Lifting weights is important for building muscle and improving overall fitness levels. Many people don’t realize that certain techniques such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses can make a big difference in terms of results achieved from each workout session. Wearing the right footwear during these types of movements is one way to ensure that you get the most out of your training sessions without putting yourself at risk for injury.
So, are weightlifting shoes worth it? The answer to that depends entirely on the type of lifter you are, your goals, and how often you plan to use them. If you’re someone who plans to do a lot of Olympic lifts or squats with heavy weights, then yes they can be very beneficial. However, if you only plan to snatch once in a while or do some light squatting every now and again then no they probably aren’t worth it.
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Do Weightlifting Shoes Make a Difference?
If you’ve ever done a heavy squat in flats, then you know the answer to that question is yes. Weightlifting shoes do make a huge difference as if you’ve limited ankle mobility and you want to feel the depth of the ground.
Here are the features that weightlifting shoes possess that make a huge difference in deadlifting or squatting.
Weightlifting shoes are built with an elevated heel for a few different reasons. The most obvious reason is to allow for a better ankle dorsiflexion range of motion, which allows you to maintain a lower and more stable position for clean and jerks, snatches, and back squats. By moving the knee forward, you don’t have to tilt your body trunk far forward for the same depth of squatting.
This is important as it prevents your body from tilting forward when the weight is on the back half of your feet. In this way, heel lift in weightlifting shoes can help you maintain proper form and more utilization of your quadriceps, leading to heavier weights.
The ankle point behaves as a hinge joint between legs and foot. If there is limited ankle mobility, the heavyweight will generate a moment about the ankle point which will tend to tilt your body. The raised heel of the weight lifting shoe changes your center of gravity so that you can push yourself up and forward against it with greater ease, making it easier to stand up straight and remain balanced under heavyweights.
Must Read: Squatting Barefoot vs Lifting and Flat Shoes
The height of the heel also affects the functionality of the lifting shoes. The higher heel height of the lifting shoes can help you with a deep squat in a more upright position with a narrower stance.
However, if you’re comfortable in a wider stance, the higher heel height might cause the rolling of ankles outwards due to an increase in the vertical distance between the ankle point and the floor. This in turn affects the balance when you clean and snatch.
The common heel height of weightlifting shoes is 0.75 inches. The maximum height you will observe in weightlifting shoes is around 1.5inches.
According to weightlifters, if you add heel height, your squats will become better immediately, but pulls will take more time, especially snatches. This is because, in snatches, the knees are abruptly put forward ahead of the toes, due to which you would feel tipping a bit forward with an increased elevation in the heel of the weightlifting shoes.
The choice of heel height also depends on your leg length. As your knees might seem to bother with increasing heel height due to more forward knee translation, your hips sit close to your feet and maintain your torso upright.
So, if you’ve a long leg length, you would benefit from the weightlifting shoes with higher heel height (more than 1 inch). Moreover, changing heel height is like buying a new car. So, start with the lower weight when you increase the heel height of your lifting shoes and see how your muscles (hamstrings, glutes, quad) respond to this change.
I’ve also found this great resource to learn more about the effect of heel height of weightlifting shoes on your performance.
You should also check out the tutorial below to see how the heel height of the weightlifting shoes is affecting the squat depths.
Thin and Firm Sole
Weightlifting shoes have a dense sole. The sole of weightlifting shoes is not very spongy and it will not compress because of the heavyweights that you handle. The firmness of the weightlifting shoes is important as it keeps your posture stable by providing a solid foundation for your feet.
If the sole of weightlifting shoes is squishy like running shoes, the heel height would change with the amount of weight you carry. Resultantly, it would affect your muscles activation.
Also, the firmness of the weightlifting shoe sole does not absorb the force and dissipated exerted by the carried weight like the running shoes. It offers a string reaction force that travels through your muscles to improve their strength.
The sole of weightlifting shoes is only a few mm thick. This means that the chances for sprained ankles or rolling ankles are significantly lower since it’s harder to shift your posture when you have less material pushing against it.
The weightlifting shoes are specially designed to offer you the best stability during your workout. They come with robust leather, sturdy straps, and lacing closure, which is very important for a good fit. This way it will be easier than ever before that when doing exercises like deadlifts or squats; not only do they keep their feet in place but also prevent any unwanted movement inside of this tight space.
You can also check my guide on how should weightlifting shoes fit for more information.
Is There Any Downside of Weightlifting Shoes?
Lifters who lack mobility could be misled into thinking their form is good because of the weightlifting shoes. This might lead them down a path where an injury occurs with no one knowing how it happened.
Since weightlifting shoes are stiffer and inflexible, they are difficult to conform to your feet. Weightlifting shoes can only enhance posture and stability by translating your knees forward and keeping your body trunk upright. If your body gets too used to weightlifting shoes, it would limit the functionality of your foot muscles and the movement of your joints.
The biggest disadvantage of a weightlifting shoe is that it can cause knee pain if it is not suited to your body type). Due to sudden changes in the heel height, a weightlifting shoe pushes your body forward and puts more stress on your knees if you are not adopting the right stance for squats.
Furthermore, the elevated heel gets the quad muscles more involved. Also, the knee pain due to weightlifting shoes entirely depends on the anatomy of your legs, hips, and feet. In the beginning, change from a dynamic start to a more static start to alleviate this issue.
This is a comment I found in the forum that explains the cause of knee pain due to weightlifting shoes.
“In a low bar squat with a pretty small shin inclination, as some SSC (but not all) teach it, there is actually little need for an Oly shoe to accomplish dorsiflexion. However, the shoe can still help for stability.
Now to your experience, Mike: It can very well be that you’re squatting with a little bit more knee flexion now, more weight to the toes due to the shoes. And that sudden change in knee torque can certainly cause your pain (among many other things, the shoes may only be coincidental). Anyway, start slowly when changing something like different squat mechanics and make sure to squat with perfect technique, above all tracking of the knee parallel to your toes, and weight on midfoot.” (Source: StartingStrength)
Another disadvantage of weightlifting shoes is that they are not versatile. You can’t wear lifting shoes for your other athletic activities or everyday walking. Since weightlifting shoes are expensive, you have to do a lot of research on your lower body muscles and your squat form to find the right weightlifting shoe pair. Getting the wrong pair of weightlifting shoes can worsen your muscles instead of providing a fix.
Weightlifting Shoes FAQs
Why are weightlifting shoes so expensive?
Weightlifting shoes are expensive because they need to fit properly and the materials used in the construction of these shoes are high-quality. Aside from that, weightlifting shoes generally provide better support for your feet due to which they may prevent injury while performing lifts.
Another reason for expensive weightlifting shoes is that they are targeting only a limited group of people. This makes the cost of weightlifting shoes more expensive per unit to get them made.
Are Weightlifting Shoes Good for Squats?
Weightlifting shoes are good for squats. It is advisable to practice squatting in weightlifting shoes before you perform it in an actual competition.
You can put on the weightlifting shoe and try doing your squats with light weights at first. When you become comfortable, load up some heavyweights on a barbell and go ahead with the exercise.
The elevated heels that are used by many weightlifters are specifically designed to help them maintain stability while they do squats or snatches.
Should athletes wear weightlifting shoes?
Weightlifting shoes are absolutely necessary for athletes who engage in the sport regularly. Weightlifting shoes can improve your performance because they put you in a biomechanically more advantageous position as compared to using an athletic shoe during weightlifting.
Furthermore, wearing weightlifting shoes will help you use more weight and perform a greater amount of reps as compared to when squatting in athletic shoes. However, not all athletes need to wear weightlifting shoes; rather it depends on the lifter’s anthropometry and center of gravity which varies from person to person.