It seems like just yesterday I received a beautiful package from Nike containing the now antique, the Metcon 1. Since it’s original release, the Metcon has been the biggest thing that’s hit functional fitness since Brooke Wells. For good reason, it is Nike after all. People were over using their Free’s and begging for Nike to put out a true shoe designed ground up for functional fitness. It wasn’t even that Reebok put out a bad shoe, the Nano’s are quite possibly one of the best designed shoe lines in the history of footwear. To be honest, the only issue that anyone really had with them is that they just weren’t Nike’s.
The original Metcon’s were a great first effort offering amazing stability and response, but they weren’t without their issues. Many suffered from durability issues, heel slippage, and squeaky insoles. All of that wasn’t enough to dissuade anyone, especially me, from stocking up on many of the awesome colorways. Then along came the Metcon 2’s – more like a 1.2 model, meant to address many of the issues that the original shoe had, but in reality, it had failed in doing so. I say failure in the most liberal way because the Metcon 2’s shot Nike from not even being a player in the functional fitness world, to numero uno. In all actuality, the Metcon 2 was a failure because it really didn’t fix the issues that plagued the Metcon 1. Heel slip though lessened, was still there. The overall durability was no better than the last, and that damned squeaky insole was only put off for a little while. Still, they were awesome performing shoes that had the look, and most of all, had the swoosh.
Two years later and were now coming upon the release of the much anticipated Metcon 3. When it was originally leaked, many people weren’t keen to the futuristic look Nike decided to take with the latest model, but it didn’t take long for them to warm up to it. Besides the Romaleos 3, these shoes have definitely been my most requested review of the year, as the previous versions were before it. So what exactly have we been holding our breath for? Was it worth the wait? Is it worth upgrading over the previous models?
If you were to take a quick glance at someones feet wearing the Metcon 3’s, you probably wouldn’t notice they were a different shoe than the two before it. Granted, the 3’s look the most different than the previous models, they still definitely have the Metcon appearance. Though the upper looks a little different, the lines of the shoe generally remain in the same spots but synergize a bit better due to the redesigned material. While it may look like the 3’s have a knit type material for the upper, the feel is very reminiscent of the thermal wrap found on the 2’s, just to a lesser degree. What it makes for, is a much more sock like feel and pliable upper. The ballistic nylon that was once only found in the toebox is seemingly fused with the thermal wrap and extends all the way from the font to the back of the shoe, slightly reinforced in areas like at the toe and where the rope would make contact. Flywire lacing system makes it’s return and as always provides a nice fit when tightened adequately.
Durability issues of the Metcon 2’s were mainly due to the upper being so rigid. Most of the time you would see the instep part of the upper starting to crack after multiple rope climbs, or even the thermal wrap coming unglued from the mesh. Since the 3’s have the mesh and thermal wrap fused together, it’s a lot lighter and flexible feeling. This should alleviate issues with the cracking, but only time will tell. The insole also resembles the original model’s insoles, but now features redesigned flex groove and is ever so slightly thinner. About that squeaky heel, as we know from experience, the 1’s squeaked right away, while the 2’s had to develop it. The bottom of the insole is now a little more tacky feeling, but I have a feeling that over time as moisture builds up in your shoe, it will wear the bottom of the insole out. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t squeak, that’s another thing I’ll have to report back with in a few.
Gone is the hexagonal tread pattern of the outsole and in place is a triangular webbed pattern that is much more pronounced. The material that the outsole was made of remains the same despite the change in tread pattern, but now offers more flexibility. Overall the shape is more narrow than the previous models, most notably in the midfoot, but not so much that I would say the shoe is narrow; it’s still very much a wide training shoe. The height of the midsole stack also seems to be a little bit shorter, giving you a closer to the ground feel. At the rear of the shoe you’ll find the return of a more well disguised TPU heel clip that’s now matte in texture. New to the 3’s are the TPU heel “cups” found externally on the sides of the rear that help stabilize your foot laterally.
Build quality is mainly what you’d expect from a Nike shoe. The Metcon 3’s are very well put together and feel suited to take on just about anything you can throw at it. Interestingly enough, my blackout models have quite a bit of oversprayed glue, which isn’t a huge deal, but does detract from the sleekness of the shoe a tad. I’m sure this has to do with the previous model’s laces not staying tied, but the laces that come with the Metcon 3 are just plain cheap feeling. I’d gladly take the ones of old and just tighten them up a bit more.
If you’re coming from any of the previous iterations, just go ahead and size the 3’s the same unless you were on the extremely tight side. Remember that the 3’s are slightly more narrow, though the length of the shoe remains the exact same. People with Morton’s toe shouldn’t have to worry about having to size up either, as the shape of the Metcon’s toe box accommodates your second toe well. Here’s a sizing chart of what I wear, so you can kind of get an idea of how you should size your Metcon 3’s:
- Metcon 1/2/3 – 9.5
- Nano – 10
- Inov-8 – 10
- Chucks – 9
- Speed TR – 9
- Nike Free – 10
- Romaleos – 9
Another variance that I’ve noticed between my two pairs of shoes is that the blackout’s fit a little more snug and have less heel slip than my grey/volts. If you’re at the store buying them, you might want to try on a few pairs before pulling the trigger on them.
In my opinion, the Metcon 2’s (and originals), though technically designed for all facets of fitness, were the best training shoe for pure lifting. I’ve hit numerous PR’s with both models, including a 515lb sumo deadlift and very narrowly missing a 225lb snatch, so I will usually grab my Nike when I know I need to lift big. What made them excellent lifting shoes also made them a little hard on the feet when it came to plyometric movements. Honestly, it’s a give and take with training shoes; you just can’t have it all. If you want better power delivery, you’re usually sacrificing flexibility, and vice versa. The key is to find the balance between the two, and I think Nike has come the closest out of any training shoe with the Metcon 3.
Squatting is the foundation of everything we do, so if I can’t squat in a shoe, I really have no use for that shoe. The Metcon 2’s were arguably my favorite squatting shoe of all time. Sure, they are not the most minimal or shoe closest to the ground, but they are plenty flat, stable, and offer excellent energy rebound. I’ve been doing a lot of squatting in Olympic weightlifting shoes lately with the Legacy and Position’s, but I don’t miss them one bit because squatting in the M3’s feels just as good, if not better. As a functional fitnesser, my mantra is to always be able to use what’s available at the time; you’re not always going to have time to change into oly shoes after all. The M3’s manage to keep up with the best oly shoes, but also outshines the previous models because of the TPU heel counters. Lateral stability is far greater than it was in the M2’s and you never get a feeling of spilling out of the sides of your shoe.
Once again, historically Metcon’s have been my favorite shoes to do Olympic lifts in. Nano 6.0’s had a really impressive showing earlier this year, easily becoming my favorite training shoe because they were so responsive; that is, until I tried the Metcon 3’s out. Power delivery is excellent and the sloping outsole makes for a shoe that translates power well throughout the entire pull when weightlifting. Honestly, the way I would call it between the two shoes is a draw, they’re both equally just as good as the other with the Nano’s having a slightly more minimal platform with better ground feel and the M3’s guiding your feet better with an insole with greater energy return. It just comes down to preference as it’s just too close to call here, but stability would have to go to Nano’s for having a flatter base, but interestingly enough, rowing in the Metcon 3’s feels better due to the shape of the outsole. Compared to the Metcon 2, you lose out a little bit in forward stability, but gain in lateral and heel stability. The reduction in weight and width in the toe area doesn’t really hurt the overall stability much. Also, the drop remains the same as it’s always been as the original models and the 2’s at 4mm.
According to my scale the M3’s come in the lightest at 11.15 oz, followed by the M2’s at 11.57 oz, and the Nano 6.0’s barely being the heaviest at 11.61 oz. My Nano’s are a men’s size 10 and my Metcon’s are both size 9.5.
Since the upper is much more flexible and the redesigned outsole pattern allows for greater flex than it’s previous counterparts, moving around in the M3’s is much more comfortable; an area that the Metcon’s were notoriously bad at. Typically with repetitive jumping movements, my plantar fascia region will develop a burning sensation, but that hasn’t been the case with the M3’s. Speaking of which, all of the jumping movements feel extremely natural in the Metcon 3’s, making more than half of what we do as fitness-ers much easier. That’s in part due to the redesigned outsole having a more pronounced slope up from the midfoot to the toe and the the flexibility being heightened. Since it’s been cold and rainy outside I haven’t done a ton of running, but agility drills felt excellent due to the toe shape and flexibility. I’d imagine that running still will not be the Metcon 3’s strong suit since the outsole is still fairly ridid, but that’s what the DSX Flyknits are for! Beware, the previous models were pretty forgiving if you had the tendency to lean forward on your toes, but the M3’s are not quite as much due to the new shape.
I never really understood the need to have the TPU heel clip for handstand push-ups. Other than doing strict handstand push-ups, your feet should almost never drag up the wall. With the Metcon 2’s, I never really noticed the heel clip ever sliding and if anything it would actually stutter up the wall. Doing handstand push-ups in the M3’s felt a little better since the material of the TPU is less tacky, but I never noticed any kind of enhanced smoothness with my kipping. Another area I noticed the M3’s lacking in are sadly, rope climbs. I’ll usually baby my new shoes, but since I know I’m going to get a ton of inquiries about this, I just went for it. It was embarrassing how many times I lost my footing trying to coach rope climbs. Spanish wrap or j-hook, it didn’t matter, the rope slid right through my feet almost every time. I didn’t think the M3’s would falter so hard in this area since the outsole reaches up quite a bit more. I’ll keep trying, maybe the outsole needs a bit of wear before it starts to grab the rope better.
So why spend double, when you can get a fully functional pair of Metcon 2’s or Nano 6.0’s for almost half the price? Mainly social & brand recognition. That’s not to say the Metcon 3’s are a bad pair of shoes, they’re actually excellent training shoes and definitely one of my favorite picks. The previously aforementioned are still some of the best training shoes of all time and you’re currently able to pick them up for about half the price of Metcon 3’s. Why wouldn’t you want to go with that? It comes down to appearance, sometimes fit, social proof, or because one doesn’t have a swoosh on the side. I will admit that Metcon’s are easily the better looking shoe, and always have been, though the Nano 6.0’s aren’t an ugly pair of shoes.
In my opinion, the Metcon 3’s are an excellent pair of shoes, but they don’t do anything drastically different that what’s already out there. Unless your pair of Metcon 2’s, or even 1’s, were falling apart, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade your shoes. The enhancements are fairly incremental, and the overall feel isn’t that much different than the previous iterations. If for some reason you don’t like the way Nano’s fit your feet (the m3’s are narrower), then you might want to look into some Nike’s. Any way you cut it, the Nike Metcon 3’s are still some of the finest training shoes on the market, and quite possibly the only true competition for the Reebok Nano’s. If you certainly must have the Metcon 3’s or you’re in dire need of an upgrade, the latest version of Nike’s Metcon are the most well rounded iteration of the shoe yet and you definitely will not be disappointed with them.
Now what about those DSX Flyknit’s…