If you started running regularly, you would likely buy a new pair of running shoes. Likewise, if you started playing tennis, football or basketball, you would buy a pair of tennis, football or basketball shoes. Each of these shoes is made with different features specific to their purpose.
Weightlifting is no different. It is a sport, and if you are serious about getting stronger and want to lift heavy weights, you should use the proper footwear.
That’s not to say that you can’t lift without weightlifting shoes, but they will help you perform better and limit the chances of you getting injured when lifting.
What Are They?
Weightlifting shoes have been used for a long time by competitive Olympic Weightlifters and Powerlifters to help move heavy weights around and have become increasingly popular among all strength sports for their abilities to support an athlete’s performance. The availability of these shoes has increased dramatically, and training in weightlifting shoes isn’t such a weird thing that only a handful of hardcore lifters do anymore. You may have even seen someone wearing them at the gym and wondered how they are beneficial.
Compared to many other shoes, weightlifting shoes/lifters/oly shoes, whatever you like to call them, are usually heavier and more solid. They have a raised heel made of hard, non-compressible material, a firm and flat sole, and usually a midfoot strap for a secure fit.
Lifting shoes are designed to increase a lifter’s stability, support mobility, and enhance platform feedback. They help you get into a more upright position at the bottom of the squat which translates to better positions/postures for the snatch and clean & jerk.
Main Differences Between Sneakers and Weightlifting Shoes
A solid, rigid heel allows for better stability and efficient force transfer. In contrast to regular running shoes with cushioned heels, the solid heel in weightlifting shoes enables you to transmit more force through your contact points with the ground. The greater the force you can generate through your lifts, the more weight you can move.
The solid heel and sole are designed to bear as much weight as possible without any compression. This design means less unwanted movement making it better for your joints and helping to prevent injury. Your foot will not sink into the thick cushioning found in most running shoes.
Older weightlifting shoes had heels made with wood or stacked leather. Newer shoes are typically made with high-density plastic and designed to cup and hug the heel for greater stability and support.
The raised heel in weightlifting shoes makes it easier to achieve a deeper squat. The ankle has to perform less dorsiflexion to reach this position due to the change in angle the raised heel provides. This also helps to improve your overall position allowing you to sit more upright. A more upright torso means you have more chance of holding onto the barbell when handling heavy loads.
The raised heel also provides a stable base for lifters to sit back on. This stability allows you to activate far more of the musculature needed to keep that bar moving in the right direction, upwards.
The raised heel height is often referred to as the offset or heel-to-toe drop, with around 19 to 25mm or .75″ to 1″ common for weightlifting shoes. A typical running shoe has a heel-to-toe drop of about 10mm – meaning your heel is about 10mm higher than your toes. Newer style running shoes that encourage “midfoot striking” have a lesser drop of around 4 to 6mm.
Most weightlifting shoes have a 3/4 inch or 19mm heel meaning the heel-to-toe drop is 2 to 3 times that of most running shoes.
Lacing and Strapping System
Weightlifting shoes are made to be stable both under and around your foot. The lacing and strapping systems are designed to secure your foot through all phases of your lifts.
Lifting shoes generally have more laces than typical athletic shoes, allowing you to tighten them right to the toes rather than just around the midfoot. Most shoes will also have at least one strap, sometimes two, or a mechanical tightening system. This system allows for greater support around the midfoot preventing the foot from sliding or moving around too much when performing heavy lifts.
High traction is important to prevent slipping or unwanted movement when performing the Olympic lifts, especially on smooth surfaces like Olympic lifting platforms. The sole of these shoes is usually firm and grippy, providing maximum traction. These soles are generally softer than other shoes and will wear out quicker if used on the wrong surface.
Do I Need Them
As mentioned earlier, weightlifting shoes are optional. However, they may help increase your performance and decrease injury risk when training with weightlifting movements. The shoes’ benefits can also be psychological. If you believe you can lift more weight wearing them, you very well could.
These shoes can help enhance your lifts and help you achieve better positions. However, if you have mobility issues, they will not fix them. Use these shoes as a supplementary tool, not a quick fix. If poor form, mobility, or flexibility are your issues, you should focus on improving these first. Like any aid, you will form a reliance on them if you ignore the underlying issues. The shoes will help mask the problem but will affect things down the line and come back to bite you at some point.
When Should I Use Them
The biggest drawback to weightlifting shoes is that they are really only good for one thing – weightlifting. However, that can also be a good thing. Because you will generally only wear them when lifting, they will often last a long time.
Wear them when squatting heavy and when performing your Olympic lifts, especially squat variations. You can also use them in workouts involving squat-based movements. Remember that they are heavier than most other shoes and may impede other exercises, so think about what the workout involves.
Where Do I Get Some
It is sometimes difficult to find stockists where you can go and try these shoes on in-store. Some Rebel Sport stores stock Nike and sometimes Reebok weightlifting shoes, and it can be a good place to look first so you can try some on before buying.
Major shoe brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok all make weightlifting shoes, which you can usually find on their websites. Websites like https://thewodlife.com.au have a wide range of shoes from brands such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and Inov8. Each brand will have specific features and different pros and cons, but they will all be a great addition to your gym bag, especially if you are starting out.
Getting the right size is important when buying weightlifting shoes. The shoe should be a snug fit to ensure maximum stability and support. You don’t want your foot sliding around in the shoe when performing your lifts. It can be hard to choose the right size when purchasing online, but many suppliers will let you exchange shoes for free if the wrong size is purchased.
You can often find weightlifting shoes on sale on certain websites or at Rebel Sport. If you are not too concerned with colour schemes or the latest style, you can sometimes pick up a good bargain, so look around if you are purchasing some.