Hylete isn’t typically a brand that you’d associate with shoes, they did do a co-branded Inov-8 shoe in the past, the 252. I liked it, but other than getting every color shoelace in the color spectrum, it was nothing different than the normal model and faded into obscurity. Hylete as a training brand is a whole different story and remains one of the more popular choices due to their quality to price ratio and excellent customer service.
I always have my reservations when a new shoemaker enters the training arena because “training” is such a broad spectrum of fitness, but I think it’s safe to say that Hylete tried to cover all bases with the Circuit Cross-Trainer by including 3 different drop-in midsoles. Drop-in midsole technology is nothing new as it’s been the staple build of the Nike Metcon series, but giving you the option to switch to a different midsole hasn’t been done before by anyone yet. The thought process behind this is to have one shoe that you can use aptly or comfortably for whatever you’re doing, whether it be run, lift, or train.
Build Quality/Construction – 5/6
The basic make up of the Circuit’s upper is ballistic nylon and a nylon ripstop with TPU overlays fused on top of them using thermal welding; the design is seamless and is very reminiscent of the Nike Metcon 1/2. The shoes feel built like tanks but also weigh about as much, clocking in from 13.19oz (lift/run) to 13.23oz (train). While they are sturdy, they TPU overlays and nylon mesh do have a cheap-ish feel to the touch. From a design standpoint, these thing look, utilitarian? If you’re a fan of the look of Hylete’s clothing, you probably won’t have a problem with the way the Circuit’s look. I don’t mind the look, it’s “safe”, which is probably what they were going for with their first shoe attempt. This goes for the black ones, the other colorways in the pipeline I find pretty atrocious, except maybe the grey.
Durability against rope climbs is: so far, so good. The mid section of the shoe uses a nylon ripstop material on top of a breathable mesh that did a great job protecting against rope abrasion; 20 or so climbs in them and they don’t show any wear. Only time will tell if the thermal welding used for the overlay will stay put as this technique was used in the Metcon 1/2 as well, but was also the biggest durability issue for those shoes. One area of question right now is the padding for the Achilles which is soft and plentiful, but is impossible to avoid rubbing against when swapping midsoles. It’s already piling up in this area in the month or so I’ve had the shoes.
I’m not wowed by Vibram outsoles anymore because in my testing I’ve found them to be hit or miss, but this shoe definitely hits in the traction department. The outsole is generally flat with sharp outriggers around it for lateral stability that, in conjunction with the outsole compound work very well to keep you planted. The heel protrudes out the most and locks your feet into the rower really well. Best of all, the outsole does extremely well for rope climbs – these are quite possibly the best rope climbing shoe I’ve ever tested.
I’ve got to hand it to Hylete for coming through with the drop-in midsole selection; this is something I’ve wanted from Nike ever since the Metcon’s first came out. The options you get are a 0 drop stiff midsole for lifting, 4mm medium density for all types of training, and 6mm more cushioned one for running. Both of the 4mm & 6mm midsoles have an Ortholite sockliner attached to them for a little more cushioning, while the 0mm remains minimal. Personally, my favorite is the 0mm one because of the lack of arch, both other ones rise 4mm in the midfoot which might be problematic for flatfooted people.
Oh and despite the drop-in midsole design, they don’t squeak. *cough*Nike*cough*
Lastly, the included shoelaces, suck.
Fit – 5/6
Initially when I received the Circuit’s, I thought they ran a little short in length, but after a little bit of break in I feel that the size 10 I have fits right on the money. If you’re in between sizes, you still might want to go a half size up to be safe. Width is great all throughout the shoe, but you might want to stick to the 0mm midsole if you have wide feet since the other ones have the raised arch. On the flip side, if you’ve got narrow feet, having the 0mm midsole in will give you a lot of extra space inside the shoe so you’re going to have to really lace the up to get a tight fit. Vice versa with the 6mm midsole, you’ll have to loosen the shoe up.
Heel slip is almost non-existent except for split jerks, which is almost true for any training shoe. You’ll feel it the most with the lift midsole, but even then, it’s fairly minimal, so I wouldn’t worry about it. I’m not a huge fan of the thin tongue they went with, as it’s already really stretched out. The lacing configuration isn’t anything special, but does the trick when the laces want to stay tied.
My sizing for reference:
- Metcon – 10
- Nano – 10
- NoBull – 10
- Speed TR – 10
- Chucks – 9.5
Flexibility/Comfort – 3.5/6
You wouldn’t be able to tell by just looking at the Circuit’s, but they’re actually fairly flexible. Not Nano 8 flexible, not even Metcon 4 flexible, but not as bad as Nano 7’s which should be good enough for most training. Both the train or run midsoles feel pretty similar and the lift midsole is a little more stiff for obvious reasons. Honestly, there’s not a huge difference between them in flexibility and only the most discerning will notice. Train is middle of the road in density and run is softest, but not all that much softer than train and could just feel that way because it’s a little thicker. All of them use the same flex groove design in the forefoot of the midsole, while the outsole design carries the same design for flexibility.
As mentioned earlier, only the train and run midsoles have a sockliner layered on top of them for extra cushioning, so if comfort was what your’re going for, those two would be your picks. Keep in mind that the sockliner is probably only 3mm thick and that these are still training shoes; they’re not supposed to be a replacement for UltraBoosts, but for what it’s worth, I think they’re decently comfortable. If you’re used to wearing Metcon’s, even the lift midsole will feel fairly comfortable to you as it feels the closest to Nike’s training shoe.
Even with the running midsole in, I wouldn’t bother with these shoes for any kind of long distance runs. It makes them easier to run in, but they’re still far from decent running shoes. The extra bit of thickness to the midsole provides a little more impact protection, but that’s only at the heel of the shoe, the forefoot is the exact same height (10mm) as train and lift. You might notice a difference heel striking, but forefoot runners won’t benefit from the run midsole. Still, for a training shoe, they’re not that bad and should be okay for up to a few miles.
For plyometrics, the shoes can feel a bit heavy. Response is great, but they’re just a bit clunky for things that require agility. Double unders feel fine due to the forefoot flexibility, but the sheer size of the shoe makes burpees and box jumps feel a little awkward. They would not be my first choice for plyometric or body weight workouts.
Stability – 5.5/6
Besides rope climbing, the strongest suit of the Circuit’s is their lifting capability. The added weight and width of the shoe really make you feel planted for anything from landing Olympic lifts to digging in on power lifts. Lift and train are going to be your main workhorses but even run comes in handy for certain workouts.
Even though my brain telling me to use the lift midsole, I found myself actually switching to the train midsole quite frequently. Actually, I think it’s my most used one. You will notice the cushioning from the sockliner immediately, but it doesn’t really detract from responsiveness and power delivery. I’m actually surprised how good the train midsole feels for lifting despite it feeling a little soft. If you’ve got poor mobility and needed the extra height, don’t think twice about using train. Hylete did a great job with this midsole by keeping it comfortable without turning into mush when you put it under any weight. The majority of my time spent with lift was doing squats and deadlifts. Personally, I like a flatter shoe to squat in, especially for front squats because my lat mobility isn’t great. Granted, you’re going to need hip and ankle mobility to squat in a flatter shoe, otherwise stick to train.
Run has a place in the box as well! Since it’s density is nearly on par with train, you can use it just fine for some of the lighter lifts usually found in a typical metcon. The extra heel height can help those with poor mobility without detracting too much from stability. I used them for a workout that included lighter overhead squats and rowing, which was pretty much the ideal workout for them and they performed great.
I was doing a lot of switching between the Strike Pace and the Circuit’s during my testing, but usually found myself wanting to do my lifting in the Circuits because I felt a bit more confident in them, and I loved lifting in the Pace’s. The responsive midsole options paired with the flat, wide and grippy outsole make lifting in the Circuits a really solid lifting experience.
Value – 3.5/6 (5 if you’re Hylete Team)
The Circuit’s have a “retail value” of $180, but sell for $150, Hylete Team gets them for $108, I got them on presale for $87. For what I paid for them, I love them; I can thrash them and have no second thoughts about doing so. Even for $108, I think they’re a great shoe because of the interchangeable midsoles, stability and that they’re awesome for rope climbs. For $150, they lose their attractiveness and unless you reaaaaaaaaaaaaally like the brand or that you can get a Metcon-esque shoe with 0mm drop, I’d probably stick to the other cheaper and (in my opinion) better training shoes.
I think most people will fall into the $108 category and for that price, I can definitely recommend them. If you got it on presale, you walked away with really good deal! They’re a great shoe and I actually like them more than I thought I would, but it’s hard to justify spending $150 on them when there are shoes like the Nano 8 or Metcon 4, cheaper.
Not a bad first effort from Hylete and if they stay on this track, I’m sure we’ll see plenty more iterations of the Circuit Cross-Trainer. It’s not perfect, but nothing is – what matters most is that someone is finally taking advantage of the drop-in midsole platform. Hats off to Hylete for stepping up and giving the user the option.
Total Score: 22.5
Recommended (If you can get them for $108)