I love a good start-up story, so when Jeff from Virtue Athletic approached me to take a look at the shoe he had been developing, I was sold from even before I saw the shoe. Jeff himself is a footwear designer by trade and an avid Crossfitter of about 12 years now (much longer than I). It’s pretty obvious that someone like him would know what the typical fitnesser needs in a pair of training shoes.
Enter the Virtue Athletic 01…
Do more with less.
Think of today’s training shoe,then strip it down, retain the essentials of what you actually need, and you’ll get the something like the 01’s. The design of the shoe is kept as minimal as humanly possible with no gaudy logos or heel counters to be found. To me, they remind me a lot of Nike’s Cortez shoes, a timeless classic look that anyone can love.
The upper construction is basically one sweeping piece of ballistic nylon that is simple, but durable and flexible. It’s semi breathable but that’s just up to the airiness of the fabric itself since there are no ventilation ports. The design just has some cushioning around the ankle collar and the Virtue Athletic logo at the heel, nothing more. If you were sick of all the loud designs training shoes are at right now, the 01’s will be for you.
On the bottom of the shoe, you’ll find a diamond plate full rubber outsole for grip; it extends up the lateral and medial sides of the shoe to provide a little more protection and grip for rope climbs. There is a dual density midsole that is sanded down and stacked on top of each other unlike the typical soft forefoot/hard heel. This gives you both adequate cushioning and stability throughout the shoe without any biases.
As you would expect, the footbed is minimal and removable. One thing I’m not too crazy about is the 6mm drop, but during my testing, I didn’t really notice it affecting my positioning besides some initial shoulder to overhead. After my feet got used to the shoes, that issue went away. Otherwise, the shoes are completely neutral without anything inside pushing your feet one way or another. And since there’s really nothing besides the upper and lower of the shoe, they weigh a minuscule 10.3oz per men’s size 9.5.
Surprisingly, the demo pair that I was given is very well built despite being a far from final version. I expect the final pairs to be made even better than this so overall construction of the shoe is looking pretty solid.
Typically, I’ll wear a size 10 training shoe since nowadays I like to have a little bit more room for my feet to splay, but I was able to squeeze into a 9.5 demo pair. That’s all Jeff had since that’s his own shoe size. It actually worked out since they’re decently wide and the toe is pointed, which accommodates my Morton’s toe very nicely. My toes are right up at the front of the shoe but since the upper is flexible, it doesn’t bother me as much as other shoes. Don’t get me wrong, when I pick up a pair, I’ll be going for the size 10 but if you like a snug fit for your shoes, going down half might not be a bad idea. If you’re not quite sure, I still recommend going with your normal training shoe size.
From a fit standpoint, the 01’s should accommodate a lot of different foot types. Jeff himself said he has a very narrow foot, but designed the shoe to be a little wider (how thoughtful). The metatarsal area of the shoe expands out a good amount but the toe ends up in a point. At the midfoot of the shoe there is no arch and the shoe feels completely neutral to me throughout. Personally, I would like a little more width at the heel for squatting purposes, but the shoe fits fine there.
My sizes for reference:
- Nano 9 – 10
- Metcon 5 – 10.5 early models, 10 late models
- NoBull – 10
- Inov-8 – 10 (10.5 290)
- Chucks – 9.5.
- Dress Shoes/Boots – 9.5
If there’s anything that we’ve learned over the past 3 years of training shoes, it’s that they absolutely need to be flexible. I’d personally take the hit in stability if I’m able to comfortably run a mile in them. With the 01’s, you’re not really losing out on much stability while retaining all that flexibility from the minimal design. There’s really nothing holding this shoe back besides it’s outsole, and even that itself is flexible. The ballistic nylon upper isn’t thick nor does it ever feel like it’s getting in the way. There’s also no uncomfortable bunching at all anywhere on the upper and if you wanted to, you could easily wear these without socks.
Keep in mind that these are minimalist shoes, so there isn’t a ton of midsole cushioning to be found. But what’s there is plenty enough to get you through any runs you’re planning on doing inside the box. They’re lightweight and since the midsole is thin, ground feel is excellent. You never feel disconnected from what you’re doing in the 01’s.
Movements like burpees, box jumps and double unders all feel natural to do in the 01’s. The toe shape makes getting up on burpees a breeze and the responsiveness of the shoes makes tracking double unders not a problem. If you wanted an agile shoe to solely use for plyometrics, than the 01’s should be at the top of your list. They’re far from the typical clunky training shoe of today.
Look, I’m not going to lie and say I think the 01’s are the most stable shoes out there, but for most the weights you’re going to find in a WOD, they’re plenty stable. Since the design lacks all the TPU bits that we’ve become accustomed to in our training shoes, they’re just not as stable as something like the Nano 9’s. But honestly, is that going to really matter to most people as much as their flexibility will? Probably not.
From what I’ve seen, the 01’s were reliably able to handle up to my 80%’s in weightlifting movements, which for me is just fine since you’ll never see anything higher than that in a typical WOD. I actually really liked weightlifting in these shoes since there’s so much ground feel and I prefer lifting in flatter shoes. I’m sure I could take these up to my maxes on PR days, I just haven’t had that opportunity yet. If you’re missing lifts, chances are it’s not the shoes that are the problem.
Like I mentioned earlier, I did have some issues going shoulder to overhead and keeping my balance. I think that’s mainly due to the heel just not being as wide as I’m normally accustomed to with my normal training shoes: the Nano 9. I had no issues rocking back and forth when it came to doing squats because I was able to get my feet set. Despite the 6mm drop, the 01’s feel a little more flatter than it would seem they are. They wouldn’t be my first choice for max deadlifts, but I didn’t have any issues using them doing some lighter weights in a WOD.
Sure, they could be a bit more stable, but that would defeat the purpose of the shoe. They’re an all around training shoe, not something that’s just specifically geared towards lifting. For me personally, I didn’t have any real issues lifting in the 01’s and I doubt you will either.
The 01’s are an ode to our training, it’s everything you need and nothing else that might hinder performance. The simplicity of the shoe is what makes it so good and I think a lot of people will gravitate towards that if anything at all. They’re a flexible and lightweight solution to the training shoes of today and I think that will really speak to a lot of people, especially those that have been training CrossFit for a long time.
Since the project is being pretty much bootstrapped by Jeff, the 01’s will hit Kickstarter on October 22nd 2019. You’re looking at $65 super early bird pricing (which is a steal) with an MSRP of around $100. If you get in at $65, you can get multiple pairs in at that price but the tiers go up to $75 and $85 otherwise. Smoke, marine, olive, and titanium colorways will be available at launch with stretch goals activating Plum and Limon.
I think the 01’s are an excellent shoe that everyone can love. The minimalist design is easy on the eyes and helps the shoe function properly without any frills or hindrances. I’m not saying you should completely replace your Metcon’s or Nano’s with them but I do think they have a place in everyone’s closet as the go-to WOD shoe. They look clean enough so that I could easily just take a single pair when I go travelling and I wouldn’t have to worry about bringing a separate pair of shoes to work out in. Make sure you give them a solid look when they go live on Kickstarter. bit.ly/virtueathletic