What Shoes to Wear When Lifting Weights

When I first put on real climbing shoes, it was a revelation to me. My legs were so stable during the squat, as if they were glued to the ground. They were so comfortable that I forgot to take them off for the deadlift — a beginner’s mistake, as the heels put you at a disadvantage when doing this exercise. Here’s what you should know about the shoes you wear when lifting weights.

The shoe is not suitable for lifting heavy weights.

When you first go to the gym, you will be wearing whatever shoes you have. If that means a pair of sneakers, it’s not the end of the world. But as soon as you can, you should upgrade.

Sneakers and other comfortable sneaker-like shoes usually have soft soles. But when you have a heavy load on your shoulders or in your hands, you don’t want anything to stop you from holding on to the floor. For example, if your weight shifts a little back onto your heels, this is a small problem if you are in an overhead shoe, and a big problem if you are wearing a sneaker. Do yourself a favor and find something more stable.

Each lift has its own requirements for shoes. When you deadlift, you want a flat sole, as low as possible to the ground. When you squat, you may need shoes with small heels.

If you don’t know what you want, buy a couple of rounds.

You don’t have to run out and buy specialized climbing shoes. If all you’re missing in life is stability, flats like the Converse Chuck Taylors are great. This is what I do most of my exercises, but the brand is not important. Any other flat shoe will do.

If you are interested in what I do personally , I carry my cartridges to the gym and change into Olympic shoes for lifting squats (or for the entire workout if I do Olympic exercises). I carry ammo for everything else, including the deadlift.

For squats, consider lifting shoes.

Olympic weightlifters almost all wear heavy athletic shoes. They may look like sneakers, but they are built differently: they have a thin stiff sole, chunky heel and square sole edges. ( This Instagram post from Catalyst explains the reasoning by demonstrating which shoe I mean.)

If you find it difficult to bend your ankle to do a deep squat, lifting shoes can help you. (They’re also arguably safer than the other traditional solution of squatting with raised heels on weight plates on the floor.) They also keep your foot side-to-side stable, and a stiff, thin sole means you don’t have a marshmallow the outsole you get from the sneaker.

Lifting shoes will help you keep your feet on the floor while pressing.

If you are competing in powerlifting and your federation requires you to keep your entire foot on the floor during the bench press, a heel on lifting boots can help. If you are not competing or if keeping your heel on the ground is not a problem for you, then you can bench in any shoe you want.

You can always do deadlifts in socks.

If you wear bullets in the gym, great – you can do deadlifts in them. But if you are otherwise wearing climbing shoes (or sneakers), there is a simple solution: just take off your shoes.

Don’t do deadlifts barefoot if it’s a gym that you share with other people. This is usually against the rules. But socks are okay. You won’t have underfoot cushioning, and you won’t have to worry about the heel on lifting boots.

In the deadlift, start as close to the ground as possible. A three-quarter-inch heel means you need to raise the barbell three-quarters of an inch higher than you would otherwise. In competition, athletes sometimes wear thin-soled slippers so that they can technically wear shoes, but still raise their feet as if they were wearing socks.

Socks are fine if you’re pulling regular ones (feet together), but if you’re doing a sumo deadlift instead, you may find the socks too slippery on the lifting platform. If so, buy some comfy deadlift slippers or go back to your trusty patrons.


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