So, you’re wondering whether to get a pair of weightlifting shoes? Are there actual benefits to weightlifting and powerlifting shoes? Let’s find out!
- A pair of weightlifting shoes significantly diminishes your chances of getting a serious ankle injury.
- Weightlifting shoes can help you with more safety, more efficiency, heavier weights, and lighter minds.
- Lifting shoes can help you achieve and maintain a proper posture.
Well, many weightlifters swear by them, as the most important addition to your gym equipment arsenal.
In many cases, a pair of good weightlifting shoes can single-handedly improve your lifting experience by a long shot.
“But why?”, you may ask. I admit I thought of the same question. How can lifting shoes make a difference? Are weightlifting shoes worth spending money on?
Any of the heavy lifts involve so many other muscles and joints but I never thought of my feet.
In reality, your feet play a huge part in many powerlifting and weightlifting exercises. Mainly those lifts where the effort comes from pushing off against the floor.
Anything from points of pressure, ankle mobility, and support, to the very nature of the base material, can play a tremendously important part in your performance.
A pretty wide range of activities, I might add.
Role of Feet in Lifting
Your foot plays a huge role in any type of heavy lift in strength training. The foot is your stability center.
During the squat, your foot keeps you upright and provides a strong base.
Better foot strength and control allows lifters to not only have a stable setup but a stronger lift. During the squat movement, feet can prevent you from leaning forward and increase depth at the bottom of the movement.
Structure and Design of Lifting Shoes
Remember the points I named a few rows above about foot positioning?
Lifting shoes specifically deal with all of the challenges your feet encounter during lifts. They get your feet in the optimal position to allow as much force into your exercise as possible. We’ll get into how that happens later.
But, for now, remember that this directly relates to how fast you progress in lifts. As you lift heavier, you will enjoy lifting much more.
But that is not all.
A pair of weightlifting shoes significantly diminishes your chances of getting a serious ankle injury. This is a really big deal.
According to a scientific study published by Harvard Health, an ankle sprain with a partial tear in the ligaments can take from 3 to 6 weeks to fully recover. Anything more than a partial tear can get you out of the gym for several months. Needless to say, it also hurts like hell.
We’ll just look into the benefits of weightlifting shoes, to help you see if they can make a valuable addition to your gear.
To do this effectively, let’s compare weightlifting shoes to normal shoes.
Trust me, it will be more evident this way.
Benefits of Weightlifting Shoes
1. Better Heel Support
Quick reminder: Your average pair of shoes are made for walking or running. This means that they are designed to absorb as much impact from the ground as possible. If you ask any runner out there about this, they will confirm that ground impact travels upward, through the joints.
As running means you will have to take a large amount of impact, the base of running shoes is made of rubbery material for absorption.
This is where lifting shoes differ.
Their heel is elevated and made out of hard material, such as metal or plastic. Why?
Because in strength training, your interest is to get as much impact with the ground (the push force from the squat, for instance) to travel through the tibia and into the barbell.
The same goes, entirely or partially, for the deadlift, Olympic lifts, jerks, cleans, and many more.
Lifting with rubbery base shoes will chip away at your efforts to break PRs, without you even knowing it. This is why the powerlifting community is generally split between lifting shoes and barefoot lifting.
I personally prefer not to get my heel bone involved all that much, but that’s another (painful) story.
Aside from that, the heel support does all the work of getting your feet in the right position for exerting power. You no longer have to concentrate on focusing the pressure of the lift in the center of the sole, because the shoes do that for you already.
That’s pretty nifty, I would say.
Most shoes have differing heights of elevation, ranging from half an inch to a full inch. You’ll have to see what you are comfortable with in this regard.
2. Foot and Ankle Stability
Remember what I said about ankle injuries hurting like hell?
Yeah, you REALLY don’t want that in your life.
With normal shoes, you may have noticed that your ankles can jiggle easily from side to side, allowing you to also lean forward or backward to your heart’s content.
Lifting shoes don’t do this, and it’s for your own benefit.
Their ‘coating’ of the foot and ankle is very firm, some of them even having straps to improve support. In this way, your fragile joints are secured and kept in place by the shoe itself, making any exercise safer.
This safety is also complemented by efficiency, because of the entire “force flow through the tibia” thing that I mentioned earlier.
The bottom line is: More safety, more efficiency, heavier weights, lighter minds. Gets a check in my books.
3. Range of Motion
As you may already know, a firm position at the contact with the ground must be combined with higher flexibility in the knee and hip for a great lift.
With normal shoes, this is easier to mess up, due to their lack of security at the joint.
Lifting shoes prevent it very well. Their support of the ankle greatly improves your chances of achieving and maintaining a proper posture. That way, you can navigate through the exercise more graciously, and you will feel a greater sense of control over your body.
This way, it is much easier to see where your technique is lacking, or what muscle groups are underdeveloped and hurt your performance.
4. Joint Safety
I know, I know.
“This can’t possibly happen to me, I always take care while lifting”. We’ve all said this before, and the majority of us have been proven wrong at some point.
Nobody enjoys the safety precautions done by the crew before a flight, so probably it is the same sentiment with me babbling about sprains here.
But they really can happen to anyone.
A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that, after reviewing specialized literature for weightlifting, 1000 hours of training were bound to result in at least one injury.
That is a large pool of participants, most of which probably took safety precautions and still managed to get tendon and muscle tears.
Many like to assume that they are the exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself. But ask yourself the following: do you do anything special to prevent injuries that could have never come to mind for these participants?
If your answer is yes, then congratulations! You really are an exception to the rule, and I am waiting for your email to explain how you do it (good pay, too).
But if your answer is no, you likely have to do something about it.
Lifting shoes are the safer bet. This does not go to say that you just put on a pair and the risks suddenly vanish. But their built-in system of mitigation gives you better odds of not sitting out a couple of sessions.
Sure, they can be pricey, and it can take a good chunk of your time to get the perfect match if you really get meticulous about it. But if you think that you will eventually hit the 1000 hours of training used in the study, you are probably a good fit for the purchase.
Plus, they got all this customization stuff going on these days, so you can really get yourself a unique pair.
They are uncomfortable to walk in, they can get worn out rather quickly, and, if you are not responsible about your technique and posture, you can quickly become dependent on them. But, in the gym, they will be your best friend pretty soon, maybe even better than the belt or wrist wraps.
Your Olympic lifts will thank you wholeheartedly.