The standard gym checklist typically consists of: a shaker bottle, iPod, maybe a change of clothes. What's often overlooked, however, is what's on your feet! Chances are you’ve seen lifting shoes before, as they stand out from other shoes—thanks to their cross strap and raised heel. But when it comes down to it, there are certain qualities that you should be looking for in lifting shoes.
The two most important things when it comes to a lifting shoe are a raised heel and a firm bottom. The heel raise allows you to be more upright when squatting, activating both a better pull, and a better lockout position. The firm sole allows for the transfer of more force into the ground, stabilizing your body and creating a stronger contraction.
Benefits of Wearing the Right Shoes
Lifting shoes are specifically designed with lifters in-mind. A huge benefit is the ability to activate more muscle and recruit additional fibers. They allow you to “push through the floor” much easier, producing more force during a lift. When you work out, especially during leg exercises you have to be driving through the heels—which is very hard to do in running shoes, as the sole doesn’t support that. Lifting shoes can help you to feel sturdier during heavy squats, deadlifts and any other free compound lift.
In fact, studies show the biomechanical and kinematic impacts of various shoes in performing a squat. Another study dove in a little further, observing the significant differences in peak ankle flexion and erect posture through the wear of weightlifting shoes. The study concluded that weightlifting shoes may allow for a safer and more effective squat.
What other reasons should you be wearing lifting shoes?
- Increased Lifting Power
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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Increased 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.
- Movement Pattern
Just as there is a certain pattern that goes on in the body when you're about to throw a football or swing a bat, there is also a pattern of movement that occurs when executing the various techniques within a weight lifting regimen.
When lifting, there is a high amount of force coming down on the body, all of which, is supported through the feet. If your feet do not have the proper, firm cushioning and padding needed to handle the force, you will not get the full benefit of the exercise and may even wind up injured.
If you do have the money to invest in a good pair of weightlifting shoes, it would be well worth the cost. The difference it can make in your overall technique and lifting ability, can be dramatic. Especially if you're currently lifting in those worn-out, ratty running shoes.