun from liquid crystal polymer (LCP). Pound for pound, Vectran fiber is five times stronger than steel and ten times stronger than aluminum, claims the manufacturer.
Let’s talk about the outsole (or more simply, the sole). We already talked about the molded flex grooves that help with flexibility, but the sole also incorporates sticky rubber in the front, for traction. That last thing you need with a cross training shoe is to have your feet slipping all over the place. And for rope climbs – you’ll have great traction as well as durability in these shoes – because the tough but grippy sole material wraps up and around the sides of the shoe in the middle. Great for grip when climbing a rope. And this really helps with durability because with rope climbs that part of the shoe is really going to get torn up if it’s not durable.
How does the Nike Metcon line compare to Reebok’s premier cross training shoe? That’s a topic we’ll deep dive into soon. The Reebok Nano 8 is built for exactly the same kind of use – a minimal-drop and rigid heel for weightlifting but enough traction and flexibility to run, jump, and cut. It’s also a breathable shoe with a secure fit thanks to it’s Flexweave technology. And the newest version – the Nano 8 – will be available in mid-January 2018.
Some more features – the hard plastic low-profile heel clip helps ensure stability as well. And the uppers are a mesh like material that provide good breathability.
Metcon 3 – NOT a running shoe
OK, so the Metcon 3 sounds pretty good. But they are definitely not running shoes. And most people that use them indicate they’ll get the job done for sprints and short runs – but shouldn’t be used for anything much over 400 meters or so. It should be noted that last year Nike also released the DSX Flyknit model of the shoe – which is lighter and perhaps a little better suited to distance running. I haven’t tried them. But again, these are not running shoes.
So, that’s what made the Metcon 3 special. We’re going to switch gears now and talk about what Nike has improved upon in the new model – the Nike Metcon 4.
Nike Metcon 4 – The Next Generation of Nike Cross Training Shoe
Nike recently announced that the Nike Metcon 4 is now available. Let’s take a look and see what’s new and improved in these shoes.
First, we can see these take styling cues from the existing shoe. And it looks great. But let’s take a closer look at the performance attributes.
First of all, some important things have not changed. And that’s good. For the outsole the allover-rubber tri-star design (which provides traction in all directions) is still there. The 4mm offset is retained as well – and so these are considered very low-profile shoes. And that’s good because that’s one of the things I love the most about these shoes. The drop-in midsole provides the cushioning you need for high-impact movements. And we can see that the wrap around sole is still in place.
Nike claims to have improved even further the durability of these shoes. In the press release, they made mention that CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges has been using these shoes as a sort of pre-production test – and has found them to be amazingly durable. They claim to be using haptic technology on the upper – and this is the biggest update to the shoe. If you look closely you’ll see parts of the upper now mimic the tri-star shapes used on the sole. It’s rubberized TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) – it’s a hybrid material – a mixture between hard plastic and soft silicone. And so they can utilize this special material in the right size (big or small) in different places on the shoe. And that means the high-wear areas like the toe box and sides can be durable. Meanwhile the regular mesh can be used in other areas for breathability and flexibility.
The feel of the shoe is better as well. Designers used a sandwich mesh (essentially a two-layer mesh with vertical fibers running through it) on the upper. This provides a sensation of cushioning on top of the foot for the first time and also hugs the foot better than previous models. They claim to have significantly increased the comfort level of the shoe – but not by adding cushioning – because that would compromise performance.
From this top view, we can see they’ve added an extra eyelet. There are now six lace eyelets (versus five) so you can fine-tune your laces for more precise comfort and support. In addition, a soft tri-star at the top of the tongue provides a little extra padding between the forefoot and laces.
Lastly, the heel counter has changed. Nike admits it’s more for cosmetics than performance, but the carved-out heel counter is more minimal than past silhouettes.
So, there you go. Nike has taken the best features of the Metcon 3 and built upon them in the Metcon 4. But they’ve injected some innovative new tech as well. They’re available now and make sure you check out all the colorways available. Personally, I can’t wait to give these a go myself.
- Nike Metcon 4 product photos are courtesy of Nike
- Nike Metcon 3 product imagery on this page is property of Rogue Fitness and provided by Rogue Fitness.
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