By far, one of the most crucial decisions that weightlifters can make is the type of shoes in which they choose to lift. Weightlifting shoes (sometimes also known in the community as lifters) are increasing rapidly in popularity in recent years. This is due to the rise of heavier weight training such as CrossFit, the growth of powerlifting as a sport, and increases in the number of weightlifting shoes available from which to choose.
As of late, we here at Shoe Guide have become obsessed with some of the heavier lifts, including the “Big Four” of squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. This being the case, we started the process of finding the best and highest quality weightlifting shoes for men. This search came with an extensive amount of research into a niche that we had no idea was as complex as it was. But we came out with some solid findings, and that is what we will be sharing with you here.
To review and report back on the best lifting shoes for men, we looked to both older and newer models for everything from large companies focused on all shoes, to smaller enterprises whose only goal is to develop the cream-of-the-crop weightlifting shoe. Why? Because for everyone from brand new lifters in the scene to weathered and ripped experienced powerlifters, finding the ideal pair of weightlifting shoes can seem like an impossible task.
Why Are Weightlifting Shoes Even Needed?
Shoes for lifting weights have been built with the sole purpose of enhancing lifter mobility, increasing overall stability, and enhancing feedback when moving heavy objects. They come with extensive features that are isolated 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.
Our Choices for the Best Weightlifting Shoes
This was a difficult process. There are so many different facets and features that are crucial to those looking to improve their weightlifting and powerlifting game. It made things very difficult to truly stick with a top list, and to narrow things down even further to shoes that we considered strong enough to purchase and extensively test on our own.
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). Also, we have a whole article on the best women's weightlifting shoes that covers women-specific lifters in more detail.
Here are the Best Weightlifting Shoes you can buy:
Best All-Around Lifting Shoe: New Balance Minimus Prevail
Best Pure Weightlifting Shoe: Reebok Legacy Lifter
Best for Hardcore and New Technology: Inov-8 FastLift 400
Best Weightlifting Shoe on a Budget: Adidas PowerLift 4
Best for CrossFit with Heavy Lifting: Inov-8 F-Lite 290
Best if You Love Nike: Nike Romaleos 3.5
Best if You Love Adidas: Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting 2
Read on for more choices, detailed reviews, photos, and all about the testing we put these bad boys through.
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 Shoe Guide, there have been a variable number of 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 five top tier shoes out with the same exercises, in the same environment, on the same days. This would provide us with the chance to truly 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 5x5 Madcows routine at the highest possible weight, and then wait a week to recover before testing the next pair.
On each testing day, we grabbed a pair of 60-pound dumbbells and performed three sets of five of each of the following exercises with each pair of shoes:
- Overhead squat
- Power clean
We were confident that these four exercises would provide us the real world experience to give a solid review of these shoes in the most effective and timely manner. If you’re counting, that is 45 total sets. It was enough of a workout to gIve us a knowledgeable viewpoint of what are legitimately the best weightlifting shoes.
The Best Weightlifting Shoes - Detailed Reviews
1. New Balance Prevail - Best All-Around Weightlifting Shoe
If you’ve spent any time reading our guides to the best shoes across various niches, you’ll find that New Balance is present in the top tier of many of the articles that we put out, and is featured extensively in the research we do here at Shoe Guide. 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 Prevail is no exception. A wonderful, lightweight multi-purpose shoe with a flat, grippy Vibram sole and a sleek, stylish design, these are surprising champs in the world of weightlifting.
These shoes were a surprising star in the weightlifting testing we performed. They look very much like regular shoes, and even can look like running shoes from a distance. After testing, these were so comfortable that they became our daily wear shoes for our casual gym setting. This is something that couldn’t be dreamed of for the four other tested options below. With their stylish upper, minimalist styling, and high levels of comfort and stability, the New Balance Prevail went above and beyond our expectations.
Lightweight and breathable, these options were incredibly versatile both in and out of the gym. They performed extremely well in weightlifting testing with our 60 pound dumbbells, and we even took these into a squat rack to ensure we weren’t just biasing ourselves. We weren’t.
How They Performed in Our Testing
- Overhead squat: We were very much impressed with the amount of support we received, even with the minimal heel elevation compared to alternatives. No complaints here!
- Deadlift: When deadlifting, we noticed that our feet slid a little bit in the toe box area. While we were concerned about rubbing as the sets went on, we were pleasantly surprised that things didn’t worsen. The Vibram soles also provided the best grip of any of the shoes tested.
- Snatch: In the snatch, we discovered that the strap-related tightness that we experienced with alternative options was not a concern, as the lacing system was snug and comfortable.
- Power clean: In the “jumping” stage of the power clean, we noticed a bit more shuffling in the toe box area. Eventually, we factored it in as more roominess, as there was no rubbing or irritation.
Pros of the New Balance Prevail
- These lightweight and breathable shoes are perfect for circuit training, CrossFit, and any other exercise routine that includes heavy lifting but is not exclusively heavy lifting.
- Compared to the other four, far more bulky and strange-looking shoes we tested, and the five runners-up, these are by far the most stylish option for multi-purpose, every day wear.
Cons of the New Balance Prevail
- If you’re expecting a squat outperformer, we suggest choosing a different shoe. The heel elevation left something to be desired, and didn’t provide the support of some of the competing tested shoes.
- These lightweight options are not going to excel in durability and longevity, especially with the mesh uppers. If you’re looking for shoes that can handle a few birthdays, check out the Reebok ones below.
Prices, reviews and photos:
2. Reebok Legacy Lifter - Best Pure Lifting Option
These funky-looking weightlifting shoes were some of the most impressive that we tested in our research processes to find the best weightlifting shoes for men. 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. 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 were probably the best shoe we tested for squats. With a well elevated heel, we didn’t experience any of the struggles we would have with a normal shoe.
- Deadlift: In the deadlifting process, we noticed that our feet slid forward a little bit and created a bit of bunching. Nothing that elicited any pain during or after the testing, though.
- Snatch: The Reebok Legacy Lifter performed admirably when going through the sets of snatches. This is expected, as the second half is nothing more than an overhead squat, which an elevated heel will always be the champion of.
- Power clean: During power cleans, we noticed that the strap started to dig into the top of our foot, to the point where we needed to loosen the strap a little for the second set.
Pros of the Reebok Legacy Lifter
- 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
- 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.
Prices, reviews and photos:
3. Inov-8 FastLift 400 - Best for Hardcore and New Technology
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 transition straight from weightlifting to other types of cross-training and functional exercise with ease.
Inov-8 has been known in their short time in the shoe market for making shoes of very high quality. The FastLift 400 is no exception to this credo. They were built 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. The BOA strap adjusts in micro-increments, which dial perfectly into the size of the foot and give a snug, perfect fit every time. This is the only shoe that made our top-tier list that had a BOA strap. After testing, we were left extremely impressed with the technological advancements of this strap type compared to standard Velcro.
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 BOA strap performed admirably, ensuring the shoe stayed snug and that 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: The BOA strap proved to be a technological marvel again in the power clean. Where with another shoe we had to stop and readjust the strap, the dialed-in tightness was perfect for our needs.
Pros of the Inov-8 FastLift 400
- With a BOA strap that allows for micro-adjustments, there is never going to be a worry about an imperfect or loose fitting shoe.
- A flexible forefront toe area allows lifters to use the shoe for both lifting and other types of cross-training activities, making them impressively versatile.
- 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 400
- These were some of the most expensive weightlifting shoes on our list.
- The heel-to-toe drop, one of the most crucial weightlifting shoe metrics, was far less steep than in alternative lifting shoes.
Prices, reviews and photos:
4. Adidas PowerLift 4 - Best on a Budget
Adidas is probably 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.
The PowerLift 4, however, has a difference when compared to the other two Adidas options further down 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 4.
Additionally, unlike the AdiPower Weightlifting II and Leistung 16.II, the PowerLift 4 are made from 100 percent synthetic shells instead of leather. This provides them far more flexibility when compared to their counterparts, and many other models outside Adidas.
The synthetic 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 upper lifting shoes.
Finally, unlike other weightlifting shoes on our list, the Adidas PowerLift 4 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 inexpensive 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 the New Balance option above.
- 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 4
- 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.
- Ample color and style options offer personalization for any taste.
Cons of the Adidas PowerLift 4
- For what you are getting, these can be quite expensive.
- 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.
Prices, reviews and photos:
5. Inov-8 F-Lite 290 - Best for Lifting and CrossFit
If you have read our guide to the best shoes for CrossFit, you may recognize this offering from Inov-8. This is another impressive category that the F-Lite 290 excels in. It also comes with some of the most incredible technological advancements we have found in a weightlifting shoe for men. Inov-8 has continued their rise through the ranks of popular shoes in the speciality exercise-related market. While their miniscule existence on the world stage has been marked with solid showings in the running community, their F-Lite 290 has won the hearts of lifters looking for a great cross-training option as well.
The most notable feature of the Inov-8 F-Lite 290, and many of their newer shoe options, is the presence of Graphene. Graphene is a thin semi-metal that is durable and extremely tensile. Through the utilization of graphene, Inov-8 has been able to take some of the weight out of their shoe offerings, while retaining extensive durability. They are the first shoe manufacturer to utilize graphene in their shoes. This makes them awesome in a market like weightlifting shoes, which are notorious for being heavier and not appropriate for activities outside weightlifting.
But that isn’t the only solid feature of these shoes. They are also impressively thin, flexible, and light, providing a feel that really moves with the foot. The grip on the soles (which are thinner than the other options we purchased and tested besides the Prevail), provided exceptional grip on the slippery wooden floor we tested them on. The material is incredibly durable from the sole to the upper, providing a flexible, yet responsive sole. These shoes will perform extremely well in a variety of activities, and last a long time doing so.
How they Performed in Our Testing
- Overhead squat: This was a surprising one. Of all the shoes, these were the most comfortable in our squat testing, even though they had some of the lowest heel elevation. Go figure!
- Deadlift: In the deadlift, we noticed a little bit of minor slipping down the inside of the shoe, which we attributed to sweat buildup inside our socks.
- Snatch: In the snatch, these shoes performed admirably, much like in the overhead squat. High levels of comfort and a solid grip.
- Power clean: Even with no fancy straps or BOA lacing, we experienced no issues with loosening when performing the exercise responsible for the most loose shoe issues. Overall, very impressed.
Pros of the Inov-8 F-Lite 290
- Incredibly well made, these shoes will surely last for several years if only used for weightlifting purposes.
- Even as overpronators, over an extended period of time, we have not noticed any obvious wear on the heel of these shoes.
- If you’re looking for a shoe that will work perfectly for activities such as CrossFit or even some HIIT, the Inov-8 F-Lite 290 is perfect for the transition from heavy lifting into these other activities.
Cons of the Inov-8 F-Lite 290
- So far in our longer testing processes (outside of the initial test workout) we have noticed that the collar padding tends to get tight after long periods spent working out.
- There was no mesh to enhance breathability, meaning our feet got very hot very fast, much like our CrossFit review, and even when just standing prone and lifting weights.
Prices, reviews and photos:
6. Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting 2
Adidas gets three spots on our list of the best weightlifting shoes. One of these spots is the Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting II, an upgrade to the original Adidas AdiPower that is one of the top-selling lifting shoes ever made.
The full upper of this weightlifting shoe is manufactured from a light but resilient leather. However, even with the leather upper, there is a surprising amount of breathability with these shoes. What this means is that, with such a long-lasting upper and minimal moisture issues, these weightlifting shoes will last for several years of daily lifting use without degradation.
If you are on the hunt for shoes that are ideal for Olympic-style weightlifting, the AdiPower Weightlifting II are ideal. They are almost unmatched when it comes to exercises such as snatches, cleans, pull-type exercises, and the heavy high-bar squat. With injected polymers in the heels, the bounce-back and stability are incredible.
Pros of the Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting II
- The breathable leather upper makes for impressively comfortable, cool shoes.
- These shoes are built to very high quality standards, lasting for years of workouts easily.
- A durable, stiff, and supportive heel makes for an ideal shoe for powerlifting.
Cons of the Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting II
- These shoes aren’t that flexible. As such, don’t use them for conditioning or running.
- While we like the color choices personally, there aren’t many style options available.
- These are some of the most expensive of the weightlifting shoes we found for our list.
Prices, reviews and photos:
7. Adidas Leistung 16 II BOA Shoes
The Adidas Leistung 16.II is a second generation of the Leistung 16 series, one of the most popular weightlifting shoes ever made. While their design may seem a bit strange, it serves a purpose of its own to ensure a perfect workout.
They use Adidas’ proprietary shoe technology to develop a weightlifting shoe that takes from aspects of their best and most comfortable shoes. These shoes, like the Inov-8 FastLift reviewed above, come with a BOA closure system, which is in the tongue of the shoe instead of the strap. Rather than strapping you in, you’re able to adjust the pressure enough to give you some flexibility. You won’t have to worry about loose laces, either, as the BOA adjustor takes on some of the lacing brunt, providing a snug fit without the need for a strap.
One of the major draws to the Leistung 16.II over competing weightlifting shoes for men is the extensive arch support provided. With a combination of foam interiors and a unique sole shape, you will be rewarded with intense levels of arch support, as well as assistance with posture when lifting heavy weights.
Finally, the comfort level of these shoes is impressive when compared to alternatives. Many lifters notice discomfort at the tops of their feet due to the lacing and strap mix configurations found in most weightlifting shoes. We noticed that in our testing as well with some of the dual-cinch shoes. Adidas eliminated that altogether with the BOA system, improving comfort by quite a bit.
Pros of the Adidas Leistung 16.II
- The heel of these weightlifting shoes is made with injected polymer fillers, providing room for a bit of give, and designed to flex a bit when digging in, versus putting the pressure on your feet.
- A ventilated cutout beneath the sole helps stick you into the ground, working almost like a suction cup.
- The interior of the Adidas Leistung 16.II is made from a soft, breathable fabric lining. This helps to avoid friction in the toe box area, a common complaint among lifters.
Cons of the Adidas Leistung 16.II
- If you’re looking for style modifications, you won’t find them here. These come in two colors: silver and white. Better than the last version, which only came in bright red, though.
- While the new lacing system makes the shoes more comfortable and flexible, you may have to tighten it during longer workouts. The flexibility may cause the laces to slide around every so often.
Prices, reviews and photos:
8. Nike Romaleos 3.5
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, these shoes were the subject of some controversy a few years back. China lost their Nike sponsorship, but decided to continue using their shoes (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 3.5 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 truly leagues ahead of competitors in most aspects.
Typically for lifters, leather will beat out synthetic uppers as far as durability and longevity of a shoe goes. 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 thickest of leather in our research.
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 and powerlifting. Much like the Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting II reviewed in this article, these shoes have extremely dense rubber on the bottom. As such, we would not recommend them for any exercise where extensive movement is required.
Pros of the Nike Romaleos 3.5
- The tough and breathable synthetic uppers ensure that these are some of the best-fitting weightlifting shoes on the market.
- Unlike many competitors, these Nike options come in an amazing array of styles and colors.
- These are some of the most impressive weightlifting-only shoes in the market right now.
Cons of the Nike Romaleos 3.5
- We wish that there was a version of this shoe that had most of the features, but was applicable to sports such as CrossFit, conditioning, etc.
- These are top-tier for quality, but also top-tier for price. Good luck finding a pair for anything under $200.
Prices, reviews and photos:
9. Nordic Lifting PowerLifting Shoes
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.
Prices, reviews and photos:
10. NoBull Lifter
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 flexible soles, making quick movements and even running a comfortable possibility. These shoes feature flat, stable bases. This makes them ideal for deadlifts. However, the shoes lack a significantly pronounced elevated heel, which is something heavy squatters are always on the lookout for.
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 and CrossFit enthusiasts.
Pros of the NoBull Lifter
- These shoes come in a wide range of colors and style options.
- They have a strong grip, perfect for dynamic movements, like CrossFit rope climbs. They are ideal for both HIIT, CrossFit, and of course traditional lifting.
- 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.
- At times it can seem like the colors and sizing can get exasperating, with some colors only available in specific sizing.
How Weightlifting Shoes Came To Be
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.
The 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.
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.
The Typical Makeup of a Weightlifting Shoe
- 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 Adidas Leistung, reviewed above, have a 1-inch heel height. Others, like Adidas’ PowerLift 4, 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 Ideal 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
- Long 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
- Short 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, 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 lifting shoes are some of the few remaining weightlifting shoes on the marker utilizing stacked leather 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 highlighted, though. This includes the Adidas Leistung and the Inov-8 FastLift 370. Both of these models of shoes include something referred to as a “BOA lacing system”. A BOA lacing system involves a technologically-advanced dial that, when turned, tightens the shoe.
However, issues with BOA style lacing will almost always concern the shoe not maintaining the desired level of tightness through the course of a workout.
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.