Weightlifting Shoe Reviews: VS Athletics, Pendlay, Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Inov-8

Posted on Posted in Olympic Weightlifting

I made this detailed review a couple of years ago and posted it on the CrossFit forums as a resource for people looking to get into a pair of weightlifting shoes. I figured that this would also be a good outlet to post this!

It seems that over the past few years, I’ve developed quite the collection of weightlifting shoes. Since we have such a wide spread of brands and price ranges, I wanted to do a write up of the pros and cons of each shoe that I’ve owned and lifted in. I know there are a lot of shoes out there now, but hopefully this will help make your shoe selection a little easier.

NOTE: These shoes were used in training that included only Olympic lifts and/or supplemental strength exercises (pulls, squats, presses, etc) 4-5x a week up to 2.5 hours per session. I wear a size US10 sneaker and my feet are slightly on the narrow side. Now, let the games begin.

VSlifterShoe #1: VS Athletics Weightlifting Shoe – $79.99 + shipping

Specs (from website):

  • Leather upper & sole plate w/hard rubber material on bottom of shoe
  • TWO “hook and loop” straps over laces for added support
  • Leather reinforced flat rubber sole

First impressions:
This was my first pair of weightlifting shoes. They were an enormous upgrade from my Adidas Sambas that I had been previously lifting in. The heels felt solid and there was a good amount of flexion of the rubber soles. The leather was rigid and hugged my foot quite well. The weight of the shoe felt light and the double strap allowed me to really secure my feet.

12 months:
The leather of the shoe has stretched at this point and without the double strap, there was a noticeable amount of foot movement. The forefoot of the soles have become very flexible, almost as much as my pair of New Balance running shoes. The heel remained solid and there were no other major wears on the shoe other than the rubber sole flexibility and the leather of the shoe body loosening up.

Affordable, great starter shoe, solid heel

Seem to wear fast, do not hold rigidity

pendlayShoe #2: 2010 Pendlay Do-Win – $119.99 + shipping

Specs (from website):

  • Heel height of ¾”
  • Heel constructed of solid cork encased in rubber
  • Single “Hook & Loop” strap

First impressions:
A slight upgrade from the VS, these shoes offer the “classic” look of a weightlifting shoe. It’s basically another shoe with a solid heel and a pretty flexible front sole. They’re great for narrow feet and seem to form to your foot and break in pretty quickly. In my opinion, they look a little cheap with the plastic glittery strap, but hey, some people might like that.

For women: I have been told by multiple women that the toe box of the shoe is very wide and uncomfortable (I have not heard this from men). Maybe that’s a result of producing a shoe that is basically unisex (unless you buy pink).

3 months:
Part of the sole has separated from the rest of the shoe. I had it glued and repaired.

8 months:
The sole has separated again and the sole of the other shoe is starting to separate as well. This seems to be a common problem with this shoe. Literally everyone I know with these shoes has experienced this either out of the box or within a few weeks and has returned them for another pair or bought a different shoe entirely. The heel has remained solid and it still secured the foot well within the shoe.

Still an affordable option

Shoe construction could be improved, questionable longevity, toe box is uncomfortable for women

561107-2Shoe #3: Adidas AdiStars – $199.99 + shipping

Specs (from website):

  • Developed for the Beijing Olympic Games
  • Adidas “ClimaCool” mesh
  • PU-coated Leather in midfoot and forefoot areas for a durable, form-fitting hold
  • Instep strap with “Hook & Loop” fasteners for adjustable support and pressure distribution
  • Wooden heel wedge for stability and durability
  • Midfoot strap for improved performance and support
  • “TORSION System” provides lightweight arch support while allowing the forefoot and rearfoot to move freely for surface adoption, and to stabilize the foot

First impressions:
Adidas really hit it out of the park with this shoe. The quality of these shoes are incredible and it is immediately noticeable when you open the box. They fit my feet perfectly. Between the high quality leather and the mid foot strap, it secures your foot in VERY well. The shoes are very, very light yet strong and sturdy. The “TORSION” system gives great support and the shoes breathe very well. I’m not sure of the exact heel height, but it is higher than the VS or Pendlays.

11 months:
They still feel the same as when I bought them. No noticeable difference in wear and tear.

Look great, exceptional quality, breathes well, very stable

Not so affordable, discontinued due to Adidas’ new 2012 AdiPower weightlifting shoe.

e237152a46e324d147367766c60142e5Shoe #4: Reebok OLY/CrossFit – $149.99 + free shipping

Specs (from website):

  • 13.4 oz
  • U-Form technology
  • Supposed to be versatile

First impressions:
These are my wife’s shoes. Though I don’t have any direct experience with lifting in them, I figured I’d give my 2 cents since they’re in the pic.

For Reebok being new to the lifting shoe game, I was pretty impressed with the quality of these shoes. They are definitely a level up from the VS and Pendlays. The shoe construction seems to be pretty solid. The heel is some kind of plastic/polymer material and looks to be very strong. The shoe material and stitching are excellent and they fit her feet very well.

U-Form technology means you bake them in the oven for 10 mins then put your foot in them and they’re supposed to mold to your feet. It felt slightly ridiculous to be putting a pair of shoes in the oven. They are very light and breathe quite well. She only bought them a few weeks ago, so they are still relatively new.

Pretty good quality design, stylish design, perfect for CrossFit/lifting WODs

Not sure how they would hold up to daily abuse.

new-white-blackShoe #5: Nike Romaleos 2 – $189.99

Specs (from website):

  • 25% lighter than original Romaleos
  • Substantially more forefoot flexibility
  • NIKE contoured TPU hell wedge
  • Double power “Hook & Ladder” straps
  • Includes “training” and “competition” inserts

First impressions:

UPDATED (9/15/15):

I originally published this review a few years ago and didn’t have the greatest experience with this shoe. I bought these because I love the way they look and I’ve always wanted a pair.

I bought another pair of these shoes after trying on a pair that belongs to one of my lifters. I wear a 10 in most shoes, so I originally ordered a US10 a few years ago. My current pair of Romaleos is a US9 and they fit perfectly. No complaints about size, though they are slightly heavier than any of the Adidas shoes.

They come with 2 soles: “Training” which is just a flat piece of foam, and “Competition” which is a stiffer material that contours to the bottom of your foot. I put them on using the competition inserts and my feet were locked in. The double straps fasten in opposite directions to really let you wrench your foot in place. The main difference between these and my AdiStars (other than the weight) is the entire sole of the shoe is in contact with the ground. This seems to offer an unmatched level of foot stability when coupled with the inserts and these shoes feel indestructible.

The actual surface area of the sole feels bigger. It is also more rigid and has zero noticeable flex to it. I have to say that after a few years of training in nothing but Adidas shoes, I’ve changed my tune 100%. This is hands down the best weightlifting shoe on the market (in my opinion).

Bad ass looking shoe, high quality design/construction, STABILITY, Made from real leather

Heavier than most other shoes

V24382-2Shoe #6: Adidas AdiPower – $199.99

Specs (from website):

  • Lightweight polymer Torsion Heel system provides maximum support and locks your heel into place
  • Neoprene on the underside of the tongue helps lock your foot into place
  • Lightweight upper maximizes flex in the forefoot
  • Heavy duty strap to lock your foot into place
  • New design with increased ventilation in the forefoot and sole provides maximum breathability for your feet

First impressions:
First off, I ordered the same size as my AdiStars (9.5US) and they were too small. They fit fine everywhere but my big toe. Walking around was literally painful and I knew they wouldn’t stretch/wear in enough to be comfortable. I returned them for a size 10US and they fit perfectly. I ordered the same pair for my wife as a Christmas present, and she went 1.5 sizes down and they fit fine. I want to say she wears a women’s 9US and ordered a men’s 7.5US.

I wasn’t crazy about the color at first and was going to try to wait it out to purchase a new pair of shoes and see what else came out, but my AdiStars finally ripped in the toe area, so they had to be replaced.

The shoes fit my feet perfectly. They are very rigid and stable. The “leather” material is very stiff out of the box, but once they break in after a few days, they feel like butter. When I say “break in” I don’t mean they loosened up — they’ve formed to my foot, but I don’t feel like they’ve become any more elastic or stretched like genuine leather would. I have heard people say that the forefoot is a little too flexible for their liking, but to me it is no different than any other pair of shoes we’ve owned (not including the Reeboks, they are obviously more flexible).

These shoes are very light and breathe very well. Adidas seems to have captured the light weight of the AdiStars and the structural rigidity of the Romaleos. Even with the same “Torsion System”, the shoe feels much more connected because of the one-piece sole. There is no give in the polymer heel and I don’t get swamp feet after a hard training session. I can see these shoes lasting for a very, very long time.

Another change is the location of the velcro strap. Other single-strapped shoes have the strap placed over the mid-food toward the bottom of the metatarsal bones which I’ve found to cause cramping in my feet. This strap is placed slightly higher and has eliminated this problem. I can really secure it in place and not have any issue with foot discomfort. It seems like Adidas has taken big steps to make sure they create the best shoe possible and I’d say they’ve pretty much nailed it. Now I can see why so many lifters are wearing these. I’d give them a 4.5/5 star only because of the single color option.

After long-term use (Added Oct 21, 2014):
I made this post after buying my first pair of AdiPowers in November of 2012. It is now basically November of 2014 and I am on my third pair of AdiPowers. After about 8 months of training in my first red pair, my right toe box blew out at my big toe and the side ripped near the ball of the same foot. I ordered a second red pair, and after 10 months of training in these, both shoes began to rip in the balls of the feet as well.

Now, I am currently lifting in a white pair and all is well so far — though it’s only been about a month. It seems to me that the new “leathery” material doesn’t hold up in the long run. The reason I keep going back to these is because they are the best shoe on the market in my opinion. However, I still have my pair of AdiStars (that I bought in 2010 and are made of genuine leather) that are still not torn and in decent condition. There’s something to be said for real leather and I hope that Adidas comes out with a leather option in 2016.

UPDATED (9/10/15):
Unfortunately, the “leather” material doesn’t seem to hold it’s structure after long term use (up to a year). The material started to feel spongy and it created a lot of lateral movement in the shoe body similar to that experienced in a running shoe. After three pairs of AdiPowers, I’ve switched to Nikes.

Light weight, strong, great support, higher foot strap, very high quality

Price, longevity (or lack thereof)

iv0010-lgShoe #7: Inov-8 FastLift – $149.99

Specs (from website):

  • VELCRO® brand strap lacing cover: Provides a secure fit and foot placement
  • Nylon ripstop upper with a no-seam, welded construction: Allows enhanced durability when rope climbing
  • External Heel Cage: Creates lateral stability and comfort
  • Power-Truss heel featuring cylindrical tubes: Forms an incredibly stable base for lifting with reduced weight
  • Natural Fit with a wider toe box: For toe splay during lifts
  • Meta-Flex groove in the forefoot: Provides a natural flex point in the shoe
  • Suction cup outsole with inverse checker pattern: Provides secure grip

First impressions:
Some Inov-8 reps came to our gym during the some of our CrossFit classes to let our members test out their shoes and such. Naturally, I wanted to try their “lifters” since I had never had the opportunity to try them on before. Unfortunately, as soon as I put the first shoe on, I knew these shoes were not made for Weightlifting. I could feel that there was a SIGNIFICANT gap from the top of my foot to the top of the toe box. This amount of dead space made the shoe feel anything but supportive before I even put any weight on my feet. Granted, it’s made primarily of some kind of mesh material (instead of leather) which makes the shoe very, very light. The back of the shoe does cup the heel like the product description says, but rather than cupping the front half of the foot as well, the front of the shoe is simply flat where the material meets the sole which makes for even less lateral (and medial) support for the foot. This was probably done to keep flexibility of the forefoot in case a workout calls for some kind of lift paired with running, box jumps, jump rope, or something else along those lines.

I did two power cleans, one clean, and one jerk in these shoes and it felt like I was lifting in a sneaker with a hard heel. I will say that it is at least a step up from squatting in Nike Frees. As it is described on Inov-8’s website, this is supposed to be an “easy-to-love workout shoe”. Workout shoe. Not Weightlifting shoe.

These shoes are light weight, breathe well, and are probably great for Crossfit workouts.

Almost zero lateral support from the material/strap of the shoe
Body of the shoe fits like a sock that is 5 sizes too large
Body of the shoe is too forgiving
Not made for Weightlifting