NoBull has been absolutely crushing the functional fitness market this past year. People looking to set themselves apart from the usual suspects have been flocking to the NoBull name and not looking back. For good reason, they’re making top quality products that work as well as they look. It all started with a quirky shoe called the Surplus Trainer, which was a lot different than the rest in looks, but could stand toe to toe performance wise with the big dogs. I was a big fan of this shoe (you can read my review here), and I still think it’s one of the best training shoes out there.
The newest member of the NoBull family happens to be their take on the Olympic lifting segment. Necks were broken around the world when NoBull announced their Olympic lifting shoe a little earlier in the year. It’s striking design cues were unlike anything else; a little bit Surplus trainer, a little Timberland, a little oxford, and a little AdiStar. Interestingly enough, all of those elements make for one of the best looking fitness shoes to date and definitely one of the best looking pairs of Olympic lifting shoes. Of course, all of that badassery comes at a cost and the most important question arises:
“Are they worth it?”
Looks & Construction:
Like the Surplus Trainer, the build quality of the Lifters are second to none. No loose glue or ill stitching to be found anywhere on the myriad of superfabric, leather and leather. I had to reiterate the latter because unbeknownst to me until I was recently, the heel is made from stacked leather and not wood. In my defense, it looks like wood, it feels as hard as wood; it’s just not wood. The craftsmanship that’s been put into making each heel is insane because you can’t really tell the difference, not that they’re trying to hide anything.
The combination of the black superfabric and mocha brown leather counter make for some of the best looking shoes, period. The simplicity of the design is a little offset by the technical look of the superfabric, but that’s only if you really want to nitpick; you’d be hard pressed to find someone that thinks these are ugly. NoBull didn’t skimp on the details either, the tongue is also made of leather, you get to pick from either the multi-colored boot laces or burnished black leather laces, and inside each medial strap is stamped: “#NoExcuses”.
The leather already looks amazing, but will only get cooler looking with age. I can’t wait to see what my Lifters will look like in a few years; a few months even, with the amount that I’m going to be wearing them. Everything about the way this shoe is presented, makes them already feel like they’re worth the price tag.
While you might be able to get away with wearing the NoBull Lifters to a wedding, they wouldn’t be worth a damn if they weren’t functional, but that’s just not the case. The total heel height is about 1.25″ but the effective is about .73″, or 18.5mm depending on what side of the pond you’re on. NoBull went with roughly the same heel height you’ll find on the most popular, such as the Nike Romaleos and Adidas Adipowers. We’ve been seeing a trend of manufacturers toying around with heel heights lately, but this height seems to be the most optimal. Unlike the big names, the NoBulls have a more gradual heel drop, which I greatly prefer over the more pronounced style. The shoes feel less clunky, especially when trying to keep my toes down, allowing me to get better extension in my lifts. Not to mention that they’re a lot easier on your plantar fascia.
Though the Lifters use the same superfabric as the Surplus Trainers through the vamp of the shoe, the Lifters feel slightly more flexible. The crease at the top of the toebox that bugged me about the Surplus Trainers is almost nonexistent. Movement feels natural and unhindered, going hand in hand with the more gradual drop. Flexibility in the forefoot of the shoe is excellent, which leads to a more comfortable step and split position. I never feel like I’m being forced into any positions, which almost gives it a trainer-like feel; the main reason I prefer lifting in trainers. These could be a great indoor WOD shoe for lifting metcons, but personally I’d avoid taking them outside just because I’d be weary about thrashing them.
One slight concern to me was that the Lifter’s heel was made out of leather, and not wood. Leather heels are usually found in dress shoes, so the decision to include them in Olympic lifting shoes is interesting. Leather is a softer material and under enough weight, could deform. Which leads back to the age old debate on whether the EVA heel on budget weightlifting shoes could depress under enough weight. On the NoBull Lifters, if I were to press down on the edges of the outsole, I can depress the heel. To a much, much lesser , neigh unnoticeable degree than EVA, but yes, I can still do it. When I try doing that to the middle part of the heel, I can’t depress it at all. Most people, like 90% of people out there, will never be able to get the heel to depress under normal circumstances; the other 10% are probably already sponsored by Nike or Adidas. Even weightlifters in the Olympics were putting up massive weight with shoes that had EVA heels.
You’ll be fine with the NoBull Lifters.
The concern of the heel being leather was quickly laid to rest after I started lifting in the NoBull’s. They just simply have the best combination of mobility, stability and power delivery that I’ve come across yet in weightlifting shoes. Everything including cleans, snatches, squats felt great from the get go. Usually you’d have to spend time “breaking in” shoes, which more literally means getting accustomed to fit and feel; but the moment I started lifting in the NoBull Lifters, felt like I had been lifting in them for years. I always like to say that the best shoes are the ones you put on and forget about, so you can just worry about the task at hand. Even after my lifting sessions were done, I didn’t even bother switching back to my regular shoes. They’re even comfortable enough to wear while coaching.
On the plus side, the stacked leather heel on the NoBull’s leads to a slightly lighter shoe. I weighed the Lifters at 15.69 oz. For comparisons sake, I weighed the Nike Romaleos at 16.8 oz, which is roughly what I remember my Adipowers being at, though I don’t own them anymore.
I took a leap of faith when ordering the NoBull Lifters, because historically my sizing has been weird with their Surplus Trainers; I didn’t know how much I should size down. My Surplus Trainers were size 9.5, but they’re fairly tight on me, which leads me to believe a size 10 would have been better. I wear a size 9 in EVERY pair of lifters that I own (I’ve tried 9.5’s but they’re always too big), so I went with that in the NoBull Lifters. Initially I thought they were slightly tight, but I couldn’t get an exchange so I just went with it. I’m glad I made the decision to just use them, because they actually fit me perfectly. The ONLY case where I might recommend you going up half a size is if your foot is extremely wide. NoBull’s superfabric allows for a pretty good amount of stretch in the forefoot, but it’s still overall a tad on the narrow side.
For reference, here are my sizes:
- Reebok Nano 6: 10
- Nike Metcon 2: 9.5
- Romaleos/Adipowers: 9
- Chuck Taylors: 9
Value & Conclusion:
I’m sure by now you’re pretty much sold on the NoBull Lifters, but let me tell you, they’re not cheap. After everything was all said and done, the NoBull’s set me back $321.43 after tax, but with free shipping. That’s the most I’ve spent on any shoe, period. As previously mentioned, quality comes at a cost. Though the NoBull Lifters are definitely an amazing pair of shoes, they’re probably not going to put 20kg on your snatch. I feel like I value these more, because they cost me so much, but since they’re such excellent performing shoes, I don’t have a single bit of buyers remorse. Which happens to me quite often!
These are a quality pair of lifters and should last you for many, many years to come. They’re made using age old, traditional shoe crafting techniques. Even if you were to burn out the outsole, you could probably just take them to any competent shoe cobbler and get another one glued on. If you stopped spending $20 a day on fast food, for 15 day’s you’d have enough to buy the NoBull Lifters, which would last you much longer. Hell, I could not go out for a couple weekends and that would be enough to buy another pair.
I know not many people are going to be willing to shell out $300+ dollars on a pair of lifting shoes; and to those people, the current staples of lifting shoes will do you just fine. If you’re a person that just simply needs the best, loves well crafted shoes, or just has a ton of disposable income, then you need the NoBull Lifters. It might sound like I’m riding NoBull’s jock, but I really am blown away by the Lifters; NoBull has pulled no punches in creating an immaculate pair of weightlifting shoes. I’ll continue to try out new Olympic weightlifting shoes as they come out (I’m talking about you, Romaleos 3’s!), but I couldn’t imagine shoes getting much better than the NoBull Lifters.
Pre-orders start 10/14!