This Nike Free X Metcon 2 review might introduce you to a whole new type of shoe. Some people might question why you would need a trainer specifically for working out in the gym, seeing as any old shoe will probably do for most regimes, but serious fitness fiends will attest to the benefits of a bit of modern workout shoe technology can reap.
Firstly, much of today's en vogue workouts involve some old-school Olympic lifting (hello CrossFit), which requires perfect technique to avoid injury and actually lead to tangible results.
• Also, read our full Nike Metcon 6 review
Those moving up the weights will likely find that most running shoes don't offer the sort of stability and under-floor grip that is required to perform an explosive squat or bar-bending deadlift. In this case, it pays to have an extremely stable heel and extra support around the ankle to prevent any awkward twists or rolls.
Nike's Metcon range covers the full gamut of gym-based footwear, from proper power-lifting shoes to those better suited to aerobic fitness or high-intensity workouts.
The Nike Free X Metcon 2 is the perfect middle ground, practically fusing elements from dedicated weight-lifting shoes with those flexible, lightweight components of a fast-paced trainer. It’s so good, it’s even been named best workout shoe at the T3 Awards 2020!
(Psst! We also have a dedicated buying guide for the best cross-training shoes, in case you're interested.)
Nike Free X Metcon 2: the tech
The key here is flexibility, and the Free X Metcon 2's sole is about as flexible as a gymnast with a free diary. There's plenty of movement and flex at the front of the shoe, which allows for unhindered split squats and burpees, while the rear heel cage keeps the important parts locked into place.
An improvement over previous models is a wider over-foot cage that acts like a strap to keep the feet planted and heel in place when performing big lifting exercises, like the overhead press or during squats.
On top of this, the majority of the toe area is covered in a breathable mesh, allowing for plenty of air circulation around those parts that are susceptible to getting all hot and sweaty during an intense workout.
Snug-yet-lightweight, they remained comfortable throughout a fairly intense week of mixed exercise, although we definitely called upon a specific set of running shoes when the mood to hit the open road suddenly took hold.
Nike Free X Metcon 2: in the gym
Slipping into the Nike Free X Metcon 2 feels as comfortable as cosying up to a pair of house shoes (slippers, if you will), as the interior is fashioned from an extremely well-cushioned fabric that provides a snug but exceptionally soft fit. Barefoot-ers out there will love it.
The first thing to notice is how flat that Free sole is, especially when compared to a more traditional running shoe, but this instantly feels more stable when it comes to approaching the heavy lifting platform or squat rack.
It is possible to gain lots of grip with the toe section of the sole, plant the feet and then dig the heels into the supportive cage. This gives a great platform for explosively pushing through the legs with a decent level of stability.
But arguably more important is the ability to then switch to more aerobic exercises, which is where the flexible front section of the shoe really comes into its own.
During split squats and mountain climbers, the Nike Free X Metcon 2 proved plenty grippy enough, even on slightly slippery wooden floors of sports halls, while the over-foot cage carried on offering plenty of support.
Perhaps the only downfall is the lack of cushioning and support for running, with anything more than about 15-minutes on the treadmill getting a little bit uncomfortable.
This is definitely a shoe that rules in the gym, while intense CrossFit-style workouts and multi-discipline weight-lifting routines are easily covered.
Nike Free X Metcon 2: verdict
With a stable platform for lifting and sure-footed grip for hardcore aerobic exercises, such as mountain climbers and burpees, the Nike Free X Metcon 2 prove themselves as the perfect accompaniment to any sweaty gym session.
Although not great for those that like to take their cardio routine onto the streets (or grassy trails, for that matter), they are a superb option for anyone taking their strength training and weight-lifting fairly seriously.
Absolute units might want to look at a dedicated power-lifting shoe for the ultimate in stability and control when shifting major KGs, but they will feel far more restricted to the rack than these excellent crossover kicks.