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As a physical therapist and fitness instructor, you could say I’m mildly obsessed with how sneakers fit, feel, and perform during workouts.
I enjoy a variety of cross-training and group fitness classes, and until recently, I had trouble finding quality footwear that covered a lot of bases. A cushy running shoe is the go-to all-around gym shoe for many, but this just wasn’t going to cut it.
As the owner of (arguably too many) pairs of NOBULL trainers, I’ll take a deep dive into the pros and cons of the shoe and why you should consider this trainer as part of your fitness gear.
What are the NOBULL trainers?
Originally born out of the needs of Cross-Fit athletes, the NOBULL trainers sport an abrasion resistance fabric, grippy lug pattern outsole, and medial grip for activities like the rope climb.
The brand started in 2015 (NOBULL Project) and subsequently launched other lines including running and lifting shoes, as well as an apparel line. They’ve become a sponsor at the Crossfit games and a training partner at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
At first, I was a little hesitant as some of the colors reminded me of a bowling shoe, but the unique colors quickly drew me in. I was also curious as to how the NOBULL shoes functioned as a cross training shoe for just a regular fitness enthusiast who does a variety of activities.
Since the shoes were primarily marketed for CrossFit athletes, I felt like kind of an imposter buying these shoes when I don’t do CrossFit. (I’ve gotten over that, but I do feel this might deter some people from buying the shoes.)
Initially, I had irrational fears of people judging me at the gym for wearing these shoes (as it turns out, like most things, no one cares, and I get tons of compliments from people interested in the shoe to see if it’s worth the price tag.
NOBULL portrays itself as a brand for “people who work hard and don’t believe in excuses.” They also go on to say that their community is defining the meaning of training in each person’s individual way.
This gives vibes that plenty of people wear NOBULLs who aren’t just Crossfitters but enjoy showing up and training (whatever that means to you, not limited to a specific set of exercises or activities.)
What are the NOBULL trainers good for?
I don’t do Crossfit but use the NOBULL trainers as my go-to cross-training style shoes, and pretty much use them for everything that isn’t running, walking, or high-impact activities.
I use them for weight training, step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, interval training, etc. These shoes are fantastic for Les Mills Body Pump, providing exceptional stability through a variety of weightlifting movements.
You might be wondering why I like these for step aerobics, and Les Mills Body Combat classes since NOBULL trainers are not “cardio” shoes.
I’ll explain. For step aerobics, I like the lateral support and ability to feel the floor, which helps me maintain balance moving on and off the step. Step aerobics is generally low impact, so I don’t miss the additional cushioning here.
The same is true for Body Combat. I tend to take more low impact options in the class, and I find I’m a lot more steady when balancing on one leg for kicks, etc.
The only thing I don’t wear them for is Les Mills Body Attack, there’s just too much bouncing and jumping, and I find that my feet hurt in this type of class, so I default to my favorite Brooks Glycerin.
I would never reach for my NOBULL trainers for walking or running. The shoe just isn’t constructed to support those activities. Wearing improper shoes for these activities can put you at risk for various lower leg tendinopathies and other injuries.
Related read: Running Shoes vs. Cross Training Shoes – What’s the Difference?
Pros of the NOBULL trainer
- Good stability with a firm, yet supportive base
- Good lateral stability for side to side movements
- Wid(er) toe box
- Durable construction
- Lug pattern on the outsole for exceptional traction
- Great for weight lifting
- Extensive color variety
- Comes with extra laces
The NOBULL trainer has great stability, both on the base and laterally. This makes them ideal as both a weightlifting shoe and for workouts with agility activities that require multi-directional movement. Lateral stability is important to improve reaction times as well as help avoid the dreaded ankle roll.
The base of the shoe is approximately 1” thick but not squishy with a 4mm drop from heel to toe.
One of the things that I didn’t like about my Nike Metcons (mostly the Metcon 5, the 4 was ok) was that I felt it lacked proper support underneath the metatarsals and I always felt like my second metatarsal was always presing into the floor, and not in a good way.
While the NOBULL trainers are not cushioned, I feel supported and don’t feel like any pressure points are sinking into the floor. This shoe has a very different feel if you’re used to cushioned running shoes and may take some getting used to.
I find that with each of my trainers, there’s a break-in period of about 6-8 workouts before the material starts to feel less stiff and molds to the shape of my foot.
I will admit that with my first pair, I was reluctant to keep trying them after 2-3 workouts. I felt like they just weren’t for me and sat in the closet for a few weeks as I rotated in my old faithful shoes.
Then I decided to give them a try again, and I’m glad I did, because, after a few more workouts, I started to find them more comfortable. Now I know that a break in period is par for the course.
Saying these shoes have a wider toe box seems to depend on who you ask. I have a more narrow/regular foot structure, so to me, they seem wider than the Nike metcon 4s, but not so wide that I feel like my foot is sliding around. Others say the toe box isn’t that wide, so in reality, it’s likely in the middle.
Where this shoe really shines is its performance with strength training. There’s a reason why this shoe is popular among CrossFitters. The strong and stable base helps you ground for a variety of lifting techniques.
The durability of this shoe is a big plus. I don’t see any significant breakdown in any areas of my shoes, whereas with my Nike Metcons, I felt as if they were a bit more “delicate.” After a year, the rubber was starting to peel in high-bend areas like the big toe.
NOBULL trainers definitely seem to have some longevity built into their construction.
With the exception of the inside heel wearing down on the L side of one of my pairs, I find the construction to be quite durable for my needs. In theory, the Superfabric construction is supposed to be highly durable for movements where the top of the shoe might come in contact with other surfaces as you workout.
Cons of the NOBULL trainer
- Lacks arch support
- Minimal cushioning
- Break in period
- May not be the best for wide feet
- Not for running
Perhaps one of the biggest cons of the NOBULL trainers is the lack of arch support. You can always consider adding over-the-counter insoles like Superfeet to further customize the feel of your shoe, however, if you have severe pronation (flat feet), these may not provide the support you need.
Some people don’t like the lack of cushioning. Recently, NOBULL launched the Trainer+, which look like a clunkier version of the original trainers (and probably why I haven’t tried them yet); however, the Trainer+ is reported to have additional cushioning, which might be a happy medium for those looking for a trainer shoe but still want a slightly cushioned feel.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a break-in period for these shoes. For me, this is usually 6-8 workouts before the shoe feels less stiff and starts to mold to my foot.
Some have noted in reviews that this shoe may not be the best for wide feet. This is somewhat of an individualized feel, so it’s probably best to try these shoes on.
Another potential con of this shoe is the price, however, compared to other shoes in the market for cross-training such as the Nike Metcon and Reebok Nano, the price is competitive with other training shoes.
Something to consider with the quality of workout shoes is that you get what you pay for. Cheap shoes are made with cheap materials that don’t last and break down quickly.
Compared to the price of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, a long-time popular shoe amongst weight lifters, the NOBULL trainer is significantly more expensive, however, the Converse All-Star is not good for anything other than standing still and lifting, whereas the NOBULL trainers are a fully functional cross-training shoe.
NOBULL trainer materials
The NOBULL trainers are constructed from a continuous piece of superfabric, which is a durable, breathable material with what feels like little plastic dots all over the exterior of the fabric.
Superfabric is described as “guard plates applied over a highly flexible mesh base layer, creating a 360-degree shield for all-purpose, all-angle training.” The lace system then provides a “locked-in” feel.
They also have some trainers that come in suede; however, I don’t own this style and can’t comment.
The outside lug pattern is designed for “multi-environment usage, allowing for an easy transition between inside and outside with the right blend of flexibility, traction, and support.”
High carbon medial and lateral guards add stability and protection to the sidewalls of the shoe.
NOBULL trainer sizing
They say the trainers fit true to size; however, I didn’t find this to be the case.
I find they run a bit small and go up a ½ size. To be fair, this isn’t the only brand I’ve gone up a ½ size for workouts. The width of the shoe was fine, but my toes were pressing into the front of the shoe.
Are NOBULL trainers good for walking?
No, nor running unless it’s a small part of a multi-workout.
I know some people love to wear their NOBULLs outside of the gym. Personally, I would never reach for these shoes for casual wear. I prefer to extend the life of my pricy workout shoes by not making a habit of wearing them casually.
The buying experience
NOBULLs generally ship quickly.
New colors/styles tend to sell out fast, but they do have the option to get notified when your size/color is restocked.
I spent about a year trying to get the black daisy trainers because they would sell out so fast. I have a pretty common foot size, so from that angle, there’s some frustration.
The returning experience
Let’s face it, in today’s online shopping world, no one wants a crappy returns experience. Luckily, with NOBULL, returns are easy.
At the time this article was written, NOBULL offers free returns and exchanges within 60 days of delivery with a provided pre-paid label. The shoes do need to be in new condition, so you can’t try them out for a few workouts to see. Since there’s such as a significant break-in period, this is a bit of a gamble.
It would be great if they would include a policy where you can try the shoes for a workout for 30 days. It’s pretty difficult to decide how a shoe will perform during a workout without actually test-driving it.
I’ve returned a few pairs in the process, whether it was initially before I knew my size, or I just wasn’t feeling the color in person, and it’s always been an easy process. Just print your return label, drop them off, and you’re good to go.
Overall, the NOBULL trainer is a great shoe. The NOBULL trainer is definitely worth a look if you do any type of cross training activities, agility, strength training, or are a Crossfit enthusiast.
Their stable and durable construction makes them a top contender in the fitness space.
Once you start wearing these shoes for selective fitness activities, you’ll find it difficult to return to cushiony running shoes.