Do My Shoes Matter in the Weight Room? | STACK

Do My Shoes Matter in the Weight Room?

November 14, 2012 | Lee Boyce

Weight Lifting Shoes

You wouldn’t play basketball in hiking boots or go running in baseball cleats, so why would you perform Squats and Deadlifts in high heels?

“But I’m not,” You say. “I’m wearing my gym shoes.”

Well, news flash: Your “gym shoes” are probably the wrong shoes for lifting weights. And if you’re hitting the gym in thick-soled shoes designed for basketball, running or “cross training,” it’s not that different from working out in a pair of red pumps–you know, the kind your mom wears to work.

As much as you love her, you don’t want to look like your mom in the gym. Here’s how to find the right type of footwear for your weight room workout and avoid lacing up with kicks that can hamper your strength routine.

What to Avoid

Take a look at the side of your shoe. See that line of foam between where your foot rests inside the shoe and the ground? That’s the midsole. In many shoes, midsoles can be 30 millimeters thick in the heel, meaning your foot is more than an inch off the ground.

Elevating the heel decreases the amount of muscle activation your lifts produce in your lower legs and feet. During big standing movements like Squats, Deadlifts and Presses, the muscles in your feet are especially important. Your feet need to grip the floor, and for them to do so, you need to engage the muscles in your calves, hamstrings and gluteals. By placing your feet off the ground in cushioned shoes, you restrict that muscle engagement.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Having a larger cushion underfoot can also create a slightly unstable surface for your body, placing you off balance as you lift. So when you’re looking to lift, steer clear of footwear with thick or wide midsoles.

What to Try Instead

When it comes to weightlifting shoes, less is more. The more ground contact you have with your feet, the more force and muscle stimulation you can generate. So it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of “minimalist shoes” (see Minimalist Shoes: A Beginner's Guide), which bring your feet closer to the ground. Many professional weightlifters train in Converse Chuck Taylors, ultra-thin New Balance Minimus shoes, or Vibram’s FiveFingers—those “toe shoes” you may have seen your hippie friend running in. Some lifters even train with no shoes at all; but not every gym allows barefoot training. (Read "Barefoot" Training: Proceed With Caution.)

Another option: professional weightlifting shoes. They're a little harder to find, but they provide only a slight elevation of the heel, a subtle upward tilt that can improve your performance in exercises like Squats and Cleans without throwing your body off balance or reducing muscle stimulus in your lower legs.

The bottom line: the right shoe for your workout is the one that provides protection from the ground without over-cushioning the underside of your foot. You want to be comfortable and mobile enough to handle all of the movements in your workout. Don’t be afraid to shop at several stores until you find the footwear that’s right for you. (For reviews of top training shoes, check out STACK’s Lifestyle page.)

 

Lee Boyce
- Lee Boyce is a strength coach based in Toronto who works with strength, sports performance and conditioning clients. He contributes to many major magazines, including...
Lee Boyce
- Lee Boyce is a strength coach based in Toronto who works with strength, sports performance and conditioning clients. He contributes to many major magazines, including...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Post Your Next PR with the Reebok CrossFit Lifter Plus

Introducing the Warrior Prequel

Check Out Under Armour's Alter Ego Highlight Cleats

Sneak Peek: Puma evoPOWER Soccer Cleats

SNEAKER ALERT: Jordan Announces Super.Fly 3

New iSlide Athletic Sandals Help Athletes Recover

Puma Fass 500 S Running Shoe Offers a Cushy Minimal Ride

Reebok CrossFit Nano 3.0: An Ideal All-Around CrossFit Shoe

SNEAKER ALERT: First Look at Air Jordan's 2014 Playoff Pack

The ASICS GEL-Kayano

adidas Previews the FIFA World Cup Battle Pack Collection

STACK Approved: Puma BioWeb Elite LTD Training Shoe

adidas Unveils the D Rose 4

New adidas Running Shoe Puts Spring in Your Step

adidas Terrex Fast R Mid GTX Hiking Boot

The Best Non-Basketball 'Player Exclusive' Kicks

Turkey Bowl Gear Essentials: Nike Free Trainer 5.0 Training Shoe

Who Wore the Best Tennis Shoes in History?

SNEAKER ALERT: adidas Introduces Supernova Sequence Boost

The Best Commercial You Won

SNEAKER ALERT: Nike Officially Unveils Hyperdunk 2014

Yes, Snoop Dogg Designed a Custom Football Cleat With adidas

Jordan CP3.VII Out This Week in 4 Colorways

How to Choose the Best Running Shoe for Yourself

A Closer Look at Stephen Curry's Anatomix Spawn Silver PE

SNEAKER ALERT: Reebok Retro Runner, the GL6000

Jordan Brand Reveals Flight Runner, Its First Running Shoe

The Reebok ZQuick Is a Racing Tire for Your Foot

The Best Basketball Sneakers of 2014

Air Jordan Releases the Flight Flex Trainer

Will Johnny Manziel Get His Own Signature Cleat?

Form Meets Function With the DZR Marco Bike Polo Shoe

adidas Launches the adiZero Crazy Light 3 Basketball Sneaker

Treat Your Feet Right: When to Replace Your Worn Out Shoes

How to Find the Perfect Running Shoe

Nike Free Hyperfeel Knit Shoe Moves With You

adidas Releases New Golden Adizero F50 FG Messi Cleat

Under Armour Introduces the SpeedForm Apollo Running Shoe