Everything You Need to Know to Pick Weightlifting Shoes that Last
The right shoes can really determine your success, especially when it comes to weightlifting. Here's how to make sure you have the best weightlifting shoes.
Not lifting weights as heavy as you'd like? Do you experience difficulty and pain when weightlifting?
You might be wearing the wrong pair of weightlifting shoes.
Wearing the wrong type of shoes for your activities can lead to severe foot problems like plantar fasciitis, athlete's foot, and hammer toes. It might sound peculiar how your shoes affect your time working out but the type of shoes you wear does have a strong impact.
Not sure what to look for when shopping for weightlifting shoes? You can start by looking at the soles and other inner parts. Or, if you just want to know which lifting shoes our experts thought were the best, you can jump straight to our summary ratings chart!
If you're using running shoes while at the gym lifting weights, stop as soon as you can. Even the best running shoes aren't the ideal choice when it comes to weightlifting because of the added air or gel cushion.
These cushions are important when you're running or jogging. They absorb the impact of your run, preventing injury. However, when you're weightlifting, you don't want a cushion because you need better stability and concentrated downward force towards the ground.
It's like lifting weights while standing on top a pair of giant marshmallows.
Shoes with flat soles are the ideal weightlifting shoes. There's no cushion, meaning you get to drive all your weight and force into the ground. This enables you to lift more weight than you would with running shoes.
For this reason, some people like to wear Converse Chuck Taylor shoes when lifting. These do an adequate job but even these aren't the perfect choice. The reason is that they don't have elevated heels.
The best weightlifting shoes have elevated heels.
The average pair of weightlifting shoes has a heel elevation of .75 inches. Some can go as low as .3 inches (1cm) and others are as high as 1 inch.
Why the raised heels?
This helps a weightlifter go as far back and as low as needed when squatting. It also increases balance and ankle and shin mobility. These heels achieve all this while keeping the feet planted on the ground, firm, and stable.
People who own flat shoes without raised heels often have to resort to other tricks to get the same effects. Otherwise, they'll deal with limited ankle mobility and stiffness.
They can place weight plates on the ground and rest their heels on them to get the same elevation you would get from real weightlifting shoes.
One more benefit is that the slight elevation improves posture. With the right posture, you can keep your torso upright and maintain the flow of strength needed for heavy-lifting, such as an overhead press. It is also needed for people who suffer from lower back pain.
Do keep in mind that your torso length and leg length will determine how high your shoe heels should be. The ideal scenario is that people with long legs get higher heels since this will aid their squats.
Did you know that something as simple as an added strap on your weightlifting shoes can make or break your workout session?
Most shoes come with laces. You won't find simple slip-on weightlifting shoes because those can come off and don't feel as stable. However, even shoes with laces may feature one or two straps for optimal security.
The straps add an additional layer of mobility. Because they lock the feet in place from the center, they also help support the ankles for both stability and flexibility. They also hold your feet so they don't slide within the shoes, keeping it snug and supportive.
When looking into straps, look at how the material used. The second main function of these straps is security. You want your feet to stay in place instead of sliding within the shoe.
Velcro is the go-to option although there are a few select shoes that use loops and locks to keep the straps in place. You can't go wrong with either of these choices as long as you still feel comfortable.
That brings us to the next point you have to consider when shopping for weightlifting shoes: comfort.
Regardless of the kind of weightlifting shoes you buy, you should prioritize comfort.
Make it a habit to get a good feel for your shoes. Make sure the shoes fit right and your feet are comfortable and snug inside. If you feel like your toes or heels get pinched then the shoes might not be the right size for you or their design might be too restrictive for you.
Durability and Material
The majority of shoes for weightlifting have a solid base made of plastic or wood. Some use a combination of both materials to get optimal durability and support.
You should look into the expected durability of your shoes as well. You won't wear these shoes on a regular basis, such as going to and fro the grocery store, so they should last a little longer than your common outdoor or running shoes.
Expect a little wear and tear but a good, durable design will guarantee more than 2-3 years worth of use from your shoes.
The kind of material for the straps, laces, soles, and exterior body will also affect how durable and comfortable your shoes are.
Best Weightlifting Shoes - Our Expert Ratings of the best lifting shoes out there
Olympic lifters. Best for Clean and Jerk, Snatch, and squatting
Hybrid lifter. Good for a variety of strength sports
Another Hybrid lifter, similar to the Romaleos 3.
Nice entry-level shoe.
Entry-level. Lower heel height and lighter weight mean this is somewhere between a pure lifting shoe and a crossfit shoe. Great for squats
Best shoe brand no one has heard of. Excellent ankle movement for heavy lifting.
Pure lifting shoe with a higher 1" heel. Also a bit on the slender side, so not for those with wide feet.
Wide base, large toe box make them comfortable for lifters with wide, flat feet.
Squats and heavy lifting.
Take into consideration that most designers make these shoes for one purpose: weightlifting. Their design caters specifically to the needs of a person doing heavy lifts and presses. This doesn't mean one type of weightlifting shoes will do all the work.
In general, there are four types of weightlifting shoes:
Olympic Lifting Shoes
These are among the most expensive type of shoes and their main purpose is to deliver the most stability for heavy lifting. They often have a higher heel height and thick, flat soles. You will get a little extra mobility with these shoes.
These shoes are great choices if you want to focus on clean and jerk lifts or snatch lifts. You'll get a more refined posture and deeper squat with these kinds of shoes, both of which are essential factors for these lifts.
Deadlift or Squatting Shoes
While Olympic shoes are suitable for pure deadlifting, you will want to sacrifice mobility for optimal force transference and stability. These are often flat from toe to heel. If they feature an inclined heel, it won't be any higher than a centimeter.
Squatting shoes often have wooden heels and middle-ground elevation to give you a higher advantage in lifting. This ensures all of the downward force isn't wasted on soft cushioning and gives you the leverage to avoid falling forward while maintaining strength to lift.
You'll also get the lowest back squats. This makes squatting shoes the best choice if you have long legs and need shoes that give you the most flexibility. This will also ensure you don't suffer ankle and knee injuries while lifting.
Sitting between the design of deadlifting shoes and Olympic shoes are the powerlifting shoes. They have a slight incline, more so than the deadlifting variety but not as high as Olympic shoes.
What are powerlifting shoes for?
These are the choices to go for when you want to lift faster and more frequently. They give you the right amount of low back squat advantage while still holding your posture and joints to prevent you from falling forward when lifting. You won't get the maximum support you would from the other two varieties but this is a great middle ground.
CrossFit or Multi-Training Shoes
And then there are CrossFit shoes or multi-training shoes. These give you some of the same support you'd get from lifting shoes but at the same time, you get a little more flexibility for CrossFit workout routines, calisthenics, and aerobics.
You should use these shoes when you want to lift some weights but also expect to do a little running and jumping. These aren't effective running shoes, so do keep that in mind. These are options that sit in the middle of different shoe types.
People who often go bowling will recognize how similar these shoes fit and feel compared to bowling shoes. Bowling shoes also feature flat soles and they still have more mobility and flexibility compared to pure deadlifting shoes.
Yes, looking for a style you like is important too! Nobody wants to go out wearing something ugly. It can feel uncomfortable and unnatural.
You should consider the following when looking at weightlifting shoes styles:
- Strap design
- Strap location
- Lace technology
- Heel material
- Sole design
There are many different styles out there and the different brands do take advantage of this. Some famous brands like to go for a sleek, modern design while others stick to old-school weightlifting styles.
The Right Fit
One important aspect about finding the right fit is that most brands only sell weightlifting shoes in men's sizes. Women will have to convert their shoe sizes to men's sizes to find the right pair of shoes. Some brands do sell in women's sizes but this is rarer than it should be.
It is crucial to find shoes that fit snug and tight. You may even want to buy shoes one size down to keep it fit, instead of letting your feet swim in excess space.
Before buying shoes, you may want to get a good feel of the size you're aiming for. If you have to borrow someone else's pair of shoes, do so and try some squats or deadlifts. This will give you a good idea if that size fits you well.
Avoid Running Shoes
As mentioned, running shoes aren't the ideal option because they reduce impact and downward force, two factors you need when weightlifting. They even change how people run and the way the heels and ankles absorb force.
Running shoes don't have elevated heels either. This makes it harder to squat as far back as possible while maintaining proper posture. It also adds a level of difficulty and strain on your ankles and knees.
That said, running shoes should stay out of the equation. If you don't have proper weightlifting shoes, it's better to stick with Converse Chuck Taylor shoes or go barefoot.
For Weightlifting and Weightlifting Only
Once you have your shoes for weightlifting, keep them in the box unless you're going out for a workout session. Think of them the same way you would bowling shoes: wear them only when you're going to lift weights and nothing else.
Every pair of shoes goes through wear and tear. Weightlifting shoes, in particular, won't last long if you wear them for everyday use. Their design isn't suitable for everyday walking and they will break down if you use them that way.
Minimalist Weightlifting Shoes
There are also minimalist shoes like barefoot shoes. These give you the same protection from objects and rough surfaces normal shoes give. They also keep your feet warm and healthy during your lifting routine.
Some of the most popular brands include Vibram, CIOR, FitKicks, and Merrell.
One main difference is that they give almost no additional cushion, friction, or weight. This means you'll be able to lift weights almost as if you were wearing no shoes at all. Of course, without elevated heels, you won't get the full benefits you would from dedicated shoes made for weightlifting.
Barefoot shoes are fine for light weightlifting but you'll find more functionality using them for running. These are the ideal choice if you'll only lift weights a few times instead of making it a regular workout habit.
Discover More From the Best Shoe Guide
Following these tips, you will find the best shoes for your weightlifting activities. Of course, weightlifting isn't the only physical activity or need to go shoe-shopping.
Looking for winter boots? How about running shoes? Do you need a pair of shoes for your aerobics routine?
We offer some of the best tips and shopping guides for all your shopping needs. Got a question we didn't write about or do you need a specific type of shoe? Feel free to contact us and we'll be glad to help you find what you want.