The Importance of Weightlifting Shoes

Posted on Posted in Olympic Weightlifting

If you have ever asked yourself, “Should I buy a pair of Weightlifting shoes?”, then this article is for you. Most of the time, the answer is 100% yes; especially if you perform any of the Olympic lifts, their derivatives, or squats of any kind on a fairly consistent basis. The most common reasons that we have heard as to why someone doesn’t want to wear Weightlifting shoes include:

  • “My met-cons/nanos/converse/toe shoes are good enough.” — Meh.
  • “But [insert Instagram celebrity here] snatched XYZ pounds in Nanos the other day.”Are you [insert IG celebrity here]?
  • “Weightlifting shoes are a crutch. They’re no replacement for mobility.”No one ever said that shoes are a replacement for mobility.
  • “I don’t want to become too dependent on Weightlifting shoes.”You’re already dependent on shoes. If not, then throw all your shoes away and walk around barefoot.

Here’s the rub — If you have any long-term interest in the sport of Weightlifting, buy a pair. Why? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!

Any sport requires specific equipment.
When we take part in any sport, there is usually an initial investment of equipment that goes along with that. Soccer: cleats, shin guards, high socks, sliders, etc. Tennis: tennis shoes, rackets, tennis balls, sweat bands, hats, skirts, etc. Cycling: bicycle, clip in shoe things, brightly colored spandex onesies with “sponsor” logos all over them, etc. Bowling: Bowling ball, bowling shoes, that wrist velcro thing that makes you awesome…Anyway, you get the point! But the one thing these all have in common is SHOES!

Obviously, you can’t wear soccer cleats to go bowling or cycling shoes shoes to play tennis because the equipment tends to be “sport-specific.” If you want to get in the game, get the right equipment!

It’s all about stability.
We’ve seen many people at least take the turn away from lifting in actual running shoes to lifting in “flatter” shoes such as Vibrams, Reebok Nanos (still a running shoe, though), or even Converse. While they may feel like they get the job done, these shoes are not actually supporting your feet through the entire lift. They might be “flat”, but the soles are still made of a rubber or foam type material that flexes and compresses under stress.

Weightlifting shoes have a sole/heel that is rigid and usually made of wood or some type of hard polymer that does not give under pressure which provides your base of support (your feet) a solid platform to push through. This prevents us from bleeding energy (that we are trying so desperately to produce) and provides a level of stability that a flexible running shoe simply can not. The elevated heel of weightlifting shoes also allows you to be stable and more upright in a deep squat position.

Most WL shoes are also made of leather and have straps designed to secure your foot firmly in place. Think about any movement that you will get out of the sole of a running shoe — that movement is wasted energy. Take a look at this short video from VS Athletics. They show the compressive forces in slow motion on a running shoe versus their version of a weightlifting shoe. Whether the form/technique in this video is good or not, the point is that the shoes serve a purpose.

It’s also all about position.
Weightlifting shoes have a solid elevated heel that serves a major purpose — it allows greater range of motion to occur at the ankle joint which, as a result, allows the lifter to achieve a more upright position of the torso which is crucial to the Olympic lifts. Ever tried to overhead squat with your chest pointed at the floor? Not gonna happen. That’s not to say that WL shoes are the magical mobility medicine and that you shouldn’t work on addressing your weaknesses, but Weightlifting shoes allow the knees to come forward past the toes and help the torso remain more vertical during a proper squat. Shoes are the single most important piece of equipment to a Weightlifter — that’s right, more important than a belt, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, KT tape or whatever other accessories you can think of.

Which Weightlifting shoes should I buy?
Any WL shoe is an improvement over any running/functional fitness shoe. I posted a detailed review a while back of all the different brands that I have owned which may be of some help, but there have been a lot more options that have hit the market since then.

But between the two major Nike and Adidas shoes, I have to say that the Nikes are the better Weightlifting shoe for many reasons (which I go into in my review above!).