Review: The Reebok Nano 9 Is a Perfect Sneaker for Lifting

It's meant for CrossFit, but ideal for any strength training regimen

Reebok Nano 9

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I’ve lifted for six or seven years, and up until a month ago, always done so in running shoes. I’d generally wear a pair of lightweight Nike Frees, with pillow-like soles that offered a ton of arch support and sock-like uppers that offered next to zero ankle support. I wouldn’t dare bring them along to play pick-up basketball, or for an afternoon of tennis, but it never occurred to me to treat strength training as an activity worthy of its own pair of sneaks.

All lifters, though, really should own a reliable pair of trainers designed for anaerobic workouts. This became abundantly clear as I spent the past few weeks training in the Nano 9s, the latest iteration of Reebok’s much-beloved CrossFit shoe. Back in 2011, Reebok became the official provider of licensed CrossFit footwear; it’s released an updated version each year, taking into account ideas and concerns from the sport’s best performers. One year, a protective layer was added to the midsole to protect against fraying from ropes. Another year, in an effort to toughen the shoe’s upper, Reebok teamed with Kevlar on a custom fabric.

Recent reprisals, meanwhile, have emphasized the Nano’s crossover appeal. It’s still a CrossFit shoe, first and foremost, but it’s billed as a weightlifting and cross-training shoe, too. Whatever the reason is for that shift in focus — CrossFit interest has waned a bit in recent years — this trainer is ideally suited for movements at your gym that don’t take place on a treadmill. When I tried out the Nano 9, I was cycling between upper-body training (lots of push-ups, pull-ups, rows, shoulder presses, bench press, etc.) and dynamic full-body work, with a focus on legs (think: kettlebell work that incorporates reverse lunges, jump squats, upright rows, goblet squats, and calf raises).

I noticed an incremental difference in the quality of my upper-body exercises (push-ups, particularly), and, unsurprisingly, a massive improvement in efficiency, comfort-level and stability during my full-body routines. The Nano 9 is a boxy shoe, compared to running shoes, which are often tapered and angular. That’s a good thing; proper strength training necessitates a set platform, and discourages “fidgeting,” which creates bad habits and can induce injury when you’re trying to lift a lot of weight. When trying, say, a reverse lunge with the Nano 9, I was able to push my heel into its solid base and focus on simply performing the movement — I didn’t need to search for stability mid-rep. When trying these moves with a cushioned, uneven running shoe, though, my foot is more likely to shift around.

The front of the shoe is also more stable during that movement, and more focused on the task at hand. This year, Reebok crafted a stouter toe box for the Nano. It allows your toes to naturally spread out and push into the ground, making it easier to harness an extra boost of power when lifting with your legs. The foot simply doesn’t get that sort of engagement while within its running shoe orb. Not to mention, most running shoes get shaved down over time, due to natural pronations or running in slightly sloped streets. That’s just another uneven surface to grapple with when lifting.

From a less technical perspective — you might notice enjoying workouts more, when using proper equipment. Imagine having to play shortstop with a catcher’s mitt. It’s unlikely you’ll ever want to do it again. When wearing the Nano 9s, these exercises still stunk, and I was still a sweaty mess, but at least I knew I’d put myself in the most comfortable and safest position to perform them correctly. Not to mention, the Nano 9s are an aesthetic victory, too. There are 17 different colorways available online, and each is ribboned with a two-level outsole, that’s coated in a translucent protective wrap. I like the laces, which are a sensical length, and thick and easy to tie, and for a heavier shoe, the upper is reasonably breathable and yet to stink up my gym bag.

Ironically, in a pinch the other day I used these to run a few laps at my local track. It didn’t go well, and my shins are bothering me this afternoon. I’ve now learned my lesson, twice. There are running shoes, and strength training shoes, and we’d all be wise to let them do their jobs. Find the full supply of Nano 9s at Reebok here. If it’s your first time buying from Reebok, scroll to the bottom of the homepage and get yourself a 15% off discount.

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