11 best weightlifting shoes

Based on reviews from 82 experts and 3,446 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to weightlifting shoes. Updated Nov 2018.

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best weightlifting shoes

Best weightlifting shoes - November 2018

Weightlifting shoes are specialized for weightlifting, a form of physical activity that involves lifting barbells with the aim of developing the body’s fitness and musculature. The purpose of such a shoe is to improve performance and provide support during intense weightlifting activities such as squats, snatches, pulls, cleans, and jerks.

Since many fitness enthusiasts still wear regular workout shoes (and even running shoes) for lifting weights, they are missing out on a lot of benefits by not transitioning to specialized weightlifting footwear. Regular athletic shoes have more flexible uppers and springy soles that won’t contribute to a stable lifting base, increasing the risk of discomfort or injury.

Difference between weightlifting shoes and other training shoes

Weightlifting shoes have a different construction compared with other training footwear because they support a different set of moves and exercises. Whereas workout and CrossFit shoes are focused on versatility and support, weightlifting shoes hone in on steadiness, ankle mobility, and support.

A shoe for weightlifting has a more rigid and snug upper with a strap across it to lock the foot down and prevent it from moving around during lifting. While your shoe should have room for natural toe splaying, it should not be too loose. The rigidity of the upper potentially heightens durability.

It has a solid heel that’s made out of either wood, TPU plastic, or stacked leather. This design aims to deliver a safe, sturdy and efficient lifting foundation. It ensures that the foot is planted firmly on the ground without the risk of wobbling under the pressure of a lifting bar with the weights attached to each end of it.

This footwear also typically has an elevated heel that ranges from 15 mm to 25 mm. The heel is elevated not for appearance, but for function. Its height makes way for better mobility to help maintain and improve proper lifting posture.

Things to consider in your future shoes for weightlifting

Heel height

Most cross-training shoes have a minimal heel height to provide close-to-the-ground support 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. They do it by allowing the wearer to have a full range of ankle mobility that promotes an improved knee flexion that results in a deeper squat.

There are several heel heights available for weightlifting shoes, ranging from 15 to 25 mm. The standard heel height is 19 mm.

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.

  • 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 of 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.
  • The same goes for 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 part of the action.

Durability

Due to the tremendous force exerted during weightlifting, it is essential for your weightlifting shoe to be durable so that it won’t break down or compress in the middle of a workout.

Weightlifting shoes have a sturdier construction than most training footwear. The purpose of this design is to meet the heavy demands associated with such an activity. The upper is stiffer and snugger as it works overtime to lock the foot down and prevent it from wobbling inside the foot chamber. The heel is reinforced with hard plastic, leather, or wood so as not to compress or get crushed by the weight of the body and the heavy load of the barbell. It is for this reason that weightlifting shoes are usually expensive.

  • When shopping for a weightlifting shoe, you should look out for these key features that guarantee its durability: a stiff and incompressible heel (wood is the most durable material), a secure lacing system, and a well-constructed upper.
  • Despite the durable build and hefty price tag of weightlifting shoes, it is still vital that you take care of them like you would any of your apparel by keeping them dry and ventilated. Since they are specially made for weightlifting, use it strictly for their intended purpose. They are not for everyday high-intensity workouts, so don’t force them to be something they’re not. Don’t wear them outside of the gym environment. It is too bulky and stiff for prolonged use and long walks.

Fit

When it comes to the fit of weightlifting shoes, a snug yet secure wrap is a plus. It is supposed to have an agreeable fit to lock down your foot and prevent it from shifting in the foot chamber. Therefore, a well-fitting shoe should be tight, but not too tight to cause discomfort.

  • Over time, leather uppers stretch, so it is advisable to get a weightlifting shoe that adheres to your standard measurements regarding both size and width.
  • Wearing too loose shoes can put you at risk of accidental shoe removals or heel slippage during heavy squatting, potentially leading to accidents or injuries.
  • On the flip side, too tight shoes can cause various painful toe conditions such as hammer or crossover toes, ingrown toenails, bunions, and corns.

Secure lockdown

Aside from the presence of a traditional lacing system, some weightlifting shoes also come with a strap or two that serve as additional security and support.

  • The standard weightlifting shoes have one strap that goes across the midfoot—particularly the instep. It constricts the upper unit to keep your foot secure and free from potential wobbling or sliding inside the shoe.
  • If another strap is present, then it means that more tension would be given to the ball of the foot, securing it further. This design is handy for professional weightlifters.

Sizing

Nothing is constant when it comes to sizing. There are a few important things to consider when looking for a pair of weightlifting shoes.

  • Brands also have different sizing standards from one another, so you can’t expect to have the same size across a spectrum of shoe series.
  • The style of a shoe also affects sizing. So if it is made to have a narrower or snugger fit, you may have to go up a size than you usually do.
  • No pair of feet is identical. One of them is bound to be bigger than the other. You would have to base your shoe size on the bigger foot.

 

If you are still in doubt about whether you actually need a pair of weightlifting shoes, check out our in-depth science-backed guide to lifting shoes. You will learn more about the pros and cons of using different kinds of shoes for squats and will be able to make a more informed decision on the right footwear for you.

Popular weightlifting shoes

Reebok Legacy Lifter

The Legacy Lifter has managed to master the optimal heel-to-toe ratio to achieve effective squatting technique with its 22-mm heel height. It has an anatomical construction for a secure and foot-conforming fit. An instep Velcro strap helps in achieving the optimum tightness for the foot.

Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting Shoes

Powerful and light, these renowned lifters from Adidas are designed to be lightweight yet supportive enough to cope with the most difficult weightlifting programs. Their chassis is engineered to have structured strength for weightlifting, while the instep strap locks down the foot securely.

Nike Romaleos 3

The Romaleos 3 by Nike ensures steadiness and security during weightlifting sessions. It has an upper that is made of synthetic leather and mesh for unrelenting support and breathability. A Honeycomb TPU plate aims to deliver a lightweight yet firm platform. The shoe comes with two insoles, a soft one and a dense one, which can be interchanged to suit one's fitness needs.

Frequently asked questions about weightlifting shoes

Why should I buy a pair of weightlifting shoes?

Weightlifting shoes are an expensive investment, but they’re worth considering if you are getting serious about Olympic weightlifting. When performing cleans, jerks, and snatches, it is crucial that your feet are planted firmly on the ground. This is the reason why many athletes prefer to lift in flat shoes like Converse All Star, minimalist training shoes, or even in their socks! However, weightlifting shoes are still better than other footwear as they have sturdy wooden or TPU platforms to provide a more stable lifting platform. Their durable rubber outsole also ensures a secure grip on various types of surfaces. 

In addition, not everybody can comfortably squat down with their heels remaining glued to the floor, without straining the Achilles tendons while doing so. This exercise gets even more complicated by the amount of weight added during the training session. That’s why weightlifting shoes come with an elevated heel height. This construction allows wearers to squat deeper and achieve a proper athletic form with ease.

Instead of wearing proper weightlifting shoes, some people place weight plates underneath the heels to simulate the elevated height. Though this may seem like a cost-effective workaround, it would be a disaster waiting to happen as these plates don’t provide the stability that one requires during weightlifting. One false move and the heels could easily slip off the plate in the midst of lifting the barbell, which can result in serious harm or injuries.

What kind of weightlifting shoes do I need for CrossFit?

If you want to dabble in both weight training and high-intensity workouts but do not want to purchase two separate shoes, you could try using hybrid weightlifting shoes. Some examples include the Inov-8 Fastlift 325, the Inov-8 Fastlift 370 BOA, and the Nike Romaleos 3. These shoes feature the same raised and reinforced heel that weightlifting shoes have for sturdy weightlifting support, while having a pliable upper and forefoot for increased flexibility. These hybrid weightlifting shoes are also designed to be more lightweight compared to traditional weightlifting shoes.

Why are weightlifting shoes so expensive?

As they aim to provide a wealth of benefits for athletes, weightlifting shoes utilize the materials of higher quality. These include leather, wood, and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The shoes also have a more reinforced structure due to the use of durable chassis.

For some, the price is a huge factor that will influence their choice of weightlifting shoes. If this is the case for you, then avoid going for the cheapest pair as they typically do not last long and you might need to buy another one to replace them after a while.

If you are just establishing your foray into weightlifting and you are not that committed yet, you would be better off with a mid-priced pair of weightlifting shoes so that it wouldn’t be a waste of money if your interest wanes.

How do I take care of my weightlifting shoes?

By restricting usage of weightlifting shoes within the gym, upkeep will not be as troublesome as it would be if you were to use it outside. However, the upper unit of a traditional weightlifting shoe is typically made of leather, which requires proper care. Since leather has a tendency to contract or expand due to the changes in temperature, you should use a shoe tree to prevent weightlifting shoes from losing their form. Shoe trees are devices that are placed inside the shoe’s foot chamber when not in use. They mimic the foot shape, so that the upper retains its shape and doesn’t develop creases. Shoe trees also wick moisture from the inside to prevent it from damaging the shoe’s interiors and accumulating odor-causing bacteria.

If shoe trees are not at hand, stuffing weightlifting shoes with newspapers also works. It prevents the upper from collapsing, thus maintaining its shape. Newspaper is also effective in soaking up moisture and odor. Although this is an effective trick, take care to not overly stuff weightlifting shoes as this could result in the deformation of the upper.

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