After Nike released the Metcon 3, it quickly became one of my favorite training shoes, only bested in certain workouts by the Nano 6.0. Though some people had issues with them, I never got that much heel slip and the squeaky midsole didn’t bother me to the point where I wouldn’t want to wear the shoes. They’re performance far outweighed the negatives and after Reebok discontinued the 6.0, it was clear what the best available training shoe was.
Nike has a pretty good track record of not pulling a Nano 7 when they release their shoes, so when shots of the Metcon 4 started popping up, it wasn’t surprising to see that the shoe didn’t look too much different than it’s predecessor. Honestly, that’s not really a bad thing since I thought the Metcon 3 had one of the best looking silhouettes for a training shoe and at least we could tell that Nike wasn’t straying too far away from what made the M3’s such a great shoe.
Build Quality – 6/6
Metcon’s are one of Nike’s flagship products, so with that, you can expect top quality materials and construction. Where the M4’s differ the most from the M3’s is in the new “Haptic” technology they’re using to improve durability in high wear areas. Essentially, they’ve gone and printed TPU overlays in the form of small tri-star shapes all over a brand new more plush upper material. Compared to the Metcon 3’s ballistic mesh upper with embroidered in TPU, this should not only improve durability, but also increase flexibility and comfort all while giving the Metcon 4’s a much more high quality look. It’s a bit early to comment on overall durability, but I can at least say that all of the latter is true.
To improve comfort, Nike used a new “sandwich-mesh” (two-layer mesh with vertical fibers running through it). For the first time ever, the top of the forefoot is cushioned; the best way to put into words how this feels is that the shoes feel like they’re cradling your toes, resulting in a better closer fit that moves with you. While I never had any issues with comfort at the top of my toes, the change is still welcome because it does indeed give the Metcon 4’s a more next to skin feel and my feet slide around less inside the shoes.
What hasn’t changed, but really isn’t a big deal in my opinion, is the sticky rubber outsole and tri-star tread pattern. I thought that this area of the shoe really didn’t need any kind of improvement since it was already really good on the M3’s, though some would argue that the tread pattern was ugly before, I thought it looked cool. The sticky rubber compound has always done a great job with traction from platform to rope climbs. Speaking of which, like most training shoes, Metcon’s go through a 2 year life cycle before the shoe is refreshed; hence the reason they look so similar to their predecessors. Still not a problem, because other than the DSX Flyknit 2’s – Metcon 4’s are (in my opinion), the best looking training shoe available.
Surprisingly, the drop-in midsole (4mm drop) is the exact same one found in the Metcon 3, rather than switching to the new DSX Flyknit 2’s new mixed material. Don’t get me wrong, the previous midsole was amazing in response and feel, but it did squeak over time. Although the Metcon 4’s have fabric lining the bottom inside the shoe to combat the squeak, it’s still present in both of my pairs of Metcon 4’s – a problem that could have been easily solved by changing to the other material.
Oh, and the laces are MUCH nicer.
Fit – 5.5/6
Easily the number one issue that has always plagued the Metcon series of shoes. Which makes me wonder why it’s taken so long for Nike to address the issue, though finally solving it with the most simple of fixes: adding one more eyelet.
In addition to the new upper material, Nike has gone and added another eyelet at the top of the ankle collar to combat heel slip and further refine the fit of the Metcon 4. Does it work? YES, but there is still a tiny bit of slippage if you want to nitpick; it’s no where near as bad as it’s ever been though. Personally, it was never all that bad for me in the Metcon 3’s, but having both 3 & 4’s on at the same time yields a noticeable difference in how securely either shoe wants to stay on your foot. If heel slip was bad or it just drove you crazy before, this alone should be the reason to upgrade.
The tongue gets a small but functional change as well. On the surface, it’s new tri-star cushioning might just look cosmetic, but the change is functional as it gives the shoe more to contain your foot with at the top. It might be hard to notice at first but doing a little ankle dorsiflexion will push the tongue of the shoe into your foot, which also helps to keep your heel in place.
As I mentioned before, the M4’s use a new “sandwich-mesh” upper that contains your foot much better than the previous model’s upper did, but the actual dimensions of the shoes remain the exact same. For me, the fit is improved since a size 9.5 was a little too snug before and a 10 had a little more room than I would have liked it to have; now a 10 is perfect on me because it fits in between the old 9.5 and 10. If you’ve got wide feet, you might have an issue with this change; the upper is more cushioned and flexible, but it’s also a little bit more narrow too. If you wore your Metcon’s (1/2/3) snug before, you’re probably going to need to size up.
My sizes for reference:
I wear everything with about a thumbnails width of space between my toes and the front of the shoe, and I have Morton’s toe (2nd toe longer than big toe).
- Metcon 3 – 10 (Can fit 9.5’s, but extended use gets uncomfortable.)
- Metcon 1/2 – 9.5 (Same as above.)
- Nano’s – 10
- Strike-Mvmnt – 10.5
- Adidas Ultraboost – 10
- NoBull – 10
- Romaleos – 9.5
- Chuck Taylor All Stars – 9.5
Flexibility/Comfort – 4.5/6
Saying the Metcon 4’s are the most flexible and comfortable Metcon’s ever, isn’t really saying all that much. Compared to their predecessors and a lot of other training shoes, they are, but in the grand spectrum of shoes, definitely not. There’s a level of “comfort” that you wouldn’t actually want from a good performing pair of trainers and the Metcon 4’s do a pretty good job at being wearable and not unbearable for a training shoe.
Whilst the upper is both more flexible and comfortable than it’s predecessor’s, it’s only slightly more and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference unless you had one of each shoe on. The M4’s do flex pretty well at the metatarsal joints but everywhere else on the outsole and midsole, is fairly stiff like it was in the M3’s. The shoes still handle plyometric movements really well because they flex where you need them to, but you should expect a bit of soreness in your feet after doing repeated bounding exercises.
If you were expecting the Metcon 4’s to be a better running shoe, I hate to burst your bubble – they feel almost identical to the 3’s. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise since the whole bottom portion of the shoe is the exact same. Honestly, I think you can run shorter distances just fine in Metcon’s if you’re pose running, but if you’re planning on doing any kind of distance running, you should just get running shoes. Metcon’s are shoes designed for handling any kind of training, including running, but the bias is definitely towards weightlifting.
Something that I don’t think get’s enough attention is that even though the drop-in midsole is fairly stiff, it does have really good energy return and response for things like sprints and other explosive plyo movements. Keep in mind that it does require a fair amount of break-in, initially it’s going to be really stiff, but it does soften up and become more comfortable over time.
Stability – 6/6
What the Metcon 4’s lack in flexibility or comfort, they make up for in just how damn good they are for lifting. Whether it’s powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting, Metcon’s would be my top choice and the 4’s only solidify them as the best option available in a training shoe.
To be honest, the main things that make the Metcon 4 the top choice are really just brought over from the Metcon 3, which is still an awesome shoe in it’s own right. The responsive drop-in midsole and dense outsole material that also provides excellent traction are the major players when it comes to the M4’s stability. There’s very little compression to the midsole under load and the energy you get back from the midsole makes jumping feel explosive for any Olympic lifting, as well as plyometric movements. The base of the Metcon 4’s is wide and flat with sharp edges, making lateral stability and the ability to make quick cuts, excellent. Also like the M3’s, the forefoot of the 4’s is canted a bit upwards to help with toe-off, but can in turn allow you to be forward on lifts. It takes a little getting used to, but isn’t much of an issue when you do.
What really seals the deal is how the upgrades to the upper and fit harmonize with the previous lower bits to make the M4’s a more refined shoe to lift in. Since the overall fit of the shoe is tighter, foot containment is much better without being overly constricting; there’s far less play inside of the shoe than ever before but they’re still comfortable to wear the shoes for extended periods of time. Where you’re going to notice this the most is during barbell cycling where you’re shifting your feet around a lot; resetting back to the right position is more consistent and you don’t get thrown off balance as much.
Though the heel counter has been cut down, mainly for aesthetic reasons, I didn’t notice any lost stability from the change. The heel clip returns, though I never thought it did much anyways. Metcon 4’s are also very slighty lighter than 3’s, weighing in at only 10.6oz compared to the 10.9oz of the 3’s. Minor changes, but they’re worth noting.
Just having a stiff midsole and outsole won’t cut it in determining a good training shoe nowadays; as we saw in the case of the Nano 7. The beauty of the Metcon 4 is how masterfully Nike has managed to blend all the attributes of a running and lifting shoe into a single trainer without sacrificing too much of anything.
- Metcon 3 – Better fit overall, but stability and flexibility largely remain the same. If you had issues with the heel slip or were in between sizes, it’s worth the upgrade. Otherwise, you’re not missing out on much.
- Nano 8 – Nike basically did the same thing to the Metcon 4 that Reebok did to the Nano 8, but to a lesser extent since the M3’s weren’t as bad as the Nano 7. Nano 8’s are the more all around trainer and much better to run in, but the Metcon 4’s are the better lifter. You can’t go wrong either way, it just depends what you want to prioritize.
- DSX Flyknit 2 – The changes from the DSX to the DSX2 feel more drastic than the M3-M4, but the better overall shoe is the M4. If you have M3’s already, check out the DSX2’s because they offer a different, but still very good training experience. They’re a little more flexible and almost just as stable. If you can only pick one and don’t have M3’s, go with the Metcon 4. If you had heel slip issues in the M3’s, go with the M4’s over the DSX2.
- NoBull – The only situation I’d take NoBull’s over Metcon 4’s is if you wanted a more minimalist platform. Otherwise the fit and stability isn’t as good as the Metcon 4’s, though they’re more flexible.
Value – 5/6
Like all the Metcon’s of old, the 4’s retail for the standard price of $130. If you were to pretend that Metcon 3’s were unavailable to buy anymore for their discounted rate, I’d say the Metcon 4’s would be a no brainer for fans of the shoe or anyone wanting a the most stable training shoe. The newest iteration is definitely the superior shoe between the two, but it’s not a difference that you need to be spending another $130 on if you already have Metcon 3’s and don’t have any issues with the fit of them. I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money, because to me, buying them because they’re new and look better are good enough reasons for me to drop the cash. The 4’s are a must buy in a world without 3’s.
If you wanted to try something different than the 3’s, but didn’t want to go too far away from the brand and Metcon “formula”, I’d recommend checking out the DSX Flyknit 2 over the 4’s. They’re different enough than the 3’s but still offer one of the best training shoe experiences you can buy. At a cost of course because they’re slightly more expensive.
Things can get complicated when choosing between the Nano 8 and Metcon 4. All I can tell you is that if you normally like Nano’s, go with that, and vice versa with Metcon’s. They both offer the best training shoe experiences depending on what you’re looking for. If I were to do a competition and I didn’t know what was going on, I could count on either to get me through, but if I wanted something more comfortable to wear day-in day-out, I’d pick Nano 8’s; if I wanted something to go heavy in, Metcon 4’s.
Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with the Metcon 4, Nike opted to just take what was already excellent and refine it. The result is easily the best Metcon to date and one of the best training shoes of all time. It’s just a damn shame that they didn’t fix the squeaky midsole.