GORUCK Ballistic Trainers – Our Review

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⭐️ Best for All-around Ruck Stuff: 85/100

GORUCK…a brand that started off by selling us a bunch of heavy bags and telling us to go walk for…forever with them, has footwear, too.

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers aren’t the company’s most “ruck”-like shoe offering, although they can pinch hit if necessary.

Where the shoes shine is in their multi-functionality and ability to do everything pretty well. This is the likely reason why they have been named the Official Shoe of the Rogue Invitational alongside a number of other accolades.

If you’re a rucker who’s looking for your favorite rucking company to not let you down…my apologies. If you’re a CrossFitter any happen to enjoy rucking as well, this is your new favorite shoe.

Pros

A truly “do everything” training shoe

8mm heel drop “sweet spot” for dynamic and even “pure” rucking

Eligible for GORUCK’s patented Scars Lifetime Guarantee

Cons

Not the best shoe for “pure” rucking

Not “great” enough at any one thing

You don’t want to run distances in these

Read more on GORUCK

Overall Score

85

“Pure” Rucking

70

“Speed” Rucking

80

“Dynamic” Rucking

95

General Training

85

Construction & Materials

85

Price

85

Customer Reviews

96

Customer Service

85

How we test & score products

If you’re familiar with GORUCK, the first things that comes to mind when you think about the brand are their ruck sacks.

This is undisputed and objective (if you disagree, fight me).

That being said, the second thing you think of is their footwear. If you’re a boot guy, this means you’re probably losing sleep obsessing over the MACV-1 vs MACV-2 rivalry.

…but if you’re a shoe guy (or if you’re a CrossFit kind of guy and have been keeping tabs with GORUCK’s relationship with the brand) the Ballistic Trainer is the thing that is really piquing your interest.

They’ve been getting a lot of press and people, for the most part, seem to really like them. They can’t actually live up to the hype…

Right…?

(Probably) wrong.

Unless you’re looking for a “pure” rucking shoe and/or are looking for a training shoe you can run a marathon in, the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers might be “it” for you.

They’ve been my go-to shoe for awhile now; let me tell you all about ’em.

“Pure” Rucking

I’m sure there are some people who come across GORUCK’s stuff because they’re looking for a CrossFit shoe from an “alternative” brand.

But let’s be real; you google “GORUCK Shoe” or “Rucking Shoe” or “Best Shoes for Rucking” because you intend on blocking out a couple of hours, strapping on a 30 (50?)-pound pack, and taking in some scenery as you stroll for 9 miles or so.

…and, to be honest, there are better shoes out there for this task than the Ballistic Trainers.

goruck ballistic trainers review

That being said, they’re not bad shoes for this type of outing. The multiple layers of CORDURA allows the Ballistic Trainers to handle (literally) miles of abuse better than most other running or cross training shoes. However, the relatively flat outsole isn’t really up for the task and it’s not the most comfortable shoe over distances.

If you’re heading into any type of heavy terrain or areas where you want/need a bit of traction, a dedicated rucking boot or a shoe like the GORUCK Mackall shoe will best handle the job. However, like the Mackalls, the Ballistic Trainers’ triple-layered midsole helps to prevent rolled ankles and adds an extra layer of protection from the elements.

Ultimately, I don’t recommend these as “pure” rucking shoes and rarely wear mine for any type of traditional rucking ventures. They’ll work in a pinch, but there are better options out there for this specific purpose.

“Pure” Rucking Score: 70

“Speed” Rucking

Let’s say you like rucking, but you pretty much stick to improved trails, paved sidewalks and roads, or even enjoy rucking on the treadmill. Due to the (usually) lack of obstacles, terrain, and other hindrances, it’s not only easier to get up to speed, but your footwear doesn’t require the same amount of tread, protection, or padding.

I personally am more of a “speed” rucker than I am a purist and I have put the Ballistic Trainers to the “ruck running” (running being a somewhat relative term here) on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, they simply aren’t “running shoes” in any traditional context.

The good news? The shoes do a better job than most others do, particularly as the weight in the ruck gets heavier.

The shoe’s EVA construction provides a degree of stability and durability that instills confidence when walking/moving quickly under a heavy load. This ability to withstand impact will be more relevant when discussing “dynamic” rucking, but it is certainly relevant here as well.

On the other hand, the lack of any type of foam or padding creates a feeling that should be familiar if you’ve ever run in CrossFit or other “functional fitness” shoes. Low(ish) heel drop shoes repeatedly hitting the pavement, quickly getting sore and tired.

Another major issue I’ve encountered is managing steep-ish declines. Truth be told, I’m not great at putting the breaks on or maneuvering downhill, but the relatively flat outsole of the Ballistic Trainer on declining pavement is really not good for me. If you’re speed rucking, you’re inevitably going to come to one of these downhills; in my experience, they’re not very fun.

Unlike my conclusion for “pure” rucking, I would recommend the Ballistic Trainers for “speed” rucking over most other shoes. However, this activity isn’t the main reason to purchase the shoes for.

“Speed” Rucking Score: 80

“Dynamic” Rucking

Want to know the one thing that keeps the Ballistic Trainers from being classified as a great, all-around rucking shoe?

They’re too good at being a CrossFit…I mean,,,”dynamic” rucking shoe!

Had GORUCK simply focused on creating a rucking shoe, the Ballistic Trainers would not have the slight (8mm) heel drop preferred by those in the functional fitness community. They also probably wouldn’t have that extra lace-lock at the top to really tighten up your shoes in those last, tense seconds right before the WOD begins.

I find the Ballistic Trainers to be great “in-between” CrossFit shoes as they have a heavier, sturdier feel (which I appreciate when getting under heavy lifts) than many competitors, while still feeling lighter and more pliable (which I appreciate on runs and anything requiring agility) than others.

As most would expect, I still opt for a dedicated, heeled weightlifting shoe for dedicated Olympic lifting and heavy squatting sessions. However, the Ballistic Trainers offer a surprising degree of stability, inspiring confidence during “heavy-ish” cleans, snatches, and squats. In metcons where these movements are present, I’m never really concerned that they’re not going to be up for the task.

I’d feel confident wearing these up to the final bar during something like CrossFit Open Workout 23.3 (if I had time, I’d opt for weightlifting shoes for the 225-pound snatches) and until I got to the 275-barbell in something like 20.4.

Personally, I did not find that they required any type of break-in period before wearing them during a normal day of training. No blisters and no soreness (although they did feel slightly like bowling shoes the first couple of times, but only when I had them laced all the way to the final lace-lock).

Truth be told, like many shoes in its class, the Ballistic Trainers aren’t the best at workouts involving long-distance running (I classify this as anything over ~400 meters). Also, as much as GORUCK touts otherwise, the Cordura outer material is susceptible (over time) to abrasions commonly incurred during rope climbs.

For all other common functional fitness movements (to include exercises common to GORUCK events like sandbag exercises, and ruck exercises) the Ballistic Trainers are top of the line.

General Training

I understand that some people may just be looking for a shoe to wear around the gym during basic circuit training sessions and for less complex types of exercises/workouts. For these tasks, the Ballistic Trainers are serviceable.

The shoes’ durability is higher than most so if you like the look, fit, and feel, they’re going to last a long time. They’re also subtle enough that they don’t bother or distract during training sessions.

However, more casual trainees may find the lower heel drop and lack of padding, uncommon in most non-CrossFit training shoes to be uncomfortable and/or difficult to get accustomed to.

Also, when I think of general training, I think of running, most likely on a treadmill…

…yeah…running…

Like most shoes designed for rucking, hiking, or functional fitness, the Ballistic Trainers are not going to be anyone’s go-to running shoes. That 8mm heel drop is too small for serious Oly lifting but is far too high to create any “minimalist” running feeling. 

The thought of completing Murph in these isn’t so bad.

The thought of taking on the Triple 3 in these…ehhh…

The thought of competing in Hyrox in these…kill me.

Running in the Ballistic Trainers isn’t unbearable, but if this is a big part of your usual training regimen, it makes sense to wear a shoe that is better suited for this task.

General Training Score: 85

Construction & Materials

If you’re not a specs nerd, I understand; I’m not either. I always end up having to Google words like “density“, “gradient” and…”gradient density”.

(those links…you’re welcome, by the way!)

However, the unique combination of materials that comprise the Ballistic Trainers are truly what make the shoe.

The “big three” that you need to know about the materials/construction:

  • CORDURA – If you know anything about dedicated ruck boots, like all of them are made of CORDURA nylon. The U.S. Armed Forces have used the materials in its apparel (most notably boots) for close to 50 years. Insane tear abrasion is its main calling card.
  • EVA Midsole – No, not the CrossFit Girl WOD. The EVA mid-sole provide a unique combination of flexibility, cushioning,, and stability. This makes them bearable during running WODs while also inspiring confidence before, during, and (maybe) after heavy lifts. 
  • “3x Support system” (medial longitudinal, lateral longitudinal, and anterior transverse arches) – The Ballistic Trainers are engineered to support all of the arches of your foot. This is the kind of support system you don’t really notice the first few times you wear a new shoe…but you really notice in the form of instep, lower shin, upper shin, forefoot, and knee pain after months of wearing shoes without it. 

Overall, the construction of the shoe and the materials that comprise it are novel, but don’t feel like some weird, un-natural, synthetic shoe (that you end up needing some special insole for, anyways!)

Although I don’t find any of the brands’ shoe materials to be outstanding, out of all of GORUCK’s shoe offerings, I think the Ballistic Trainers’ materials are the best.

Price

GORUCK isn’t exactly a “budget” brand. This fact is reflected in the prices of all of their products, to include their footwear.

The Ballistic Trainers aren’t going to break the bank with their $140 price tag, but there are definitely less expensive training shoes out there.

My suggestion? If you do decide to bite the bullet and purchase a pair, never pay full price.

I am a regular on the GORUCK website and I would estimate that there are at least one or two color combinations of the Ballistic Trainer on sale at any given time. If you aren’t able to find one, wait a week or two, try again, and I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find a pair somewhere between 20 and 50(!) percent off.

Price Score: 85

Customer Reviews

One thing is for sure: customers love their Ballistic Trainers.

Considering that out of over 2500 reviews, less than one percent rated them 1 star and just over 60 people rated them 2 stars or less is seriously impressive.

It’s important to take into consideration that these reviews come directly from the GORUCK website (which the company obviously has control over) since you can’t find any GORUCK gear on Amazon or other retail sites. However, the almost universal praise for the shoes is pretty well in line with my experiences and with what other people have told me about their experiences so I’m inclined to believe them.

Customer Reviews Score: 96

Customer Service

I’ve dealt with the good people at GORUCK on a few different occasions and in a few different contexts. They have universally been friendly and attentive people and there has never been a circumstance where something wasn’t delivered, was delivered broken/defective, or when personnel simply ignored my requests.

There was an occasion where I had made a mistake with an order and immediately contacted customer service to report that I had made an error in the shipping address. Rather than simply updating this in their system (which seems like it would have been easy enough to do) I was instructed to formally cancel the order and make and entirely new order again. This seemed a bit excessive and not overly “service-y”.

That incident aside, I also appreciate that GORUCK has expanded their operation overseas, making it easier for those living outside of the U.S. to access and order their products. This cuts out some of worst middlemen (customs agents) from the delivery process.

Customer Service Score: 85

Who are Ballistic Trainers Really For?

A shoe created by a self-proclaimed rucking company…that isn’t designed soley for rucking?

Yeah…it gets confusing, but I’ll cover who these shoes are really for:

Anybody into “Functional Fitness”

If you do CrossFit, you should look into getting a pair of Ballistic Trainers. No questions asked, they should be on your list. Even if you might prefer a different training shoe, they’re always going to be in the discussion at this point.

“One Shoe” CrossFitters who Need Something to Ruck in

As you can imagine, I have quite a few different pairs of training shoes and own shoes for just about any specific activity I want to participate in. I know that a lot of other people are looking for more of an “all-around” shoe to wear for a number of activities.

Because of their lightweight nature and superior ability to absorb weight and load, the Ballistic Trainers “work” for athletes who do CrossFit and want to ruck on pavement or the treadmill. If these are two of your primary activities, they’re the shoes for you.

Not for Those Looking for “Pure” Rucking Shoe

Yes…blasphemy that I don’t think GORUCK’s flagship is that great for rucking.

However, ask yourself why, out of their limited shoe offerings, they have another shoe (the Mackall) that is designed and engineered specifically for rucking?

If you want to get out in the woods or need to ruck out in the mud, get those shoes, because the Ballistic Trainers aren’t made for all that.

How we Reviewed the Ballistic Trainers

The Ballistic Trainers are designed to excel in a number of different environments and contexts. With this in mind, it was important for me to collect data points to cover as many of these as possible.

I have been wearing these bad boys daily for the past 6 months, on pleasant-weather rucking days (as well as those where the elements showed up), during indoor and outdoor runs and rucks, during CrossFit metcon workouts/WODs as well as dedicated Olympic weightlifting sessions, and for casual, “everyday” wear.

I actually liked them so much, that I bought a second, backup pair during that timespan.

Tested surfaces have been concrete roads, dirt roads, paved and unpaved sidewalks, improved and unimproved forest trails, outdoor running tracks, indoor gym floors and treaded stationary running surfaces.

Tested conditions have included fair/sunny, rainy (light and moderately heavy), light snow accumulation, and indoor/controlled.

Ballistic Trainer Alternatives

It’s difficult to find another shoe that possess so many of the same qualities and provides as much overall utility as the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers. These are our top choices for alternatives that come (kinda) close.

Best alternative

Reebok – Nano 2.0

The best iteration of one of the most iconic lines of CrossFit training shoes. Reebok peaked early with these and they remain the most truly multi-functional shoe.

Pros

Truly multi-functional

The best offering from one of the best CrossFit shoe companies

Not expensive

Cons

No “subtle” color offerings

Some have cited durability concerns

Up & Coming Alternative

Born Primitive – Savage 1

A “new kid on the block” in terms training shoes, the Savage 1 possess a lot of the same qualities as the Ballistic Trainers with a superior price point.

Pros

Wide, comfortable toe box

Not bulky; lightweight and easy to move in

Even better customer reviews scores than Ballistic Trainers

Cons

Not enough data to know much about durability

Colors pretty much limited to white, black, and grey

Brand Alternative

GORUCK – Rough Runners

While not as ideal for functional trainers endeavors, GORUCK’s other training shoes are superior rucking and general training shoes.

Pros

More than capable running and rucking shoes

Serviceable for CrossFit training

Can be used as a general training shoe

Cons

Only dual compound outer sole

Every pair looks like a “dad” shoe

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve done a lot of dumb things in these shoes. Ask away before you consider doing the same!

I didn’t experience any significant problems, other than a slightly tight toe box (who are the people complaining of a wide toe box?), on my first wear. The shoes felt good from Day 1! Initial sessions included either full CrossFit sessions or “dynamic warm-ups” with light plyometrics prior to dedicated Olympic weightlifting sessions.

I should note that I prefer low “no show” socks with scant heel protection/covering. Regardless, I did not (and have not) experienced any blistering.

If you’ve been in the CrossFit space for any length of time, you’re aware of the constant problems athletes have with their shoes getting torn up from rope climbs. Long story short, there hasn’t really been a shoe manufacturer that has been able to figure out how to prevent this.

The Ballistic Trainers go hard in trying to prove that this isn’t a problem for them. I mean, this is one of the first things you see when you scroll down the webpage.

…”best abrasion resistance and long term durability — ideal for rope climbs.”

So far, my Ballistic Trainers have lived up to this statement. However, I can see them eventually starting to suffer from the abuse.

(thankfully, I insist on performing legless rope climbs…even when they’re not specifically programmed!)

The Ballistic Trainers are one of the more durable sneakers I’ve owned. They’re not the kind of shoe that you worry about when you have some type of outdoor WOD programmed or know that you’re going to take through more rugged terrain.

Keeping them clean is a different story.

I get that white shoes are white shoes, but even a relatively simple, 2-hour-long yard work session did a number on mine.

If you decide to make yours something other than gym shoes and wear them in slightly muddy conditions, you’ll likely end up Googling the same stuff I did (“how to clean white sneakers”).

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers…Among the Best Rucking Shoes?

Yeah…In my GORUCK Ballistic Trainer review, I talked about how good the shoes are for CrossFit, how well they hold up under heavy barbells, and even how they will (mainly) propel you through even the most mundane yard work outings.

…but at the end of the day, I bet you clicked because you’re looking for your next ruck shoe…possibly your next ruck/CrossFit- cross trainer.

If this is true, and you weren’t totally sold on the earlier section regarding the Ballistic Trainers’ rucking ability, you’ll be ecstatic to know that their are exactly 7 shoes on our list of the best rucking shoes.

And the Ballistic Trainers are on the list.

Considering that there seems to always be a marked down version of this shoe during GORUCK gear sales, you can’t really go wrong with it; worst case it becomes “only” your go-to CrossFit shoe.

If these shoes aren’t your thing (I get it…sorta) and you’re actually in the market for “pure” rucking shoes, check out GORUCK’s Mackalls. Your search will be over once you give those bad boys a try.

Summary

Overall Score

85

“Pure” Rucking

70

“Speed” Rucking

80

“Dynamic” Rucking

95

General Training

85

Construction & Materials

85

Price

85

Customer Reviews

96

Customer Service

85

How we test & score products

GORUCK – Ballistic Trainer

GORUCK…a brand that started off by selling us a bunch of heavy bags and telling us to go walk for…forever with them, has footwear, too.

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers aren’t the company’s most “ruck”-like shoe offering, although they can pinch hit if necessary.

Where the shoes shine is in their multi-functionality and ability to do everything pretty well. This is the likely reason why they have been named the Official Shoe of the Rogue Invitational alongside a number of other accolades.

If you’re a rucker who’s looking for your favorite rucking company to not let you down…my apologies. If you’re a CrossFitter any happen to enjoy rucking as well, this is your new favorite shoe.

Pros

A truly “do everything” shoe

8mm heel drop “sweet spot” for dynamic and even “pure” rucking

Eligible for GORUCK’s patented Scars Lifetime Guarantee

Cons

Not the best shoe for “pure” rucking

Not “great” at any one thing

You don’t want to run distances in these

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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