Seems like everyone nowadays is trying to get in on the training shoe market Not that you can blame them though, training in general is more popular right now than it’s ever been all 32 years I’ve been alive; or at least I think it has. Barefoot/minimalist shoes aren’t exactly new things anymore, but they have been increasing in popularity due to the training craze. Altra is a fairly young company with a big cult following, which was founded on the premise of wide, neutral, minimalist running shoes; all characteristics you’d want in a competent training shoe. Everyone I know that runs in Altra’s, swears by them. So why not just use the shoes on hand to train in? I’ve never owned another pair of Altra’s, but I’m going to assume it’s because of midsole cushioning. If they specialize in minimalist shoes, why has it taken them so long to come out with a training shoe? Well, that’s anybody’s guess, but let’s just say they’re coming to the party fashionably late.
2017 has already been a big year for training shoes, one could assume that Altra held off the release of the HIIT XT until the shoe was just right, or maybe until it was after the rush of early year training shoes. Either way, this has been the most hyped shoe that no one had seen coming. It’s pretty clear that Altra can make some competent running shoes, but how will they fare on the training shoe front?
Another shoe that I hope to check out from Altra are the Escalante’s, I was sold on them just by the looks alone. I can’t say the same about the HIIT XT’s, while they’re not the worst looking shoes I’ve seen and pictures online definitely make them look a lot worse than they do in person, but they won’t be winning any beauty contests any time soon. Unlike the Escalante’s, I feel like there’s just way too many lines here and crosshatches there on the upper of the HIIT XT’s, giving them way too busy of a look. Altra’s logo isn’t bad at all, but the material they used for it is stiff to the point where I can feel it from inside the shoe. I hope to see this just printed on in the future. The most ridiculous claim I’ve heard is that these shoes look like Metcon’s; my response to that is that you probably need to get your eyes checked.
On the flip side, the shoe feels extremely well built. From the “Powersole” platform to the not so great looking upper, everything at least feels like it’s meant to take a beating. The upper is a combination of mesh materials with PU overlay’s on top of it; there are reinforced areas of PU at the front of the toe box and a built in heel counter at the rear of the shoe. The tongue is well padded, the ankle collar even more so, making you feel like there may be a little too much to the upper to the HIIT’s. Since pretty much the whole upper is mesh, your feet never really overheat.
A nice little touch that Altra included is the “stitch ‘n’ turn stitching underfoot”, so that you can use the HIIT XT’s with or without the included 5mm insoles. I was surprised to find that the stack height was a fairly tall 24mm, but removing the insoles drops it down to 18mm. The problem here is that unless you have a beefy foot, you’re going to end up with an excess of space inside the shoe. In my testing, I didn’t really notice any response differences anyways so you’re better off just keeping the insoles in.
The drop, like all Altra shoes, is 0mm. For a men’s 10, I weighed the left shoe at 12.3oz and the right at 11.8oz, close enough to the 11.2oz listed weight. They’re on the heavier side of training shoes, but fall in line with the the more popular Nano and Metcon’s.
One reason people love Altra’s so much is because they’re wide shoes, and the HIIT XT’s are no different. Altra’s technology behind this is called the FootShape toe box, in which their lasts are 360 molded around actual feet, rather than a sleeker shape to increase appearance. I have to be honest, this took a little bit of getting used to since the toe box was a lot bigger than what I’m used to, but it’s a welcome change overall and I ended up really liking the extra space.
Though the HIIT XT’s are wide shoes, they run on the small side length wise. Honestly, I don’t think the shoes actually run small, but the unnecessarily stiff front toe box cap gives it the illusion that they are. I ordered my normal size 10 and my toes eventually end up running into the front of the shoes. It’s not so bad before a workout, but at the end of the workout I have to end up switching my shoes or altering the way I walk. I recommend that you go with half a size up from your normal training shoe.
My sizes for reference:
To say I was excited for my first pair of Altra’s would be an understatement, but I’ve got to be honest, when I received the HIIT XT’s, I wasn’t super impressed by them. First off, I felt like they were really bulky and clunky, a huge departure from the 195’s I had just reviewed. Secondly, they ran small, my toes pressed slightly up into the front of the shoes. Finally, for a “minimal” shoe, they’re fairly tall with a thick insole. Still, with all that, I kept an open mind and wore them day and night hoping something would change – It did.
The first workout I did in the HIIT XT’s was a combination of running and clean and jerks, where I basically found myself tripping over my own feet because I wasn’t used to the wide platform of the HIIT’s. Having just reviewed the 195’s, I wasn’t used to the platform for running either, the shoes just felt really clunky to me. I didn’t make it throughout that workout without switching my shoes. Afterwards, I did some squats to check the stability of the HIIT’s, to where the wide platform really shined. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t really notice any stability or power differences with or without the insoles, but overall, squatting with the ultra wide zero drop platform felt great. The gum sole on mine also did an amazing job keeping my feet from shifting around.
Probably the most notable area that the HIIT XT’s perform best at is Olympic weightlifting. The supremely wide base and outsole material make for the most stable of landings, just so long as your mobility can match up to the zero drop of the shoes. Keeping your toes or heels down might also be an issue for some people, but personally I do better lifting in flat shoes so I felt right at home in the HIIT XT’s, and soon I found myself maxing out my clean and jerk without any kind of second thought – something I hadn’t done since February. With a little bit of practice, going for reps started to feel better as well. My main issue on day one is that I wasn’t moving my feet enough (a bad habit) to compensate for the bulk and grip of the shoes, causing me to trip up on the ground when going for reps. Once I figured that out, repeatedly picking the bar up became an almost mindless task where I could just hold on, push my feet down and the bar would fly up. I could see definitely see myself reaching for these shoes not only for heavy oly days, but also for “grip it and rip it” workouts like “Grace” or “Isabel”.
The biggest movement that I needed to adjust to was running. Initially, I thought these shoes were going to be thin and lightweight, but they’re the opposite, wide and a little heavy. I’ve had plenty of experience with zero drop shoes, but never any that had quite as much cushioning as the HIIT XT’s. The first day I ran in them was the fist day I got them in and they felt clunky, kind of like I was running in Oly shoes. Still afterwards, my feet/calves felt great, like I hadn’t run at all. With a little bit of break in, the shoes eventually got to the point where you’d be pretty surprised they were that flexible, given the way they look. The platform is a little bulky, but the PowerSole midsole allows for a more powerful stride, though there’s not a ton of bounce. The width in turn makes the shoes very stable so you don’t have to think about where drop your foot down, which is nice to have one less thing to worry about when running. I was able to pretty consistently sprint 100m at around the 17 second mark (with a turn) and also keep my mile pace sub-8 mins. I’m not a great runner (I suck), so that’s pretty good by my standards. I still think the shoes could be lighter, but I think the width actually ended up helping out my running.
Where the Altra’s aren’t spectacular, are burpees. No one likes them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do them. Once again, the Altra’s are a big shoe with a stiff toe cap, making getting down and up somewhat uncomfortable. Sounds silly, but burpees are just as important as running or weightlifting. The HIIT XT’s are responsive enough for rebounding box jumps, but I wouldn’t be going for any max height work. Overall, they’re a little clunky for plyometric movements and wouldn’t be my shoe of choice to do any kind of agility work in. You can’t have it all, but keep in mind that there’s worse out there too.
The HIIT XT’s retail for a little bit less than normal at $99. I think Altra made a very good decision in selling the HIIT XT’s at a lower MSRP than their competitors. As far as I know, the HIIT XT’s are Altra’s first training shoe, so having a slightly lower price point makes people a little less wary to try out a new shoe that they’re buying based solely on the brand’s reputation. To further ease your shopping experience, Altra has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee where you can return or exchange the shoes no matter what. You can at least try them out without repercussions. I expect the price to go up incrementally as Altra gains more training shoe experience and releases more models, but a bill is a an excellent place to start for their rookie debut.
Nothing that comes easy in life is worth it.
This review would have looked a lot different if I had just used these shoes for a day. While they might take some time to break in and get used to, I ended up really liking the HIIT XT’s. No shoes are without their faults – I still think the shoes could be lightened up, slimmed down, lose the toe cap and are in need of a facelift. But what the HIIT XT’s do right, they do really well, and not to mention do it at a significantly lower price point. It’s easy to forgive them for what they don’t get perfect and considering that these are Altra’s first training shoe, I’d say they have a really solid foundation to build upon.
These are my very first pair of Altra’s, so I don’t have anything besides other training shoes to compare them to – but overall, I think the HIIT XT’s are an extremely well built, excellent performing pair of trainers, especially for $100. They’re not going to be for everyone, but if you’ve got a wide foot, have the mobility, and are into supporting a smaller brand (which would mean furthering their training shoe development), I think you should definitely check out the Altra HIIT XT’s.
I was into minimalist shoes long before I even knew I wanted to start CrossFit. At the time, the pickings were slim, but one shoe that I kept seeing pop up over and over again was the Inov-8 195’s. In everything I read about them, people swore by them, and they just so happened to be the unofficial shoe of CrossFit. Eventually, I picked up a pair after I found them on sale; this was at a time where there really were no sales on them and I never even spent over $100 on shoes. I remember putting them on for the first time and being floored by just how light, flexible, and how well they fit. Not long after getting my pair, I started CrossFit. I was spoiled since I already had “the” CrossFit shoe, never knowing what it was like to use clunky running shoes at the box. Even though I spent more money on them than I was used to spending at the time, I felt thoroughly satisfied with my purchase.
As time passed, I started sipping the Kool-Aid and gravitating more towards Reebok Nano’s and eventually Nike Metcon’s. I never stopped loving my Inov-8 or anything, but worries about durability made me use them less and less. I’ve seen CrossFit shoes over the years become more stiff for lifting and less well rounded overall; which in a sense, is backwards to the well roundedness that the CrossFit theology embodies. At this point, we’re seeing trainers that are as stiff as Olympic weightlifting shoes.
The original 195’s were favored by many because of just how adaptable they were in the CrossFit setting. Flexible with just enough cushioning to run in comfortably but not enough to make the shoe unstable, 3mm drop with a low midsole stack height, sock-like fit and incredibly lightweight. Durability of the fabric upper material was the only questionable area. After a slight hiatus, Inov-8 has refreshed their legendary shoe for 2017, retaining a lot of the features that made the shoe so popular, but now with an improved and hopefully more durable upper. 195 fans, rejoice.
The original 195 had a look that could only be described as “Inov-8”. Aside from some choice colorways, I don’t think Inov-8 makes bad looking shoes at all, they’re just shoes you’d only want to be caught wearing with athletic gear and not something you’d want to be wearing out with some jeans on. Though the more minimal look of the new 195’s is definitely a step in the right direction, I don’t forsee myself wearing these out to the club or anything. The new upper is structured internally, the Inov-8 “tiger stripes” are still there but they’re a little bit harder to see since they’re under the new translucent mesh-ish upper. The logo is still on the side of the shoe, but it’s a little more low key nowadays; I think Inov-8 would do well to swap it to some kind of emblem, maybe just the foot/eight.
While not quite a giant shoe brand, Inov-8 still manages to produce shoes that are built solid, at least when you first get them. The plush fabric upper material was always the Achilles heel of the 195, but has been upgraded to a flexible nylon mesh for the V2. It’s dropped a ton of cushioning that made the originals so comfortable, most notably around the ankle collar, but it’s still very flexible. The bends of the shoe are a little sharper feeling but it’s still a very comfortable shoe to wear. It is also noticeably much more breathable; I would not hesitate to wear these shoes without socks on if that’s your jam. As previously mentioned, the “tiger stripes” that give the shoe structure are located inside the shoe, the toe-cap returns in the form of a thin PU external version, and though not mentioned, there is a built in heel cup to give you a little more stability when lifting. In my opinion, the nicest upgrade to the shoe happens to be the new eyelets for the shoe laces; it’s a small detail but really cleans up the look of the shoe.
The biggest things left virtually unchanged from the previous 195 are the midsole and outsole combination. I say virtually because while the midsole looks identical to the originals, the drop has been changed from 3mm to 4mm and it’s picked up the name “Powerflow”. The sticky rubber treading, Meta-flex and dynamic fascia band technology remain the same and they still come with the RopePro that was added in somewhere in the later variants of the 195. I always loved the way the midsole of the 195 felt and the outsole never failed me , so I’m not bent out of shape to see it remain the same.
The 195’s fall into Inov-8’s “Precision” fit line, which are typically D width shoes with a more running shoe silhouette. The toe is pointier, which accommodates Morton’s toe very well; flatter toe shapes are an issue that plagues me with training shoes, making me have to size up just so my second toe doesn’t jam into the front of the shoe. Originally I had sized the 195v2’s in my normal training shoe size, 10, but they ended up fitting way too big. 9.5 ended up being right on the money, so I’m going to say go ahead and size down half a size for the 195v2’s. Also keep in mind that these are fairly narrow shoes and don’t accommodate wide feet at all. If you’ve got Flinstone feet, you’re going to want to go with the 235v2’s.
My sizes for reference:
Well rounded AF.
195’s are legendary for a reason. Even if you’ve never owned a pair, you’ve probably heard people rave about them in your box. Usually people that never switch over to Nano’s or Metcon’s, love their 195’s because they’re so lightweight and flexible. I can’t blame them, coming back from foot purgatory that is the current state of training shoes, putting my feet in the 195v2’s felt like heaven; I feel like I can move again! Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but it almost feels like you’re not wearing shoes with how freely the 195v2’s let your feet move.
Running is always a taboo area for training shoes. Comfort usually takes a dig at stability, but not so much in the case of the 195v2’s. The midsole stack is short so there isn’t a ton of material between your foot and the ground, but it’s just enough to cushion your feet from being demolished by whatever you’re running on. The 195v2 uses an injection molded insole called “Powerflow”, that gives you better energy return than it’s compression molded counterparts, but still manages to be just as responsive. The heel area absorbs shock better while the forefoot has better energy return. They surprisingly have a good amount of “bounce” when you move around. From box jumps to double unders, I could not think of a better shoe to do a bodyweight metcon in than these shoes.
The “weak” area of the 195’s is their overall stability that they sacrifice for mobility. The 195v2’s have a more narrow platform compared to the other heavy hitters on the market and even Inov-8’s own 235v2, but they let you move more naturally so you have to rely on your own balance versus stability created by a wide outsole. Part of the reason people swear by minimalist shoes is that they don’t create a false sense of security when it comes to balance. It might take a little bit to transition to lifting in the 195’s if you’re accustomed to using Metcon’s or Nano’s, but at the end of the day, it’ll be worth it. You shouldn’t have any issues with slow lifts being unstable, but Oly might take some balance adjustments if you’re not used to more minimal shoes. Power delivery however, is excellent despite the 195’s having a “soft” injection molded insole (it’s not that soft). Once again, it doesn’t really get in the way since the stack height is so short. Would I be going for PR weight in the 195v2’s – probably not, but the 195v2’s should handle most of the weight you’re going to find on a daily basis.
Interestingly enough, though the midsole of the 195v2’s is supposed to be higher and the drop is supposed to be greater, the new models feel lower to the ground and flatter than the old models. Finally, the 195v2’s are excellent rope climbing shoes! I have no idea how that little Ropetec guard manages to hold on to the rope so well, but climbing the rope in the new 195’s is as effortless as could be. Durability is still a wildcard, but the new upper doesn’t show wear from the rope as of yet.
Now that the market has so many options, Inov-8 is often overlooked just because it’s not Nike or Reebok, which is a true shame because people don’t even know what they’re missing out on. The 195v2’s pricing falls directly in line with the more popular Metcon and Nano at the standard $130. Not that the 195’s aren’t worth the price tag, they 110% are, but people are easily enticed by brand names. OG’s will have no problem dishing out the cash for the ever so excellent 195v2’s. If you’re not familiar with the name Inov-8, I’ll put my name on the line for them, they’re one of the best shoe manufacturers around and their shoes stay true to who they are as a company.
“The athletes’ interaction with the environment is the single most important factor when designing products.”
Training in the 195v2’s again feels like coming home after a long vacation. There were a lot of good times while you were away, but there’s nothing like the comfort of being at home. If what you want is an ultimately stable weightlifting shoe that you don’t care to run in or do any other variety of movements in, there might be better options out there in the form of Nike or Reebok. If you’re’ looking for one of the most capable all around training shoes on the market, you need to give the 195v2 a shot. They’re currently in my top 5 training shoes, I promise you won’t be disappointed in them.
The original Reebok JJ 1 turned out to be a surprise hit. Personally, I had a ton of great training sessions with the shoe, but it was never really enough for me to drop my Nano’s or Metcon’s for. Just because it wasn’t quite there for me, doesn’t mean it wasn’t for other people though. It became my staple recommendation for people looking for a more supportive shoe that they could also run and lift weights in. People that tried the JJ’s, ended up loving them, and for good reason – you could just do anything in them. For the meager $100 asking price, they were a bargain.
Like any other shoe, they weren’t without their problems. Sizing was based off of giants feet but didn’t initially come in larger sizes, they were a little tall and a little too bulky for some people. Depending on how you wanted to lift weights, the heel-toe drop could have been detrimental as well. Either way, they were an excellent training shoe that made for a great alternative CrossFit shoe. The JJ’s are a shoe designed to the exact specifications of JJ Watt and as far as I know, he doesn’t do CrossFit, so Reebok hit the nail on the head with the JJ’s.
Reebok’s new JJ 2’s attempt to fix some of it’s predecessors shortcomings by giving the shoe almost a complete overhaul while maintaining some of the features that made the original so good, but did they go too far?
I didn’t mind the way the original JJ’s looked, but I didn’t love them either. The first colorway was pretty basic, but almost every one after that looked pretty good with the exception of the icing on the cake one. The only colorway for the JJ 2’s at the moment is black with a white midsole and translucent grey outsole, which is safe, but looks good enough to wear from the gym to the street without anyone hating. The silhouette doesn’t have any dashing lines or panels so the shoe overall in black is pretty unoffensive, but boring. If you like black (who doesn’t), you’ll love this colorway.
Other than any shoe in their CrossFit line, Reebok usually puts out shoes that kind of feel cheaply made; this is not the case with the JJ’s. The JJ 2’s feel like tanks built to standards on par with Reebok’s flagship Nano series shoes. Not to be confused with NanoWeave, the JJ’s sport Reebok’s patented FlexWeave (LenoWeave?) upper giving the shoe an even higher quality feeling than the previous JJ’s. Why the difference in name, I have no clue, because they’re pretty much the same exact thing. Like the NanoWeave found on the Nano 7’s, the FlexWeave upper moves with your feet extremely well. Unlike the Nano 7’s, the midsole and outsole combination also does as well. The FlexWeave upper also leads to virtually no hotspots or bunching up, giving you a much more comfortable, seamless feel inside of the shoe. They also feel much less bulky than its predecessors but still feel like a big shoe in comparison to a lot of other training shoes. If you’re on the bigger side like JJ Watt, I’m sure you won’t notice this much at all.
Other tidbits like the tongue have been changed for the better. The once anemic tongue is gone and now there’s a nice padded one that stays in place a lot better. The lacing system is different as well, but I didn’t think the previous one was bad in the first place. Probably the best change to the construction of the shoe is that it’s a low instead of a mid cut. The ankle collar actually has a little more cushioning, it just doesn’t extend down into the shoe as far. Don’t fret, your ankles still feel nice and secure inside of the JJ 2’s.
Sizing the JJ 2’s is a little bit more normal now, the sizing feels much more true to Reebok training shoe sizing than the original model’s titan sizing. They’re still very much a wide shoe, but the length is akin to typical running shoes so size them accordingly. Personally, I wore a 9.5 with a fair amount of space in the previous models but now a 9.5 fits me snug, yet comfortable enough to workout in, depending on what socks I wear; I actually think I could probably get away with wearing a 10. The shape of the toe is more pointy like a running shoe, so it does accommodate Morton’s toe pretty well.
My sizes for reference:
There are a lot of things that you wouldn’t think the JJ 2 would do well, but actually does. Everything, actually.
Making a return is the Liquidfoam midsole, but only in name, because it feels a bit different than the original model’s did. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s anything but liquid-y or foamy (Who comes up with these names anyways?). Previously, the JJ’s had a pretty solid and responsive ride with decent amount of support, they just lacked any kind of energy return or bounce. The shoe was also really tall for a training shoe. The new retooled midsole “gives” a little bit more, but is every bit as stable and responsive not to mention, lower to the ground (still tall though). That extra bit of “give” translates into a shoe that has better energy return and just overall feels less clunky. I set my PR mile in the previous JJ’s and I thought they were excellent for running, but I think the JJ 2’s are even nicer to run despite them weighing in at 11.54 oz.
Given the fact that there’s still a ton of midsole, you wouldn’t think that power delivery would be all that great. I didn’t, until I actually put myself under some weight and moved it just as well as I did my comparison Metcon 3’s, which are my preferred
squatting everything shoe. The support pillars inside of the midsole actually do their job in keeping it from compressing too much and the heel counter keeps you from shifting around providing great lateral stability. Slow lifts are fine, but these would not be my go-to Oly lifting shoe because of the 7mm drop, which happens pretty aggressively around the ball of your feet. The JJ 2’s are still a generally flat shoe and for most weight you’ll find in a WOD, they should be okay. I sometimes found myself on my toes with Oly lifts, but it’s not too hard to adjust to – and like I said, I wouldn’t be shooting for any one rep maxes.
Traction was one of the best features of the original JJ’s and still is with the updated model. I’m not entirely sure why the pattern was changed from the star pattern to the oval pattern, but either way, it works just as well. The style is more like a turf shoe, but grips pavement and rubber flooring just fine; I’ve never found myself at a loss of footing in any situation.
After all the inflation that’s going on, I still can’t believe these shoes only cost $100. The JJ 2’s are a well built, high performing, excellent quality shoe that can hang with most shoes that cost about half more than Reebok is asking. It easily trounces most shoes in it’s price range, save for the Speed 2.0’s. To say that the JJ 2’s are the bargain of the year would be an understatement. On top of that, these are the shoes that JJ Watt actually wears to work out, not just to make money.
Are the JJ 2’s the perfect training shoe? No, I would love to see them a little bit lower to the ground with a slightly lower cut around the ankle. Still, the JJ 2’s are one of the best training shoes for people that need a little bit more support while retaining stability and don’t want to break the bank. They’re comfortable to spend the day in, look good enough to wear with jeans, and perform well enough to be your one shot training shoe. As an overall shoe, you’d be hard pressed finding anything that outperforms the JJ 2’s for the price.