When powering through your workouts and CrossFit WODs, you want footwear that's resilient and ready for whatever you throw at it. Sure, some flash and style is always appreciated (look good — feel good — train good, right?), but sometimes, your sessions need less glitz and more grit.
One brand that's no stranger to the rugged aspect of fitness is Goruck. Boasting a number of pieces that excel in durability like the best overall Training Weight Vest, the brand is dedicated to making equipment that will last — and withstand whatever challenges you find yourself in. So, when we discovered that the hard-nosed brand best known for rucking also makes cross-training footwear, we had to see if these kicks were up to snuff.
The Ballistic Trainers clearly exhibit the Goruck motif, thanks to the engineered warp knit technology and 1680D Cordura Ballistic Nylon across the exterior; this shoe simply looks tough. But looks can be deceiving, especially in footwear. So to see if these high-grade trainers were capable in the gym, I donned a pair across multiple training sessions and workouts.
Whether getting under a heavy squat, moving through agility drills, logging grueling rope climbs or pacing through sprint circuits, I wanted to get a true feel for how rough of a beating these kicks could take without breaking or budging. In effect, I put the Ballistic Trainers through their own little boot camp, making note of how well they performed under pressure again and again.
Here's what you can expect when lacing up in Goruck's Ballistic Trainers.
What's Good About Goruck's Ballistic Trainers?
The Gradient Density midsole provides excellent stability.
A majority of my training includes barbell work, meaning I prefer to have footwear that allows for a stable, sturdy setup. The Gradient Density midsole of the Ballistic Trainers provided this aesthetic in spades, allowing me to achieve the proper foot position and grounded feel whether setting up for a squat, deadlift or other movement. I also appreciated the toe box construction that creates a snug fit, while still allowing enough room for toe splaying when under load.
Of course, the outsole also played a part in achieving this grounded feel, and I'd be remiss to not mention it here. The three rubber compounds used in the outsole create plenty of traction and rigidity, and I never felt my underfoot grip was compromised, thanks to the varied traction patterns. This also played a heavy role when working through agility ladder drills or finishing sessions with plyometrics targeting change of direction.
The easy-to-clean exterior makes them great for daily wear.
Now, I'm not a big fan of wearing your training sneakers as your day-to-day footwear. In my opinion, it's best to save the performance for in-gym use rather than waste it traversing through your daily tasks and errands. With that said, if you are looking for a silhouette that transitions from running around town to chasing gym PRs in an instant, the Ballistic Trainers should be on your radar.
The 8mm heel-to-toe drop is far more comfortable for walking scenarios than other workout-centric shoes, and the durable exterior is easy to clean. I broke my own rule (for testing purposes) and donned these sneakers on a few weekend errand runs, and naturally, had to deal with a few parking lot puddles and muddy sidewalks during my adventures. Thankfully, the engineered warp knit technology and 1680D Cordura Ballistic Nylon easily brushed off any muck and look to be as durable as ever. Plus, the minimalist design and multiple colorways can fit better in your normal wardrobe, unlike some gym shoes that feature more vibrant hues that are fine on an exercise machine but less appropriate for day-to-day tasks.
What's Less Ideal About Goruck's Ballistic Trainers?
Expect a break-in period.
As comfortable as the Ballistic Trainers are, I can't say that coziness was felt immediately out of the box. There is a bit of rigidity that needs to be worked out over multiple wears, which makes sense given this silhouette's impressive stability and ruggedness. After roughly five days of hard training in these kicks, I did feel the upper and midsole begin to soften, creating that ideal setup offering some plush comfort and breathability without compromising mid-lift sturdiness.
It's not a major flaw for a shoe to have a break-in period, but it's worth calling out when you compare the Ballistic Trainers to other top-performing gym shoes. Some athletes may not want to sign up for the growing pains, instead opting for a silhouette that's plush from the start.
The heavier frame is not the most efficient for longer runs or footwork-heavy movements.
While the midsole provided excellent stability for lifting sessions, I was also surprised by how nimble and flexible it was for sprints and other agility exercises. Despite this performance, the Ballistic Trainers won't be replacing my running shoes for cardio or extended plyometrics because of the weight carried across the frame. I ran a handful of multi-mile routes while wearing these trainers and could definitely feel the clunkiness begin to rear its head toward the middle of my jogs. Plus, there were some workouts that solely focused on plyometrics and agility training, and the 10.8-ounce silhouette simply did not promote fast-paced foot movements as well as other, slimmer profiles I've trained in previously.
Goruck Ballistic Trainer: The Verdict
I'm thoroughly surprised by the performance baked into the Goruck Ballistic Trainers. Despite their heavier silhouette, I can definitely see a place for these in my normal training footwear rotation, thanks to their impeccable stability, durable construction and respectable comfort. Plus, at $125, these are one of the more affordable gym shoe silhouettes on the market.