GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Review

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GORUCK just launched their newest training shoe: the GORUCK Ballistic Trainer.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Stacked
GORUCK’s newest cross training shoe is the Ballistic Trainer, shown here in Lunar Rock colorway. How does it stack up to the other cross trainers in this space? Read on to find out…

GORUCK makes serious, well thought out, and high quality training gear.

They are looking to shake up the functional fitness/CrossFit WOD training shoe space with this new shoe.

How well does it work? That’s what we aim to find out. We’ve got our review pair – and testing is underway.

Here’s some of the styles we are going to look at:

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer (Lunar Rock)  This is the style shown in many of the photos in this article.
GORUCK Ballistic Trainer (Black + Gum) Also available in Black + Gum colored sole.
GORUCK Ballistic Trainer (All Black/Blackout) All black, or blackout as it is listed on the website.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer – Video Review on our YouTube Channel

Why read when you can watch? Check out this video from our YouTube channel:

Check back in a few weeks, and we’ll have the results of our side by side testing.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer – Overview

This is GORUCK’s first attempt to create a functional fitness (aka CrossFit) style training shoe.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Front To Back 1
This is GORUCK’s first attempt at a CrossFit style training shoe – and they did their homework.

How about some stats right up front?

Upper MaterialsKnit mesh (forefoot) / Ballistic Nylon (Midfoot and heel)
Weight15.0 ounces (Men’s Size 11)
Drop8 mm
SizingTrue to size. Toebox is wide

Let’s start from the ground up – with the outsole.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Outsole closeup
GORUCK went with an all-rubber outsole. Traction is good on all kinds of surfaces. It’s also a triple compound formulation.

The all-rubber outsole provides grip in a variety of conditions.

I’ve tested these on wet grass (short and long), wet and dry asphalt, and of course, typical gym floor conditions.

They’ve used a triple combination of rubber compounds for this shoe.

The front provides enhanced traction, while the heel is very firm, and very hard wearing rubber.

How about the midfoot? You’ll see a mild “rope wrap” where the gum colored outsole wraps up around the side.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Side Profile 2
See where the outsole wraps up around the midfoot? That’s for rope climbs.

That’s for rope climbs specifically – giving you a place to grip the rope.

That rubber is yet another compound – one derived from rock climbing shoes – and it provides durability and grip at the same time.

How about on the side? The midsole is contained within the shoe , so we can’t see it, but that’s where the bulk of the cushion is at.

It’s not removable on this shoe, but there’s also an insole that is removable. Here’s a picture.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Insert
This insole gives arch support and some level of cushion. But, it’s a cross trainer don’t expect lots of cushion. It’s not a running shoe.

How’s the cushion? It’s exactly as you’d expect for a cross training shoe. It’s minimal (but not zero).

Cross training shoes need to provide support and stability – even when lifting hundreds of pounds. These aren’t cushioned like running shoes – nor do we want them to be.

GORUCK also incorporates a support system for all 3 arches of your foot.

Underfoot, it feels like your typical cross trainer. It’s firm, it’s stable, but I wouldn’t want to stand in these all day long.

Ditto for walking or running.

Can you run in these? Yep, you can. But I wouldn’t put these on to run a 5K.

These work fine for “WOD” style running – think hundreds of meters.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Quarter
These have some cushion, but not much. They are OK for running short distances, but just remember they aren’t meant to be running shoes.

They are a bit on the heavy side – a Men’s US Size 11 weighs in at 15.0 ounces.

That’s well over an ounce heavier than the Nike Metcon 6 (13.9 ounces), and a lot more than a shoe like the NOBULL Trainer (11.3 ounces).

Heel to toe drop is 8mm. This is a bit more than the average cross trainer (which range from 2mm – 4mm, typically). GORUCK claims this will offer the desired degree of mechanical advantage in squats and the like, while also helping improve endurance due to less strain on your Achilles heel.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Side Profile Right
Heel to toe drop is 8mm.

This is one of the aspects of the shoe that I’m evaluating against other cross trainers – results are still to be determined.

To be honest, the main limiting factor in wearing most trainers for long times or long distances is the lack of cushioning – at least that’s my perception.

For the Ballistic Trainer GORUCK have strayed from their favorite material – 1000D Cordura.

The upper in the Ballistic Trainer is a warp knit mesh and ballistic nylon combination.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Mesh Upper Closeup 2
The warp knit upper is flexible, stretchy, and comfortable.

I like it. The mesh in the forefoot is stretchy and seems breathable (although it’s quite dense as far as knit uppers go.)

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Mesh Upper Closeup 1
Mesh upper – will it be tough enough? Only time will tell… this is NOT a thin knit though.

Durability of the forefoot remains to be seen.

The ballistic nylon that is used in the heel looks good, feels slick, and seems like it’ll be tough.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Ballistic Nylon
The ballistic nylon seems durable. It’s slick and seems to shrug off abrasion.

The shoe has a thin tongue – and that’s what I prefer personally.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Spearhead Logo
The tongue is thin. That’s the GORUCK spearhead logo. Laces are laces – and they work just fine. You’ve got the extra set of eyelets to do a lace lock or runner’s loop if desired.

Overall the fit and sizing are excellent.

My normal running shoe size (Men’s 11) fits perfect.

There’s good width up in the toe box – without being excessive.

There’s a full heel counter in the heel and the collar comes up high. I get no heel slippage sensation in these.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Nike Metcon 6 Heel to Heel 1
The wide heel on these provide great stability – and the collar comes up high. Frankly, it’s a better fit for me, especially when compared to a low-collar shoe like the Nike Metcon 6 (in the background.)

Despite the weight, the low-cut design makes them feel fairly streamlined.

OK, that’s a tour of the features. Now let’s talk performance.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer – In the Gym (or Box)

GORUCK did their homework on these shoes.

There’s no problems with heavy barbell lifting – deadlifts, squats, and more.

They have the support and stability you’d expect.

Kettlebells, dumbbells, and odd object lifting – all OK.

The drop is mild, all things considered, so there’s not really anything to gripe about.

(GORUCK also includes a second insert that is flat and uncushioned – but I’m uncertain what this does to the drop – if anything.)

I tested these with a variety of Sandbag and Ruck Training as well.

Rucking with weight (rucksack and sandbag) and a variety of PT.

These did well.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer – Running?

Can you run in these?


But, as mentioned already they are heavy (15.0 ounces) and relatively uncushioned.

Most WODs require running only short distances – 400m, 800m, or even less (if you are lucky!)

I wouldn’t go run a 5K in these.

As such these shoes make the classic WOD compromise – they can be used for all kinds of stuff – but they aren’t overly specialized into any one activity.

In contrast, consider your typical highly cushioned running shoe – it’s simply too mushy for barbell lifting.

Similarly, your average Oly lifter (a true ZERO cushion shoe) can’t be used for anything but lifting weights.

So far, these Ballistic trainers perform as desired in the gym or the CrossFit box.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus IO Trainer

GORUCK has another training shoe – the I/O Trainer (for Indoor/Outdoor).

How do they compare?

We’ll be testing the I/O trainer side by side with the ballistic trainer.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Up Front
GORUCK also makes the I/O Cross Trainer. How do they compare? That’s what we are testing.

The I/O (Indoor/Outdoor) trainer seems better for all-terrain activities.

Check out the tread lugs on the outsole. It’s like the MACV-1 ruck boot.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Outsole Lugs
I/O Trainer is clearly meant for tough conditions outdoors – check out the deep lugs on the outsole.

It’s also minimally cushioned and stable for weight lifting (or sandbag training.)

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Insert to Insert
That’s the Ballistic Trainer insert up front. It seems to be identical to that of the I/O Trainer, but the part numbers are different. There’s cushion inside the shoe in the form of the midsole as well.

The I/O Trainer’s upper makes use of Challenge Leather (on the toe cap) and 1000D Cordura.

The Cordura takes awhile to break in – and isn’t known to be a breathable material.

(Out of the box the Ballistic Trainer is comfortable. The I/O Trainer less so – it’s gonna take awhile to break these in.)

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - 1000D Cordura Upper
I/O Trainer uses 1000D Cordura and Challenge Leather in the upper.

The I/O Trainer has a suede lined heel and a single mesh covered drain port (to help drain water in the event your feet get submerged out on the trail.)

Both these features were inspired by the GORUCK MACV-1 ruck boot.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Suede lined heel
Suede lined heel is comfortable, but the 1000D Cordura parts are stiff, and don’t breathe well.
GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Side profile 2
That’s a mesh covered drain port at the midfoot. It’s up high enough such that shallow puddles won’t make your feet wet – but low enough such that you can pump water out of the shoe with every foot step.

More testing is needed. But my initial thoughts are that the I/O Trainer is more like a very low cut ruck boot.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Side by Side
A low-cut ruck boot? More testing is needed…

By the way, the sizing on the I/O Trainer is well off that of the normal scale. I initially ordered 11s (my normal size) and had to return them. These 10.5s seem OK. GORUCK says some people may need to go one full size down…

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus GORUCK I/O Trainer - Heel to Heel
The I/O trainer runs BIG. Go 1/2 size down, and maybe more. These are 10.5. My normal size is 11.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus Nike Metcon 6

We recently declared the Metcon 6 to be the best CrossFit shoe for 2020. Can the Ballistic Trainer unseat the champ for 2021?

Nike Metcon 6
The Nike Metcon 6 is a good looking shoe. This is one of the launch colorways. Check out that massive rope wrap at the midfoot!

That’s what we’ll find out as our hands on testing proceeds.

For now, let’s look at some of the stats.

The Nike Metcon 6 has a very breathable upper. It’s got very large perforations throughout the forefoot.

Nike Metcon 6 Upper
The big change in the Metcon 6 (from the 5) is the all-new super-breathable upper.

Can you see the daylight shining through in those photos above?

I’m in Florida – and I workout in my garage gym or outdoors. Every little bit of heat shedding ability makes a difference to me – so I like it.

Another factor in the Metcon 6 being a great shoe is the fact that it comes with Nike’s Hyperlifts.

Nike Metcon 6 Versus Nike Metcon 5 - midsole is the same
Here’s the removable dual-density midsole from the shoe. This is where the cushion (or lack thereof) comes from. It’s firm in the heel, and cushioned in the forefoot – which makes the 6 a very versatile cross trainer – just like the 5 was.

Drop these little wedges in and you can go from 4 mm of heel to toe drop to 12 mm total (10 mm for women).

A little drop or a healthy amount of drop? You get to choose – and change it from one WOD to the next.

Built like a tank, the Nike Metcon 6 is no lightweight. But it is lighter than the Ballistic Trainer.

My pair of Men’s US Size 11 weigh 13.9 ounces each.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Nike Metcon 6 Side by Side 3
Nike Metcon 6 Versus GORUCK Ballistic Trainer. Both are great shoes. One looks boring. Whether or not that matters is up to you to decide.

Is the GORUCK Ballistic Trainer’s styling too boring?

That’s for you to decide. Some people don’t want an ostentatious looking shoe – so it can be a plus.

But on the other hand, these are very, very plain looking vanilla shoes.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Nike Metcon 6 Side by Side 4
Hey look at me! I’m wearing Nikes.

Looks matter. It’s a key reason why people choose one shoe over the other.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Nike Metcon 6 - Sole to Sole
The rope wrap is too large on the Nike. I like what they’ve done with the Ballistic Trainer.

I will say this though – the heel and toebox of the Ballistic Trainer fit me far better than the Metcon 6 (for which I have to go 1/2 size up on – and I get heel slippage with the Hyperlifts in).

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Nike Metcon 6 - another view
As mentioned, the Ballistic Trainer fits me better than the Nike – that’s largely due to the forefoot width but also the high collar and great heel counter in the Ballistic Trainer.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Versus Reebok Nano X

Here’s another great WOD training shoe option for 2020 – the Reebok Nano X.

Reebok Nano X PR Versus Nano X Regular Review - Side by Side 2
The Reebok Nano X is the 10th version of Reebok’s CrossFit training shoe. Here’s the regular edition and the PR edition side by side.

Now in it’s 10th iteration, Reebok continues to tweak the Nano shoe.

The Nano X is much like the Nano 9, and the 8 before it.

It offers an exceptionally wide toebox – and I love it.

Reebok Nano X wide toe box
The Reebok Nano X has a very nice and wide toebox. Here it is side by side with the Metcon 6. You can see the difference.

The drop in the Nano X is 4mm – and cushioning is minimal too.

Compared to the Metcon 6, I find it slightly less well suited to impact activities because of this.

Reebok Nano X Cross Training Shoe - insole
Here’s the thin insole that is removable. The midsole is "de-coupled" like the outsole – at least Reebok claims.

The Nano X (US Men’s Size 11) weighs in at about 14.2 ounces.

The new version of Flexweave in the upper is comfortable, stretchy, and breathes reasonably well.

I also think it looks much better than last year’s Flexweave.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Reebok Nano X Toebox
Both these shoes have a wide toebox. The Nano X is wider.
GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Reebok Nano X Outsole
Both have an all rubber outsole that gives good traction.
GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review Versus Reebok Nano X Side by Side
Which shoe looks better to you? Some find the Nano X’s styling over-done.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer – How Did We Test?

It’s fun testing these kind of shoes – because they are so versatile.

Here’s everything we have (or will) put these shoes through:

Heavy barbell training – Deadlift, cleans, squats.

Ruck training – miles on the ruck march with a heavily loaded backpack.

GORUCK’s Sandbag & Ruck Training program – this is a functional fitness style “WOD” style of workout. It involves a lot of PT with 30 lb backpack and sandbag (cleans, carries, get-ups, etc.)

LIGHT running. I don’t run much. I’m not looking to run far.

Rowing, air bike, jump rope, box jumps – much of the things you’d do in the CrossFit WOD.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer- In Summary

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainer is an all-new design for 2020.

It’s got all the features you’d expect in a cross training shoe.

Stability for lifting, support for running, and more.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Side Profile
Overall – this shoe is a winner – CrossFit wods, rucking, and more.

Photo Credits

Some product photos on this page are property of GORUCK.

This website is not affiliated or associated with CrossFit, Inc. CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Front View
Nice wide fit. Generic looks. Overall, not a bad cross trainer.

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GORUCK Ballistic Trainer Shoe Review - Heel View
Great stability and fit thanks to the high collar and robust heel in these.

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