Have you ever thought about how many different types of athletic shoes are manufactured? You can buy specialized shoes for tennis, running, walking, cross training, hiking, baseball, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, skating and even for weightlifting.
Weightlifting shoes are mostly used for Olympic lifts, but even if you don’t do Olympic lifts, the right kind of shoe can even help you with squatting.
This is what Mark Rippetoe has to say on the subject of shoes:
Shoes are the only piece of personal equipment that you really need to own. It only takes one set of five in a pair of squat shoes to demonstrate convincingly to anybody who has done more than one squat workout. A good pair of squat shoes adds enough to the efficiency of the movement that the cost is easily justified. For anywhere from $50 to $200 for the newest Adidas weightlifting shoes, a pair of proper shoes makes a big difference in the way a squat feels.
Power lifting squat shoes have relatively flat soles, and Olympic weightlifting shoes have a little lift in the heal that makes it easier to get the knees forward just in front of the toes. Your choice will depend on your squatting style and your flexibility. Most squat shoes have metatarsal straps to increase lateral stability and suck the foot back into the shoe to reduce intra-shoe movement.
But the main feature of a squat shoe is heel compressibility. The drive out of the bottom starts at the floor, where the feet start the kinetic chain. If the contact between the feet and the floor is the squishy gel or air cell of a running shoe, a percentage of the force of the drive will be absorbed by the compression of the cell.
This compression is fine for running, but when squatting it reduces power transmission efficiency and prevents foot stability. Unstable footing interferes with the reproducibility of the movement pattern, rendering virtually every squat a whole new experience and preventing the development of good technique.
Squatting in running shoes is like squatting on a bed. Many people get away with it for years, but serious lifters invest in squat shoes. They aren't that expensive, especially compared to brand new name brand athletic shoes, and they make a huge difference in the way a squat feels.
The key sentence above is the main feature of a squat shoe is heel compressibility. The heel of a weightlifting shoe should not have any compression or give.
Some of the old school lifters (like Arnold and Franco Columbo) worked out barefoot, or in flip flops and others in work boots or even in dress shoes! Speaking of old school, a pair of Chuck Taylors Converse All-Stars works well for weightlifting.
They are completely flat so they won’t roll under heavy weight, and they give your feet a very stable base when performing squats and other heavy movements.
If you buy a cross trainer to squat in, the soles are to spongy and they WILL roll your ankle if you get wide and heavy with the squats.
The All-Stars allow your feet to stay firmly planted, which helps maintain proper technique.
The high tops are best because you can wrap the laces around your angle giving you great ankle support (like a hockey skate), and the canvas upper is virtually indestructible.
Chuck Taylors run a little big. I wear a 9 or a 9 1/2 in a gym shoe, an 8 1/2 dress shoe, and a size 8 in a Chuck Taylor that is a snug fit, which is what you want in a weightlifting shoe.
Another favorite among weightlifters are the Do-Wins Rogues. The Rogues have been redesigned from the ground up to offer better breathability by using mesh inserts and greater stability from two shorter velcro tarsal straps and a lower heel, when compared to the regular Do-Wins weightlifting shoe.
Mark Rippetoe recommends them and Glenn Pendlay says they are guaranteed to increase your lifts by 10lbs. the minute you put them on.
The Do-Wins run a little wide, so you might want to get a half size smaller than your normal gym shoe size.
You can also tighten the laces and straps more.
For a good all around lifting shoe, choose the Otomix Power Trainer high tops. They have better insoles than the Chuck Taylor's, but cost a little more. Otomix says their shoes run a 1/2 size small, so buy a half size larger than your regular shoe size.
If you have an unlimited budget, the Adidas Adistar Weightlift might be for you. The adistars come with triple velcro straps ensuring a snug fit; wooden heel wedge for great stability; leather upper with ventilation holes and a rubber outsole for better traction. Adistars are for narrow feet.
I bought a pair of black high top Chuck Taylors and they do work well as a weightlifting shoe. As soon as my squat poundage’s start to rise, we will see if my ankles roll, or I have a blowout! After the Chucky T’s wear out, I’ll try the Otomix shoe next.
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