NoBull Trainer Review (2016 Update)

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Since the release of their original Trainer, NoBull has been making waves in the fitness community. I thought they were excellent shoes, just not anything new or revolutionary…but I guess that’s kind of the point. NoBull’s mantra is in it’s name, shoes don’t make you stronger or faster, that’s all dependent on how much work you put in and the NoBull Trainers were designed for you to do work in.

In 2016, NoBull updated the already highly functional Trainer and I’ve just finally gotten around to them. The only thing that remains the same is the signature SuperFabric upper, which makes it look like not much has changed, when in fact it’s pretty much a brand new shoe. Not that there was anything wrong with the previous model, but no shoe is perfect and in this game, you have to be constantly making changes to stay relevant. The previous Surplus Trainers were great, so are the current Trainers worth upgrading to?

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Looks/Construction:

You would never know that NoBull’s were a company thats only been around for a couple years by the construction of their shoes.  As simple as they may be, they’re just as well built as any sneakers from the big brands. One nod to quality that wasn’t really acknowledged are the lace eyelets, which now have flat edges, compared to the cheaper looking rounded ones.The simplicity of the one piece SuperFabric  upper is what makes the Trainer’s a beautifully plain shoe.  Unless you get one with print, or somehow braille offends you, you can’t really say the Trainers are ugly because there’s really nothing to them. What makes SuperFabric what it is, are the abrasion resistant “guard” plates that are spaced out on top of a mesh baselayer, keeping the shoe flexible and lightweight, but durable.

Personally, I preferred the thicker tongue in the previous model, but that’s been changed to a more thin version, like you’ll find in the Metcon or Nano 7; not a big deal either way. Another thing I found interesting was that the sockliner/insole has been changed to a much thinner one compared to the thicker Ortholite style one in the old model. Honestly, I thought that was one of the better features in the shoe because it gave you a little bit of comfort while still remaining stable.

The most notable change to the Trainer’s are the redesigned midsole and outsole. Once again, I didn’t have any issues with either of these areas of the old model, but now the midsole compresses much less than before. The outsole now has a more uniform tread pattern that extends a bit more up the instep for better grip while climbing ropes. It’s also generally more flat on the bottom, so combined with the incompressible midsole and paper thin insole, the new Trainers feel even more neutral than before.

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Fit:

I had the original Surplus Trainers in a 9.5 men’s and found that they ran a bit on the small side. While I could work out in them for short periods of time, my feet would get cramped over extended periods of wear. With the newer model, I opted for a size 10 and the fit is now much better, if not a little more open inside the shoe, which I think might be due to the thinner insole. Either way, I’m happy with the fit, which is reminiscent mostly of the Nano 3.0 or 5.0. Remember, NoBull does unisex sizing, so you could size up or down in either men or women’s shoes. My sizes for reference:

  • Metcon – 9.5
  • Nano – 10
  • CrazyPower – 9.5
  • Chucks – 9
  • Romaleos – 9.5
  • AdiPowers – 9.5
  • Legacys – 9

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Performance:

No bull, seriously.

There’s nothing that the Trainer’s even bother trying to do differently than what’s known to make a solid training shoe, besides the SuperFabric upper. Wide flat base, incompressible midsole/outsole, 4mm drop, lightweight, and flexible. If the formula works, why bother even messing with it? The Trainers are a no nonsense shoe that I’d feel comfortable doing pretty much any workout in, from Oly lifting to running WODs. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

For lifting, which is honestly where I put most of my emphasis of my reviews towards, the Trainers are everything you’d want in a minimalist training shoe. There’s no cushion to get in the way of power delivery and the base is stable, flat and wide. They’re extremely light and responsive so it’s easy to move your feet. The new tread pattern and outsole material holds everything well, so you’ll never be at a loss of footing. While they’re still a little choppy feeling while running, you really won’t be bothered by them because they only weigh 10.44oz per shoe and the upper flexes well enough. I still think the previous models were better for running because they had better cushioning and the outsole wasn’t as flat. The Trainers are extremely responsive when it comes to plyometric movements like box jumps, burpees, and double unders. Best of all, my feet never get uncomfortable after repeated bounding because there is nothing pushing back against my arches.

TPU heel clips are all the rage when it comes to handstand push-ups, which is something I feel the NoBull’s could benefit from if they were to integrate it well. Right now the contact point for when you do HSPU’s is the gummier bottom part of the outsole that does drag up the wall a little. They could even just extend the midsole down the rear of the shoe, which is a bit more slick than the outsole.

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Value/Conclusion:

You can’t go wrong with vanilla ice cream and neither can you with the NoBull Trainers. There is really nothing special about them, which makes them perform better than most training shoes on the market. They combine all of what makes a great training shoe into one well executed package, without trying to do too much of anything. Luckily at $130, they don’t cost more than any of the other bigger brands, so you can rest assured you’re getting your money’s worth with the NoBull Trainers. Should you upgrade if you have the previous models? For an overall shoe, I believe so, but keep those older ones for running days. If I went into a day of training, not knowing what the hell was coming my way, I would probably pick the NoBull Trainers to use because I know they would just do well with anything that was thrown at me.

If all you want is a great performing, durable pair of training shoes without any frills or gaudy branding, check out the NoBull Trainers. There is a lot of beauty in their simplicity.

www.nobullproject.com

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2 comments

  1. It’s really a shame they changed this trainer. I have both the old and new, and do not like the new trainer at all. For my foot, the fit is too wide and the shoe seems much more voluminous. And the new EVA insole is nowhere near as plush as the old insole. The older trainer felt like wearing a cloud with a stable base. This new trainer seems more geared to lifting as opposed to all-around training. Bummer!

    Great review, as always, Joel. Keep them coming.

    1. I agree, I preferred the feel of the older model because it was different than what other people were doing. Thanks for reading!

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