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The only downside to owning highly specialized sneakers? That makes packing a nightmare. I stared at my shoe rack for a decent half an hour last week, ahead of a trip I rightly suspected would involve a combination of running, hiking, basketball, and partying.
However, on the rare occasion when I come across a real “unicorn” of a shoe – one that is supposed to dominate a certain activity but can still step in for a variety of other activities – I am a very happy man. To that end: NoBull’s sports shoes fit the multi-purpose shape better than pretty much any shoe I’ve ever worn.
The Boston-based brand (also known as the NOBULL Project) was founded back in 2015 but has made real strides in recent years, having earned the loyalty of some of the biggest names in CrossFit and powerlifting. Lately the label has expanded to include golf shoes, bike shoes, slides, and even just a line of runners, but their bread and butter are still lifting shoes – sturdy, flexible, wide sneakers that you would wear to the gym. I’ve spent the last few months trying them out myself.
Function, comfort, aesthetics – NOBULL’s best-selling trainer has it all.
Reebok and Nike have long cornered the mainstream lifting shoe market with their Nano and Metcon series, respectively. Meanwhile, fitness rats like to wear canvas sneakers or skate shoes, and a few times a year strength athletes show up in running shoes (that’s not a good idea – we explain why here). But NoBull is a worthy alternative for all of that.
In the end, NoBull’s Trainer is simply an extremely well thought-out combination of function, comfort and aesthetics. First and foremost, the shoe promotes the correct lifting technique. I found it easy to spread my toes and grab the base of the shoe, which in turn had a firm grip on the gym floor. That’s because of the traction-oriented lugs on the outsole, which somehow reminded me of the grippy pattern you find on the underside of a pair of vans. It’s a perfect recipe for stability when trying to do deadlifts, lunges, or even just mirror-inverted barbell curls.
But like most CrossFit training shoes, the sneaker also offers plenty of momentum. The entire shoe is made from a seamless, one-piece layer called SuperFabric, and the sidewalls have carbon protectors built into them to protect against the abrasion that occurs naturally when weighting in the gym. It is also reported to “withstand incisions with a surgical knife”. You’d think anything this sturdy would be bulky to wear, but I was pleasantly surprised at how light the NOBULL trainer feels and how reactive the forefoot is during more intense plyometric workouts.
The kicker? How beautiful that thing is. That’s a quality that the big brands definitely can’t (or at least haven’t really tried) to reproduce. I have a dark blue pair and would legitimately feel comfortable wearing these to dinner. NOBULL has over 100 styles on offer on 13 pages in the online shop. Pretty much every color combination is at play, and they all follow a similar model: a solid-color upper (with a barely-there logo), over a clean outsole. There are low-tops and high-tops and some really crazy colorways, but if you’ve been looking for a pair of shoes that won’t keep yelling at your fellow lifters, this is your last stop.
In the future, these will be an obvious alternative for me on fitness days. But they’re also a breeze for future trips. I have little doubt that these shoes can bridge a travel day with 30,000 steps. They’re so darn versatile.
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