Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for LiftBigEatBig.com
Chuck Taylor’s, wrestling shoes, Olympic lifting shoes, Vibrams… there are a plethora of shoes to choose from for your feet. Your training could very well depend upon which you choose, as certain kinds are better for different lifts. Yes, even your footwear could make or break your training session.
Recently, Brandon made a post on Facebook that said something to the effect of, if you don’t own Olympic lifting shoes, put a 5 pound plate under your heels. While I agree with that, and it’s a fine idea until you do purchase shoes, it’s not the end all be all of your issues. As I’m sure he didn’t intend it to be, either.
You see, the issue with Chuck’s, wrestling shoes, Vibrams, or even those New Balance Minimus shoes that I have is that they don’t support your foot throughout the duration of the lift. Olympic lifting shoes allow you to do a few things that regular shoes will not, such as:
• Spreading the floor
◦ Olympic lifting shoes possess straps, which allow you to push out against the side of the shoe with your foot, increasing hip activation. More hip activation will equate to a stronger pull or squat.
• More stability
◦ More stability means that you’ll have a very consistent platform from which to push. Not at all inconsistent, unlike that from compressible soled shoes.
◦ Olympic shoes have a wooden sole (they have rubber on the bottom so you won’t slide), which means your foot is going to consistently be on a stable surface, unlike Chuck’s which have compressible soles. Inevitably people try to come up with the argument, “Well Vibrams don’t compress…” While this may be true, they don’t have a…
◦ Olympic shoes typically have at minimum .5” to a 1” heel, which allows you to utilize every aspect of your musculature for the lift you’re going for. The Soviets realized that a heel would allow the lifter to squat into a deeper position due to the increased range of motion for the ankle joint, and so the design of the modern lifting shoe was created.
◦ Besides allowing lifter to squat into a deeper position, the raised heel also allows the lifter’s chest to stay upright, even in the bottom of a deep squat with the bar held overhead or racked across the deltoids (Snatch and Clean & jerk)
▪A side note about the heel: This doesn’t permit you to slack on mobility of the ankle and hip structures, just because the shoe masks the issue. You should be able to squat with no artificial support. If you can’t, get to work.
Because of the weightlifting shoe not having any “give” to it, you can always rely on a very stable platform to push from, whereas other shoes will have some give. Vibrams may not, but they also don’t have the support or heel that weightlifting shoes have. Aside from the “I’m cool, I wear Vibrams in the gym,” factor, they’re basically a pretty worthless shoe to use unless outside. If you are a wearer of these shoes, and have never tried weightlifting shoes, you need not look much further than the three illustrated points above to see why you should try them.
As a caveat to my point (what good is an article without some objectivity?) I don’t have any problem with people who deadlift without weightlifting shoes, as I’m one of them. However, some people may benefit from this simple change. The easiest way to do so is by trying it. I’m a long limbed lifter (no jokes, please), and find that a flat soled shoe is the better way for me to pull, as when I’m wearing weightlifting shoes I’m actually shot a bit further in front of the bar than I’d like to be. Though, when it comes to squatting, I’m ALWAYS in my Olympic weightlifting shoes. Always.
If you’re serious about training, and I’m sure you are, VS Athletics makes a pretty cheap pair of shoes that are of decent quality. I’ve had mine going on three years now and bought them around $70. I strongly suggest you get rid of the plates under your heels, get out of your crap shoes, and slip into something a bit more stable. Come to the Force and leave the Dark Side behind for good.
Sources: Charniga, Andrew. “Why Weightlifting Shoes?” Why Weightlifting Shoes? Eleiko, 2006. Web. 29 July 2012. <http://www.dynamic-eleiko.com/sportivny/library/farticles015.html>.
Kilgore, Lon. “Weightlifting Shoes 101.” Weightlifting Shoes 101. ExRx, n.d. Web. 29 July 2012. <http://www.exrx.net/WeightTraining/Weightlifting/WeightliftingShoes.html>.