First off, you’re probably wondering why/how this review came out so fast since the shoes aren’t even officially out yet and according to my Instagram, I “just” got a pair in. Truth is, I’ve been wearing/using Nano 9’s since May of 2018, so I’ve actually probably collected the most data about this shoe than any I’ve reviewed in the past. The pair I’d been using was a half size too big and didn’t have the final design, but the actual meat and potatoes of the shoe hasn’t changed.
Every year there’s a new Nano, but this year, we return to the old release schedule they used up until the Nano 7. Honestly, I could see sales going crazy under either release schedule, but more so during the holiday season – so I’m not quite sure why the choice was made to make it a summer release. Either way, we had a long stint with the Nano 8, thankfully it was an amazing shoe, though the colorways got a little stale at the end.
It could have been pushed back so the launch didn’t interfere with the Froning 1 release. That would make sense, even though the styling of the RF1’s isn’t for everyone, I don’t think anyone could deny the performance of that shoe. Still, price and style are two main reasons why people buy shoes in the first place so cashing in when people are at least willing to spend money seems like a smart idea.
Which brings us to June 12, the global release date of Nano 9. Only a couple of months before the CrossFit games, but most Reebok athletes have probably had their pairs as long as I’ve had mine. Plenty of time to get acclimated with the shoe before the big dance, though this year there are no footwear restrictions, so the technical advantage is lost. With all the hype of the upcoming games and people vying for a new shoe to buy after an extended shoe cycle, are the Nano 9’s really #NanoForAll?
Or as they always say, “the best Nano yet”?
Let’s start with the appearance of the Nano 9 since the elephant in the room is that the Delta is gone by the wayside and the Vector logo is back (a.k.a. the real Reebok logo). Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Delta; I grew up wearing Reebok Classics so the Vector means a lot to me – but if you started CrossFit in 2013-ish, I could see why you’d be invested into the Delta. I hate to break it to you, but the Delta is gone forever.
Real talk – the first thing Tal (senior product manager from Reebok) asked upon me receiving the Nano 9’s was what I thought about the appearance, and the only thing I said needs changing was that I thought the side looked way too plain. Now they have a huge Vector logo across the side. Coincidence? Maybe…not.
Anyways, I’m not trying to plead my case or anything, appearance is subjective and I know it’s a sensitive subject for everyone. Personally, I think the Nano 9’s design is by far the best since the Nano 1/2 (which coincidentally have Vectors). Nano’s have always had a bulbous look to them, but I find the lines of the 9’s to be the sleekest while retaining that Nano heritage. If there was anything I would change, I would make the Vector a solid color instead of stripes.
Flexweave makes it’s return, but this year’s style brings along a new trick – it’s stretchy (and sparkly)! The weave is still set on top of a bootie, but now it conforms with your feet better than it did on the 8’s (which were already very flexible). Think of it as a “knit” Flexweave, the benefit of having this is that there are virtually no hot-spot’s throughout the upper and the fit is more customizable. The pattern now uses thinner type filaments and is woven together a bit more tightly, but don’t expect dry feet if you go stomping around in the rain. The upper still lets in a ton of air for your feet to breathe, but also won’t keep out water when it rains.
Returning is the inner “bootie” that acts like a buffer between your feet and the Flexweave. It’s well cushioned and more breathable due to the new mesh material they’re using around the ankle collar. There seems to be a little less material on top of your toes compared to last gen, but its still adequately comfortable. The tongue is similar in feel to the bootie of the shoe as well, which is pretty much identical to the Nano 8’s tongue, so not much to talk about there.
The real story of the 9’s is what the hell is going on with the midsole? Well, there are a few things…
What people are seeing and are thinking is “soft” material, isn’t squishy or soft at all. It’s a harder TPU carrier for the more squishy innards of the shoe.
This does four main things:
1. It rises up over the sides of the heel to contain your foot for lifting.
2. It makes it so they can use a softer actual midsole material without loss of stability.
3. Adds durability in high wear areas…i.e. where the rope usually burns through the shoe.
4. It looks cool.
Reebok had been doing this since last generation on the 7/8 with the Nanoshell, but this year it’s just more pronounced, without a full heel counter. Unlike last year, we only get a single density midsole (gasp). Don’t worry, that’s a good thing this time around. Since the carrier provides added stability through the heel/midfoot of the shoe, Reebok was able to use a more expensive injection molded EVA foam. The benefit of using this type of foam compared to the standard compression molded type is that it’s more comfortable underfoot and provides better springiness throughout the shoe.
Another big design change to the Nano 9 architecture is the way the outsole is shaped. Typically, Nano’s have rounded outsoles, but the newest model sports very well defined corners throughout the bottom edges, ending at the toe, where it’s still slightly rounded. Although the drop is still 4mm and there is more cushioning, the platform feels more flat, lower to the ground than ever before. This also comes in part due to the new tread pattern which are diamonds (knurling) recessed into the outsole, versus the teeth that protrude out of old. I haven’t run into any issues with lack of traction other than the occasional slippage trying to push a heavy sled.
Laces are a fat flat lace akin to the ones found back in the Nano 6, which is a good thing. Eyelets are extensions of the Flexweave upper and are joined into non-stretch lateral and medial wraps to secure your midfoot. If you’ve got really skinny feet, the very first eyelets might bunch up on you if you tighten them too much; I only had this issue on my half size up shoes.
Some other random details about the construction of the shoe:
- Since the Vector was such a late design change, there’s still a Delta on the tongue.
- I said the “Nano” written on the side needs to go, but is still there. Looks cheap, I hate it.
- There’s still a “CrossFit” logo on the back of the shoe, which I could also live without.
- Shes a heavy one – 12.8oz per a men’s 10, if my memory serves me right, that’s the heaviest Nano yet.
- There should be 4 launch colorways, but I’m not sure which yet.
My original beta pair of Nano 9’s were in a size 10.5 because that’s apparently what all the big dogs of CrossFit wear. It’s a half size up from my normal size but I made it work for the most part, the extra space didn’t bother me too much since it was wider and not much longer. That being said, now that I have a proper fitting pair, I can confirm that the toe-box on these shoes is generous! For me, that fit is true to size, 10 is right on the money, even on my right foot with it’s bunion and semi-collapsed arch. If I had to pick a shoe the width and fit is most similar to, it would be the Nano 2.
If you’ve got really wide feet or severely collapsed arches, I could actually recommend going with a half size up since the length doesn’t change too much but the width does a good amount. Most people won’t need to do this, especially if you’re coming from well fitting Nano 8’s or 6’s. Possibly the same if you have really skinny feet, maybe try a half size down because these shoes are wide!
My sizing for reference:
- Nano – 10
- Metcon – 10
- NoBull – 10
- Strike-Mvmnt – Chill Pill 10, Transit AF 11
- Legacy Lifter – 9.5
- Chucks – 9.5
Odd numbered Nano’s have never been known for their flexibility (except 3’s), so what about the 9’s? I’m happy to report that they’re as flexible as ever, but as good as it is, I still think it could be even better.
Compared to the previous generation Flexweave, the new material moves with your foot better in every direction since the weave is a bit tighter and thinner; it acts more cohesive than last generations thicker style. That combined with the more spacious toe box makes the 9’s a very comfortable shoe for all but (I’m assuming) the most narrow of feet. I didn’t mind the extra cushioning on top of the toes from the 8’s, but I think I prefer the added room for my toes to breathe inside the toe box in the 9’s.
The new generation of stretch Flexweave is an amazing idea, but isn’t quite fully realized on the Nano 9. That’s not to say it doesn’t work well, I just think that by adding in stretch, the toebox could have been sized down a little bit so that it would act a bit more like a knit material for a more customized fit. That’s just my suggestion, maybe they’ll use it on future models. But as it is, the material is still the best they’ve used on a Nano to date.
Unlike the dual density midsole from last year’s model, for the first time ever, the 9’s use a full length injection molded EVA midsole throughout the shoe. For the non-shoe nerds out there, this type of midsole material is typically found in running shoes because of its more flexible, lighter and springier nature. It’s also what they used in the front area of dual density midsoles to keep the shoe comfortable and flexible for bounding movements. Since it’s now spread throughout the shoe, the underfoot cushioning is superb but doesn’t detract from responsiveness.
Simply put – running in training shoes is never ideal.
In my opinion, the Nano 2’s were the pinnacle of running for Nano’s. They were flexible, light enough, not too cumbersome, and had decent cushioning. Still not a shoe that I’d go run more than a couple miles in, but you could if it came down to it. After that, it would come down to preference between any of the other even numbered Nano’s, which are all relatively decent. Then there are the “odd” Nano’s…
Running in the 9’s isn’t awful, but it’s not the best either, at least for my technique. The shoe is saved by its stellar flexibility and underfoot cushioning, but the wide platform paired with the defined outsole edges make it pretty unforgiving for people that have pronation issues. If you run completely neutral, you’ll probably love the 9’s to run in. With my normal running gait – I under-pronate with a forefoot strike, so I found that my touchdown always felt a bit jerky because I was riding the outside edge of the shoe. This was more of an issue on normal ground than on an AirRunner, but I’m guessing most people are going to be running on solid ground than something with a suspension.
Nano 9’s fare better when it comes to sprinting or running on the AirRunner. The heel of the outsole has been decoupled (separated) from the forefoot for an improved heel-toe transition, which works well when you’re going balls out on your run. Since the platform of the AirRunner is curved, it almost always makes your strike further back than normal, so running in the 9’s on that style platform is generally comfortable. If you’re a heel striker by nature, you probably won’t mind running in these shoes, but if you’ve been working on that pose running, there are better options.
I’d say the Nano 9’s fall somewhere in the middle of the pack when compared to the rest of the Nano bunch. They’ll work fine for anything you’re going to find in a typical training session or CrossFit WOD, but if you’re running for distance on pavement, I’d stick to running shoes.
Where I thought the 8’s lacked the most, was their stability. Don’t get me wrong, it was still really good for pretty much any lift, but it trailed behind the Nano 6. Still, I thought the overall balance of the shoe was the best out of all the Nano’s, but if you were to give me a shoe to compete in, it would have been the 6’s. Until now…
With all the changes to the 9’s, I found that what sets the newest Nano apart from the rest of the pack is that it’s stable without being unforgiving like the 7’s. Midsole wraps are nothing new, but being able to marry a solid carrier without diminishing the flexibility of a shoe is not an easy task. The did a really good job with the Nano 8, but the Nano 9 is almost perfect.
Powerlifting in the 9’s is nothing short of amazing due to the flat outsole and increased contact area they have with the ground, especially at the heel. You’ll feel glued to the ground for squatting because of how well defined the outsole edges; laterally these shoes are the most stable out of almost any training shoe. Deadlifting in the 9’s is superb because the outsole lets you torque into the ground as hard as you need without any kind of foot rollover. Though the upper does have some stretch property, it’s not a ton so you don’t have to worry about foot containment inside of the shoe. The sidewalls created from the midsole carrier create a cup to prevent that from happening.
Olympic weightlifting movements fare just as well – the toespring angle feels slightly increased over last year’s shoe and feels more in-line with the Nano 6’s. Toe-off feels smooth and responsive while landings feel as sure-footed as when you’re normally planted. Lifting in Nano 9’s is close to Oly shoe stability, without having an elevated heel. Alright, maybe that’s an over-exaggeration but it’s as good as it’s going to get in a training shoe, even rivaling the RF1’s. Though I prefer the flatter profile of the Nano 9 (4mm v.s. 6mm)
Plyometrics & Rope Climbs:
Box jumps feel comfortable and stable enough to the point where I’d think about rebounding, though my joints aren’t so keen on that idea anymore. The midsole cushions your feet well without detracting from response so its easy to keep track of double unders when doing longer sets. Since the toebox of the shoe is pretty wide, burpees do feel a little cumbersome to stand up if you’re a lazy burpee’r like myself, but if you stay tight and jump to your feet, you should be fine.
For rope climbs, Nano 9’s are king. The outsole grips the rope insanely well, better than any Nano from before, better than the RF1, better than just about any training shoe ever. I’ve done more rope climbs than I can think of in these shoes since they were my dedicated climbing shoe of the last year and they still look like they were new, despite a little discoloration. When I met Rich at CrossFit Mayhem, he told me he’s done over 200 rope climbs in his 9’s and he hasn’t burned through them yet. So, don’t just take my word for it, da G.O.A.T. has spoken.
Value & Conclusion:
It’s no surprise that the Nano 9’s will retail for the standard fare of $130, so the question now is whether or not it’s worth upgrading to from your 8’s, or should you go for 9’s over RF1’s?
If you’ve got a perfectly functional pair of shoes, of course you don’t have to upgrade, but that’s not why you’re here. You want the latest and greatest, so yes, I think the Nano 9’s are worth the upgrade over 8’s (and all other Nano’s). My reasoning for this is because they are the most complete Nano to date. They’re the best for lifting, they’re comfortable for plyometric movements, and they’re the best looking since the Nano 2’s (bless the Vector). I have a few pairs of shoes I can run in if I need to go long distances and most of the runs I’m doing in a typical workout aren’t long enough to bother me in the 9’s.
If you’re going between 9’s and RF1’s, both shoes that I absolutely love – think about this: When the RF1’s are gone, they’re not coming back. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then get Nano 9’s, they’re cheaper, more comfortable, just as stable and they look better. You won’t be missing out on anything besides collectors value.
As for the Nike Metcon 5, I can’t comment on that because I haven’t tried them out. I’m sure they’ll be good, but as of right now it’s all speculation. Nano 9’s are better than any training shoe that Nike has out at the moment (IMO).
Versus other training shoes? Let’s just put it this way, if you were to send me to the CrossFit Games with only one pair of shoes and absolutely no knowledge about what the workouts are going to be, my choice would be the Nano 9’s.
- Best stability of any Nano. (Without destroying your feet)
- Best looking Nano. (Fight me.)
- Easy to wear around for extended periods of time.
- They’re not the best running shoes depending on your running style.
- I think they could’ve utilized the stretch better. (Maybe they didn’t for rope climbing reasons?)
- They’re heavy.
- The “Nano” written on the side and “CrossFit” on the back.
- The logo should be solid, Delta shouldn’t have made it on the tongue..