At WearTesters HQ and our various satellite offices (aka the homes of our contributors), we’ve been digging into more functional fitness shoe reviews. We had to test NoBull training shoes sooner rather than later. After years of building a strong reputation in gyms and CrossFit boxes around the world, NoBull has now become the sponsor of the prestigious CrossFit Games after Reebok exited that role.
And like we said in our review of the NoBull Runner+, you can’t escape NoBull’s social media marketing – it’s everywhere you look online.
Before we go further, a disclosure: NoBull sent us these shoes for review but the company has no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at our review, and has not attempted to influence the review.
We’re going to cover two of NoBull’s top training shoes: the NoBull Trainer and NoBull Trainer+, both of which were sent to Drew and Arune.
NoBull Training Shoes
Model: NoBull Trainer
Sizing: True to size
Model: NoBull Trainer+
Sizing: True to size
- Wide-ish Toe Box
- Good for Any Lifts
- Lifting Only
- The Upper is a Downer
How Do The Authors Train?
Arune (age 40, 5’10”, 205lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming provided by Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos. He also jogs regularly (maxing out at a 5K session) and looks for every opportunity to get some time on a heavy bag. Given his medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass and getting down consistently to 190lbs, with a secondary focus on cardiovascular training and aesthetics. He works out in a home gym with a rower, air bike, bench, adjustable dumbbells, and kettlebells.
Drew (age 40, 6’6″ 198lbs): 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 Boston Marathon. More marathons, half-marathons, 10k, and 5k races are in his future. His strength training and mobility regiment 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.
NoBull Training Shoes: What Is Each Shoe?
The NoBull Trainer is promoted as your everyday fitness shoe, with this description: “Run, climb, slide, grind, lift…these kicks have you covered. Lightweight, breathable and flexible protection that moves the way you do.” You could compare the Trainer to the flagship competitive offerings such as the Nike Metcon 8, Reebok Nano X2, or the Under Armour Project Rock PR4.
Meanwhile, the NoBull Trainer+ is the company’s premium trainer, promoted as “Introducing the Trainer+, the newest addition to our line of performance Trainers. We’ve built in additional comfort, stability, and traction to the NOBULL Trainer, with the durability you’ve always relied on for putting in the work.” Basically, the Trainer+ adds herringbone traction and extra cushioning to the Trainer in order to compete with higher cushioned trainers like the Nike Air Zoom SuperRep 3.
NoBull Training Shoes: What’s The Difference?
Honestly, there are some differences – such as the traction patterns on outsole (the rubber compounds are similar) – but the main difference is in the cushion and resultant stack height. The Trainer+ has about double the cushion and stack height of the Trainer with the same 4mm drop from heel to toe. This means the Trainer+ is a better option for any high-impact exercises like plyometrics where some extra foam underfoot will save your knees and back.
Arune: My absolute favorite thing about both NoBull trainers is that you immediately feel stable and secure on the ground. Both the lug and herringbone outsoles are incredible on a variety of surfaces – from hardwood to yoga mats – in both traditional lifts and plyometrics like skater lunges. Some training shoes make me feel like I have to think about planting my foot but these felt absolutely natural from the jump without a second thought in almost all situations (which we’ll get into later). Drew, did you have the same feeling?
Drew: I did. And I think this is the main reason NoBull training shoes are so popular in gyms around the world. A wide base, solid traction, and a stiff upper that provides plenty of lateral support. Every step feels completely secure, no matter how much weight you’re carrying. If stability is your number one requirement in a training shoe, the NoBull Trainer and Trainer+ should go on your list.
Wide-ish Toe Box
Drew: The toe box is super wide. While this likely wasn’t done specifically to benefit wide footers, the result is wide footers get plenty of room up front. In fact, if you have a narrow foot, NoBull training shoes may have too much room for you…something going down a half size won’t even solve.
During heavy lifts, the extra room for toe splay is helpful in letting your foot connect with the ground. I didn’t love it for shuttle sprints with lots of changes in direction but the shape shines on static lifts.
Arune: Drew has heard me complain about toe boxes in, well, every kind of shoe I like. Training shoes tend to be especially narrow on me. The Nike Metcon 7 is way too narrow for me and the Under Armour Tribase Reign 4 (which I reviewed recently) is almost too wide at times, though it remains my current favorite training shoe. The Trainer+ & Trainer aren’t quite as wide as the Reign 4 but I only felt minimal toe crushing and for the most part felt like I got that sweet, sweet full toe splay. There’s one big caveat that we’ll cover below but I’m always grateful for extra space to accommodate my Hobbit-feet.
Good for Any Lifts
Arune: I can’t speak to rope climbs or some other functional fitness activities that NoBull athletes train for, but I went hard with heavy lifts and these shoes really supported me through nearly all of them (which, again, we’ll cover later). Once you plant your feet, not only does that outsole grip the floor but you kind of forget about the high stack in the Trainer+ when you press your weight into that EVA midsole. Cleans, snatches, squats, deadlifts, strict presses – they’re all a great fit with this shoe.
Drew: The geometry of NoBull training shoes is very lifting-centric and thus comfortable and supportive while slinging heavy weights in all the traditional exercises and even some less traditional ones like farmer’s carries. If your routine is primarily lifting, they make an enticing footwear option.
Arune: You’ve heard this from me in the previous NoBull review and, spoiler alert, you’re going to hear it from me in the next NoBull review – the pricing on these shoes is a tough pill to swallow. The regular NoBull Trainer is $129 and the NoBull Trainer+ is $139 – a similar range to the core offerings from Nike, Reebok, and others. But the tie-dye and other special colorways of each are a whopping $159 and $169, respectively.
Look, I’m not here to tell you the price is “too high” or “unfair” – I want to give NoBull the benefit of the doubt for their manufacturing standards, perhaps some other cost contributors (like employee wages) and some of the clearly durable materials they’ve used in the shoe. But I also can say I don’t understand why tie-dye costs so much, though perhaps a smaller production batch or costs associated with the colorway contribute to it.
Drew: I won’t be as diplomatic as Arune. NoBull’s tech and materials aren’t anything special and the limited colorways, though good looking, are just fabric prints. There’s no reason for them to be priced at a premium.
I think NoBull needs to price its shoes $5-10 below the major shoe brands. Right now, NoBull is fashionable and popular…but fashion is fickle. They need a price point that will communicate high value even when the brand is not as hot as it is right now.
Arune: As good as these shoes are for lifting, there is one big issue – it’s incredibly hard to plant your toes on the ground with the way the forefoot curves up. It isn’t an impediment to most lifts but when you get into unilateral movements or something like reverse lunges, there’s an immediate loss in stability because you just can’t plant your foot correctly.
This is even more of a problem with plyometrics. Burpees felt more difficult than usual because I had to think about trying to properly position my toes. Even simpler movements like pushups felt uncertain.
And cardio? Not in these shoes. The Trainer+ feels noticeably heavy on short runs and a bit uncomfortable on a rower, though it was mostly fine on an airbike. If you want these shoes for anything more than lifting, i don’t know that they’ll be the right fit.
Drew: I agree with Arune. It’s just not worth using NoBull training shoes (at least the Trainer and Trainer+) for anything other than lifting. The swooped forefoot didn’t bug me as much as Arune…I test running shoes daily. The forefoot curves on today’s running shoes are much more angled. I’ve learned how to plant my forefoot or toes even with built-in swooping rocker shapes. Whether that bugs you will likely depend on the other shoes you wear.
I do wish the Trainer+, with its extra cushion and stack height, felt better when getting on a treadmill. I was hoping it would be more of a Metcon or CrossFit shoe but it just doesn’t deliver a smooth ride. It’s just the Trainer with more cushioning but even the extra added cushioning leaves it behind some of the better cross training shoes on the market.
The Upper is a Downer
Drew: The Superfabric upper is super stiff and bends strangely. On both the Trainer and Trainer+, it’s a durable fabric shell with plastic dots added on top for durability. Below the Superfabric, there’s a perforated foam underlayer, followed by polyester mesh (Trainer+) or a shirt-like material (Trainer) closest to the foot. The tongues on both shoes are made of a felt-like synthetic suede. Neither feels premium, but the Trainer actually has the more padded, comfortable tongue out of the two shoes.
The Trainer also ends up being more comfortable out of the box. But both shoes take forever to break in and even when they do, they crease in strange places. The upper ends up feeling bulky and cardboard-esque. It gets in the way of the overall comfort. The comfort and build quality of the upper just can’t compete with top-flight cross training shoes from other brands.
Arune: As Drew mentioned, I found the upper on both the Trainer and Trainer+ flexed really oddly on the forefoot and felt like they were digging into my foot.
And while the Trainer was easy to slip my foot into, the Trainer+ was consistently a literal pain as the upper wouldn’t flex enough for my feet to comfortably fit in.
I’m guessing NoBull training shoes need a lot of time to be broken in, but in a world of so many comfortable (and much less expensive) trainers, it’s hard for me to think of waiting for that to happen.
High-Top Trainer Info
Drew: The High-Top versions of the NoBull Trainer and Trainer+ don’t change anything except the collar height. NoBull added approximately two inches of extra material and two extra eyelets. The new material is layered and built exactly the same as the lower portion of the upper, so it’s consistent. This means the area around the ankle is fairly thin and not bulky.
Personally, I hate working out in high-tops, but if you prefer the feeling of the extra material around your ankles, you’ll get exactly what you want from the High-Top version of the NoBull Trainers. It’s the same shoe in every aspect, except the upper goes higher.
Is This For Me?
Arune: I first tried the NoBull Trainer almost six years ago and I really enjoyed it, despite some durability issues – and unfortunately it doesn’t really feel like the shoes have evolved much since then, even with the higher price tags. My go-to training shoe is the aforementioned UA TriBase Reign 4 and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Drew: I’ll likely stick with my GoRuck Ballistic Trainers as they’re more versatile in the gym, but I could see myself occasionally mixing in the NoBull Trainer on days where all I’m doing is static lifts.
Is This For You?
Arune: If you’re looking for a shoe squarely focused on training, NoBull makes shoes built for that task and there’s certainly a lot of positives. If you don’t chase the tie-dye colorways, the NoBull Trainer and Trainer+ will line up with the same costs as the high-end offerings from most of the major brands.
Drew: If you’re only using NoBull training shoes for lifting and love the infinite color options that NoBull provides, the Trainer or Trainer+ may work well for you.
NoBull Training Shoes Summary
Arune: There’s a lot of good in the NoBull Trainer and Trainer+, but the limited usage – lifting only – and the price points mean I can’t recommend NoBull training shoes to the average consumer that’s in the market for a well-rounded training shoe.
Drew: Arune is right. For now, NoBull training shoes just don’t have the versatility or build quality to make it onto our Best Cross Training Shoes list. Sure, they’re solid for lifting and they look good, but that’s not quite enough for me to say that they’ve cracked the upper echelon of cross training shoes.
- Wide-ish Toe Box
- Good for Any Lifts
- Lifting Only
- The Upper is a Downer