The Story Behind the Metcon 7, Released in Europe Today
In July 2019, Justin Humphreys and nine others from Nike World Headquarters made the trip to the CrossFit Games in Madison, WI to gather information and create a vision to help them build the best training shoe ever designed.
This is the first CrossFit Games since the Metcon was infamously banned from being worn by athletes competing at the Games that the shoe was allowed on the competition floor.
Today, after working on the shoe for two long years, the Metcon 7 is being released in Europe with all colors, including the Metcon 7 Mat Fraser edition, available on July 22 in North America.
A Vision is Born
Humphreys and his team spent the week in Madison watching the fittest men and women in the world and talking to as many athletes and fans as they could about their idea of a perfect shoe for CrossFit.
One of the things that they heard that “stuck in our brain that we just could not shake was Metcon being a tool…If you have a quiver of arrows, it’s one of the tools that you pull out of the quiver—the quiver being your gym bag—and when you pull it out, you know that that tool is going to perform for what the intended use is,” Humphreys said.
The intended use of the Metcon 7 would be “solely driven for one purpose”—to help CrossFit athletes be better at what they do. And after taking in as much feedback as they possibly could, a consistent theme emerged.
“The thing we heard in Madison over and over again is the athlete wants a stable shoe,” Humphreys said. “The most stable shoe you could ever make for CrossFit.”
With this vision in place, it was time to bring in their team of experts, including 30 PhD biomechanics at the Nike campus in Beaverton, OR. Humphreys approached one of them and asked how they could make the most stable shoe ever made for CrossFit.
“The thing we heard in Madison over and over again is the athlete wants a stable shoe,” Humphreys said. “The most stable shoe you could ever make for CrossFit.”Justin Humphreys, NIKE
His reply: “The problem is you already make it. You make the Romaleos (Nike’s weightlifting shoe).”
“And I said, ‘OK, I understand that. But you can’t run in the Romaleos…Well, is there a way to make the Romaleos runnable?’” Humphreys asked.
And so began the process of uncovering how to mix a Metcon with the Romaleos and “make them have a baby to become the Metcon 7,” he said.
A Metcon Child is Born
In the months that followed, the Nike team began working with athletes—both lifestyle CrossFit athletes and Games athletes like Fraser, Noah Ohlsen, Chandler Smith, Travis Mayer, Kara Saunders and Lauren Fisher—to turn their vision into reality.
The first problem they needed to solve was how to integrate the removable heel insert that had been included in previous Metcon versions right into the shoe. The issue there was when people bought a second, third or fourth pair of Metcons, they started accumulating inserts and often threw them away.
“Sustainability is such a big factor with what we do…We said, ‘Well why can’t we just integrate that heel stability piece (right) into the shoe, so that’s what we did is we essentially took the best aspects of the Romaleos, which is that really solid heel plastic piece and we integrated it into the heel of the Metcon,” Humphreys explained, adding that the piece is important for creating stability during weightlifting.
This is because when the force of your heel goes into the heel of the shoe, it helps dissipate the force to the widest part of the shoe. Without this hard piece in the heel—with a foam heel instead, for example—the force you apply downward shoots straight back up instead of spreading to the widest part of the shoe, thus reducing stability, he explained.
Once the heel plate problem was solved, the team turned their attention back to their original question: How do you make the shoe runnable?
“Well, is there a way to make the Romaleos runnable?…We essentially took the best aspects of the Romaleos, which is that really solid heel plastic piece and we integrated it into the heel of the Metcon.”Justin Humphreys, NIKE
The solution they settled on involved using a type of foam proprietary to Nike—React foam—that is sandwiched between the heel and the sole of the shoe to help dissipate the stiffness to allow athletes to run with ease.
After this, it was time to focus on some Metcon upgrades, including how to make the Metcon 7 more durable for rope climbs—a movement that has been known to tear shoes up—and how to prevent shoelaces from coming undone, which tends to happen on repetitive movements, such as running and double unders.
To solve the shoelace problem, the team took inspiration from wrestling, a sport that penalizes an athlete if their shoelaces come undone. As a result, wrestling shoes generally have a material with velcro that folds over the laces to keep them in place. The Metcon 7 includes a similar feature.
Making the Metcon 7 rope climb proof took a little more creativity, Humphreys explained. They needed to figure out exactly how high the rubber needed to extend up the medial and lateral sides on the arch of the shoe. They did this by using an infrared camera to measure the temperature of the various areas on the shoe as athletes climbed a rope.
Through their testing, Humphreys recognized a consistent pattern, mostly on the arch area of the medial part of the shoe, which became significantly hot from friction from the rope. This indicated that this area needed to be protected with additional rubber in order to make the shoe more durable, a feature Humphreys called a “game changer.”