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Last year we did a monster Shoe Review… now, it’s time to do it again. 5 of our Veteran Writers picked TEN Top Brands and we’re reviewing our top picks; find out which of our choice pairs fits you best.
CrossFit and competitive fitness enthusiasts have probably heard of NOBULL by now, as it has taken to social media by storm as the new, “cool,” somewhat anti-establishment footwear company hot on the heels of mega companies Reebok and Nike. With a flashy roster of sexy athletes sporting the name, including Brook Wells, Brook Ence, Jared Stevens and Sam Dancer, it’s hard to miss the growing trendiness of NOBULL’s highly understated, simplistic approach – because it works.
NOBULL’s original canvas trainer piqued the interest of some, but their SuperFabric Trainer’s are the real bread and butter that have raised popular appeal. Though simple in design and construction, the Trainer is built tough with a seamless, one-piece exterior made to withstand it all. NOBULL sticks to its name with this no-frill shoe that will hold up to the test of even the most elite exerciser seeking fitness without the fringe.
The upper of the Trainer is constructed of SuperFabric – a plastic-like, single-piece exterior that NOBULL claims even glass, knife, or barbed wire can’t get through. Although I didn’t test them climbing fences or fighting criminals, I did test them on rope climbs and asphalt which is about as abrasive as CrossFit typically gets. The fact that they might survive me through the zombie apocalypse, however, is comforting.
The SuperFabric material also won’t soak up dirt or water so cleaning off dust, or chalk, is as easy as rinsing them off without having to wait for them to dry thanks to the water-resistant inner lining. They’re surprisingly breathable, too, though not as much as most trainers. Despite the fact that they’re basically body armor for your feet, you won’t feel like you have to shed them off to breathe. They’re remarkably light, too.
The toe box of the Trainer fits more narrow in comparison to the notoriously-large Nano which in my book was a major plus. But like most minimal shoes, there’s not much arch support so if you have fallen arches, you may need some orthotics for support.
The sole of the Trainer is sturdy and dense, meaning plenty of applied force to make these a choice shoe for the major lifts but it doesn’t make them any less functional or flexible for dynamic movements, either. The outsole lug pattern of the Trainer was designed for multipurpose both in and out of the gym with a balanced blend of flexibility, traction and support which means they can navigate any CrossFit WOD with ease from cycling the barbell to running outside.
As a CrossFit trainer and competitive athlete, I spend the majority of my week in the gym so the hours I had to test these were without limit. I wore the Trainers almost exclusively for the first three weeks so that I could ensure experience through every function I might need them in – box jumps, running, yoke carries, Olympic weightlifting, and virtually every aspect of movement short of fighting zombies.
Although NOBULL advertises their shoe true to size, if you’re on the fringe between sizes I would recommend ordering a half-size larger. The original size 9’s I received fit noticeably more snug than my same sized Reebok Nano’s and Nike MetCon’s and so I had them exchanged them for a 9.5 and was glad for it.
Out of the box, they feel just slightly stiff due to the plastic-y exterior and hard sole but just a couple days of wear and movement broke them in to fit just as comfortable as my everyday shoe. The SuperFabric construction might make it sound uncomfortable, but it’s anything but. These shoes are just as comfortable for everyday wear as they are functional for exercise, making them a go-to for my days that involve more coaching than training.
Box jumps, double-unders, and even hurdles all held up to performance expectations. I was especially pleased with how comfortable they felt for workouts involving running and even felt that they promoted better running posture, versus the typical heel strike pattern I tend to fall into.
Although I typically opt for my lifters when it comes to weightlifting, I went for the full experience of NOBULL and wore them for the major lifts during trial, too. If you’re looking for an all around cross-training shoe, these definitely fit the mold and are secure enough to set PR’s in the snatch or clean and jerk, but they’re certainly not a replacement to your real lifters if you have them (NOBULL is soon to release their very own Lifter for that).
I would say the only movement I wouldn’t prefer the Trainers for are rope climbs. The durability of the upper is actually its own downfall in this respect, being that the slick, abrasive-resistant material unfortunately means losing traction, as well. Not that I love tearing up my other trainers, either so I’m still at a loss either way.
Although I took the trainers through the gauntlet (short of the glass, knife, and barbed wire), you’d never guess it by looking at them now. After nearly a month of almost everyday use, they look as new as when I first took them out of the box.
If you want your shoe to reflect your unique-as-a-snowflake personality with explosions of color and fanfare, NOBULL isn’t for you. If you choose your shoe according to how much fitter you think it’s going to make you, NOBULL isn’t for you either. But if you are down to do your own hard work, cut the bullsh*t, and make a name for yourself by virtue of your own grit, then NOBULL has nothing more or nothing less than exactly what you need.
Note: We get to keep most of the gear that we test out. While this is a perk, we try hard to give everything an unbiased review no matter what.
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