How to Find the Best Weightlifting Shoes

There can be a lot off confusion about finding the best weightlifting shoes. Knowing how to find the right shoe for you is important if you want maximize your potential and stay safe.

Things to Avoid when looking for the Best Weightlifting Shoes.

  • Anything loose or too big. In the gym your shoe should be on the snugger side. Any movement that your foot has in the shoe could result in instability so less drive and injury. Weightlifting shoes should be bought to fit correctly, tied extremely tightly and possible have straps to ensure a compact fit.
  • Soft Soles.  A soft sole absorbs force, you need a shoe that will help you use all the force your body produces to help you move weight.
  • Spongy sides. Overly floppy sides cause a lack of stability when lifting weights. This give on either side of the shoe allows the foot to wiggle meaning power is not being efficiently driven downwards.
  • Restriction in ankle mobility. Any shoe that is too high will restrict ankle mobility. This is an issue because in the bottom of a squat you are going to need that mobility to flex your knee in front of your ankle.
  • Running Shoes. A classic beginners trap. And it makes sense in a way, ‘I have these shoes for running why can I not just use them for every other fitness related thing I do?’ But this is not the case. Running Shoes are the opposite of everything you should look for in a lifting shoe. They have extremely spongy soles and floppy sides. Great for absorbing the force of running but not so much for explosively lifting weights.

Olympic Weightlifting Shoes

 

What is unique about the Olympic Weightlifting Shoe is that is a elevated sole that is usually between an inch and a half and half an inch. Olympic lifters prize these shoes for the benefits that come with this sole. If you are looking for performance, these will be the the best weightlifting shoes for you.

PROS

  • Better Squat form and increased power.  The elevated sole allows for a deeper squat through increased ankle range of motion. Also grants a more upright torso at the bottom of a squat, this grants more upward power and less torque on the lower back..
  • Essential for the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. You might as well forget about doing these lifts competitively if you don’t have this type of shoe. As they help with lifting more weight on the snatch and clean and jerk by dramatically increasing stability.
  • Less of the force being generated by your legs is being absorbed by “floppy” shoes. The flat and hard sole of Olympic weightlifting shoes allow for more power to be generated. The stiff non-sole material provides greater stability and safety.
  • Activates more musculature. Means bigger lifts and bigger gains.

CONS

  • Can be expensive. For a decent pair of Olympic shoes you want to be paying upwards 0f £80. This is obviously not ideal if you are just a beginner or a casual lifter.
  • Increase range of motion on Dead-lifts. Means having to lift the weight farther.

For more info on what to look for when buying a set of Olympic Weight Lifting Shoes, check out this Infographic, and if your looking start adding the Snatch and Clean & Jerk you can look at this article.

Chuck Taylor’s

Best Weightlifting Shoes

Chuck Taylor’s have exploded with popularity among iron junkies in the past few years. Many claiming that a pair of Chuck’s are the best weightlifting shoes. This is due to their affordability and hard non-compressible sole. This makes them perfect if you are just starting out in the gym.

PROS

  • Cheap. Pricing is usually about £50. Can be bought for even less if you are willing to buy off brand, I wouldn’t recommend this as you are sacrificing durability.
  • Ideal for Dead-lifts. The Chuck’s flat heel means a smaller range of motion for dead lifts.
  • Solid choice for beginners. The attractive price and the high functionality of these shoes, compared to any other popular flat heeled trained, is why I would advise these shoes to anyone, but especially beginners.
  • Fine for everything else. While Olympic weightlifting shoes are optimal for the vast majority of lifts, these shoes are a reasonable second.
  • Thin and hard Sole. A thin sole means the weight needs to travel less distance on dead-lifts. A hard sole is great for maximizing power, allowing none of the drive power to be absorbed by the sole.

CONS

  • Will fall apart after ample use. The Chucks were originally designed as an athletic shoe for basketball players in 1917 in which the design has remained largely unchanged. While I can congratulate Chuck on creating such a versatile and relatively durable shoe for the time, this stitch design can mean the shoe can fall apart, especially compared to its modern Olympic counterparts.
  • Lack of ankle mobility in the high cut version. Ankle mobility is important for most lifts so if your going to buy Chuck’s buy the short cut version.

Bare Foot

The wild card of the bunch. These do not technically fall into the category of ‘Best Weightlifting Shoes,’ but lifting bare foot is becoming an increasingly popular option for many lifters.

PROS

  • Shoes contribute to foot and ankle dysfunction. Our feet were originally designed to transverse barefoot around the plains of Africa. If you keep your feet in a cramped space it may cause pain and instability down the line.
  • Improves muscle alignment. Improving foot and ankle function will do wonders for movement mechanics, particularly in the hips and lower torso. Going barefoot improves and strengthens the neuromuscular pathways of the whole body. These mold the muscle firing sequences from our feet to our brain and overtime actually affect the way we move.
  • Improves power. Wearing no shoes allows for 100% of the power to be driven down through the foot and into the ground.

CONS

  • You are not allowed to go bare foot in most gyms. Due to hygiene and safety reasons, like you could drop a weight on your bare foot.
  • Your body must be properly prepared first. If you have been wearing shoes for all of your life like the majority of the human race then your feet and ankles will be overly week and stiff. In order to get your feet back to a suitable standard check out this article.
  • Lack of traction. If you haven’t noticed before the bottom of your shoes have tracks on them, something your feet do not have. This leads to a lack of traction on the soles of your bare feet. In the beginning before you have mastered the technique, your likely hood of slipping on the dusty wood is increased. 
  • New technique is needed. When you first start lifting barefoot you will need to learn how to increase traction in your foundation. This means gripping the floor with your feet like a monkey.
  • Unhygienic. I don’t need to tell that if you come straight to the gym after a long warm day in the office, your feet are going to stink. Now amplify this smell to the amount of people that are typically in the gym after work. Also factor in the likely hood of some people having warts or athletes foot. Not the most hygienic I think you will agree. So if you are planning on doing this make your sure you wipe your feet before and after the gym.

Conclusion.

So which type are the best weightlifting shoes?

The correct answer is whatever works for you. If you are a beginner I would recommend the Chuck’s. These can work at any experience level really, there is a reason that you see elite bodybuilders wearing them. They are cheap and they work.

If you plan on doing any serious weightlifting competition then the Olympic shoes are essential for squeezing up those extra few kilograms.

Bare feet is not for everyone, but can be great if you have a home gym or a gym with a bare foot policy. Just make sure to do your research on technique before hand.

One final piece of advise. If your form is bad, it does not matter if you have the best weightlifting shoes in the world. Your shoes will not worth be a damn with out consistent effort and improvement.

“Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat.” – Louie Simmons