November 20, 2020

Crossfit Vs. HIIT: What Should You Wear?

Physical culture has come a long way in a short period of time. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that commercial gyms became mainstream, and exercise science is still a relatively new field.

For years, steady-state cardio and weightlifting were the only games in town in terms of losing weight, building muscle, and getting into peak physical condition.

Then, around the turn of the 21st century, CrossFit and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) came on the scene to turn the whole fitness world on its head. 

These were exciting, challenging workouts designed to get you in shape fast, even if it meant pushing yourself to the absolute limits. Their popularity exploded early on, and people worldwide still practice the techniques to this day.

If you have your heart set on joining a CrossFit gym or trying out HIIT for yourself, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when it comes to the workout clothes you wear.

These workouts aren’t for the faint of heart, and you need to make the right wardrobe decisions if you want to stay safe and get the best possible results.

Let’s compare the workout gear you need to tackle CrossFit vs. what’s required for a great HIIT session. Once you have your outfits lined up, you’ll be ready to take on the toughest challenges and transform your body into a powerhouse of strength and speed.

Start With The Shoes

Every athletic outfit starts with the right pair of shoes for the situation. Given the high-octane structure of CrossFit and HIIT, you’ll need to pick specific footwear to prevent injury and keep up with the pack. 

The key thing to note about CrossFit is that you never know what you’re going to be doing when you arrive at the gym. On any given day, you could be doing overhead presses, jump squats onto high platforms, handstand pushups, or any combination of the above.

Part of the appeal of CrossFit is that it always keeps you on your toes, meaning your footwear needs to be ready for anything as well. If you think you can stay on top of a CrossFit session with regular running shoes, think again. 

Running shoes are great for that specific activity but won’t give you the support or stability you need to get through a CrossFit workout. The last thing you want is a twisted ankle after your first set of burpees. 

You’ll want to track down shoes built specifically for crosstraining, with more support around the ankle and extra cushioning on the sole as you brace for impact on jumps, leaps, and lunges.

Do some research to see which cross-trainers match your experience level and style, and try them on before buying if possible. Some shoes are even branded with the CrossFit name, so you know they’re certified for these strenuous workouts. 

When it comes to HIIT workouts, the proper shoes will depend on the type of exercise you select. HIIT is more of a structure rather than a specific movement, and your footwear needs to match the activity of your choice.

If you’re doing sprints in a big, open field, soccer cleats may be your best bet. Running up and down stadium stairs might require some sturdy running shoes. Use smart judgment and don’t get stuck in a situation where you have the wrong shoes for the job. 

Shirts For Power Performance

Once you have a few pairs of shoes to swap out for various CrossFit and HIIT workouts, you’ll need some tops you can rely on to help get you through these intense sessions.

There won’t be much difference in the fit or the material of the shirts and tanks you choose to wear during CrossFit, compared to what you might need for HIIT. 

What matters most is that your tops are breathable, flexible, comfortable, and durable. 

Before buying anything, always scan the labels to see exactly what the clothes are made of. Look for quality athletic t-shirts that contain an optimized mix of polyester, Pima cotton, and spandex. This combination offers a lightweight material that breathes easily and has that essential “four-way” stretch that will help your cause. 

In terms of fit, your shirt should not have any excess material on the sleeves, around the shoulders, or at the bottom hem. A slim and flexible fit will minimize distraction and keep you focused on the task at hand, ensuring you deliver your best performance each time.

Don’t run the risk of wearing an over-long tank top or a baggy t-shirt when doing CrossFit, HIIT, or any serious training regimen, for that matter. You don’t want any fabric to get caught on equipment or slow you down in any way.

The one distinction to keep in mind is that HIIT workouts sometimes take place outdoors, as opposed to CrossFit classes, which tend to be in a gym or “box.”

If you are braving the elements to run sprints or do HIIT calisthenics out in the open, you may want to layer up with a warmer long-sleeve shirt for extra coverage and protection. These should fit close to the body as well, with no bagginess. 

When things heat up, you can always take it off and rock your undershirt or tank top.

It’s also a smart move to avoid wearing all-white shirts when hitting up a CrossFit or HIIT session. You’re going to be on the ground, rubbing up against equipment, and generally making a mess of yourself. Stick with darker clothes if possible to minimize the damage!

Shorts For Maximum Movement

With a few slim athletic shirts in your arsenal, it’s time to look at legwear. Whether you’re on team CrossFit or team HIIT, shorts are going to be your best bet since they offer the greatest range of motion and keep you cool when temps heat up.

If you like to take your time warming up, by all means, wear a comfy pair of fleece sweatpants to the gym before jumping into the fray. Just be sure to have some solid shorts underneath and ready to go, because those long pants are only going to hold you back.  

Like the tees and tanks we talked about earlier, the best CrossFit and HIIT shorts will be highly breathable, with tons of flexibility and four-way stretch. You’ll be squatting, lunging, sprinting, and pushing your legs to the limits, and your shorts shouldn’t get in the way.

As far as fit goes, less is more when it comes to these high-intensity workouts. Look for a pair of training shorts that fall a few inches above the knee and make it easy to perform any type of challenging movement. 

Men can also wear tighter compression gear like leggings underneath their shorts, but this isn’t necessary if you don’t feel comfortable with it. The best training shorts will come with a compression liner, so you get the benefits of increased blood flow and stability on the legs. 

Once again, there are no strict rules about what to wear for these workouts. Try a few different combinations and see what works best for you. At the end of the day, it’s about optimizing performance, staying safe, and having an awesome time working out. 

Accessories And Other Factors

You’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t take much to get started with a CrossFit or HIIT regimen. Just some well-selected athletic wear is pretty much the baseline, and some of the greatest athletes in the world don’t add much more to the mix. 

However, there are a few items that might come in handy if you need extra support or you happen to be exercising outdoors. 

Knee sleeves and wrist wraps are commonly seen on the CrossFit circuit and can help stabilize your joints during those tough movements like squats and overhead cleans. If you’ve struggled with injuries or aggravation in those areas in the past, that gear will be a huge help.

You may also want to rock a headband during a Crossfit or HIIT session to keep sweat and hair from dropping down to your eyes. In those critical moments when concentration is key, this could mean the difference between success and failure.

Finally, you may want to grab some chalk or grippy athletic gloves, depending on your experience level with weights. Some trainers may discourage it, but it’s ultimately your call. 


Getting into CrossFit or HIIT can be a life-changing decision, and thousands of people every year go all-out and never turn back. Are you up for the challenge?

To make the most of these programs, you’ll need mental fortitude, lots of discipline, and of course, the right workout gear to get the job done. Good luck!