If you’re looking for a shoe that’s perfect for cross-training, weightlifting, and general gym workouts, the Nike Varsity Compete TR2 Trainers stand out in the oversaturated shoe market for a variety of reasons. While they’re not the ideal substitute for running shoes, they do pretty much everything else pretty much just right.
Nike Varsity Compete TR 2 Review in Brief
Nike is undoubtedly one of the most well-respected, high-performing shoe brands out there, and their Varsity Compete TR 2 is a prime example of why. Made for agility, sprinting, and other training, the stability and traction they offer is almost unmatched by those listed at comparable prices.
2 midfoot straps keep your feet in place, though the thin upper and hard soles do make it feel a bit “bare” when you compare them to the cushy running shoes many of us are used to. The grippy rubber outsole will keep you solid on your feet, which is important during heavy lifting and agility drills. Overall, they’re a very versatile trainer that don’t pamper your feet as much as some other options.
Don’t expect these to be particularly comfortable straight out of the box, as they do require a bit of break-in time. Now, after about 4 months, they’re definitely broken in and conformed to the shape of my feet. This has made them considerably more comfortable. If you get over that initial discomfort, then it’s worth it. You’ll eventually learn how tight you like the laces, how far the tongue should be pulled up, if you want thicker or thinner socks to wear with them (generally, I go with good, thick crew socks), and so on.
Going back to the laces, they only have 3 crosses, so they don’t hug and tighten around the foot the same way running shoes would. This means less constriction, however, it also felt a little odd to me due to the fact that I’m used to that secure feeling that a good pair of runners or purpose-made weightlifting shoes provides.
While the upper is lightweight and unrestrictive, it’s also very thin which means that you feel those laces on top of your feet, especially if you do them up tight. As far as the soles go, they’re made of a more dense, hard rubber which doesn’t offer as much cushioning as most training shoes I’ve used in the past. Needless to say, when you combine all of these aspects, the shoes feel minimal.
I will mention, however, that I typically end my workouts with a quick run and have taken these on the pavement. I was pleased that I experienced zero discomfort and pain, though I wouldn’t purchase these with the intention of running in them regularly or for long distances.
For Nikes, these are really inexpensive at around $65 (depending where you buy). As such, I’ll admit that I really wasn’t expecting much from them. I’m happy to report that they’ve exceeded my expectations so far. Despite the upper being relatively thin / light , they’ve held up really well. Moreover, it’s evident that the laces are unusually well-made, with zero signs of wear or fraying. The sole is also nice and tough, made with a durable rubber that can take a beating. Despite daily use through a variety of training types, and having run over 100 miles on pavement in them, they still look like the day I bought them.
I chose the Black/Black colorway, which also doesn’t show dirt or dust easily, but there’s a range of other colors to choose from.
Performance (How Well Do They Work?)
I definitely rate the Varsity Compete TR 2s as cross-training shoes. Nike market these as “made for heavy lifting, agility drills, and explosive movements”. I don’t think I can agree with that statement in its entirety. They’re certainly exceptional when used for workouts that consist of some bodyweight exercises along with jumping and agility work. Even for lighter lifting, they’re serviceable. However, when I’m doing my heavy Powerlifts (squats, deadlifts, OHPs), they don’t make the cut.
While they do feature a more rigid sole similar to those found in lifting shoes, I still prefer my Do-Win Weightlifting Shoes for heavy lifts. Why? The uppers of the Compete Varsity TR 2s are simply too thin, and allow too much movement, which can risk your ankles rolling over. When performing heavy compound lifts like squats and deadlifts – those that require great stability in every joint – rolling an ankle is about the worst possible thing that could happen.
However, for lighter lifting, other training movements, and a bit of light running, the TR 2s are very solid performers.
They’re perfect for general cross-training, weightlifting, and calisthenics. I think they’re a great option if you’re looking for a shoe for bodyweight training, agility drills, light lifting, and light running due to their structure, performance, and price.
Overall, the Nike Varsity Compete TR2s are great for cross-training and non-specific gym workouts. However, don’t confuse them for a running shoe nor a weightlifting shoe, as they’re simply not good enough for either of these uses.
- Simple, lightweight design
- Comfortable after a short break-in time
- Good quality laces and sole
The Not So Good
- Thin upper provides little barrier
- Laces don’t secure the foot as well as I like