1. Increased Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is the enlargement of an organ or muscle tissue due to an increase in cell size. Basically, this means your muscles will appear larger. Weightlifting shoes allow you to safely lift heavier loads, which leads to an increase in hypertrophy.
2. Deeper Squats
The elevated heel on the shoe may look kind of funny, but it has a valuable purpose. The heel – anywhere from half an inch to an inch or more – allows you to use every aspect of your musculature more efficiently. The Soviets were actually the first to discover this.
The heel lets the lifter settle down into a deeper squatting position, because the ankle joint has an increased range of motion. A deeper squat leads to a stronger, safer form and increased gains. If that’s your goal, you should read this.
3. Helps Keep Your Knees Out
The elevated heel helps you keep your knees out. While there’s no substitute for learning the proper form, Oly shoes allow you to “cheat” in a sense. They help guide your body into naturally assuming safe, proper form.
4. Increases Ankle Mobility
The elevated heel gives you greater ankle motion than you’d get in a pair of Chucks. This increased ankle motion is due to the deeper squat you’re able to achieve. Improved ankle mobility not only lets you lift more, it also helps prevent injury.
5. Improves Upright Position during Squat
The elevated heel, and the deep squat it allows, also improves your overall position. You’ll be able sit more upright. This gives you a better grip on the barbell.
Oly shoes have straps, allowing your foot to push out against the side. This increases your hip activation, which creates a stronger pull or squat.
7. Stabilizes Heel
The elevated heel provides a solid foundation to lift from. Without a solid foundation, your ankle can roll or your foot can slip and slide. The heel keeps your foot firmly grounded.
8. Harder Sole
Oly shoes have a wooden sole with rubber on the bottom. This means your foot is always on a stable surface. When they fit properly, you’ll feel grounded and stable. Obviously, the more stable you are when lifting, the less likely it is you’ll drop something heavy on yourself.
9. Increases Lifting Power
I can dissect features for hours, but the bottom line is this: Weightlifting shoes will improve your performance. Unlike Chuck Taylors, they are designed for a very specific set of weightlifting moves. They provide the support and safety every lifter needs.
Which Ones To Buy
Here are some specific recommendations that you can’t go wrong with. I even recommend Chuck’s for some people, as they will move your training light years ahead of wearing cross trainers.
Practically any option designed specifically for Olympic weightlifting will work just fine. You want the elevated heel, the increased support and the flat sole. Everything else is really just a personal preference. If there’s a brand you trust, feel free to go with that.
They start around $80 and can go up to $120 or even higher. While that might seem high, they are designed to last. You’ll likely be able to use the same pair for years and years.
With that in mind, buy a pair with a style you like. I tell this to my clients all the time: It’s okay to buy ones that you think look cool. The mental side of weightlifting is pretty important. If cool footwear helps increases your confidence in the gym, that’s an advantage you can use.
Olympic Weightlifting Shoes for Olympic Lifts (including Squats)
Olympic weightlifting is a specific type of lifting. As the name suggests, this is the type of lifting seen in the Olympics. There are two types of lifts: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. These lifts are done quickly, and are a test of explosive strength. Olympic weightlifting is also known as “Oly lifting.”
Olympic weightlifting footwear is created specifically for this type of lifting. They have a very compression-resistant sole, a pronounced heel and solid ankle support. Here are some more examples of weightlifting shoes. Personally, I think most of them look pretty cool (although a few do resemble what you would wear in a bowling alley). But, really, who cares what they look like? The important thing is how much of a benefit they’ll give you.
While Chuck Taylor’s certainly have their place in lifting, in almost every case I recommend Olympic weightlifting shoes for my clients.
How to Find the Right Size
The fit is pretty important. Too big, and you won’t get the desired support. Too small, and your foot will be in pain (and your chances of injury increased). You need to figure out your “true foot size.” This is the same size you wear in a dress shoe, and will usually be smaller than your size for regular sneakers.
Your foot width is another element you need to consider. Some, like ADIDAS, tend to be a bit on the narrow side. Others, like DoWin, tend to fit better for a wider foot. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, however. Everybody’s feet are unique.
The most accurate way to measure your foot is to use the Brannock device. This is that thing in the store you put your foot into. If you’re like me, you don’t have a Brannock device sitting around in your house. So you’ll likely have to go to a sporting goods store.
Personally, I don’t have much luck when buying footwear online. While I do know my true size, I just can’t get a good sense of what they will feel like simply by looking at a picture. The downside is online retailers typically have lower prices than the brick-and-mortar stores.
Typically, I’ll go to the store and try on several pairs. When I find something I like, I’ll then shop for it online. This way I’m able to try on the shoes, but can usually get a pretty good deal.
What to Expect The First Time Your Wear Them
Weightlifting shoes are heavier than most people think. This is due to the heel and the support. So don’t be surprised if they have a bit more weight than you’re used to. However, while should will be heavy, they shouldn’t be so heavy they limit your movements. If you can’t walk comfortably, they’re probably not the right pair for you.
Properly sized footwear should also fit snugly. While how snug can be a matter of your personal preference, you don’t want too much room. Oly shoes will usually lace up right down to the toe, so you can really adjust how they fit. If they are too big, they won’t provide the proper support. Ideally, you want them to feel almost like a sock: your foot will be covered completely, but not constrained.
Don’t Forget Tall Socks
Speaking of socks, what type should you wear with Oly shoes? Lifters have many different opinions on socks. Generally, socks don’t matter much if you’re doing squats. For cleans, however, many lifters prefer a tall sock in order to protect their shins.
Wearing Oly shoes without socks is a fine option. In fact, you can get a nice snug fit that way. There is one major downside: the smell. I’m not kidding – without socks, your weightlifting shoes can quickly start to stink. Many lifters prefer socks simply to keep their gear smelling a bit better. Not the weightlifting is the most odor-free sport in the world, but every little bit helps.
Socks designed for weightlifting do exist, but they can be a bit pricey. To be honest, most athletic socks will work just fine. If you’re trying on Oly shoes, be sure and wear the same socks you plan to work out in. Since they need such an exact fit, a thick sock can have a noticeable effect.
Good Lifting Starts at the Soles of Your Feet
Whether you’re new the sport or are an experienced pro, you need a quality pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes. The elevated heel and flat sole will help you squat deeper and lift more. The support will help prevent your ankle from rolling both in and out.
As an Olympic weightlifter, I love the increased gains the Oly shoe helps me achieve. As a professional trainer, I love how they promote good form and decrease the risk of injury. So get yourself a pair. You’ll be amazed at the difference!
Which One Is For You?
This is a question common among both amateurs and experienced lifters. Since so many people are unsure what to wear, I tend to see a little bit of everything. The most common types of shoes I see in the weight room are:
- Chuck Taylors
- Traditional cross-training sneakers
- None at all
If you’re new to weightlifting, that last one isn’t a joke. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to train barefoot, and many other experienced weightlifters swear by it. By that same token, if you’re not an experienced lifter, I recommend wearing shoes while you’re learning. (Besides, more than a few gyms won’t allow you to go barefoot anyway.)
The right footwear helps prevent injury and promote better form. So, unless you really know what you’re doing, lace up. But which type? Actually, there’s no one correct answer (although there are definitely some incorrect ones). Let’s take a look at some common scenarios.
Chuck Taylors for Power Lifters
Chuck Taylor’s All-Stars have remained virtually unchanged since the 1930s. Originally a basketball shoe, these classic Chucks have been embraced by power lifters. Many power lifters have a saying: “Every inch matters.” This means the closer you are to the ground, the more support you’ll have, and the bigger gains you’ll achieve.
All-Stars have a flat, thick rubber sole, which keeps your feet close to the ground. The lack of an inbuilt cushion (such as what’s in a running shoe) means it won’t absorb force. Instead, the flat sole lets you use all the force your body creates. Additionally, the high top option can be laced up past your ankle, making the shoe fit as snug as a sock. Chucks are a popular – and inexpensive – choice for squats and deadlifts.
Cross-Training and Running Shoes Have No Place In The Weight Room
Running sneakers are designed to absorb the impact of your footfalls. This is great for running and jumping, but it’s the exact opposite of what you want when lifting. Your foot sits high in them, which means you’re unable to plant your feet firmly. When you lift, energy has to travel through the padding of the shoe, into the floor and then upwards, to lift the weight. You’ll have less energy for lifting.
Also, crossing-training and running sneakers increase the risk of rolling your feet. The lack of side support, combined with the soft mesh material the shoe is made of, won’t keep your feet in the proper position. Stay away from running and cross-training sneakers if you’re lifting!
I’m here to help my clients reach their goals in fitness, not fashion. So normally I don’t care what they wear. Unless it involves footwear. Your choice in weightlifting shoes is about more than just aesthetics. They will have a direct impact on your ability to lift successfully and safely.