Nike’s marketing pitch: Specific stability for heavy lifting
Upper: Mesh with high-density printing, Flywire lacing, midfoot rope wrap.
Midsole: None. Removable insole with firm heel and soft forefoot. 4 mm heel drop.
Outsole: Carbon rubber.
Weight: 360 gms/ 12.7 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 10/UK 9/EUR 44/CM 27.1
Widths available: D - regular.
There are two kinds of training footwear.
The first is a general-purpose shoe that makes itself useful during most workouts. It doesn’t excel in a particular area yet gets high marks for in-gym versatility. Be it weight training, lifts, HIIT, jumps, or short runs, the shoe gets the job done.
And then you have training shoes that are designed specifically for specific workouts. For example, a flexible shoe with a snappy forefoot is excellent for plyometrics.
Or it could be a shoe that shines during lifting sessions. In this case, the Nike Metcon 5 is a perfect specimen.
The fifth version of Nike’s popular training shoe is the most changed version yet. It isn’t a mere evolution of the last year’s Metcon 4; it ushers in a novel cushioning character.
Unlike the uniform cushioning density of the previous Metcon(s), the V5 switches to a split insole with firm and soft halves. The forefoot is extremely soft whereas the heel is a lot firmer and minimally compressive.
The M-5 also sells with a pair of foam risers that increases the heel stack by 8 mm. This means that the drop can be increased from the default 4 mm to 12 mm on demand.
The said risers (called the Hyperlift) are also backward compatible with previous editions of the Metcon.
With these updates, the rearfoot is significantly more stable now. Intermediate-level lifts of 250 lbs and upwards can easily be done on the M-5 without encountering stability issues.
On the flip side, the softer forefoot impedes workouts such as box jumps, burpees, and other plyometrics. There’s not enough snap in the thick forefoot for explosive push-offs.
Given the changes, the Metcon 5 is a superior choice for weight-lifting than most training shoes – including the earlier Mets. (there’s a caveat, read our workout experience section)
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a training shoe that is good for lifting, HIIT sessions, and a bit of cardio, then buying the Reebok Nano 9 (see the comparison at the end has the lowdown) or the Metcon 4 makes more sense.
And if you already own shoes like the Metcon 3 and 4, then we’d like to think of the 5 as a complementary shoe rather than a direct replacement. The M-3 and M-4’s are better all-around gym shoes; the M-5 does heavy lifting way better.
THE NIKE METCON 5 vs. METCON 4
There are minor changes on the upper – like the redesigned tongue – but that doesn’t produce a lot of functional difference. The outsole geometry replaces the Metcon 4’s design, so the 2019 layout grips a little better due to the angled ridges. Both the editions have a rope-wrap midsole flank, albeit with minor modifications.
The headlining change is the new insole; it makes the M-5 markedly changed from the 4.
The introduction of the dual-cushioning zone insole creates a generational gap between the two versions. The 5 is superior to the 4 when you’re using it for heavy lifting; the firm heel and the optional riser (Hyperlift) makes it easier. By the way, the Hyperlift riser is compatible with all the previous Metcon models.
On the other hand, dynamic Plyometric workouts feel like a chore on the new Metcon. The thick yet deeply soft forefoot tends to make push-offs lazier and less efficient than the firmer-footed Metcon 4.
The retail price stays the same.
THE SOLE MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
The near entirety of the Metcon’s unique experience is based on something that isn’t obvious from the outside.
Sure, you have the flanked midsole rope-guards, the hard TPU heel stabilizer, and the full-contact outsole layout. While these are important, none of these prove as influential as the two-zone insole.
Nearly all of the Metcon’s magic is condensed into the dual-density removable insole – if you can even call it that.
The two-zone insole is super thick – around 15 mm at the least – and is split into firm and soft areas. The heel is made of firm Polyurethane whereas the forefoot is comprised of a much softer PU foam. Without the insole, the Metcon 5 is merely an empty shell without any cushioning or torsional rigidity.
And there’s a lot of difference between the densities. The top of the insole mentions the durometer (hardness); the forefoot range between 37-43 and the rearfoot is between 54-60. That’s a 40% difference.
Higher the number, harder the material, so the rear is a lot firmer than the front.
These foams aren’t two separate components but co-molded together. In the picture here, the orange foam is the firmer half.
The heel isn’t rigid, but there isn’t much give – regardless of whether you’re performing a non-weighted or weighted workout. The foam feels like the material used in protective ice-hockey armor or motorcycle gear.
The Metcon 5 comes boxed with a heel raiser called the ‘Hyperlift’. This riser pad is made of the same foam as the firmer heel and adds 8 mm to the heel stack.
This is intended to provide increased support by moving the center of gravity forward during exercises like squats and Deadlifts.
The midsole provides most of the cushioning so there is no separate midsole. Even the lasting is a fabric Strobel with a thin layer of low-density foam – a design that does not contribute to the padding.
The Metcon’s outsole is more of a ‘cupsole’ than a traditional outsole. Its sidewall flanks either side of the midfoot – a feature that works well together with the Flywire lacing for a secure upper fit.
The protective sidewall also forms a barrier over the upper that is useful for J-hooks during rope climbs. Here, the rope wraps around the outsole flank instead of rubbing directly over the upper.
The base of the outsole is solid rubber and laid out in a full-contact geometry. The front has a relatively flat profile to maximize the contact area, while the rest of the outsole has slanted ridges for grip.
Just like the insole, the outsole is made of two different kinds of rubber. The midfoot and rear have a harder material. Under the forefoot, Nike uses its 004 sticky rubber compound – of the Terra Kiger fame.
A hard TPU clip wraps around the heel for stability and also to keep the firmer PU insole from shearing. The upper heel lacks a traditional heel counter, so most of the heel stability comes from the insole and outsole.
Workout performance: High intensity, weight training, and treadmill
There are a lot of things that the Metcon 5 is good for. While we’ll get to that in a moment, let’s first talk about the things you shouldn’t be doing in the Metcon.
This shoe isn’t suitable for a pre-workout treadmill warm-up. The huge difference in the foam densities means that the shoe delivers an unnatural and disconnected kind of transition – especially when you’re landing heel first.
During heel-strikes, the firm-soft configuration feels downright odd. The gait loads from firm to soft fairly quickly, and that feels – awkward and distracting.
There’s a small ridge where the insole switches from firm to soft. This isn’t noticed during stationary workouts. But when you’re loading from the heel to toe, that’s not something you’d want under your feet.
The heel edge also lacks a bevel or a split crash pad – and the outsole is flat. So the landings aren’t smooth. The shoe feels clunky, is slightly noisy, and feels like you’re forcing the shoe to work with your gait instead of the other way around.
Forefoot striking is relatively bearable due to the soft forefoot but there’s an excess of muffled softness under the foot.
While this feedback is specific to treadmill runs, even walking on the gym floor feels a bit off. The Metcon 4 wasn’t great for running either, but the single-density insole made it a relatively better shoe for short treadmill runs.
And if you want an all-around training shoe that can do both HIIT and weight-training along with aerobic exercises, the Reebok Nano 9 is a better option.
The shoe also isn’t efficient at box and basic jumps – we’ll discuss this in greater detail in a separate section. Otherwise, the Metcon 5 scores on nearly every gym workout.
Here’s a review of the Metcon 5 in the context of popular weight-training and high-intensity exercises.
Compound exercises: Squat variations, Deadlifts, Kettlebell swings, push-jerks
Regardless of whether you’re air-squatting, squatting clean with medium-heavy weights, or performing regular squats with 225 lbs /100kgs, this training shoe delivers. That’s also applicable for deadlifts as well.
The heel stability is excellent – the muscles and tendons in the lower extremities do not feel like they’re working overtime. For example, if you do the same exercises in a soft running shoe, your legs work overtime trying to adjust for the soft midsole.
The level of stability inspires confidence. When compared to regular running shoes – say, the adidas Ultraboost, you can easily load 20-30% more weight on the Metcons due to better stability.
The high-density Polyurethane is the perfect material choice for these use-cases. Even with deadlifts of 275 lbs /125 kg, the compression was controlled and stable. The hard TPU piece on the outside heel also helps – it prevents the PU foam from splaying wide.
And under what circumstances should you use the optional riser (Hyperlift) pads?
From our experience, they’re best used for vertical, bi-directional movements like Squats and deadlifts.
The slight shift in the center of gravity mimics that of elite lifting shoes – besides being safer as well. The compression or stability is unaffected when compared to the default set-up. That said, using the Hyperlift will be a subjective decision.
We don’t recommend the Hyperlift risers for exercises like Kettlebell swings or jumps. The default 4 mm offset is perfect for those scenarios; 12 mm – not so much.
We haven’t tested the shoe for weights higher than 225 lbs /100kgs for squats and 275 lbs /125 kg for deadlifts. Based on our ultra-stable experience with this weight range, the Metcon will manage at least 300 lbs of weight without compromising stability.
The soft-firm combination might not work during a run, but are perfect for stationary workouts that just involve weight transfer. When the center of gravity shifts rearward, the heel delivers dependable support.
When you transfer your weight forward, the soft foam creates a cushioned yet supportive base. However, some might not prefer the soft forefoot during lifts, so try the Metcon before you buy. Lifting in the split personality insole is an unfamiliar experience if you’re transitioning from the last Metcon.
Also, the soft part of the insole (midsole) is stacked over the firmer heel at an angle. So shifting the weight towards the front (when standing) doesn’t happen abruptly as one would imagine. That being said, there is a faint ridge or bump where the heel foam ends. If you ask us, the stacking angle between the two should be lowered for a smoother loading behavior.
The Metcon’s unique construction is also a great fit for compound exercises that involve a greater range of weight transfer. Kettlebell swings are a perfect example.
The soft forefoot and the stable heel come into play here, and so does the outsole grip. The flat geometry made of sticky rubber bites well on the gym floor, and the rear-angled lugs resist sliding.
All of the above also applies to segments like Wall ball and Push jerks as well.
Plyometric training: Box jumps, regular jumps, and burpees
The Metcon isn’t great at doing box jumps or most jumps for that matter; it’s a mixed bag.
Launching from the ground feels lazy. The forefoot is thick and soft so the damped connection with the ground dilutes the energy needed for vertical jumps.
It’s slightly better during landings, but you’re still better off in a shoe that has a lower and more flexible sole. This feedback also applies to activities like basic rope skips and double-unders as well.
On the bright side, the thick insole provides impact protection when landing back on the floor. Also, the cushioned forefoot filters the edge pressure during the occasional off-form step when performing high-cadence box jumps.
There’s a similar struggle with Burpees. Though the shoe is very flexible, it bends only in one area instead of flexing naturally with a wide range of motion.
Just like the box-jumps, the muffled insole tends to rob the shoe of the ‘snap’ required for plyometric workouts. Truth be told, you’re better off in something like the Nike Free TR 8.
Standard weight-training and standing exercises
The firm heel is functionally effective for most common weight-training exercises. Be it standing bicep curls, barbell shoulder presses, or even cable flys, the stable heel and the grippy outsole have a reassuringly planted feel.
Even workouts like leg presses and seated rows feel better in the Metcon 5. Unlike softer running shoes, the firm PU rearfoot allows the energy to be transferred directly to the push plate.
Routine exercises like shoulder raises (bent-over and standing), tricep pull-downs, T-bars and barbell rows are also great use-cases for the M-5.
The Metcon 5 isn’t the shoe the Metcon 3 or 4 was. The new drop-in insole makes the V5 behave very differently than prior versions; it also limits the versatility of the shoe.
As highlighted in the workout summary, the 5 is perfect for any segment that involves lifting while standing in a fixed position.
But throwing plyometrics into the mix is when the M-5 comes up short. The thick firm-soft midsole is cushioned but lacks the snappy and responsive feel of the earlier Metcons or even the Reebok Nano 9.
Other than that, the fit is excellent with just the right amount of lock-down. Underneath, the flat geometry and rubber compounding of the outsole adds dependable traction and stability.
The Metcon 5 is a great training shoe; you just need to be mindful of what you use it for.
If you’re looking for an all-around Crossfit shoe, the Met might disappoint you in certain areas. For Crossfit workouts, you’re better off in the Reebok Nano 9 or the Nike Metcon 4.
IS THE NIKE METCON 5 DURABLE?
One of the problems with EVA-foam based training shoes is that the cushioning compacts over time. Thankfully, the thick insole inside the Met 5 is made of resilient PU and not EVA.
The Polyurethane foam is highly resistant to compression fatigue, so you’ll get the same level of cushioning even after many months of repeated use. And since you’re not going to be wearing the shoes for running or casual use, the outsole isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.
This isn’t a running shoe so it’s pointless to estimate durability based on mileage.
The upper durability will depend on what you’re doing with the Metcon. There have been reports of the rubber sidewall edges delaminating from the upper, but it hasn’t happened on our shoe yet.
It’s still early to comment on long-term durability, so we’ll update this review if the edges begin to peel.
Looking at the materials from a technical viewpoint, the adhesion could be an issue. The outsole is bonded to a smooth synthetic of the heel and a mesh with high-density printing – not the best materials to bond with. We have a similar opinion of the Reebok Nano 9.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The Metcon 5 has a snug fit – the way it is supposed to be. The last thing you want during lifting or any other workout is to have your foot swimming inside a loose-fitting up. The form-fitting last profile and Flywire lacing help keep lock the foot down during high-intensity workouts.
When worn with a thin pair of socks, the fit is just right with a true-to-size profile. The toe-bumper is broad and has sufficient vertical room.
If you normally wear thicker socks during workouts, then buying a half-size larger is a good idea.
The forefoot fit has a slanted profile that slopes over the outer/small-toe side so that part feels a bit hemmed in. There’s no discomfort as such, just a slight sensation of snugness that is noticed when heavy lifting is involved.
The insides are soft and smooth with high levels of comfort. The upper switched to a softer mesh starting with the last year’s Metcon 4. The rubberized printing on both these models introduced structure and durability on a soft fabric.
An inner sleeve keeps the tongue from sliding and creates a soft barrier between the foot and the Flywire cords. The closed mesh runs slightly warm if you’re comparing it to open-mesh shoes. As long as you’re in a climate-controlled gym environment, this is a non-issue.
The M-5’s tongue flap changes to a design with piped edges, but there’s no reason to worry. The Metcon 4’s flap had softer edges for sure, but the new flaps do not press against the foot.
The heel doesn’t slip – the design, including the lining and fill are identical to the Metcon 4. And just like the previous Metcon, the heel lining tends to catch pilling from the socks. The heel lacks a hard internal counter but that isn’t detrimental to grip.
Even with the 8 mm riser pads, the heel did not slip during lifting.
The redesigned Metcon doesn’t have the hard TPU wings on the sides – something that was on the V-4. This doesn’t have a negative influence on the fit. In its place are modified (larger) outsole rope guards and a hard TPU heel stabilizer.
The laces are relatively firm and non-elastic, so take care to cinch the ends tightly to prevent them from coming undone. From our experience in running shoes, these type of laces needs a little more attention when tying. Else, they tend to come undone.
PROS AND CONS
There are very few training shoes (outside of elite powerlifting shoes) that deliver exceptional stability for nearly all amateur and intermediate level weight lifting. The Metcon 5 is perfect for most kinds of lifting – as long as you’re in a fixed position.
The new, much softer forefoot doesn’t work well with Plyometrics. For any activity that involves jumps, the shoe lacks the required levels of responsiveness. We’ve said enough in our workout section, so we’ll stop right here.
The transition from the heel to the soft part of the insole could have been better as well. Maybe lowering the stacking angle should do the trick the next time.
The rest of the shoe is mostly positives. Nice, comfortable, and secure fit. Grippy and planted outsole. Nice colors too.
THE NIKE METCON 5 VS. THE REEBOK NANO 9
Regardless of whether you buy the Nike Metcon 5 or the Reebok Nano 9, you’ll end up with an A-grade training shoe. Both have the same retail price, so there’s no cost advantage whichever way you choose.
That said, there are notable differences between both the shoes based on the in-gym experience.
We’ll go ahead and say it – the Nano 9 has better versatility than the Metcon 9. The Reebok’s single-density midsole construction and snappier forefoot makes it a better choice for plyometrics and even running.
If you land heel first, the Nano’s grooved crash pad eases transitions. Unlike the Nike shoe, the cushioning isn’t the firm-turning-to-soft kind. So the loading feels smoother and less clunky.
This comparison is relative to the Metcon – if you’re planning to run longer on the treadmill, get a suitable running shoe.
The Nano’s firmer forefoot results in better floor feedback – a quality that suits plyometrics better than the Met 5. For other exercises like double unders, the Nano is better. For rope climbs, both shoes perform equally well.
Though both shoes are stable for lifting, and our personal choice is the Metcon. This opinion comes with a caveat, though. Though the Nike’s firmer heel feels a lot better – in general – during heavy lifting, some users might find the deeply soft forefoot unsettling. If that describes you, then the Nano 9 is a safer choice.
Fit-wise, the Reebok has more room inside the forefoot. It’s not as snug-fitting as the Metcon so the Nano 9 is the way to go if you want a comfort sizing. The Reebok breathes better due to the vented Flexweave material.