It’s been a long 5 years since the ever so popular, Nike Romaleos 2 released back in 2012 before the London Olympics and 9 years since the original Romaleos were released before the Beijing games. The Romaleos 1 & 2 were basically the same shoe in design, but the second iterations were made more flexible and more importantly, cut off a ton of weight. One that that hasn’t changed is how insanely popular these weightlifting shoes are. I started CrossFit the same year the 2’s were released and I remember the Romaleos 2’s always being sold out. It wasn’t until I got my hands on them that I realized why: they were insanely stable. At the time the only shoes I had to compare them to were my Reebok Oly Lifters and Adidas Adipowers, which were both great shoes, but nothing felt as rock solid than the Romaleos 2 did.
It’s now 2017 and the Romaleos 3 are out, a completely redesigned shoe for the new age of weightlifting that like it or not, includes CrossFit. These are not just Olympic weightlifting shoes, they’re not just powerlifting shoes or “squat” shoes, and they’re not just CrossFit shoes. They’re training shoes for everyone whose purpose is to lift weights, whatever discipline you follow. This couldn’t be any more apparent with the changes made to the Nike Romaleos 3.
Looks & Construction:
It’s been 9 years and the Romaleos were in dire need of a facelift. Not that the older models were ugly, but updated colorways just weren’t cutting it anymore. While still looking very much like a weightlifting shoe, the R3’s carry no cues of the original models over in it’s updated look. If I could sum up the new look of the R3’s compared to it’s predecessors, in a single word: it’s svelte. Some people are going to disagree with me on this one, but the R3’s look sleeker and sexier than the old models in every way. I think all the launch colorways are perfect, though I would personally like to see a louder one *cough* volt *cough*.
The upper is a new synthetic material that at the back of the shoe has a fabric like feel to it, and at the toe area feels more leathery. It doesn’t feel cheap at all, but it doesn’t feel as robust as the rubbery upper of the Romaleos 2. The toe box is covered with ventilation strips that act as flex points giving you a much more natural toe off. Though the shoes do have the updated Flywire lacing system, it’s only around the ankle area of the shoe, with another set of eyelets for if you want to use lace lock. The updated strap isn’t ridiculously long and actually does a good job of tightening the shoe. Like the previous model, the R3’s come with two pairs of insoles: a softer one that’s mainly going to be directed towards CrossFit athletes and a stiffer heavier one that weightlifting purists will probably gravitate towards.
The biggest change to the Romaleos 3 is something you can’t actually see, it’s how insanely light these shoes are. This is immediately apparent from the time you pick the shoe box up. Without the insoles the shoes weigh 12.2oz which is about the same as a normal trainer. It’s not realistic to wear the shoes without insoles but the “soft” insole increases the weight to only 13.4oz and the “firm” insoles up to 15.4oz. Either way you go, you’re going to notice the weight reduction – Romaleos 2 with the “soft” insole weighed 16.5oz according to my scale.
Fans of the Romaleos 2 might not be too keen on the Romaleos 3 new slimmer profile. While it’s still very much a wide base, it’s considerably more narrow than the Romaleos of old. You’re going to notice this much more in the mid foot section of the shoe and even more if you’re using the thicker, firm insoles. Interestingly enough, I got a much more locked down fit using the softer insoles. I barely tightened my laces up and my heels stayed seated in the shoes the whole time during a WOD, whereas with the firm insoles, I actually had to use the lace lock to get the same kind of fit during Oly lifting. Either way, the fit outclasses the Romaleos 2 by a long shot and there’s virtually no heel slip.
The toe box to me still feels the same and my digits get cramped up a bit, though not uncomfortable for weightlifting, not ideal for WOD’s. If you’re a CrossFit athlete looking to do WOD’s in the R3’s, I’d recommend sizing up a half size and just changing the insert whenever you wanted to do hit a WOD or a weightlifting session. If you’re just looking to strictly do Olympic weightlifting or squatting in the Romaleos 3, just stick to your normal weightlifting shoe size because you’re not going to want that extra wiggle room. Personally I went with a size 9, but seeing as how I’m going to be using the shoes for CrossFit and weightlifting, I would go with a 9.5 if I were to do it again.
My sizes for reference:
- Romaleos 2 – 9
- Metcons – 9.5
- Nanos – 10
- Chucks – 9
- AdiPowers/Leistung – 9.5
- Legacy – 9
- Fastlifts – 9
- Lifter Plus – 9
- Positions – 9
- NoBull Lifters – 9, but should be a 9.5
The Romaleos 2 are excellent shoes and quite possibly one of the best pairs of lifting shoes of all time due to their incredible stability. The R3’s are very stable shoes in their own right, but they’re not as much so as the R2’s (*gasp*). What very little you lose in stability, you gain in other areas and in my opinion, that’s what makes the R3’s the superior shoe. At least for me they are.
You’re going to notice the R3’s slightly more narrow platform from the get go if you’ve been lifting in the R2’s for a while. AdiPower fans will feel right at home because that’s the closest shoe the new Romaleos feel like. Once again, not narrow by any means, just more narrow than before. The R3’s also don’t have that same planted feeling the Romaleos 2 had when you jump; like gravity boots sucking you back down to the Earth. This is mainly due to the the reduction in weight, but at the same time it’s a lot easier to move around in the R3’s with either insole, which is more valuable to me. I’m able to move my feet much faster than ever before in the R3’s, which is invaluable to me because I have the tendency to drag my feet along. Where the R3’s really shine is that they’re excellent shoes to WOD in, because they’re almost sneaker like in weight. Combine that with the best in class forefoot flexibility and you’ve got movement as natural as it’s going to get in any Oly shoes. The R3’s feel the most connected your feet than any Oly shoe before it.
The effective heel height of the Nike Romaleos is 20mm or .79″, which still puts it in the 3/4″ territory like most weightlifting shoes, excluding the Adidas Leistung. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the 1″ heel and 3/4″ seems to be perfect for me. Don’t freak out, you’re not going to a difference between the slightly lower heel (19mm) of the Romaleos 2. As before, the heel is made out of TPU and is incompressible, making power delivery perfect. Nike left the inside of the heel hollow probably to save on weight, but there are pylons throughout the heel to give it structure. At the ball of the foot, you can actually press the outsole in, but if you were to push through the inside of the shoe, you’d just be pressing into ground, so that’s not a big deal. The outsole material is a bit tackier than before and does a great job sticking to rubber flooring, but an even better job sticking to the platform.
Value & Conclusion:
These are currently my favorite pair of weightlifting shoes…
…Despite saying that, I don’t think everyone’s going benefit equally from the Romaleos 3.
Here’s where things get really subjective: who will benefit the most from “upgrading” to the Nike Romaleos 3? To be completely honest, CrossFitters will, and that’s not just because I am one. Like I said before, Romaleos 2’s were some of the most stable shoes of all time and they still are more stable than the Romaleos 3. If you’re not having to move your feet around, you won’t really notice the weight reduction as much. Weightlifters will benefit as well, but not to the same extent because the amount of movement done, while precise, is short. Proficient weightlifters could actually want the added weight for stability. Powerlifters and globo’ers will never have to worry about this and would actually benefit from having a heavier shoe so they won’t have to worry about their feet shifting around during squats. This is not to say the Romaleos 3 can’t be good for everyone, they are indeed EXCELLENT shoes for everything.
Before you go pulling the trigger on the Nike Romaleos 3, you’ve got to take into account what you’re using them for and what shoe you would actually benefit from the most. The Reebok Legacy Lifters, while bricks (20oz), are the most stable shoe out there. The Adidas Leistung 2 have a 1″ heel for those that need the extra mobility and weigh in at a little above 17oz. Even the Romaleos 2’s would still be an excellent choice for most people and since the R3’s are out, they cost less! Once again, this is not to say that the R3’s can’t be used by everyone out there, if you like them, by all means get them. The Romaleos 3’s will perform above and beyond everyone’s needs; there is no way you’ll be disappointed in them! For those doubting the ability of the Romaleos 3 to be a competition ready shoe, go watch Colin Burns snatch the American record in them.
The Nike Romaleos 3 cost $200, which like most weightlifting shoes, isn’t a small a price to pay, but it’s an investment in your training. While some might not find it the perfect shoe for their discipline, it’s the perfect weightlifting shoe for me because of blend of stability, flexibility, and agility. I think it’s pretty obvious that Nike chose to design the Nike Romaleos 3 with functional fitness in mind as well as Olympic weightlifting. There will no doubt be some controversy for this in the weightlifting world. For CrossFitters, Romaleos 3 are a no-brainer; but for everyone else, you might want to check your options first.