The Shoes That Make The Lifter

Article written for by Jay Stadtfeld

Tennis shoes like Nike’s are designed for running, walking, and various sports. What they’re not designed for is weightlifting of any variety.

Yet, because they’re frequently the only thing people have known for most of their natural born life, that’s what is used in the gym.

Compressible soles, which are found on most (read: not all) tennis shoes create instability while training under heavy loads, and can put you in an un-advantageous position when squatting or deadlifting. The last thing you want is to be wobbly while squatting or deadlifting heavy. You’ll want as little side to side motion as possible in the first place, so why would you assist in that by wearing shit shoes to train in?

The best type of shoe is a squatting shoe, which if you’ve seen Olympic weightlifting, you’ll notice the shoes typically have straps which support the foot and prevent it from sliding around, along with providing a wooden sole and heel to assist in better “spreading the floor”, while the heel aids in promoting quadriceps recruitment necessary for “raw” squatting, and providing artificial dorsiflexion, should flexibility be an issue.

However, not everybody has the funds (these can range anywhere from $70 to $200+) to purchase Olympic shoes, so your next best bet is Converse Chuck Taylor’s. Chuck’s are flat soled, meaning that they will not have the heel lift like the Oly shoes. You may not get the extra quadricep recruitment that you did from the Oly shoes, but they’re still a fine substitute, presuming you have the flexibility to remain on your heels in the squat. You’ll see a lot of us Powerlifters using them to deadlift in, too. Basically, the flat sole will put you closer to the ground, meaning the bar will have to travel less of a distance. Personally, I’ve never really had much issues pulling in my Olympic shoes. Even setting a 15 lb PR with them on in my last meet. Do as is comfortable to you.

Hopefully this provides some background as to why you shouldn’t train in conventional tennis shoes. Plus, Chucks and Oly shoes just look like you mean fucking business. And, if you’re lifting heavy things, you most likely do.

You are a weightlifter, Your shoes should reflect that.

Authors Note: I refuse to acknowledge Vibram Five Fingers on account of people who wear them look like a complete jagoff. I said it because someone had to.

Jay is a strength and conditioning coach based out of the suburbs of Chicago. He’s a Powerlifter in predominantly the AAPF raw division in the 220 class and his latest total was 1200 at 198.4lbs bodyweight. Yes, he missed his weight class by .4 pounds. Let’s all make fun of him.

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