A weightlifting shoe is for professional weightlifters and athletes. The shoes are specially designed to meet the needs of weightlifting athletes. Weightlifting shoes tend to have a unique shape and look.
Their heel usually comprises of solid wood, plastic or stacked leather or similar rigid and hard material; the heel is also raised by half an inch to an inch. The shoes lace up at the front with a strap usually located on the upper, which you can use to narrow or tighten the fit.
Weightlifting shoes help provide sufficient traction needed on the platform by the weightlifters. This feature keeps them from sliding and slipping while lifting heavy loads.
Weightlifting shoes may seem awkward and heavy but are designed and produced with a single function in mind, which is to enable the lifters to exert the maximum amount of force when they are lifting heavy weights.
In addition to weightlifters, powerlifters, and crossfitters wear them as well. In the recent past, lifting shoes have gained a lot of popularity in areas such as strength training.
In case you have been squatting, snatching or clean and jerking in your non-lifting shoes for some time, it is likely that you will feel worse at the start when you start practicing in your weightlifting shoes.
However, this should not come as a surprise, and you do not have to worry because you are changing into a very different kind of footwear and similar to many other changes, adaptation, and adjustment are needed. Therefore, bear in mind that a minor adjustment period does not indicate that the lifting shoes will make matters worse.
The raised heels of your weightlifting shoes can initially make it feel as if you are a little too forward on the feet. This effect is because you have not adequately adjusted your body position for balance.
With time and practice, you will be able to mechanically or anatomically balance yourself just the way you like in raised heels because the angle of your foot, in most cases, will be very minimal.
Weightlifting Shoes Benefits
Weightlifting shoes can add personality to your presence and improve your lifting in some ways. The benefits of these shoes include:
Lifting shoes have raised heels. This feature can enhance or improve your posture throughout lifts. When you think of Olympic and compound movements, issues or problems with maintaining an adequate posture could be a main limiting factor that can hamper a successful lift.
Heel heights can differ from one shoe to the other, but the main purpose is to figure out the height that can allow a lifter to assume the power stance while maintaining leverage easily.
Therefore, it is important to find a suitable heel height that lets you feel comfortable and stable while maintaining an erect posture. You should bear in mind mobility and flexibility issues as well as anthropometrics (shin angles and femur length etc.).
A handy rule that you can follow is to get the shoes with heels that match your specific body type, such as higher heels are better for longer femurs.
Apart from the raised heels, weightlifting shoes help lifters by providing a solid and stable base which helps balance the weight. The base usually comprises of solid wood, hard plastic or a combination of the two.
An unstable surface is the last thing you need in any lift. As these shoes provide a firm base, you can feel more secure and safe throughout your lifts and enhance your ability to maintain the right postures.
Look for a solid base that feels right for landing. In case you are new to these types of shoes, a very hard landing surface will seem strange at the start; however, you will have to give them some time. The characteristic of a fine weightlifting shoe is that it will provide a base that will not give away or rock, like most running shoes would.
A majority of lifting shoes feature rubber, leather or something similar to plastic coating. This feature offers extra support for your ankle or foot. Many lifting shoe models even have an additional strap or multiple straps to offer more support.
The firmness coupled with a firm base helps create a very secure feeling, which allows you to spread the ground more effectively and efficiently to leverage power.
Most weightlifting shoes are designed quite well and usually incorporate suitable supporting materials that you require. However, do not go for the cheaper models as they tend to wear out quite quickly.
The solid base, elevated heel and ankle support all combine to provide you improved mobility. You are likely to feel better mobility throughout your lifts, particularly in regions such as your knees, ankles, and hips.
When you enhance your mobility, you can increase your likelihood of adequately producing sufficient power and maintaining suitable postures. Poor hip and ankle flexion can often inhibit your chances of generating maximum power in the Olympic and squat lifts.
The right lifting shoes will be able to fit your lifting style and goals. To stress the raised heel point, a pair of shoes that can make you more secure and mobile throughout different postures will help you achieve the power position more easily.
Weightlifting shoes can act as an ideal preventative measure for many minor and major injuries. Whenever you are carrying out heavy lifts and complex movements, you run a risk of or are more prone to injuries. However, if you work out with a pair of lifting shoes that offer a firm base and extra support, you can considerably cut down this risk.
Regular shoes made of rubber, tend to have unstable bases do not offer enough support which is likely to put your body in poor and awkward positions and can lead to various injuries.
A good lifting shoe will fit snug and make you more secure and safe and will not have looseness or wiggle room that can throw you off balance.
With the availability of a variety of new designs as well as color schemes, you have a great chance to add a little personality and flair to your lifting shoes.
These shoes can make you look stylish and trendy because they can bring more personality to the lifts and make you stand out from the rest. Putting on a pair of shoes that you like can give you motivation as well and get you in the mood.
Adequate alignment of your pelvis and lumbar spine is very important during squats. A good pair of weightlifting shoes will help promote the alignment and increase your effectiveness and help avoid strains at the same time.
Poorly aligned ankles and feet tend to transfer their difficulties upwards. Your joints are likely to suffer the burden of these uncomfortable forces, particularly your knees. Therefore, to avoid the excruciating injuries to your knees, wear lifting shoes that help you align your ankles and feet properly.
Types Of Weightlifting Shoes
Weightlifting shoes come in different shapes and sizes and feature different heel heights and lacing systems. We will discuss some common types of lifting shoes.
Men’s And Women’s Weightlifting Shoes
Weightlifting shoes for women not just offer adequate protection but are designed keeping the needs of women in mind. They keep female aesthetics in mind during design and production. Women's shoes usually have lightweight upper and feature air mesh sections that offer great breathability.
A majority of women’s lifting shoes have non-slip and flat soles that feature elevated heels that help create a much larger surface area. This feature can be helpful in dispersing weight throughout the whole foot and promotes balance and stability.
Many models have enhanced midsoles for extra comfort and support. The footwear is not just appropriate for a variety of lifting exercises but is also effective for other daily exercises as well.
Most men’s weightlifting shoes have heels of about 0.75 inches, making them an ideal option for many lifters who require some extra mobility, which a majority of male lifters usually need. Many recent models also feature mid-foot straps that help keep lifters' foot secure.
As men usually have thicker and bigger feet compared to women, the mid-foot straps are a good addition to many types of male lifters. Also, some models feature long-lasting TPU heels; as a result, the shoe's base is less likely to give under much heavier weights.
Many CrossFit shoes have flat soles that keep lifters quite stable, especially while pushing heavier loads. The smooth experience helps enhance safety and comfort during lifting sessions while minimizing the risk of muscle and knee injuries.
These types of weightlifting shoes are ideal for beginners. Many models come with rubber-reinforced heels, making the shoes very stable as you carry on with your weightlifting ordeal. The shoes have a pleasing and attractive design.
Many newer models are made of synthetic and durable materials and feature nylon mesh which plays a major role in improving the breathability of the shoes. Also, the laces play a major part by holding your feet securely during strenuous lifting sessions.
Heavy Lifting Shoes
A lot of people incorrectly assume that the most suitable shoes for squats and deadlifts are the pricey and raised-heel ones; however, this is not true. You should know that flat soles are more important if you want to get the best results out of your deadlifts and squats.
This reason is why a majority of heavy lifting shoes have non-zero, or zero drops as performing deadlifts and squats in a pair of shoes with elevated heels have not been proven beneficial.
These shoes also have a firm sole and allow you to feel the ground via the soles of the shoes. Many recent models also have wider toe boxes as these shoes secure your forefoot in a strong and iron grip and prevent them from splaying. These shoes have a lightweight construction and have tarsal straps which allow you to get a lot of lateral stability and downward force.
Cross Training Shoes
Cross training shoes are helpful in a variety of different roles. You will be able to use them for most activities in the gym such as lifting weights, stretching, yoga as well as using an elliptical machine. Cross training shoes are usually a hybrid of different kinds of footwear.
A pair of cross training shoes provides excellent cushioning and also protect your feet against ground impact. These shoes have wider and more stable soles which usually expands the width of the shoe’s upper part. The width offers greater support required for many lateral movements that you may engage in while wearing these shoes.
Let's take a look on what you should pay attention to when buying a brand new weightlifting shoes:
Different Heel Heights
The average heel height of weightlifting shoes is about 0.75 inch. However, many models have a 1-inch heel, while others may have a lower heel height of about 0.6 inches.
Strength sport and anthropometrics can play a major role in determining the right heel height for an athlete. For example, for taller lifters, usually, a higher heel height is preferable because of the long lower extremities.
Taller heels allow lifters to achieve a greater range of motion which increases flexibility at the ankles. On the other hand, lower heels can benefit people with shorter limbs and lifters who tend to prefer a low-bar squat because this kind of squat style uses a greater hip hinge, relying less on your ankle mobility.
Security And Straps
Another important shoe feature is the number of straps that a shoe has. Most lifting shoes tend to have a single strap, while a few come with two straps. You will commonly find the strap around the shoe’s upper part.
The main reason for this is to offer additional security in case of increased ankle mobility during squats. Many models have mid or lower-foot straps, which can cover the center of the tongue. Usually, two straps provide more security, but at the end, it is a matter of personal preference.
Weightlifting shoes feature different kinds of heels you may choose from depending on your needs and preference. Shoes with plastic heels, often made of TPU material, tend to offer more stability, and are common in most lifting shoes. The plastic heels offer a hard or firm surface for standing and are usually more durable compared to leather or wood heels.
Usually, weightlifting shoes feature regular shoe laces similar to the ones found in sneakers. In some cases, the laces are quite similar to cross trainers or tennis shoes; however, you have the option to switch them out if you like. On the other hand, some models come with more sophisticated lacing system such as BOA lacing system.
How To Choose The Perfect Heel Height?
There are a variety of options when it comes to elevated heels; however, the average heel height is 0.75 inch. Some lifters tend to add a few inserts at their shoe's bottom to raise the heel height to more than 0.75 inches.
The main goal of raised heels is to reach sufficient squat depth using an erect torso. When choosing the right heel height, pay attention to the length of your legs and torso, as well as your squat style.
If you have longer femurs and shins, the ideal heel height is 0.75 inch or higher. In contrast, if you have shorter femurs and shins start with a heel height of 0.65 inches and adjust based on your bottom squat position. In case you have short legs and long torso, a shorter heel will be better for you.
A shorter torso allows you to stay upright at full depth. This reason is why people with a short torso and long legs, should go for taller heels. If your squat style is quad dominant or narrow, you will find lifting shoes of standard heel height (0.75 inches) ideal for your training. If you have a wider stance, then a lower heel height will work much better.
Weightlifting Shoe Vs. Standard Exercise Shoes
Weightlifting and exercise shoes might look similar, but you should know there are some important differences.
Exercise shoes are for heel-to-toe movement. In contrast, lifting shoes are more suitable for multi-directional movements, in particular, lateral movement. Weightlifting shoes have more flexible soles, allowing a wider range of movement.
Weightlifting shoes have heels that are designed to support you to go lower during squats and stand up with ease. They are also ideal for strength training as they allow for more room for your forefoot.
Exercise shoes are ideal for running, yoga and Pilates. Exercise shoes offer protection to the feet when you are pounding the pavement repeatedly. Exercise shoes are different from lifting shoes as they help you with the forward movement. Also, exercise shoes provide greater support and cushioning.
There are many brands in the weightlifting shoe market. Below are some of the biggest brands you will come across when looking for a pair of lifting shoes.
Nike has dominated the weightlifting shoe market for several years; however, the company took a break during the early 1990's, returning in 2009. Most of their lifting shoes feature TPU heels, come with a single or multiple straps (depending on the models), with a regular heel size of 0.75 inches.
Adidas has been making weightlifting shoes since 1970. The company is currently producing models with many different specs. They market lifting shoes with various heel heights such as 0.6 inch, 0.63 inches, and 1 inch. Some of their models use a lacing system called BOA.
Along with Adidas and Nike, Reebok has been manufacturing weightlifting shoes for quite a long time. The company currently manufactures lifting shoes with various heel heights, ranging from 0.6 inches and 0.75 inches. Moreover, Reebok markets shoes with various strapping styles for different kinds of strength sports.
Follow these tips to clean and maintain your weightlifting shoes without damaging them:
- Always take off the laces. Forgetting to take them off will create unwanted indents and lead to blotchy cleaning. It may take some time, but it will prevent your shoes from getting damaged
- You should spot clean all noticeable stains and marks before placing the shoes in your washer. An Oxy Clean or Tide pen with water will lift all the stains
- Never use stain removers that contain bleach, unless you have white shoes
- Wash your lifting shoes with hot water using a gentle spin cycle
- If possible, wash the inner soles by hand and wash your laces separately
- After washing the shoes, place them in your dryer. Always use a low-heat cycle to prevent burning or cracking the material
- Re-lace your shoes when they are dry
We have discussed what weightlifting shoes are along with their benefits such as solid base, ankle support, elevated heels, better safety, and mobility. We have looked at the different types of lifting shoes including CrossFit shoes, heavy lifting shoes, and cross-training shoes. We have discussed the specs of weightlifting shoes such as heel height, stability and lacing systems.
We have provided many tips on how you can choose the perfect heel height and have highlighted the differences between weightlifting shoes and standard exercise shoes.
We also mentioned the top manufacturers of weightlifting shoes. Our buying guide will discuss the different features that you should consider when buying weightlifting shoes along with some recommendations.