If you started running regularly, you would most likely buy a new pair of running shoes. Likewise, if you started playing tennis, football or basketball you would probably buy a pair of tennis, football or basketball shoes. Each of these shoes are made with different features that are specific to their purpose.
Weightlifting is no different. It is a sport, and if you are pretty serious about getting stronger and want to lift heavy weights you should be using the right 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 an injury 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 what they are for.
Compared to a lot of 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, flat sole and usually some sort of 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 in 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 a regular running shoe which has a cushioned heel to absorb impact, the solid heel in weightlifting shoes allows 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. Your foot will not sink into the thick cushioning typical of most running shoes. This means there is less unwanted movement making it better for your joints and helping to prevent injury.
Older weightlifting shoes were generally made with wooden or stacked leather heels. Newer shoes are typically made with high-density plastic and are designed to cup and hug the heel for greater stability.
The raised heel in weightlifting shoes makes it easier for you 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 will help 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 allows you to activate far more of the musculature needed to keep that bar moving in the right direction, upwards.
The height of the raised heel is expressed as the offset or heel to toe drop. A heel raise of around 19 to 25mm or .75″ to 1″ is common for weightlifting shoes. A typical running shoe has a heel to toe drop of around 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 keep your foot as secure as possible in 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 or in some cases two straps or some sort of mechanical tightening system. This allows for greater support around the midfoot preventing the foot from sliding or moving around too much when performing heavy lifts.
The sole of these shoes is usually firm and grippy providing maximum traction. High traction is important to prevent slipping or too much unwanted movement when performing lifts, especially on smooth surfaces like Olympic lifting platforms. These soles are generally softer than other types of shoes and will wear out quicker if used on the wrong type of surface.
Do I Need Them
As mentioned earlier, weightlifting shoes are not completely necessary but 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 with them on, then you very well could.
These shoes can help to enhance your lifts and can help you achieve better positions if you have mobility issues but they will not fix these problems. If poor form, mobility or flexibility are your issues, you should focus on improving these and use the shoes as a supplementary tool, not a quick fix. Like any aid, if you ignore the underlying issues, you will form a reliance. The shoes will help to mask the issue but it 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. This can also be a good thing though. Because you will generally only wear them when you are lifting they will often last a long time.
Wear them when squatting heavy and when performing your Olympic lifts, especially full squat variations. They can also be used in workouts where squat based movements are being performed, but because they are a lot heavier than most other shoes they may impede you in other movements so think about what the workout involves.
Where Do I Get Some
It can be hard to find stockists where you can actually go and try these shoes on in store. Some Rebel Sport stores stock Reebok weightlifting shoes so this can be a good place to have a look first so you can try some on before you buy them.
Major shoe brands such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and Asics all make weightlifting shoes and these can usually be found on their websites. Nike Weightlifting shoes can also be purchased on https://www.ironedge.com.au and https://thewodlife.com.au stocks Nike, Adidas, and Inov8 brand shoes. Each of these brands will have different pros and cons but they will all be a great addition to your gym bag, especially if you are just starting out.
It is important that you get the right size when buying weightlifting shoes. It can be hard choosing the right size when purchasing online but a lot of suppliers will let you exchange shoes for free if the wrong size is purchased. 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.
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 have a look around if you are looking at purchasing some.