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The Best

Weightlifting Shoes – Best Picks for Olympic and Powerlifting

One of the most crucial decisions weightlifters make is the type of shoes they choose for their lifting. You need weightlifting shoes (also known as lifters) to maintain correct form in Olympic lifting. Having proper footwear also helps with other heavy lifting workouts. The rise of heavier weight training in activities such as CrossFit, the growth of powerlifting as a sport, and increases in the number of options available creates some confusion about what weightlifting shoes you need.

Lifter with weightlifting shoes preparing to perform Olympic lifts with heavy weights.

Our Choices for the Best Weightlifting Shoes

Amongst the members of the ShoeGuide team that lift, we split into people doing Olympic weightlifting (i.e., the snatch and the clean and jerk) and those doing lifts as part of a broader CrossFit-style workout. The consensus is that “weightlifting shoes” should refer to the raised heel shoes used specifically for the sport of Olympic weightlifting. However, in reality, many people looking for shoes for their heavy lifting workouts and weight training will search for weightlifting shoes and end up here.

Olympic lifters are for Olympic weightlifting. These all have a raised heel, usually 0.75 to 1-inch, and rigid incompressible soles for support and stability. This shoe design is invaluable for snatches, overhead squats, and other lifts that require your feet stay solidly on the ground. They are not for running, jumping, or quick lateral movements. You should do what works for you, but we generally do not recommend Olympic-style shoes for deadlifting, having a preference for a flat sole. We also included a recommendation (the Metcon 6) for people doing gym work with a heavy lifting focus. They provide more versatility than weightlifting shoes, but if you’re serious about competitive lifting they are not a substitute for proper lifters. If you want straight CrossFit recommendations, please check our page on the best shoes for CrossFit, where you’ll get shoes that work for running, jumping, burpees, etc.

This was a difficult process. There are many different features crucial to those looking to improve their weightlifting and powerlifting game. It was difficult to stick with a top list. We also didn’t include shoes that aren’t readily available. This included things like the Adistar and the Romaleos 2 that were discontinued years ago and the Asics 727 Tiger that is impossible to find unless you fly to Japan.

Here are the Best Weightlifting Shoes you can buy:

Update for July 7, 2021: Nike just released the Metcon 7 to their website. We haven't gotten our hands on a pair yet (expected to arrive on July 29). From what we can tell the differences between the 6 and 7 aren't big. If you're going that direction you can go with the latest model or get some solid discounts on the 6 until they run out. This model transition time is usually the only time Nike discounts the Metcons, for what it's worth. We'll get a full review of the 7 up in August once we've gotten them and had a chance to test them out.

A quick note: some of these shoes are available in women's sizing, some are not.  If you add ~1.5 to the men's size, you'll get the equivalent women's size (so a men's 8 is a women's 9.5). However, this varies a bit by brand, so check the brand's size chart.  Also, we have a whole article on the best women's weightlifting shoes that covers women-specific lifters in more detail.

Read on for more choices, detailed reviews, photos, and all about the testing we put these through.

Why Do We Even Need Weightlifting Shoes?

Shoes for lifting weights are built with the sole purpose of enhancing lifter mobility, increasing overall stability, and providing feedback when moving heavy objects. They are the single most important piece of equipment for Olympic weightlifting. They come with extensive features specific to the weightlifting and powerlifting world. These features provide an array of benefits to the lifter, and in the end result in increased performance when in the gym.

They also have incompressible soles, reducing your risk of injury and improving everyone's safety. You should not use shoes with foam, air, or other cushioning to lift weights. When lifting heavy weights overhead a compressible sole causes instability. The material can compress on one side more than the other. This puts your foot at an angle to the floor and translates to your entire body. This is unsafe and a recipe for injury. Even if you decide you do not need weightlifting shoes, make sure to wear something with a solid flat sole that won't lead to instability.

Olympic weight lifter wearing adidas adistar shoes preparing for clean and jerk.

How We Tested the Shoes

Testing the best weightlifting shoes turned out to be a difficult task. With other shoe related testing we have done here at ShoeGuide, we’ve had to deal with factors that were beyond our control. These ranged from the climate to the environment to the days the shoes were being tested and more.

However, with these weightlifting shoes, we had the opportunity to test all of the top tier shoes out with the same exercises, in the same environment, in controlled gym conditions. This provides us with the chance to compare the shoes to one another without extenuating circumstances.

So, we didn’t want to overdo it with the weight training and lifting when testing these shoes out. As such, we didn’t hop in our car and head down to a powerlifting gym, do a 5×5 Madcows routine at the highest possible weight, and then wait a week to recover before testing the next pair.

For each pair of shoes, on each testing day, we performed the following exercises as part of our official “test”:

  • Overhead squat
  • Deadlift
  • Snatch
  • Power clean

All of our contributors on this also used these shoes during the normal workouts throughout the testing phase. This included plenty of weightlifting and powerlifting workouts, but wasn’t a standardized “test” set of exercises.

We feel good that the four exercises in our test plus the other use of the shoes gave us some good real world experience with all the choices. We also used several of these models in our own workouts before and after, so we have literally years of experience with Romaleos and Legacy Lifters (though some of those years were on earlier models, RIP Rom 2).

The Best Weightlifting Shoes - Detailed Reviews

​1. Nike Romaleos 4

Nike Romaleos 4 in black colorway. A top choice for the best weightlifting shoes.

​Available for Men and Women at

The Nike Romaleos are some of the most well-known shoes in the world of weightlifting. They are used by many Olympic lifters in both training and competition. Believe it or not, the Romaleos line was the subject of some controversy a few years back. China lost their Nike sponsorship, but decided to continue using the Romaleos, but with the Nike logo taped up. When Olympic teams are willing to violate trademark laws to use the same shoes, you know Nike is doing something right.

The Nike Romaleos 4 are the latest version of one of the most popular weightlifting shoes on the planet. They have earned their reputation as one of the strongest shoes for lifting. They are well ahead of their competitors in many aspects.

Typically for lifters, leather will beat out synthetic uppers for comfort, durability and style. However, the Romaleos are an exception to this. Utilizing some of the most technologically advanced synthetic upper material on the market, Nike created one of the most breathable yet form-fitting lifting shoes available today. Their synthetic material is surprisingly durable, and goes toe-to-toe with the top leather shoes in our research for comfort.

These shoes are known to “fit like a glove.” This, combined with impressive sole grip, especially for lifting shoes, and strong heel support, leads to shoes that cannot be matched when it comes to serious, advanced weightlifting. Much like the adidas Adipower Weightlifting II reviewed next, these shoes have extremely dense rubber on the bottom.

How They Performed in Our Testing

  • Overhead squat. The Nike Romaleos excel at this type of move. They provide unmatched support, have a rock solid sole, and translate any lateral movement into downward force that goes into the floor. Exactly what you want.
  • Deadlift. For the most part, we do not prefer Olympic lifters for deadlifts. They leave us too far forward and we usually prefer something without a raised heel. However, if you do like a raised heel, this performed well. They are very tight fitting, so you don’t get any lateral movement or sliding in the toe box like you can find with some options.
  • Snatch. Again, this is where good weightlifting shoes make all the difference. For us, the tightness of the Rom 4’s was a major benefit, keep us secure.
  • Power clean. This is another spot where the tightness of the Rom 4 can cut both ways. You want an absolutely secure fit for this type of movement. However, since your feet do move, the straps or sides of the shoe can dig into your foot if they are too tight. For us, getting the strapping tightness correct required a bit of trial-and-error, but still an excellent fit overall.

Pros of the Nike Romaleos 4

  • The tough and breathable synthetic uppers ensure these have a tight, yet comfortable fit.
  • Unlike many competitors, these Nike shoes look good, and there’s an evolving selection of colorways released throughout the year.
  • These are some of the most impressive weightlifting-only shoes in the market right now.

Cons of the Nike Romaleos 4

  • The “fit like a glove” thing has its downside. Weightlifting shoes should fit tight, but some people find the Rom 4 overdoes it. If you’re losing circulation to your feet, that’s no good. They worked for us, but if you have wide feet these may not work. (Luckily, Nike has a 60-day return policy, so you can always send them back.)
  • These are top-tier for quality, but also top-tier for price. Nike always excludes them from all of their sales, so the price is the price.

​2. AdiPower Weightlifting II

adidas Adipower Weightlifting II Shoe with limited Tokyo Olympics colors.

Pi​cture of the limited edition AdiPower Weightlifting II Tokyo colorway in honor of this summer's Olympics. They were still available when we wrote this in July 2021, but we don't know how long these will stay in stock after the Olympics end. We think they look good, but YMMV.

​Available for Men and Women at

The adidas brand gets multiple spots in our list of top choices, and why not. They helped create the weightlifting shoe movement in the 70s, and released some legendary models, such as the Adistar, along the way. They’ve tried to simplify their lineup in recent years and as of this writing (July 2021) they only offer two models: the Adipower Weightlifting II and the Powerlift (below).

With the Adipower II, adidas gave an upgrade to one of the top-selling lifting shoes ever made. They feature a full textile upper made with environmentally-conscious materials that provides great breathability compared to leather or synthetic alternatives. This helps to keep your feet cool and dry while working out. They also have a tight, sock-like fit to keep your feet feeling stable throughout your lifts. Also, they feature the usual single hook-and-loop strap closure over laces which we slightly prefer to the double-strap models, and massively prefer to BOA closures.

Further, these feature a TPU midsole which won’t compress. During our use we felt they were completely solid underfoot and allowed direct transfer of force into the ground. Once you’ve used good shoes with a solid sole design, even slight compression becomes noticeable. As we expect from adidas, they did not suffer from this at all.

Pros of the adidas Adipower Weightlifting II

  • Breathable textile upper makes for impressively comfortable, cool shoes.
  • adidas makes these with extremely high-quality standards, and you should expect them to last at least several years.
  • Durable, stiff, and supportive heel makes these a solid choice for Olympic lifting and powerlifting.

Cons of the adidas Adipower Weightlifting II

  • The styling is hit or miss for us. We really like the Tokyo colorway adidas rolled out for the Olympics and features on a bunch of their models, including these and the UltraBoost 21. We don’t know how long they’ll keep them available after the summer though.
  • Cost. As usual with weightlifting shoes, they don’t come cheap and always get excluded from specials and promotions. If you sign up for the adidas’ Creators Club you might get a discount, but no guarantees.
  • As with all adidas shoes, they are on the narrow side.

​3. Reebok Legacy Lifter II

New colorway for the Reebok Legacy Lifter II.

These funky-looking weightlifting shoes were some of the most impressive that we tested in our research process to find the best weightlifting shoes. When first unboxing, you’ll notice that these are some very strangely-designed shoes. They aren’t made like many lifting shoes you’ll likely see on the market in that the heel cup is smoother and more integrated into the profile of the shoe. However, this change in design works incredibly well to the advantage of the Reebok Legacy Lifter.

The Reebok Legacy Lifter comes with a unique heel design, which makes them perfect for both powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Powerlifters (like those who squat or deadlift competitively) often struggle finding shoes that were manufactured with their needs in mind. This is the best of both worlds for both powerlifters and Olympic-style lifters.

If your main reason for purchasing a pair of weightlifting shoes is for their powerlifting abilities, you aren’t going to find a shoe that can do it better than this Reebok option. Powerlifting requires very strong and durable shoes, and that’s exactly what you’re getting. While they won’t work well in other areas of your workout, the quality is outstanding for lifting as much as you can possibly lift.

How they performed in our testing

  • Overhead squat. These might be the best shoes we tested for squats. With a well-elevated heel, we were able to get our knees further forward while still keeping our feet flat against the shoe. This allows the force to go straight to the ground more easily.
  • Deadlift. These have the same downside as most shoes with a raised heel for deadlifts. Our feet wanted to slide forward and bunch up in the toe. This is why we have a personal preference for a completely flat sole for deadlifts.
  • Snatch. The Reebok Legacy Lifter 2 performed well when going through sets of snatches. We expected this, as they are designed to perform this type of motion. Nothing can compete with an elevated heel design for this.
  • Power clean. Despite Reebok’s reputation for slightly larger and wider shoes, we found these tight. During the power cleans we actually had to stop and loosen the strap that was digging into our forefoot. Finding a weightlifting shoe for wide feet is always a challenge. You want them tight, but it’s a fine line between tight and too tight.

Pros of the Reebok Legacy Lifter 2

  • These shoes are a wonderful combination of flexibility and stability. You aren’t going to feel like you’re walking in metal shoes, however you also aren’t going to feel flimsy.
  • With an outsole of high-abrasion rubber coating, these shoes are going to look new and stay strong for as long as you can take care of them.
  • Lateral support prevents you from sinking too low while helping remove some of the pressure from your back, which is a very important thing to consider with heavy lifts.
  • Toe straps are reinforced for the best possible hold, which is very important for things like squats and deadlifts.

Cons of the Reebok Legacy Lifter 2

  • These shoes were the heaviest of those we tested. Weightlifting shoes meant for extreme lifts are going to be heavier by design, however with this being said we wouldn’t recommend wearing them outside the gym.
  • The Reebok Legacy Lifter was not designed for activities apart from lifting. Don’t even think about taking these on a jog. You’ll have an extremely bad time.

​4. Inov-8 FastLift 360

Inov-8 FastLift 360 mens olympic lifting shoe profile of red and blue model.

These are some of the most technologically-advanced shoes on our list. Inov-8 is the perfect brand for those looking for weightlifting shoes that provide extensive support for flat feet or plantar fasciitis. With impressive stability and a highly flexible forefoot, they can transition straight from weightlifting to other types of movement that makes them a little more comfortable around the gym. They are still primarily a weightlifting shoe though.

Inov-8 gained recognition in their short time in the shoe market for making shoes of very high quality. The FastLift 360 is no exception to this credo. Inov-8 built these with strong attention to detail at every step. Their rubber toe bumper allows for enhanced grip when performing functional movements, and adds to the overall durability of the shoe.

Additionally, the flexible forefoot (which is not a feature we found often in our research of weightlifting shoes) allowed for a better range of motion with limited loss of stability. Inov-8 used to produce these with a BOA closure system. Thankfully, they scrapped that in favor of laces and a single strap hook-and-loop design. Sometimes everyone uses a particular system because it’s the best and innovation for the sake of innovation isn’t helpful.

How they performed in our testing

  • Overhead squat. These were solid in the squat. We experienced minor slipping due to the “newness” of the sole, but that was an outlier in an otherwise problem-free squat experience.
  • Deadlift. In the deadlifts the shoe stayed snug and our feet didn’t shift forward when moving the dumbbells up and down.
  • Snatch. In the snatch, we were surprised with how impressive the comfort level was. Even though we were performing these exercises on wood floors, it felt like we were on foam mats. These shoes felt like they needed zero break-in.
  • Power clean. Again, these performed well in the power clean. Where with another shoe we had to stop and readjust the strap, the softness of the upper here kept the fit tight, yet comfortable.

Pros of the Inov-8 FastLift 360

  • We chose these as the best weightlifting shoe for wide feet or flat feet. Most options in this type of shoe are narrow because you should have a tight fit. Inov-8 looks back to something more similar to the Romaleos 2 in terms of fit, and gives some needed relief to those with wide feet. Inov-8 rates them a 4 (on a scale of 1-to-5) in terms of how wide they fit. That seems about right to us: they aren’t like a 4E shoe or anything, but they are wider than adidas or Nike.
  • A flexible forefront toe area allows lifters to use the shoe for both lifting and other types of cross-training activities, making them more versatile than the average.
  • Their power truss and heel cage technologies built right into the heel ensure superior lifting stability and lateral support, along with a secure, solid base.

Cons of the Inov-8 FastLift 360

  • These were some of the most expensive weightlifting shoes on our list.
  • Availability is inconsistent. We’ve linked to where we could find them as of this writing, but they seem to appear and disappear from various outlets (even Inov-8’s own website) at random. Zappos stocked them consistently for a while, but no longer.
  • The heel-to-toe drop, one of the most crucial weightlifting shoe metrics, was far less steep than in alternative lifting shoes.

​5. NoBull Lifter

NoBull lifter is a black canvas and leather lifter with a solid wood heel.

​Available for Men and Women at

NoBull is known for one thing and one thing only: high quality workout shoes focused on lifting weights and looking good doing so. These have been likened to the Chuck Taylor All Stars of the lifting world, in that they provide extensive stability and support for lifting, but do so with stronger comfort and style than standard options.

These training and lifting shoes combine the breathability and seamlessness of their “Super Fabric” uppers with solid wood soles, making stability and solidness under foot a priority. These shoes feature a 0.75-inch raised heel made from solid wood providing a completely incompressible base. This makes them ideal for squats. However, with wooden soles comes the downside of weight, inflexibility, and variation from one purchase to the next. We always want to like wood weightlifting shoes, but to be honest TPU feels better to us. However, this is purely a personal preference and many people like the feel of wood underfoot. So, go with the material you like.

Additionally, these shoes are some of the most stylish that we researched and reviewed. There are multiple color options available. These aesthetic features, combined with general comfort levels, make this a wonderful all-around shoes for weightlifters. We have to admit the solid wood sole has a certain aesthetic that advanced plastics can’t quite match.

Pros of the NoBull Lifter

  • These shoes come in a variety of color and style options.
  • Solid wood elevated heel and sole, ideal for those who prefer wood to plastic in their lifters.
  • Flexibility and comfort levels are far and above what is expected from competing lifting shoes.

Cons of the NoBull Lifter

  • Some have reported that quality control processes can be temperamental, understandable with smaller businesses. Also, the wood naturally varies from one shoe to the next.
  • At times it can seem like the colors and sizing can get exasperating, with some colors only available in specific sizing.
  • Cost. They standard retail for these is about 50% more than (already expensive) models from Nike, Reebok, etc.

​6. Nordic Lifting Megin

Nordic Lifting megin black powerlifting shoe.

​Available for Men and Women at

These are classics. The Nordic Lifting brand is well known for their specific, simple shoes that do one thing and do that one thing well: provide support for lifters. They look clean and minimal, they work wonderfully, and the comfort level is reasonably high. What more can you ask for? How about a low price? These are some of the most affordable weightlifting shoes on our list.

Nordic Lifting gears their products specifically towards weightlifters and powerlifters. Their equipment and apparel span many variants of the same general sport: picking up and putting down heavy objects. As such, they have grown with a narrow focus, and do everything with that focus in mind. They share the obsession that their customers have with lifting. And it shows.

The Nordic Lifting Powerlifting Shoes (not to be confused with their counterpart Weightlifting Shoes) are manufactured from a variant of cotton-based mesh. This mesh upper is incredibly breathable, however this inexpensive material comes at the expense of durability, especially when compared to such options as those from adidas, Inov-8, Reebok and more.

These shoes have some of the highest heel elevation, at close to a full inch and a half. This makes it perfect for those looking for shoes specifically for lifting, but awful for anyone looking to do anything else with the shoes (CrossFit, running, etc). But for lifting on a budget, these are by far the most effective option around.

Pros of the Nordic Lifting Powerlifting Shoes

  • These are some of, if not the most affordable weightlifting shoes for men on our list.
  • Perfect shoes for lifters looking for a higher elevated heel wedge.
  • They have a minimalist and stylish design, with multiple color options available.

Cons of the Nordic Lifting Powerlifting Shoes

  • The cotton mesh lacks durability, and will begin to deteriorate after under a year of mild use in the gym.
  • These cannot (and should not) be used as cross trainers in any capacity.

​7. adidas Powerlift

adidas Powerlift blue and silver metallic on orange background. Formerly known as the Powerlift 4.

​Available for Men and Women at

Along with Nike, adidas is the most well-known brand in almost all sports-related shoe categories globally. As such, they have become a juggernaut in sports footwear. The world of powerlifting and weightlifting are no exception to this. With the Powerlift (formerly known as the Powerlift 4), adidas continues their trend of producing solid shoes for both weightlifting and powerlifting.

 The Powerlift, however, has a difference when compared to the other adidas options further up in this list: they can be used for cross training. From squats to snatches, clean and jerks to wind sprints, you can do just about anything in the Powerlift. This has a lower heel elevation than the Adipower (and also lower than the old Power Perfect 3), and offers the most versatility of the adidas models. We still say it is a weightlifting shoe, but we’re more comfortable recommending it for general purpose gym work.

The synthetic textile uppers also provide stronger breathability, letting these shoes open up outside of the gym. However, this comes at the expense of durability and longevity when compared to leather or solid synthetic upper lifting shoes.

Finally, unlike other weightlifting shoes on our list, the adidas Powerlift has a relatively thin heel wedge, which enhanced the ability for standard ranges of motion when performing other exercises outside weightlifting. With a wide variety of color options and styles to choose from, these are truly the “do-anything” lifting shoe.

How they Performed in Our Testing

  • Overhead squat. For being less expensive shoes, we weren’t expecting much more than a standard shoe would offer for support. We were impressed with the results of these shoes in our squat tests.
  • Deadlift. During deadlifts, the grip on the bottom of the shoes were superior to any of the other shoes tested besides Nike Romaleos 4.
  • Snatch. In the snatch, we noticed a little bit of push back in the squatting part. This we factored in as being a slightly less elevated heel than some of the other options available for comparison.
  • Power clean. Between the grip and the light weight of these shoes, they were some of the best for the power clean of those that we tested out.

Pros of the adidas Powerlift

  • With a thinner heel and a fully synthetic upper, these are useful for everyday exercise as well as weightlifting.
  • These are some of the lightest shoes that we tested.
  • Plenty color and style options offer personalization for any taste.

Cons of the adidas Powerlift

  • The synthetic upper is great for flexibility and breathability, but not for longevity. They won’t last as long as the leather uppers offered by competing shoes and brands.

​8. Nike Metcon 6

Nike Metcon 6 black and silver profile image.

Update for July 7, 2021: We said this above, but in case you missed it, Nike released the Metcon 7 to their website today. We’re expecting our pair for testing to arrive by the end of the month and we’ll get a review of the new model up in August. However, based on what we’ve seen online (some folks more important than us get them ahead of time) the changes from the 6 to the 7 are fairly minor. This is also the time of year you can get sweet discounts on the outgoing model, and as of this update both Nike.com and Dick’s had the Metcon 6 marked down. Of course, if you want the latest model, you can go for that too and what we say here shouldn’t be too far off.

If you’ve spent any time reading our guides to the best shoes across various niches, you’ll find that Nike shows up in the top tier of many of the articles that we put out, and features extensively in the research we do here at ShoeGuide. It isn’t any kind of bias. These shoes just perform admirably in some form or fashion in just about every category of shoe that we test. The Metcon is no exception. A wonderful, lightweight multi-purpose shoe with a flat, grippy sole and a sleek, stylish design, these are unsurprising champs in the world of CrossFit, powerlifting, and those lifting heavy as part of their routine.

These are not “weightlifting shoes” in the sense of shoes for the Olympic sport, and are not a substitute for those. What they are is a solid option that you can use across a variety of exercise, will allow you to run, jump, climb ropes, and more, all while providing you a stable base with great lateral support that you can use for powerlifting.

The Metcon’s also come with Nike’s HyperLift inserts that they introduced with the Metcon 5. These inserts provide a raised heel that you can take in and out of the shoe. That way you can transition from CrossFit to powerlifting without having to get a second pair of shoes. We think these make a great choice for people doing gym work with a real focus on heavy lifting, or those who want to increase the lifting in their workout, but aren’t ready to commit to a $200+ pair of lifters.

Pros of the Nike Metcon 6

  • Versatile offering from a quality brand. These are clearly in the CrossFit category, but the stable sole and HyperLift inserts allow you to transition to powerlifting without getting a new, dedicated pair of shoes.
  • High quality construction. The Metcon line is popular for a number of reasons, and one of them is quality of construction and design. They have features that allow them to stand up to rope climbing, running, and lifting over the span of years.
  • Great lateral stability. Again, since these are designed for bursts associated with box jumps and burpees, they provide good lateral stability that also helps with powerlifting.

Cons of the Nike Metcon 6

  • Cost. They are cheaper than dedicated lifters like the Romaleos 4, but they’re still more expensive than most gym shoes. You get Nike quality, but it comes at a Nike price.
  • Jack of all trades, master of none. The HyperLifts are nice and a good innovation, but they are still inserts. If you’re doing Olympic weightlifting, you want a lifter with an integrated, solid 0.75-inch (or more) heel elevation, not an insert. They did not slide around, but we could still feel that they weren’t exactly part of the shoe.
Heavy chalk in the air as man in high heel raise lifting shoes prepares for deadlift.

How Weightlifting Shoes Have Evolved

The commonalities of weightlifting shoes appear to be growing rapidly. However, this was not always the case. Use and demand of weightlifting shoes correlates with the popularity of weightlifting and powerlifting as a sport.

In the late 1920’s, the IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) developed a formalized contest to test the snatch, bench press, and clean and jerk of elite weightlifting professionals. In the decades that followed, athletes competed in many different shoe styles, from work boots to regular sneakers to even boxing shoes.

However, as the sport began to grow and develop, lifting styles began to modify in the process. This started the requirement for elevated heels. The 60’s were a time when the concept of the “split jerk” started to become far more popular.

Importance of an Elevated Heel

The elevated heel was a true game changer for weightlifters, as it provided a new way to descend out from under the bar being lifted. However, other issues soon arose, including a lack of stability and increased angle of the shin, which could cause pain and discomfort.

The USSR was the first country to have their athletes exclusively use formal raised-heels in their weightlifting shoes. These lifters attached raised heels to leather shoes, providing improved mobility in the ankles when moving underneath the bar. Soon after this, popular shoe manufacturers began developing their own takes on lifted weightlifting shoes, mirroring and improving upon the design by the Soviet Union.

Making Further Improvements

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, adidas cemented their position as a figurehead for weightlifting shoes, and began pushing the concept of modern lifting into the United States. In the 1970’s, weightlifting god Tommy Kono started collaborating with adidas, and the weightlifting shoe niche continued to make improvements.

At this point, shoe manufacturers made the decision to remove the high-topped section from lifting shoes, and push the strap further down the shoe. It was discovered that this change provided far more ankle mobility when compared to prior high-top models. Ankle mobility is typically one of the greatest concerns with lifting heavy weights. From here, shoe companies have continued to make improvements on this design.

Powerlifter in minimalist squat shoes with yellow weights in gym.

Facts and Figures: Doing our Due Diligence on Weightlifting Shoes

Weightlifting shoes, especially lifting shoes for men, are some of the most complicated shoe types around. As such, there are many different nuances that need to be addressed before settling into a purchase. Some of the most important factors that play into decision making and due diligence are: differences in heel height, securing mechanisms and straps, material composition of the heel, and the lacing system in place.

Typical Makeup of a Weightlifting Shoes

  • Higher upper boot. Most weightlifting shoes have higher boots, providing extra security for the lifter’s ankle.
  • Straps or tightening systems. Most weightlifting shoes will have at least one, sometimes two, straps, or a BOA tightening system of sorts. This works to provide even more support to the foot.
  • A wider toe box. While not all lifting shoes offer wider toe boxes, many do. A wider toe box will assist with splay and stability.
  • Elevated heels. These can vary based on the manufacturer, make, and model. Standard is three-quarters of an inch.
  • Stiff heels. The standard heel is made of TPU, however there are others that offer wood, EVA, and even stacked leather.

Differences in Heel Height

One of the most important considerations that all weightlifters should consider is the reason why lifting shoes are their own thing in the first place: heel height. The height of a weightlifting shoe’s heel is a vital factor for many lifters as it will provide ample assistance in the comfort of the athlete as they traverse through the movements required to properly complete their lift.

Standard heel heights for weightlifting shoes is 0.75 inches. However, some models, like the Nordic Lifting Megin, reviewed above, have a higher heel height. Others, like adidas’ Powerlift, also reviewed and thoroughly tested above, have a slightly more conservative 0.6-inch heel height.

Height also plays an important role in which heel height works best for your specific situation. For lifters who are on the taller side, higher heels may be a better choice. This is due to taller lifters having longer legs, and needing to ensure that accommodations are made.

Selecting the Heel Height for You

In terms of anthropometrics (height), the following is a good guide:

  • Long torso with long legs: Taller than .75 inches
  • Long torso with short legs: .75 inches
  • Longer torso with femur and shin of different sizes: Less than .75 inches
  • Short torso with long legs: Taller than .75 inches
  • Short torso with short legs: Less than .75 inches
  • Shorter torso with femur and shin of different sizes: .75 inches

In terms of style of squat, the difference between a lower and higher heel changes as well. Higher heels are great for narrow stance or higher bars, and don’t work as well for wider stance or lower bars. Lower heels are perfect for wider stance or lower bars, and aren’t as well-suited for narrow stance or higher bars.

Taller heels provide athletes the ability to attain a greater range of motion in the ankles. Lower heels are ideal for shorter limbs or those athletes preferring low-bar squats. Low bar squatting uses far more of the hip, and less on the mobility of the ankle.

Often, the three-quarter inch heel is ideal, as it is far more fluid in its usage and is cross-compatible across exercises and even sports.

Securing Mechanisms and Straps

Another characteristic of weightlifting shoes that needs to be considered is the amount and quality of the straps and securing mechanisms of the shoe. Many weightlifting shoes only have one strap. However, some, like the Reebok Legacy Lifter 2, will come with multiple straps.

The most common location for the strap is going to be across the upper part of the tongue, which serves to provide additional stability and durability for the increased amount of ankle mobility needed with squatting.

Some models of lifting shoe will feature a mid-foot or lower strap. One example of this (not in our list) is Position USA’s Eastwood. In this shoe, the middle part of the tongue is what is covered. If you are concerned about the security of the shoe, you will more than likely want to find one that either has two straps or one thicker strap. However, single-strapped models will also provide ample security, especially newer shoes. In this case, it truly comes down to personal preferences.

Material Composition of the Heel

Most weightlifting shoes will have a higher heel that can be made from a variety of different materials. Which material you choose is completely up to personal preference. The most common heel base for weightlifting shoes is plastic, typically a TPU type of high-quality material. The plastic heels provide harder surfaces on which to stand, and are usually far more durable and long-lasting when compared to leather or wood soles. Additionally, there are many variations and densities for these heels, including “pillars” or “solid blocks”.

Conversely, wood-based heels are geared towards weightlifters who are looking for a far more traditional, old school shoe style with a solid base. The wooden soles are said to provide lifters with a better “floor feeling”. Wood heels are the most common heel type utilized by Olympic weightlifters worldwide.

Much like the wooden heels, leather stacked heels also provide a more old school look and feel. NoBull’s lifters are some of the few remaining weightlifting shoes on the marker utilizing wooden heel designs. While they might provide a higher-quality feel, a concern with lifting in wood and leather heels are longevity and durability.

Lacing System in Place

In many cases, weightlifting shoes are going to arrive out of the box with regular shoe laces that you would find with most other sports-focused shoes. In fact, the laces found in most weightlifting shoes are almost exactly like the shoelaces that are in cross-training or tennis shoes. However, they can always be switched out for more effective laces.

There is a difference in tightening systems with a couple of the shoes that we have avoided on our list, though. This includes the adidas Leistung and the Inov-8 FastLift 400. Both of these models of shoes include something referred to as a “BOA lacing system”. A BOA lacing system involves a dial that, when turned, tightens the shoe via metal wires where the laces should be.

However, issues with BOA style lacing almost always leave the shoe unable to maintain the desired level of tightness through the course of a workout, in our experience.

Man in squat with weights in middle of lifting while using incorrect powerlifting shoes.

The Last Rep

Getting a pair of the best weightlifting shoes can make a huge difference in your most intense lifting sessions.  Normal gym shoes or trainers are just not going to cut it when compared to shoes engineered and designed specifically for weightlifting.

The advancement in features and options come with a price compared to standard training shoes.  If you are looking to optimize your lifting workouts, and are willing to pay for the benefits, then you’ll definitely get a lot out of specialized weightlifting shoes.

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