GORUCK’s Ultra Tough Ballistic Trainers Fully Reviewed

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers are a light, versatile, and super-rugged cross-training shoe designed for serious all-condition use. From rucking 50lbs through 15 miles in driving rain to just hitting the gym or running to your boarding gate, the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers will take you just about anywhere and do it very comfortably.

These shoes have been on WellRigged.com’s list of the world’s most durable sneakers for several years now and were later named the official shoe of the Rogue Invitational– a grueling elite CrossFit competition.

We figured it was about time to do a proper hands-on review of these beasts.

In the world of fitness there are a gazillion physical training regimes. Many of them recommend a special style of footwear. The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers are cross-trainers designed to be ultra-durable and versatile athletic shoes.

The CrossFit crowd calls it “functional fitness” where athletes are required to swim, run, climb, lift, ruck, bike, etc. Ironman competitions also come to mind.

In essence, the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers were made to perform regardless of what fitness activity is thrown at them.

Price

GORUCK’s Ballistic Trainers cost $125(at the time of this review)

I think it’s a perfectly reasonable price given how durable and functional these fitness shoes are. FYI: Sometimes you can grab a pair at a good discount in GORUCK’s clearance section.

Pros

  • Wide toe-box
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Comfortable
  • Tough
  • Jack-of-all-trades

Cons

  • Not made in USA
  • Not the best for long runs

Specs

  • Upper materials: Engineered Knit, 1680D CORDURA®
  • Midsole: Gradient Density™ EVA
  • Outsole: Triple Compound Rubber
  • Insole: Two pairs of custom high density – choice of two thicknesses
  • Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm
  • Weight: 10.8 ounces -size 9
  • Lace-Lock eyelets
  • Made in Vietnam

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed when putting on the Ballistic Trainers was how lightweight they were. These things are only about a half pound and the breathable fabric accentuates that sense of airy lightness.

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers fit true-to-size across GORUCK’s lineup. For example, I wear a size 11 in the MACV-1 boots and the size 11 Ballistic Trainers fit perfectly.

I like the minimalist look of these trainers. GORUCK uses a “3X arches” insole which conforms to all the different curves your foot has.

At first, it didn’t feel like my foot fit well, but by the end of the day my foot had compressed into the insole making the shoe fit better. GORUCK includes a second thinner pair of insoles too accommodate feet of all sizes. I tried these too but I definitely preferred the thicker ones which offer more underfoot cushioning and comfort.

The Black/Charcoal Ballistics came with an extra pair of black laces in case you wanted to change it up a little. As you can see, I kept my charcoal laces in.

The free sticker is nice!

Style

There’s nothing super flashy about the Ballistic Trainers and I like that. Understated yet tough designs appeal to me.

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers are available in either low-top or a mid-top styles and variety of color schemes. However, if you see color-combination you particularly like it’s a good idea to snag them since many color schemes are limited runs- like these snazzy green + gum ones.

An extra pair of laces ship with the shoes which is a nice additional touch. I find GORUCK is like that: they go the extra mile that other brands don’t.

Running

My knees aren’t the best these days, but I have no issues running in these shoes. While they aren’t purpose-built runners, the Ballistic Trainers are very light, agile, and adequately cushioned for medium-distance runs.

Trainer shoes are designed to be jacks-of-all trades. The ballistic trainers do a darn good job of hitting the sweet spots across multiple disciplines including moderate running. I even felt a bit of a spring as each foot left the ground.

Of course, you’ll want the added cushioning of quality runners if you are a regular long-distance runner. Typically, running shoes have a heel-to-toe drop of 12mm, GORUCK’s trainers have 8mm drop which is decently close.

This heel-to-toe drop reduces strain on the achilles tendon.

Lateral agility is one advantage of trainers compared to runners. One day, while running on a particularly wet surface, I was forced to make an abrupt sharp turn. My Ballistic Trainers gripped right into the corner without any slippage. I’m not at all confident that my running shoe would have.

Lifting

If you’re going to do any sort of heavy lifting such as a squats or deadlifts then the Ballistic Trainers will give you the stability and grip you need to hit those lifts.

I used to put two 5lbs plates under my heels when squatting to help me that extra heel-to-toe drop that my trainers lacked. I don’t have to do that anymore.

The 8mm heel-to-toe drop of my GORUCK ballistic trainers put an end to that.

I also find that the flat bottoms of the shoe offers broad support and the confident stability you need when doing heavy lifts. Good weight-lifting shoes cost as much as $300 just to do a few movements- not worth it in my opinion.

Really, the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers give you everything you need for squats, deadlift, clean, jerk, and snatch.

Rucking

I’ve taken some decent treks with these trainers and weight on my back. My feet felt great for the entire time.

As the name well suggests, GORUCK is known for, rucking. The brand itself runs 100’s of rucking events every year with a huge following of die-hard fans.

GORUCK is best known for their ultra-durable rucks. Yet they understand that a comfortable ruck on you back is only half the equation. You need proper, footwear to keep your feet happy while handling the tough conditions throughout the duration of the ruck . That’s why they went out and designed their Ballistic trainers and Mac V1’s boot.

I’ve gone on some lengthy rucks in my life and by the end of it my feet would be totally destroyed and blistered. It sucks and the pain lasts for days afterwards.

I find the Ballistic Trainers stay snug to my foot, with no sliding or rubbing. With the lace-locking eyelets make it easy to snug the shoe up evenly without pinching. It may seem minor, but these small details make a big difference on long, heavy rucks.

Daily Wear

I’ve worn my Ballistic Trainers almost every day since I got them. I’m actually not inclined to use my sneakers anymore.

For me, it really comes down to a solid combination of comfort and versatility.

I own the Black/Charcoal which goes with almost any outfit- trips to the gym, jeans, shorts & T-shirt, sports…anything (other than formal of course.)

I think the Ballistic trainers are great for travel too…particularly air travel. They are light, comfy, and very quick-drying just in case you get caught in a downpour on your next tropical vacation.

  • If I’m running to work, I wear my Ballistic Trainers.
  • If I’m going for a ruck with my GR1 and 20 pound plate, I wear my Ballistic Trainers.
  • If I go to the gym and to do cardio, deadlifts or squats, I wear my Ballistic Trainers.

So, Yes. I do like my Ballistic trainers…a lot.

Overall Performance

As a brand, GORUCK overengineers their gear to take a beating and last a lifetime. As an owner of many GORUCK products, I can attest to this.

I don’t worry about my Ballistic Trainers and I don’t baby them either. I know they’ll outlast most sneakers out there.

Sure! It’s good practice to take care of your belongings, but you should be worried about getting them a little dirty or wet here and there. They were made for it.

GORUCK made the Ballistic Trainers for the real world not just the artificial life of a gym floor.

Having a fitness facility might not always be an option. Having a solid athletic shoe that can endure the harsh conditions, while still delivering support and agility, I think, is a solid investment.

Materials

Upper

The upper of the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers is constructed from a very tough engineered knit 1680D CORDURA® . If you didn’t know, 1650D Cordura is among the toughest ballistic nylon fabrics available. The most durable backpacks on earth are made of this stuff too.

In the world of CrossFit, rope climbs are a big part of the sport. The Ballistic trainers were designed to stand to this type of abrasive rubbing.

Many fitness shoes nowadays are lightweight but they forfeit durability by using thin materials and weak seams that don’t last under heavy duty usage.

The 1680D CORDURA upper is also very breathable and quick drying.

Triple Compound Rubber Outsole

The outsole of the Ballistic Trainers are impressive. It is constructed from 3 different rubber compounds.

The forefoot has a more aggressive grip, while the midfoot is made of rock climbing compound so it doesn’t get worn out from activities like frequent rope climbs. The heel is made of a dense rubber so it doesn’t break down and compress after countless miles of rucks and runs.

All of these compounds together make a sturdy and very supportive shoe regardless of the workout.

Lace-lock/ Heel Lock Eyelets

For a more secure fit, The GORUCK Ballistic trainers have an extra pair of lace-lock eyelets just behind the last lace eyelet. Lace-lock(AKA “heel locks”) are sometimes found on runners to. The idea is to cinch the heal pad in more snuggly to prevent chaffing or slippage.

Having the shoe a little snugger to your foot, during a long runs or heavy rucks can save you some blisters.

It’s personal preference really. I don’t personally utilize the lace-lock because my foot is snug enough. I find the laces too short for me to use them anyway…which I think is a silly oversight by GORUCK.

For more on how to use a lace lock you can check out this GearPatrol article

Warranty & Customer Service

Besides having some of the toughest gear on earth, GORUCK also has one of the best non-nonsense lifetime warranties out there- no receipt is needed.

Normally GORUCK will fix or replace their stuff even if it gets completely worn out or broken (even blown up), but since footwear is expected to get wear out over time, the Ballistic Trainers will only be replaced due to defects. 

Speaking from experience, I find GORUCK’s customer service exceptional:

A few years ago my wife ordered a pair of MACV-1 Rucking Boots but they accidentally sent the wrong size. When we contacted them, they immediately shipped the correct size via international courier before they even received the pair we sent back to them.

Conclusion

The GORUCK Ballistic Trainers make an ideal shoe for different styles of training, as well as for those who are just looking for a training shoe that will actually last. Running, rucking, lifting, climbing, whatever you can think of, the Ballistic Trainers are up to the challenge.

Another great guest post by my good friend the Tactical Gear Guy. For all-things-tactical along with excellent practical guides check out TacticalGearGuy.com

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Don Longworth

Don was born and raised in sub-saharan Africa. Now based in Canada, his extensive experience in non-profit work has served him well over multiple deployments in Africa. Don's experiences have made him a practical "to-the-point" type person. He is a no-frills, low-key guy who appreciates quality and simplicity.

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