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Which Shoes Are Best for Weight Lifting?

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The right shoes gave Cinderella a one-way ticket to the good life. For weight lifters, choosing the right shoes may just be the ticket to better lifts. Lacing up that perfect pair (or ditching the shoes entirely) is often a personal preference, and varies depending on the frequency and dedication of that individual. But one thing holds true for any lifter, from the weekend warrior to the guy who closes down the gym every night: Not every shoe is fit for the job. Read on to see whether or not your current kicks make the cut and why.

Which Shoes Are Best for Weight Lifting?

Photo by Lisa Goulet

When Any Ol’ Shoe Won’t Do — The Need-to-Know

Training for a 5K in high heels is probably a bad idea. But what might not be such common knowledge is that cushion-soled shoes (generally worn for running, walking, tennis, or basketball) don’t always make the best foot companions when it comes to lifting weights. Soft, compressible soles were designed to absorb impact while running, jumping, and cutting side-to-side. But when it’s time for weight training (think deadlifts, squats, and presses), lifters need their feet to create a strong, stable base. This allows the heels and midfoot to drive into the floor to make those glutes and hamstrings work more efficiently Biomechanics of Changes in Lumbar Spine Posture in Static Lifting. Arjmand, N., Shirazi-Adl, A. Spine, 2005 Dec; 30 (23) 2637-2648. A Functional Subdivision of Hip, Abdominal, and Back Muscles During Asymmetrical Lifting. Danneels, L., Vanderstraeten, G., Cambier, D., et al. Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, Ghent University, Belgium. Spine, 2001 Mar; 26 (6) E114-E121. Stature and Flexibility Variables as Discriminators of Foot Contact During the Squat Exercise. Fry, A.C., Housh, T.J., Hughes, R.A, et al. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1988 May; 2 (2). Muscle force output and electromyographic activity in squats with various unstable surfaces. Saetrbakken, A., Fimland, M. 1 Faculty of Teacher Education and Sport, Sogn og Fjordane University College, Norway; 2 Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway; 3 Hysnes Rehabilitation Center, St. Olavs University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012 Mar; 24. .

(Also Check Out: 20 Ways to Kickstart Your Strength Training)

When wearing compressible soles, the shoe absorbs much of the energy required to complete the movement. These types of shoes also may cause issues such as rising up on the toes (causing your body to move forward), ankle instability, and uneven weight distribution. Don’t tiptoe out of the weight room just yet. While choice of footwear will depend on the frequency, style, and dedication of the lifter, there are a few essentials to look out for:

Checklist sound easy enough? With the help of our Greatist Experts, we got the lowdown on a few better options for your feet.

Getting Off on the Right Foot — Your Action Plan

Ready to play matchmaker for your feet? Below are four of the most popular footwear options to help you get the most out of your lifts, from head to toe.

Minimalist Shoes

Which Shoes Are Best for Weight Lifting?

Photo: Vibram FiveFingers

Including Vibram FiveFingers, New Balance Minimus, Nike Free, Reebok Reflex, and Adidas Adizero, minimalist shoes do away with thick insoles and arch support, and feature a zero-drop sole, wide toe box, and a level of flexibility that allows for more natural foot movement. The idea behind the lightweight design is to create a more biomechanically efficient movement. That means the feet and legs are in a position to provide stability and control, enhanced proprioception (the feeling of being grounded or oriented in space), and equal ground contact with the heel and forefoot during movement (the ideal foot placement for lifting) Hot Topic: Minimalist footwear in strength and conditioning. Schilling, B. Health and Sports Science Neuromechanics Laboratory at The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN. .

If the Shoe Fits: Wearing these shoes requires a certain amount of dorsiflexion and plantarflexion (read: range of motion in the ankle, foot, and toes). Because of this, breaking in the shoes very important. To transition safely, try spending short durations of time (begin with about 10 to 15 minutes three times a day) wearing the shoes around the house. Once the shoes are sufficiently broken in (timing will vary from person to person), you’ll be ready to begin wearing minimalists for longer intervals of time, including at the gym.

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