Outdoors Magazine

How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes

By Perry Hua

Want to learn how to choose weightlifting shoes? We’ll be doing just that today as we go over what makes a good pair of weightlifting shoes. Weightlifting shoes are not like any ordinary shoes, their unusual design actually serves a huge purpose. They are a lot more effective than running or cross training shoes, which is important if you’re dedicating yourself to lifting weights. But there are a few things to look for in a good pair of shoes. The most important factors to consider include support, comfort, fit, heel height, and non-compressible soles. Together, these elements will allow you to lift more weights whether it’s squats, deadlifts, or presses. But not all weightlifting shoes are the same. It’s the small differences that will determine if one pair of shoes is right for you versus another. With that said, let’s learn how to choose weightlifting shoes already.

How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes

Focus on Hard Soles

There’s a good chunk of people who lift weights in running shoes, which isn’t a good idea. The problem with running shoes is they’re heavily cushioned to absorb impact. This compression of the shoe (especially in the heel) causes instability, uneven weight distribution, and power loss, which ruins your lifting technique. It’s kind of like lifting weights on a bed, it’s not very efficient to say the least. Instead, you’ll want a pair of shoes with hard soles in order to help you produce more force, thereby allowing you to lift more weight. Hard-soled weightlifting shoes provide stability and a better platform for maximizing force. Don’t be surprised if you can add an additional 30 pounds to your lifts with proper shoes.

Hard Soles - How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes - Athlete Audit

Find a Good Heel Height

Heel height is also crucial for maximizing force as it puts you in an upright squatting position. Normally when you are squatting, the knees are pushed forward and the torso must be upright. But with raised heels, it reduces the amount of dorsiflexion required allowing you to perform deeper squats. Most weightlifting shoes will have a heel height anywhere from half an inch to an inch typically made of either wood or plastic. Even a quarter inch heel raise will have you noticing a big difference, but you’ll want to try on a multiple pairs with different heel heights before deciding on what’s best for you. Some weightlifters may even want more heel raise and can add additional height to their shoes either by inserting heel lifts or by getting it done by a cobbler.

Heel Height & Lift - How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes - Athlete Audit

Don’t Forget Support

If we’re learning how to choose weightlifting shoes, we’ll inevitably have to talk about support as well. Weightlifting shoes should also provide proper support around your ankles so that you don’t have to worry about ankle injuries. A tough upper that doesn’t expand is ideal and a snug collar and heel cup will help immensely in making you feel secure. However, good shoes should allow some ankle flexibility as squatting requires dorsiflexion in order to achieve good form. You’ll also want to take a look at the closure system. Laces are great for even tension throughout your foot while straps are quick and easy to tighten. You should feel supported in all directions in weightlifting shoes.

Shoes With Support Straps - How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes - Athlete Audit

How to Fit Weightlifting Shoes

  • Should fit snug; feet should not be able to move inside
  • The heel should be properly locked down and your feet should fit width-wise
  • Shoes should not be so tight that it causes discomfort and restricts bloodflow
  • The upper and toe box in most shoes will stretch out over time, so keep that in mind
  • Leather will stretch the most; synthetics don’t stretch much if at all
  • If possible, try on weightlifting shoes before you buy them
  • Move around in weightlifting shoes, simulating lifting movements and air squats
  • Make sure the laces and straps provide a secure fit
  • A lower profile is more ideal, and weightlifting shoes should have minimal to no cushioning
Other Essential Criteria:
  • Comfort – One of the most important factors to consider. Shoes should be comfortable for lifting, but you might also want a shoe that feels good for other things as well such as walking. Some shoes work well for lifting but not for anything else. It’s up to you to decide what passes as good comfort.
  • Style – Style is important for feeling confident. Don’t choose a pair of shoes just because it has rave reviews. Find a pair that suits your style, whether it’s the brand, color, or the general appearance.
  • Traction – Weightlifting shoes should provide good traction, making you feel fully grounded without the fear of slipping or sliding.
  • Breathability – If your feet tend to overheat easily, look into a breathable upper with materials such as mesh to keep you cool.
  • Quality – Shoes should be constructed with high-quality materials and stitched together well so that you don’t have to worry about it falling apart or losing its edge over time.
  • Weight – Although weightlifting shoes are generally heavier than running shoes, you don’t want them to be too heavy that they compromise your performance.
  • Value – Good weightlifting shoes normally run around $100 and upwards. The best approach when first learning how to choose weightlifting shoes is to not skimp on price or splurge too much. Somewhere right in the middle will net you a good quality shoe that can perform well. Cheaper shoes often lack the quality of higher priced shoes which means you might end up buying a second pair once the first falls apart. And high-end shoes won’t be necessary for your first pair of shoes.
***Tips on How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes***
  • Non-compressible soles are key as they provide stability and allow you to maximize force
  • Weightlifting shoes have raised heels to allow for a more upright squatting position; most shoes will have a heel height anywhere from half an inch to an inch. It’s up to you to decide what feels best, so experiment with multiple heel heights if you can
  • You can always increase heel height later through either heel lifts or by a cobbler
  • Laces allows for even distribution of tension; straps and velcro are quick and easy to cinch down
  • Weightlifting shoes should allow for ankle flexibility since squats require a good amount of dorsiflexion
  • Shoes should fit snug but not too tight that they take away from comfort
  • Learn how to fit weightlifting shoes properly for the best performance
  • Many weightlifting shoes are only good for lifting but you might want a pair that you can walk in as well
  • You should feel fully grounded in weightlifting shoes without fear of slipping or sliding
  • Make sure that weightlifting shoes are made of high quality materials and held together well
  • Don’t pick shoes that are abnormally heavy, this can compromise performance
  • As a beginner learning how to choose weightlifting shoes, don’t get the cheapest or the most expensive shoes for your first pair

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