5 Best Weightlifting Shoes in 2024

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo on
5 Best Weightlifting Shoes in 2024
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Also known as lifters or squat shoes, weightlifting trainers stand out with their wide non-compressible platforms, raised heels, and sturdy uppers to keep you stable under the heaviest loads.

Whether you are a competitive athlete or a regular gym goer, these shoes are designed to keep you surefooted in every lifting scenario.

While they may all look similar at first glance, there are differences that make some of them better for beginners, advanced athletes, and certain types of exercise. We have tested every lifting shoe in our lab to help you find the best option.

How we test weightlifting shoes

We are on a mission to help you find the best footwear for your lifting sessions. Thus, we take the process of shoe testing very seriously. Here is our approach:

  • We acquire every lifting shoe with our own money. No sponsorships, no censorships.
  • We test each pair of lifters thoroughly doing multiple reps to obtain more observations.
  • In our shoe lab, we further check each shoe's platform dimensions, stiffness, and durability, among 30 other parameters. We go as far as cutting shoes in half for a fuller perspective.

Best weightlifting shoes overall

Nike Romaleos 4
92
Superb!

What makes it the best?

The Romaleos 4 was arguably the firmest that we’ve tried, so underfoot wobbliness easily became a thing of the past. This shoe has not one but two straps that kept our feet securely mounted on the footbed even as they splayed with the weight that we were lifting. Finally, this shoe’s elevation is as lifting-friendly as advertised. Given all these amazing benefits, we are left with no other choice but to consider the Nike Romaleos 4 as the best shoe for weightlifting.

After bringing it to the lab, we were able to confirm the underfoot firmness that we experienced. Compared to the average (75.0), this shoe has a really high HA durometer score of 97.0. That’s a staggering 29% more hardness! And this platform surely kept us quite stable even as our cleans and jerks become a little more aggressive.

We also enjoyed the two-strap design so much, especially that these straps face the opposite directions. Wearing this shoe just felt like our feet were being bear hugged, making them stay firmly still. 

The Nike Romaleos 4 was advertised to have a drop of 19.05 mm. We were glad when the caliper showed that the marketing spiel is more or less accurate. The actual drop is 20.5 mm, which was a big help in maintaining a good upright posture during lifts.

We are just not happy with the fact that the upper material is not the most durable. We subjected the toebox to 12 seconds of drilling during our Dremel test, resulting in an unfortunate hole.

Pros

  • Phenomenal stability
  • Sturdy platform and sole
  • Better lockdown with two straps
  • Comfortable for a lifting shoe
  • True to size
  • Efficient traction
  • Appealing looks

Cons

  • Upper lacks durability
  • Not for narrow ankles
  • Not breathable
Full review of Nike Romaleos 4

Best weightlifting shoes for beginners

Nike Savaleos
86
Great!

What makes it the best?

We are happy that the Savaleos from Nike is more than just a lifter. Aside from the usual outstanding containment that we reasonably expect from lifting shoes, this Nike trainer also brings in an unusual but very much welcome lightness and breathability, making it the best trainer for beginers in our arsenal.

Upon wearing this lifter, we were already impressed by how stiff the heel counter and base felt. There was no chance that our feet would ever fall off the footbed. When we did our manual assessments in the lab, we got confirmation. Our twists, squeezes, and bends were no match for both the heel counter and the base, and the shoe got a 5 out of 5 for both counter stiffness and torsional rigidity. 

Weighing only 14.82 ounces or 420 grams, this trainer is indeed a lot lighter than the average which weighs 18.73 ounces or 531 grams. Because of the shoe’s lightness, we were able to easily perform exercises like box jumps and jumping ropes.

The upper also delivered a pleasant surprise. We felt a bit airy while wearing the Savaleos, and given that it is still a lifting shoe, this airiness was indeed a big deal. After going through our breathability test, this shoe got a 3 out of 5, making it better at expelling heat and letting in air than the average shoe, which got only a 2.

It’s just sad that the durability of the upper might not be able to keep up with us. Twelve seconds of Dremel drilling in the lab already resulted in considerable damage.

Pros

  • Superb stability for moderate lifting
  • Good for non-lifting exercises
  • Very lightweight for a lifter
  • Secure lockdown
  • Flexible forefoot
  • Excellent grip
  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Not for heavy weightlifting
  • Not for wide feet
  • Upper lacks durability
Full review of Nike Savaleos

Best weightlifting shoes for advanced athletes

What makes it the best?

If you are an advanced lifter, then we are 100% sure that you are going to love the Reebok Legacy Lifter III. This shoe is the best that we can offer to anyone who is already on top of their weightlifting game. Besides its immense durability, we are in awe of the amount of stability that it was able to deliver. We also loved how the shoe’s perfectly elevated heel helped with our form during squats and lifts.

In the lab, we subjected the toebox to our merciless Dremel. But the drilling came out to be just a joke for it! The ‘merciless assault’ (or so we thought) barely left a mark on the toebox! Hence, the perfect that we gave this shoe for toebox durability was pretty much well-deserved.

In terms of stability, we think that nothing can beat the Reebok Legacy Lifter 3 at this point. Both the shoe overall structure and heel counter were immensely resistant to our manual twisting and squeezing. Both parts got a perfect 5 from us for their amazing rigidity.

Based on caliper measurements, the heel stack is higher than average (28.3 mm) at 33.0 mm. We were so in love with this because it helped us maintain a good posture when lifting and squatting. The elevated heel helped with ankle mobility as well.

If there is one thing that we want to change, it would be the airiness of this shoe. We have to admit, this one was quite a toasty one. It only got a 2 out of 5 in our breathability tests.

Pros

  • Mind-blowing stability
  • Incompressible platform
  • High heel helps with posture for squats
  • Highly supportive upper
  • Top-notch durability
  • The Pump feature is fun and improves the fit

Cons

  • Unreasonable price hike
  • Short Velcro attachment
Full review of Reebok Legacy Lifter III

Best weightlifting shoes for deadlifts

Adidas The Total
90
Superb!

What makes it the best?

In our lifting sessions, Adidas The Total stands out as a reliable choice, ensuring safe and efficient lifts. Through rigorous lab tests, we found that its zero-raised heel and exceptional ground feedback make it particularly well-suited for deadlifts compared to other weightlifting shoes we've tried. With its spacious toebox and grippy outsole, we felt stable and coordinated while executing the "king of lifts" with proper form.

The low, firm, and leveled stack of The Total contributes to effortless and smooth deadlifts, enhancing sensitivity to the surface. Our measurements reveal a below-average 12.5 mm stack height with zero heel drop, accompanied by a 44.4% firmer-than-average durometer reading. We gained more control to nail the technique and activate the right muscle groups to perform deadlifts efficiently. With a strap that holds our foot firmly, we remained planted to the ground for better balance.

The shoe's vast platform facilitates natural toe splay and offers reliable traction across various surfaces, further enhancing stability. The toebox measures wider than average, especially in the 86.5 mm big toe area, and tapers subtly. These elements aid in lifting with the correct form, avoiding slips that may cause back injuries. 

However, ventilation is lacking, as indicated by our breathability tests, which yielded a low 2/5 score.

Pros

  • Ideal for deadlifting
  • Great traction
  • A lot of ground feel
  • Plenty of toebox space
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Fairly priced
  • Streamlined look

Cons

  • Not so much breathability
  • Not for heavy squats
Full review of Adidas The Total

Best value weightlifting shoes

Adidas Powerlift 5
91
Superb!

What makes it the best?

The Adidas Powerlift 5 offered so much for its price, and it was still cheaper than the $147 average for weightlifting shoes at $120 a pair! It felt so light, quite supportive at the heel, and offered one of the thickest outsoles ever.

Compared to the average (18.7 oz or 531g), the Adidas Powerlift 5 is 3.7 oz or 105g lighter. This is a huge deal, especially for novice lifters who are just getting used to wearing specialized shoes like this one.

The heel counter is truly dependable. We felt its secure clutch the moment we put it on. After giving it a good squeeze in the lab, we had no other choice but to give it a perfect 5 for its amazing stiffness.

Using a caliper, we learned that the outsole is actually 5.0 mm thick, making it one of the thickest weightlifting outsoles we’ve ever seen (average is only 3.9 mm). Given that the outsole is generally as durable as others, its thickness is a guarantee for it to last longer simply because there is a lot more material to ‘burn.’ 

It’s just too regrettable that the toebox isn’t as spacious. At its widest part, the caliper measured it to be only 95.2 mm when the average is 98.9 mm, or a difference of 3.7 mm! That’s huge!

Pros

  • Stable base for moderate lifting
  • Good for accessory exercises
  • Solid bite on gym floors
  • Secure foothold
  • Supportive Velcro strap
  • Reasonably priced
  • Contains sustainable materials

Cons

  • Lacks breathability
  • Upper is not very durable
  • Tongue shifts
Full review of Adidas Powerlift 5

Why get a weightlifting shoe

Many gym-goers lift weights using whatever footwear is at their disposal, even regular running shoes and casual sneakers. Although these types of shoes could suffice for dumbbells and kettlebells, wearing them for a loaded barbell can be dangerous!

Reebok Legacy Lifter III review

There are several solid reasons for considering specialized weightlifting shoes.

Proper squat posture

  • The elevated heel (from 15 to 21 mm) helps the wearer squat deeper in an upright position without stressing the ankle or the Achilles tendon.

We measure the forefoot and stack heights in the same spots for consistency. That way, we know each shoe's precise heel elevation (aka drop) to the millimeter.

Reebok Legacy Lifter III Heel stack

  Average drop Range of drop
Weightlifting shoes 18.4 mm 15 - 21 mm
Cross-training shoes 5.9 mm 3 - 12 mm

Stable platform

  • The highly rigid construction doesn't let the wearer's feet or ankles twist sideways.
  • The hard, non-compressible platform prevents energy loss when pushing the weight up.

To assess each shoe's stability level we measure parameters like:

  • torsional rigidity (by twisting the shoe sideways)
  • platform firmness (by pressing an HA durometer against the half-cut midsole/platform)

Based on our extensive lab data, weightlifting shoes are 150%(!) firmer than cross-training shoes!

  Average platform firmness Average torsional rigidity
Weightlifting shoes 69.1 HA* 4 out of 5**
Cross-training shoes 27.5 HA 3 out of 5

*higher HA measurement means firmer; **5 is the stiffest possible

Secure foothold

  • Extra-sturdy upper materials keep the foot firmly in place.
  • Wide Velcro straps or BOA dials are added to adjust the fit and hold it at all times.
  • A firm heel counter at the back stabilizes the rearfoot area.

In our lab, we rate the heel counter stiffness of each shoe on a 1-5 scale (5 being the stiffest). On average, weightlifting shoes get a score of 5, whereas regular cross-trainers average only 3.

If these benefits are not convincing enough, see our extensive science-backed guide to lifting shoes. Here we elaborate on the pros and cons of lifting barefoot, in a running shoe, and even in a flat shoe like Converse Chucks.

Lifting shoes vs. cross-training shoes

But what if you are not aiming for the professional tournaments? You just want to incorporate some lifting into your regular gym session. In this case, a pair of cross-trainers or CrossFit shoes may indeed be a better option.

Here is the quick answer:

If squats, cleans, and jerks are the primary focus of your gym routine and you want maximum stability from your shoes, choose lifters.

If you want to be more versatile, do all-around workouts, and don’t want to change footwear amid a training session, go for the cross-trainers.

But let’s consider the pros and cons of each type in more detail:

Lifter

lifter.png

Cross-trainer

cross-trainer.png

Very high heel-to-toe drop: 15 - 21 mm

Moderate heel-to-toe drop: 5-8 mm

Pros:

  • promotes proper posture for all squats
  • also perfect for snatches, cleans, jerks
  • great for bench press

Cons:

  • can be used for weightlifting only
  • masks problems with ankle flexibility

Pros:

  • can be used for all gym exercises
  • helps to improve ankle mobility
  • recommended for deadlifts

Cons:

  • may not be enough for heavy Olympic weightlifting
  • not good for poor ankle mobility

weightlifting-shoes-vs-cross-training-shoes-drop-main.jpg

Lifter: Non-compressible sole

Cross-trainer: Moderately compressible sole

Pros:

  • no wobbling occurs
  • no power is lost as you go up from the squat

Cons:

  • has no cushioning for any other activity

Pros:

  • provides cushioning and impact protection for cardio and high-impact exercises

Cons:

  • not as stable when lifting heavy
  • the squish absorbs part of the energy you exert when squatting and lifting

Reebok Legacy Lifter III Midsole softness

Based on our durometer measurements, lifting shoes are on average 150% firmer than cross-trainers.

Even the firmest trainers have a bit of squish where lifters don't.

Lifter: Very rigid construction

Cross-trainer: More flexible construction

Pros:

  • uppers made of leather with extra straps provide a very firm foothold

Cons:

  • little to no flex makes it uncomfortable to even walk in the shoe
  • little-to-no breathability

Pros:

  • synthetic/mesh upper flexes in the forefoot to accommodate burpees, planks, jumps, etc.
  • offers more breathability

Cons:

  • flexibility compromises stability when lifting

We measure how much force it takes to bend each shoe to a 90-degree angle. Our lab data shows that lifting shoes are 35% stiffer than cross-trainers.

How to choose the right weightlifting shoe for you

The primary parameter to consider in lifting shoes is the heel-to-toe drop or the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot.

In lifters, the drop ranges from 15 mm (0.6 in) to 21 mm (0.8 in).

Lifting shoes for beginners

Because the higher heel takes some adjustment, there is a tendency for beginners to select the lower height (15-16 mm).

Hybrid shoes like the Nike Savaleos are great for beginner athletes as they come with lower heels and a more flexible forefoot to accommodate exercises other than lifting (P.S. not good for cardio though).

Lifting shoes for seasoned athletes

If you squat and lift over 350 lbs regularly, you will benefit from a lifter with the highest heel elevation (20-22 mm). 

nike-romaleos-4-lifting.JPG

Deadlifting shoes

In rare cases, you will see lifting shoes with a 0 mm drop and a very thin sole. These shoes are optimized for deadlifting.

Advanced athletes prefer this setup when the weight is in front of them (as in deadlifting) as it provides the most optimal body position as opposed to elevated heels which are better for squats or when the weight is overhead.

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo
Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.