Weightlifting is a form of physical activity that involves hoisting a barbell at a certain height while maintaining a proper form. The goal of this activity is to develop the musculature and improve a person’s overall fitness. For most people, weight training is done wearing whatever footwear is at their disposal, be it their regular running shoes or gym footgear and sometimes even their casual sneakers. For the most part, these pairs would 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 weights on a regular basis, there are several solid reasons for considering special weightlifting footwear.
Reasons to buy weightlifting shoes
Each training activity imposes its own demands on the athletes and their training shoes. When it comes to lifting heavy weights, a shoe must be able to provide ample support and stability to keep the wearer safe and help them show their best results.
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 lateral movement of the foot and does not let it roll over the edge of the shoe.
Each weightlifting shoe sports 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.
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.
Durable and protective materials
Due to the tremendous force exerted during weightlifting, it is essential for a weightlifting shoe to be durable so that it won’t break down or compress in the middle of a workout. This type of footwear has a sturdier construction than a typical workout shoe. The purpose of this design is to meet the high demands associated with this activity. The upper is made to be stiff and snug as it works overtime to lock the foot down and prevent it from wobbling inside the foot chamber. The tough material also protects the foot against bumps and accidents in the weight room like when plates and bars are dropped which could inflict injuries. 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.
Drawbacks to using weightlifting shoes
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 men and women
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.
There are several heel heights available for weightlifting shoes, 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.
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.
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 not part of the action.
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 inside 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 toes or crossover toes, ingrown toenails, bunions, and corns.
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.
Nothing is constant when it comes to sizing. A size you have in weightlifting shoes from Adidas can differ from the one you get in Reebok or Inov-8 lifters. There are a few important things to consider when looking for a pair of weightlifting shoes.
Brands have different sizing standards from one another, so you can’t expect to have the same size across a spectrum of various shoe series.
The style of a shoe also affects the 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.
Teo feet are not always identical. One of them happens to be bigger than the other. You would have to base your shoe size on the bigger foot.
Frequently asked questions
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). These 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 short 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.
Are weightlifting shoes and squat shoes the same thing?
Yes. Searching on the internet, you might have come across the term ‘squat shoes’ which may have resulted in some confusion. Squat shoes is another term used by lifters to refer to weightlifting shoes. The word “squat” emphasizes the benefits of wearing a pair when it comes to squatting or doing lifts that involve bending at the knee and maintaining proper form. The heel gives people more ankle mobility so they can dip low without losing balance.
Where to buy weightlifting shoes?
Various brands, which include Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Inov-8, and Asics, offer weightlifting shoes to the public. Prices range from $140 to $200. Here at RunRepeat, we strive to give you the best deal for the pair of your desire. Online retailers mark prices down at no specific date or time, so instead of you scouring the internet for the best offers, we do that for you. By clicking or searching for a pair of trainers here on RunRepeat, you will be automatically presented with a list of retailers and their price offering. The cost of weightlifting shoes can be slashed by as much as $50.
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 and 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 newspaper also works. It prevents the upper from collapsing, thus maintaining its shape. A newspaper is also effective in soaking up moisture and odor. Although this is a useful trick, make sure to not overstuff weightlifting shoes as this could result in the deformation of the upper.
9 best weightlifting shoes
Adidas Power Perfect 3
Reebok Legacy Lifter
Adidas Powerlift 4
Adidas Adipower 2
Inov-8 Fastlift 335
Adidas Crazy Power RK
Reebok Lifter PR
Adidas Leistung 16 II
Inov-8 Fastlift 400 BOA
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.
This shoe has recently been added to RunRepeat. There are still not enough reviews for us to assign it a CoreScore.
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