This resource is intended to help and educate those who are new to CrossFit, and anyone else who might be unsure about the ins and outs of gear when it comes to training. The guide is split up into two parts. The first addresses the basic items crossfitters should own and the second part covers gear that is not 100% necessary in my opinion, but is very important if you’re looking to take your training further. Unfortunately this guide will not get you a sub 3-minute Fran, a 500 lb. deadlift, or a spot as a competitor in the CrossFit Games (these are all things you will accomplish on your own through your hard work, dedication, and belief in yourself!).
First things first, shoes. Having a proper foundation and strong base are essential to comfort and success when it comes to CrossFit. The vast majority of people starting CrossFit (myself included) come in wearing your average running shoes or cross trainers. All of these types of shoes have features that may be beneficial for running long distances or working out at globo gyms, but for CrossFit they’re more detrimental than helpful.
The biggest flaw with these kinds of shoes is the construction of their midsole. Since cushioning and shock absorption have always been the most important features of running shoes, shoe manufacturers produce shoes with midsoles made out of blends of air, polyurethane foam, and liquid silicone. This creates a shoe with a very soft and “squishy” feel. When it comes to CrossFit a soft and “squishy” shoe ends up throwing you off balance and puts you in an unstable position from the offset.
So “what do I do now?” Go minimal. As the name suggests, minimalist shoes offer a significantly thinner (4mm) or no midsole (0mm) at all, in turn minimizing or altogether removing the problems associated with traditional athletic shoes and CrossFit. All of a sudden you’ll find yourself in a much better starting position.
The next bit of equipment all crossfitters should have is a speed rope. Speed ropes differ from your average jump ropes in that they usually have ball bearing handles, or handles with rotating metal dowels. These specialized handles make it much easier for you to increase your rotations and spinning speeds. A quick rope is key to performing double-unders. Another great thing about speed ropes is that they’re easily adjustable to all different heights. Even if your gym has speed ropes for you to use during class, it’s nice to have your own rope because it’s easy to pack and you can take it on the road and still get some conditioning in.
Foam Rollers are another piece of gear that all crossfitters benefit from and should personally own. Rolling out relieves muscular pain and tightness, and as you roll over the roller it continuously kneads to the contours of your body, gently stretching soft tissue (muscle and fascia) in multiple directions. Rollers help to restore flexibility and bring quick relief to common types of muscular pain. I personally prefer the RumbleRollers since they’re a little more on the firm side and their bumpy treads do a great job of grinding out those tight spots. If you’re sensitive to pain or have never used a roller before you might want go with any of the Pro-Tec rollers (softest) or The Grid (medium level of firmness). Just like a speed rope, it’s a good idea to have your own roller you can keep at home in order to do some extra mobility work (trust me it goes a long way).
These next set of products are all very useful for training purposes, but they may not be necessary for everyone just yet, particularly in the beginning of one’s foray into the world of CrossFit. Someone who’s been crossfitting for a little while and who is looking to ramp up their training may find these products more appropriate.
Lifting shoes. These very uniquely designed shoes utilize a couple features to assist you as you begin to learn and progress through the different lifts. The soles of lifting shoes are made with much denser and harder materials. The reason for this is because whether you’re driving out of a deep squat under a lot of weight or jerking a loaded barbell overhead, you need to have maximum foot stability. The denseness of the sole keeps your feet in one position and prevents them from rolling all over the place. Secondly, the slightly elevated heel allows for a greater degree of flexion at the ankle joint allowing you to get lower into your squat without your heels coming off the floor. Lastly, lifting shoes feature a metatarsal strap that prevents your foot from moving within the shoe.
No one likes tearing their hands during a workout. Not only is it incredibly painful, but it hampers your ability to continue training. Open wounds on your hands make grabbing anything from a pull up bar, to a barbell, to a kettle bell a miserable experience. In order to combat tears I would suggest getting a good pair of CrossFit specific gloves. The StrongerRX RTG glove contours to the shape of your hand and protects them from tearing open. They also help prevent fatigue and give you a better grip.
Hopefully this guide answers questions and sheds light on some of the basics in regards to CrossFit gear; and be sure to check back in the future for in depth reviews on specific products.
Chris Spealler is not only a CrossFit legend, but he's arguably the best bodyweight specialist to ever compete at the CrossFit Games. Watching him fly through muscle ups or handstand walk his way past the competition was truly amazing and inspiring to watch.
With over a decade of CrossFit experience as both a coach and athlete, and with 6 Games appearances, Chris Spealler has racked up a wealth of knowledge on proper movement and technique.