Are Weightlifting Shoes worth it?
Yup. The elevated heel and wide, flat platforms create the perfect environment for squatting with depth, stability and proper mobility.
You can pick up a pair of proven, good quality lifting shoes for under £60. If you take lifting seriously, you should invest in a decent pair of shoes.
Typically people use flat soled shoes, like Converses, if they have more powerful hips than quads.
This is more commonly associated with low bar squatters and powerlifters.
Those with more powerful quads than hips typically use shoes like Nike Romaleos or a Reebok Legacy Lifter.
This is more common with high bar squatters and Olympic weightlifters.
What are Weightlifting Shoes?
Weightlifting shoes are built for a purpose. Their wide, flat soles and elevated heel make them the perfect weightlifting accessory as they improve ankle mobility in the squat.
Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting have different demands with regards to ankle flexion, mobility and counterbalancing weight.
I recorded the below video to run through my favourite weightlifting shoes. Why I use them and what their benefits are on YouTube which you can listen to here:
It’s really important you pick the right shoes for your flexibility and anthropometry. And we’re going to cover the why and how below.
The 7 Best Weightlifting Shoes in 2019
What are the Best Shoes for Deadlifting?
Converse Hi-Tops. Definitively.
When you deadlift you want a completely flat sole with extreme stability. Most weightlifting shoes are designed for squatting, which means the heels are raised.
Having a raised heel when deadlifting not only throws you off balance, but also means you have to pull the weight further.
Why on earth would you want that?
What are the Best Shoes for High Bar Squats?
Inov-8 Fastlift or the Reebok Legacy Lifter.
High bar squats typically require a raised heel for peak performance. The Fastlift and Legacy Lifter are perfectly designed to accommodate this and are typically better suited to Olympic weightlifters.
The raised heel allows the lifter to get deeper when squatting and reduce the impact poor flexibility may have.
What are the Best Shoes for Low Bar Squats?
Converse Hi-Tops or the Adipower Weightlifting Li Fitness Shoe.
The converses are better suited to low bar squatters as the flat sole is preferable for lifters with stronger hips than quads. Ideal for low bar squatting.
The hi-top stability is just an added bonus.
The Adipower Weightlifting Li Fitness Shoe is just a personal favourite of mine. I’m more of a hybrid squatter. I find low bar too stressful on my lower back, but high bar doesn’t accommodate peak performance, so a balance is necessary.
It’s a great all round shoe and one that suits any type of lifter.
Why Powerlifting Shoes make a Difference?
This 2012 study compared weightlifting shoes and running shoes when back squatting. It found that wearing weightlifting shoes reduced trunk lean because the elevated heel reduces the stress on the lower back.
It also potentially increased muscle excitation in knee extensors, whilst increasing knee and hip flexion capability. Essentially your ability to stay more upright and prevent knee-cave is increased with a weightlifting shoe.
I’m sure you’ve all seen people in the gym squatting on small weight plates or barefoot. A weightlifting shoe trumps both of those of course, but there is method to the madness:
1. Squatting on small weight plates mimics a powerlifting shoe by elevating the heel in order to improve ankle and hip flexibility.
2. If you suffer from tight ankles or hips, squatting with an elevated heel will allow you to get deeper into the hole without flexibility problems,. This maximises the stretch reflex potential in the bottom of ‘the hole’
3. Powerlifting shoes are designed to be tighter than normal shoes. The additional velcro strap or tightening ‘crank’ the shoe employs creates additional stability and forges as solid a base as possible
4. Squatting in running trainers is an absolute no, as they’re typically designed for running and are cushioned in all the wrong places.
What you want is a flat, stable surface with an elevated heel that doesn’t absorb force, but rather allows you to generate it. This improves ankle ROM (Range of Motion)
5. The reason the wide, flat sole is so beneficial is because it spreads your weight across a wide surface area, increasing your point of contact with the ground, improving your propensity to create maximal power
Fun Fact: The soles actually used to be made of wood
What makes a Good Powerlifting Shoe?
So we have established that a good weightlifting shoe must have:
- A wide, flat base
- An elevated heel*
- A tightening mechanism
- They have to look good obviously
What we need is for it to be ultra-functional. It must provide the opportunity to improve your current performance, then it’s ultimately worth the money. Much like a weightlifting belt.
*If you squat with a particularly wide stance, then an elevated heel is unnecessary and will arguably reduce performance
Are Lifting Shoes good for Deadlifts?
I personally don’t use weightlifting shoes for deadlifting. I prefer to deadlift barefoot for a few reasons:
- I like to feel the floor beneath my feet
- Technically shoes mean you’d have to pull the bar further
- There’s no need for an elevated heel
The first point is entirely personal. The second two are based on sound principals. The greater you make your height, the further you have to pull the bar to reach lockout.
Now Read: Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift
The greater the distance you have to move something, the greater the force production required.
Newton’s laws of motion state that:
Force = Mass x Gravity
So if you have to pull the same weight (mass) from a slightly greater height, the force required to lift it would increase. Simple!
If I was going to deadlift in shoes they wouldn’t have an elevated heel. They’d probably be Converses (Chuck Taylors), because they look great and IMO are a great powerlifting shoe.
Why Are Converses Good Powerlifting Shoes?
Chucks aren’t exactly powerlifting shoes, but they’re excellent for it because:
- They’re flat
- With an incredibly wide-sole
- Good stability
- High-top availability
Essentially they allow you to maximise force production and ‘push through the heel,’ using energy more efficiently.
The high-top variation of the shoe creates excellent stability and tightness too, working in much the same way a wrestling shoe does.
Some people favour wrestling shoes when powerlifting. They’re typically high-top and have laces all the way up.
If you’ve ever tried on a pair of wrestling shoes, you’ll know the level of tightness and traction they provide. Potentially great for powerlifting.
One drawback is that they aren’t well-suited for the wide-footed gent. I find myself tipping over in them when squatting occasionally, as I have particularly wide feet.
When should you not wear Weightlifting Shoes?
So this is a contentious one and definitely down to your individual taste. Whilst elevated heels are fantastic for improving range of motion, they can cause balance issues and shift a lifter forward when squatting.
This boils down to a flexibility vs balance trade-off.
For a huge proportion of people, flexibility is easier to perfect than balance.
The heavier the weight gets, the more likely your body will revert to type. By this I mean if your strongest muscles are your quads, that will be the primary lever.
In this case, I think it’s better to emphasise your strong points. Wear the shoes that allow your strongest muscle group to flourish.
If you have great flexibility and quad strength, wear flatter powerlifting shoes and get used to them.
If you have stronger hips, wear higher heeled versions.
Wear them week in week out and you’ll perfect the required technique.
Olympic Weightlifting Shoes vs Powerlifting Shoes
The primary difference between the two is that oly-lifting shoes have a sole with greater elevation. This is because your weight when performing the olympic lifts is further forward; primarily in the front squat position.
The heel acts as an essential counterbalance to forward tilt.
The clean and jerk and snatch demand extreme flexibility and fast force production.
The elevated heel puts you in a better position to optimise these lifts.
The flatter soled powerlifting shoe doesn’t provide the same support that Olympic weightlifting shoes do.
The flatter sole reduces the emphasis on your quads and is typically better for wide-stance, low bar squats.
The higher-heeled Olympic weightlifting shoe is better for a narrow stance, high-bar squat.
So which Powerlifting shoe should I get?
So this all depends on:
- Your current flexibility and anthropometry
- Your squat style
If you really struggle with flexibility and suffer from being a longer-limbed lifter, then higher heeled shoes will provide greater benefit.
But ultimately you should look to improve your flexibility so you don’t become overly-reliant on shoes to boost your performance.
As discussed, the squat is typically the lift in which you’ll see the most benefit when powerlifting.
But for me, confidence is the most important factor.
When you feel good, you know the weights will fly up. When you feel confident with how you look, your diet’s on point and your equipment is perfectly suited to you, that will translate to PR’s.
By this I mean you have to like how the shoe looks. It’s not just about stance width or squat style. It’s about you loving what you do and what you do it in.
But I have still simplified it below if you’re desperate for an answer:
- High-bar squat: Olympic weightlifting shoes
- Low bar squat: Powerlifting shoes
- Wide-stance squat: Powerlifting shoes
- Narrow-stance squat: Olympic weightlifting shoes
Do you wear powerlifting shoes? Let me know in the comments which ones you prefer and why you wear them