Like its chief rival the Reebok Nano, the last nine years have seen some major changes to the Nike Metcon (with mixed reviews) culminating in the new Nike Metcon 9. Not only has the functional fitness shoe landscape changed but so has the audience – namely going from niche to mainstream.
I can remember the shockwaves felt across the functional fitness world when in 2015 Nike announced the Metcon, its first shoe aimed at the then-fledgling world of CrossFit. And remember the “Banned” colorway? It’s the one training shoe I wish I had never donated.
As the holiday season rolls around and more folks look to get a jump on those New Year’s resolutions, the WearTesters team brings you more training shoe reviews than ever – and none of that would be complete without the flagship training shoe from the biggest shoe company in the world.
Though Nike was kind enough to send us some pairs of the Nike Metcon 9, the company had no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and has not attempted to influence this review.
How do the Authors Train?
Arune Singh (age 41, 5’11”, 215lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming provided by Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos, along with logging 30-40 miles of running per week. He also has a medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, meaning Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass.
Drew Whitcomb (age 41, 6’6″ 195lbs): Trains daily with a focus on running, strength training, and mobility. He writes the majority of our running shoe reviews and runs a lot of miles both due to testing needs and his growing affinity for long-distance races. He recently completed the London Marathon. More marathons, half-marathons, 10k, and 5k races are in his future. His strength training and mobility regimen center around maintaining flexibility and lifting heavy to build power as a counterbalance to all the long-distance running he’s doing. His number one focus is staying injury-free so he can keep up the sweet gig of reviewing shoes for a living.
What is the Nike Metcon 9?
Nike describes it as:
Whatever your “why” is for working out, the Metcon 9 makes it all worth it. We improved on the 8 with a larger Hyperlift plate and added rubber rope wrap. Worn by some of the greatest athletes in the world, intended for lifters, trainers, go-getters, it’s still the gold standard that delivers day after day.
Arune: I’ve owned a pair of every single Nike Metcon model since launch but I have kept very few after the Metcon 3, in large part due to my challenges with their performance – and other matters we’re going to discuss further in this review.
Unfortunately, I gotta be honest – training in the Nike Metcon 9 was an absolutely terrible experience.
We’re going to get into all the challenges with the fit and comfort later on, but I cannot overstate how uniquely this shoe failed me with nearly every lift.
Look, almost every lift requires you to plant your feet – even bench press – and the Nike Metcon 9 failed me because any press on the footbed caused the medial side of the shoe to completely collapse due to the rope guard construction,
Squats or lunges – even without weight – were a complete disaster as I lowered my body closer to the floor, a motion requiring much more stability. Unfortunately, that rope guard area of the shoe completely collapsed, like a deflated balloon, and I had to bail quickly on my lifts (aggravating a knee injury in the process).
I could keep going into more detail, but what are the upsides of a training shoe that completely failed me when I needed it most?
Well, I’ll say this – the outsole grips the floor like no one’s business, something that has always been a hallmark of the Metcon line. If you could marry this outsole with a stronger upper then I think we would have an exciting shoe.
But the Nike Metcon 9 is NOT that shoe and, honestly, I’m not sure what this shoe is meant to be. Perhaps due to the rope guard, Hyperlift heel TPU unit, or likely both, this shoe feels like an absolute cement brick on my feet. If this was a shoe meant for the world of CrossFit, I cannot imagine how anyone feels comfortable with any Olympic lifts without the necessary support or how they knock out batches of burpees with these shoes weighing them down. If this is a shoe meant for a casual lifter, then there’s no need for the TPU unit or the rope guard, both of which are not needed by the majority of people.
Did you actually have a good time in these, Drew?
Drew: While Arune’s experience was downright bad, I’d have to say mine was more of a meh experience. The last Metcon I tested was the Nike Metcon 7. That shoe was solid up front but struggled in the back and just wasn’t built to handle the wide variety of exercises necessary to keep up in a normal CrossFit or Metcon environment.
Unfortunately, while the Nike Metcon 9 improves on some of those weak points, it’s still the same basic shoe.
I didn’t have the rope guard collapse issues that Arune did and the shoe was largely stable and reliable for deadlifts, squats, and other lifts that require planted feet. But at the same time, the stiff heel, partially due to the plastic Hyperlift piece and partially due to a dense heel counter, was a liability for any side-to-side exercise. Curtsy squats, skaters, and agility exercises were all varying degrees of uncomfortable.
It’s a great shoe for walking around the gym, getting compliments (more on that later), and doing exercises at a slow, methodical pace. But the moment you try to inject some speed into your workout, the Nike Metcon 9 just can’t keep up.
Arune: From the minute I put the Nike Metcon 9 on my feet, one thing was clear:
This shoe was going to be terrible for my cardio needs.
While the upper does actually bend and breathe quite well, nothing about the construction of the shoe feels meant for the needs of a functional fitness athlete or even acting as the “one for everything” shoe that people will definitely expect given the price jump (oh yeah, I’ve got thoughts there too).
If you’re using the Nike Metcon 9 for CrossFit or the like, you’ll find a way to sprint 400m or a mile because you’re used to doing it with a variety of uncomfortable shoes from every brand. You might not even hate it on an air bike, even though I don’t think the heel unit does you any favors.
But the cardio in which this truly failed for me was rowing, something pretty fundamental to everything from Crossfit to Orange Theory, and something supremely uncomfortable in the Nike Metcon 9. There’s not enough flex in the midsole to get a natural rowing motion and the forefoot area was ill-equipped for the constant pressures unique to a rowing motion. I couldn’t even finish a single rowing session in these shoes because of the pain in my forefoot and found immediate relief by switching back to my go-to training shoes (aka the Reebok Nano 2.0 or Adidas Dropset 2 Trainer).
This is another area in which the shoe failed me, What about you, boss?
Drew: I just want to note that Arune is not usually a particularly harsh reviewer so seeing him highlight a shoe’s shortcomings so bluntly means the shoe really let him down.
And, I agree with him completely on cardio usage. Since the 7th edition, the Nike Metcon series hasn’t been built for running. Even my beloved lateral elliptical, which I use for warming up my dastardly hips, was a rough experience in the Nike Metcon 9.
Forefoot flexibility and cushion are solid and the outsole’s grip won’t let you down, but the whole backend of the Nike Metcon 9 is a mess when it comes to running or any cardio activity where flexibility is required.
Arune and I experienced the discomfort of trying these for various cardio activities. If you buy them, I’d recommend bringing your running shoes with you in your gym bag for a quick switch.
Arune: Wouldn’t it be amazing if I started this section of the review by finally, FINALLY praising the Nike Metcon 9?
To quote WWE Superstar Wade Barrett, “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.”
As I do with all new training shoes, I put them on and walked around my home with them to see if I could break them in a bit (which is about the only time I wear shoes indoors). What followed was a solid three hours of foot pain, even though Nike finally widened the toe box to accommodate wide footers like me. I thought some toe splay might mean I’d finally enjoy a Nike shoe like the rest of America.
Everything about the cushion set up here didn’t work for my foot, but I want to applaud the fact that Nike finally reversed their trend of seemingly narrowing the Metcon with each iteration.
If you’re looking at sizing, I recommend going TTS (true to size) with your regular Nike size.
Drew: True to size is correct but the width will be a problem for wide footers. The Nike Metcon 9 is not nearly as narrow as the Metcon 6 but it’s still too narrow for ample toe splay unless you have a narrow foot.
I found the front half of the upper to be fairly comfortable but the heel was stiff and unforgiving. And what’s worse, the heel (collar, counter, and underfoot) never seemed to break in, even after 4-5 hour-plus weightlifting sessions.
A little more width and a better heel structure will go a long way towards fixing what ails the Nike Metcon 9.
Arune: Now this is where the Nike Metcon 9 reminds me of the iconic Batman villain Two-Face.
On one hand, I think the overall shape and silhouette look really, really great. As usual, Nike offers the best colorways and they’re rarely going to NOT be a standout in this category.
But then there’s the rope guard.
It doesn’t look that bad on the lateral side, but the medial side looks more messed up than Harvey Dent after getting that acid thrown on his face – it truly looks like a disfigured shoe that’s going to terrorize the innocent citizens of Gotham City.
In full transparency, I got a lot of compliments from people on the Nike Metcon 9 – most importantly from my wife, who is the toughest shoe critic I’ve ever met. So, maybe don’t listen to me at all here.
Drew: Arune may be letting performance influence his opinion here. The Nike Metcon 9 looks great. I got more compliments at the gym on these than any previous training shoe, even the super popular NoBull training shoes.
Nike knows how to make shoes look good and has amazing people working up drool-worthy colorways. But making a decision purely based on this shoe’s looks would be a mistake.
Arune: On the surface, $150 feels like a fairly standard training shoe price these days and I can rail against that all I want, but it’s reality. Given the “Nike Tax” we see on so many shoes where it seems like we pay a bit more for the Swoosh, this time Nike is right in line with its competitors.
That said, the Nike Metcon 8 was just $130 a year ago, and that $20 increase is a bummer. I understand profit margins, competitive pricing, and that everyone at Nike needs to get paid, but these constantly escalating prices have an impact on customers.
I received these shoes for review and you’ve seen how harsh I’ve been in my critiques, but I would be livid about the myriad of performance issues if I had to pay a premium price.
Drew: Arune is right, the $20 price increase stings, mostly because the performance didn’t improve accordingly. $150 for a top-of-the-line cross training shoe is almost expected these days but not when it can’t match that price point in terms of performance.
And it’s easy to see the public agrees with our take. You can already find the Nike Metcon 9 on sale on Nike’s site and the shoe has only been out a month or two.
Nike Metcon 9 Final Verdict
Arune: There’s no chance that I will recommend the Nike Metcon 9 for anyone to purchase.
The shoe is not a high performer in any category for me, provides some real safety concerns with the medial side collapsing, and lacks the comfort to make this something I even recommend for casual usage.
Drew: The Nike Metcon 9 is a slight improvement from the Metcon 7 and 8 but it still has the same issues including the too-stiff, uncomfortable heel and a fit that’s not accommodating. Add the price increase on top of that and you’ve got a shoe that won’t make our list of best cross training shoes. There are a bunch of better options out there, just click through and read about them.
Personally, I’m hoping Nike goes all out for the Metcon’s 10th anniversary, fixes the problems, and once again establishes the Metcon as a shoe that can be used to tackle even the most cardio-intensive CrossFit/Metcon sessions while maintaining an ability to provide support on heavy olympic lifts. I like to dream that it’s possible…but we’ll have to wait till 2024 to find out.