Best Shoes For Rowing Machine: Our Editor’s Picks & FAQs

Indoor rowing is an excellent workout that has many benefits like increasing cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength by working out all of the major muscle groups. This would include the back, quads, hamstrings, shoulders, biceps, lats, traps, glutes, and abdominal muscles.

It is also great for the heart and lungs because it improves your lungs’ ability to deliver oxygen to the blood and the working muscle tissues by causing your heart to pump harder. This process over time increases cardiovascular performance because your body adapts to cope with the expected exertion.

When talking about indoor rowing besides having your rowing machine all set and ready, you will need to pay close attention to the type of shoes you wear in order to get the most out of your rowing workout.

best shoes for rowing machine

What Shoes Should You Wear For Rowing?

What you want is a shoe that gives you the most connected drive with each stroke. This is one case where a lot of cushioning will not help. Running shoes, for example, are a bad choice. A firm cross-training shoe might be a better choice. The solid rubber allows for a more connected drive.

Cross-training shoes are also sufficiently flexible enough for rowing. Flat, hard-soled shoes are not flexible enough for this. Sandals and Crocs are the worst choices. You are advised to work out barefooted rather than these selections.

Can You Row Without Shoes?

Barefoot rowing is a viable way to train yourself to stop moving your feet while rowing. Do keep in mind that if you row barefoot you will need to adjust the slide up a slot or two to make up for the thickness of your shoe as without a shoe on your foot will be placed a little lower.

Our Picks:

Here is a list of the five shoes that we believe will help you perform your workout on the rowing machine efficiently. Comparison shop to find out which one is best for you.

1. Reebok Crossfit Nano 8.0 Flexweave Sneaker

Reebok Men's CROSSFIT Nano 8.0 Flexweave Cross Trainer, Black/Alloy/Gum, 11 M US

The Reebok CrossFit Nano 7, is a model that redefines Reebok’s Nano line-up. Many users will enjoy the innovative construction of the separate bootie and nicely wide toe box. Many athletes may find that both of these features do much to enhance one’s performance rather than being just another cross-training shoe.

Features and Benefits:

  • The rubber sole is grippy and flexible.
  • The patented Flexweave dynamic upper is built with targeted support to help you however you choose to perform.
  • The innovative heel bootie build offers the ultimate in performance comfort.
  • The Toe Tection delivers durability to the toe area for highly intense workouts.
  • The forefoot flex grooves provide great flexibility.
  • The low-cut design adds extra mobility.

What We Like:

  • It has a wide toe box.
  • The overall construction is flexible.
  • The shoes are very stable.

What We Don’t:

  • Some people find it a little too flexible.

2. Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe

Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe

Vibram has built an innovative performance product with the inspirational Vibram Men’s KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe. It’s the next best thing to being barefoot with separate pockets for the toes. This mimics the natural contours of your foot.

Rather than making use of a bulky shoe design, this Vibram Fivefingers model lets you have all of the advantages of the natural technology of your own feet. If you like to work out barefoot but can’t, the Vibram Men’s KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe may be just the thing you are looking for.

Features and Benefits:

  • The rubber sole is grippy and flexible.
  • The lightly padded tongue is comfortable so that the shoe can be worn for a long time.
  • The speed lacing system aid in the shoe being fastened firmly but quickly.
  • The serrated blade lug design adds to the traction.
  • The technical compound Vibram XS TREK allows for excellent overall performance quality.
  • The individual toe slots enhance the shoes’ dexterity, control, and overall stability.

What We Like:

  • The shoes are breathable.
  • They are lightweight.
  • The construction is minimalist.
  • The outsole is very grippy.

What We Don’t:

  • It’s not for people with polydactylism or other foot deformities.
  • They are not very supportive.

3. Nike Men’s Metcon 5 Training Shoe

Nike Metcon 5 Training Shoe

The Nike Men’s Metcon 5 Training Shoe is one of Nike’s best models for cross-training so far. Though meant for cross-training, the Metcon 5 is stable enough for a variety of workouts including rowing. What’s more, the sandwich mesh has a durable feel and it could be a long time before the user experiences any signs of premature wear and tear. With all of that in mind, it seems easy to surmise that Nike’s Metcon 5 is a good investment that will stand for a fair amount of time.

Features and Benefits:

  • The six eyelets fine-tune both the comfort and support.
  • The heel counter is carved out for aesthetic purposes.
  • The rubber in the forefoot is sticky enough to provide excellent traction.
  • It is a low-profile shoe for stability and versatility.
  • Haptic technology provides durability in high wear areas.
  • The tri-star design offers traction in all directions.
  • Molded grooves on the forefoot make the shoe very flexible.
  • The Flywire material is flexible yet durable.

What We Like:

  • The shoe is overall very stable and firm.
  • The sticky rubber outsole improves traction.
  • It has Flywire construction.
  • The design is sleek and simple.

What We Don’t:

  • They may be a little too firm.

4. Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner

Merrell Glove 4 Trail Runner

The Merrell Men’s Glove 4 Trail Runner is a very good minimalist shoe that is extremely lightweight. As the name suggests, it fits your feet like a glove and provides amazing support. They were initially built for hiking natural trails but they are flexible enough to use for rowing.

You will find that the upper is fabricated out of an amalgamation of mesh and TPU in order to provide not only lightweight breathability but tough durability. It also has an appreciable amount of padding in the tongue and collar.

Features and Benefits:

  • The Vibram sole is both stable and supportive with good traction.
  • The mesh, TPU upper is not only breathable but vegan friendly.
  • The shoe has a zero drop making it so that your feet stay in the same position they would be in if you were not wearing any shoes at all.
  • The Vibram TC5 outsole and trail protect pad both provide necessary underfoot protection.
  • The insole comes with three-millimeter lugs for better stability.
  • The patented Mselect fresh lining keeps the shoes smelling fresh.

What We Like:

  • The shoes have a lightweight, minimalist style.
  • There are ample ventilation and comfort in the uppers.
  • The shoes are very durable.
  • The Vibram soles add to support and stability.

What We Don’t:

  • The fit of the shoes is tighter than normally expected.
  • They are maybe too grippy for some activities.

5. Adidas Adipower Weightlift Shoes

adidas Performance Adipower Weightlifting Trainer Shoe,Black/Light Scarlet/Tech Grey,16 M US

The Adidas Men’s Adipower Weightlift Shoes are designed for innovation in a new era. These weightlifting shoes have it all with a streamlined silhouette plus a breathable woven textile upper that features inner reinforcements for additional stability.

The shoes wrap around the foot in order to provide targeted support while allowing a natural flexing in the toes. The laces and a Velcro strapwork in harmony in order to lock down your midfoot as the raised heel offers extra stability.

Features and Benefits:

  • The synthetic sole is grippy and supportive.
  • The shaft measures approximately low-top from the arch to make the feet stay in an ideal position.
  • Originally built as weightlifting shoes, they are made for legendary support.
  • The lace closure with its hook-and-loop strap makes for a secure but comfortable fit.
  • The woven textile upper delivers great durability and breathability.
  • The rubber outsole is grippy and flexible.
  • The forefoot and heel are both reinforced for better stability.
  • The TPU wedge midsole is strong and durable to ensure a shoe that lasts a long time.
  • The forefoot is flexible so that it will bend naturally while rowing.
  • The rearfoot is padded in order to create a comfortable shoe.

What We Like:

  • The construction is top-notch.
  • The shoes can improve performance.
  • They are good for narrow feet.
  • The shoes are very comfortable.

What We Don’t:

  • There is little to no versatility.

Where Should Your Feet Be On A Rowing Machine?

You should definitely have the heels up as you start your row. This not only reduces vertical force but engages the quadriceps and leads to a longer stroke for more speed potential. Granted, for the beginner or casual rower, heels up position may not be the best. But if you want the full work out, heels up is preferred.

Importance Of Proper Foot Placement For Rowing

  • When you push down while rowing, it should not be predominately through the heel. Nor should it be predominately through the toes.
  • It should ideally be right through the mid-foot for optimal connection when using a machine.
  • When you push through the mid-foot this lets you have access to the whole of your body, including your legs, the most important parts.

How To Prevent Blisters From Rowing Machine?

If you have a loose grip, this can prevent blisters on the hand. Of course, wearing gloves can go a good ways away towards keeping more blisters from happening in the future. It can also prevent blisters that have already formed from opening up again and possibly getting infected. Creams and lotions will keep blisters from forming on the bottom.

Common Rowing Machine Injuries

Here are some common rowing machine injuries:

  • lower back pain – This is the most common of rowing injuries. The constant back and forth flexing that is called for while you row can cause injury to the lower back.
  • Upper back pain – This includes pain and tenderness in the muscles in the shoulder, neck, and upper back.
  • Knee pain – Any pain that is felt below the knee cap or pain when the knee joint is moved must be attended to.
  • Wrist tendonitis – Symptoms of wrist tendonitis include pain and swelling.
  • Blisters – Blisters can form on the hands and buttocks.
  • Rib stress fractures – Such injuries have a tendency only to happen to elite athletes who are in training nearly all of the time. The muscles constantly pull on the rib causing stress fractures.

How To Take Care Of Your Feet After Rowing?

You might want to use resistance bands to condition them. Start by fastening your resistance band to a secure point and put the other end around the top of your foot just beneath your toes.

While you are sitting down with your leg straight out in front of you, make some tension on the band through a little dorsiflexion. You can carry out reps such as this while bending and extending your foot. This can stretch out the aches and aid in the blood flow.


Using a rowing machine is beneficial as a total body conditioning exercise. It is a low impact activity that is also great for cardiovascular and aerobic conditioning. It provides a full range of motion and exercises the upper back, deltoids, pecs, biceps, triceps, lats, abs, obliques, glutes, hams, quads, and calves.

That’s a lot of muscles getting worked on! While your muscles are getting worked on, don’t forget about your feet. They have to be in flexible footwear that will allow them to move naturally as you row.

Barefoot rowing may be for the best, but if you can’t do that, go for something minimalist. Your feet will bend a lot so you will want a shoe that is not only flexible but durable so you can have it for a very long time.


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