9 Best Weightlifting Shoes (Buyer's Guide)

Author: Nicholas Rizzo. Updated: .

Also referred to as lifting shoes or squat shoes, weightlifting trainers come with a non-compressible platform to withstand the heaviest loads. Whether you are a professional Olympic weightlifter or an avid gym-goer, this footwear will keep you sure-footed.

Our approach to choosing the best lifting shoes

Every weightlifting shoe is assigned a CoreScore, which is a number from 0 to 100, indicating the actual wearers’ opinions about this model. It also reflects the stance of expert reviewers and athletes who test and assess every shoe from top to bottom.

Our ratings are updated on a regular basis, taking into account the freshest releases and reviews.

Why get a weightlifting shoe

Many gym-goers lift weights using whatever footwear is at their disposal, be it their regular running shoes, cross-trainers, and sometimes even casual sneakers.

These pairs could suffice for those who are still on the fence about the activity or those who train with very light weights. However, if you are lifting moderate to heavy loads on a regular basis, there are several solid reasons for considering special weightlifting footwear:

Reliable base

Weightlifting shoes sport a considerably wider platform compared to other training shoes. It provides a surefooted experience during lifts as it keeps the foot planted on the floor even when wobbling occurs.

Contributing to the stability is a stiff sole unit made of either TPU or highly compressed multi-layered EVA. Both materials are created to be dense, and non-compressible to offer an effective force transfer from the wearer’s foot directly to the ground.

At the bottom, the platform is reinforced by a slip-resistant rubber outsole which affords traction even when the gym floor gets wet from all the sweat and tears.

Elevated heel

Another distinctive feature of weightlifting shoes is their noticeably raised heel, which ranges from 0.6 inches (15 mm) to 1 inch (25 mm), depending on the model. This elevation aims to reduce the tension placed on the Achilles tendon during squats.

Not everybody can comfortably squat down with their heels remaining glued to the floor and without straining the Achilles tendons while doing so. This exercise gets even more complicated by the amount of weight added during the training session. The elevated heel allows the ankle to dorsiflex less which in turn helps the knee to achieve greater flexion avoiding injuries related to improper form.

To put it simply, weightlifting shoes help wearers to squat deeper and achieve a proper athletic form with ease.

Secure foothold

The upper unit of most lifters is typically made of leather, PU-coated leather, faux leather, or rugged woven fabric to create a snug fit. These sturdy materials do not allow the foot to slide inside the shoe.

In addition, these shoes employ a firm heel counter or a heel clip at the back to further stabilize the rearfoot area.

The midfoot section often features a combination of a lacing system and a metatarsal strap (or, sometimes, two straps) to ensure a lockdown fit. Such construction minimizes side-to-side movement of the foot and does not let it roll over the edge of the shoe.

Drawbacks to using a squat shoe

As shown in the previous section, a dedicated pair of lifters offers a host of benefits to those who deal with heavy-loaded bars. However, as evidenced in practice, there a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to use this type of trainers.

They function as a crutch for ankle mobility issues

As much as they are intended to help you achieve new personal records, weightlifting shoes cannot work wonders with the flexibility and strength of your ankle muscles and tendons. Their raised heel will help you squat down deeper without putting a strain on the Achilles tendon but only for as long as you wear these shoes. When you are not performing lifts, make sure to wear trainers with a thinner and more flexible sole to do exercises for ankle health and mobility.

You cannot perform other types of training in them

By just looking at weightlifting shoes, you can tell that they are not for running or cross-training. Popular training regimens, like CrossFit, involve a wide range of exercises including rope climbing, running, weightlifting, squatting, box jumping, to name a few. So, if you are in search of a more versatile training shoe and do not perform a lot of Olympic weightlifting, take a look at a pair of CrossFit shoes. These trainers have a low-profile sole which is made of a denser foam in the heel section to provide stability for lifting. At the same time, they are made flexible and cushioned at the forefoot to aid in plyometrics and short runs.

They may not work for deadlifts

The results of our recent study on weightlifting footwear showed that shoes with an elevated heel put the wearer in a disadvantageous position when it comes to deadlifts. Due to the mechanics involved, these trainers appear to increase the amount of movement required to perform the lift. That’s why athletes have been either resorting to flat-soled kicks like Chuck Taylor All Star or zero-drop minimalist shoes. Some people even go barefoot when they perform deadlifts in order to get the best underfoot proprioception. However, it is not recommended given all the anticipated risks of injury.

If none of these disadvantages have pulled you back from going with weightlifting shoes and you would like to experience all the perks of feeling supported during your lifts, read on for more information on choosing the right pair.

Finding the right weightlifting shoe for you

The primary parameter to consider in lifting shoes is the heel height. Most cross-training shoes have a minimal heel height to provide close-to-the-ground experience for weightlifting. It is a different story with weightlifting shoes. They have an unusually elevated heel to enhance the wearer’s ability to maintain proper lifting form throughout a squat. The high heel allows the wearer to have a full range of ankle mobility that promotes an improved knee flexion, resulting in a deeper squat.

Weightlifting shoes are available in several heel heights, ranging from 15 mm (0.6 inches) to 25 mm (1 inch). The standard one is considered to be 19 mm (0.75 inches).

The appropriate heel height varies from person to person. It is influenced by an array of factors such as one’s squat style as well as the leg and torso length measurements.

Leg length

The size of the leg plays a considerable role in your weightlifting performance, so it is of utmost importance to determine the length of your femur and shin and use that measurement as the basis for the heel height of your shoe. Long-legged individuals have difficulty going deep with their squats while maintaining an upright torso, so they need a 19-mm heel or higher to make it easier. At the same time, people with short legs can go with a lower platform height.

Torso length

The longer the person’s torso is, the harder it is to maintain a proper form during lifts. People with long bodies and legs are more likely to tilt forward during lifts. To prevent this from happening, they should wear a higher heeled shoe. Those with short torsos and legs have the best of luck as they can work with their choice of heel height.

Stance

Our squat style also determines the lifting shoe that most benefits us. Those who have narrow stances use their quadriceps more, so they’ll end up putting more effort on their knee and ankles. They are better off with a higher heeled shoe for optimal support. People with wide stances tend not to flex the knee and ankle too much because they can easily find equilibrium in their position or form. Lower-heeled shoes are agreeable for this group.

Style

The placement of the weightlifting bar on your back also influences what type of shoe you should wear. High-bar squats require an upright torso to prevent leaning forward. A raised heel platform is needed to maintain posture through the full range of squatting motion. With low-bar squats, a lower heel would do well because leaning forward is not part of the action.

The best weightlifting shoes in every category

Now, are you ready to buy weightlifting shoes?

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick is a powerlifter who believes cardio comes in the form of more heavy ass squats. Based on over 1.5 million lifts done at competitions, his PRs place him as an elite level powerlifter. 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 Forbes, Bodybuilding.com, Elite Daily and the like. Collaborating along the way with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.

nick@runrepeat.com