It used to be that if you needed to do something ‘active’, you would lace up your running shoes or a good pair of Chuck Taylor’s and that would be that — shoe problem solved.
Enter 2016 and a hell of a lot has changed since then, especially when it comes to workout shoes. The market, or whatever forces are driving the hyperspecialization of products that cater to every niche, have determined that running shoes and Chuck’s — the staple workout shoes of yesteryear — are no longer good enough.
Crossfit and a cultural obsession for pursuing fitness has made weightlifting into a ‘thing’ now. No longer just a niche pursuit by a few obsessed bodybuilders, lifting has gone mainstream in a big way. With tags like #fitspo, #strongisthenewbeautiful, the rise of selfies and Instagram and the inherent desire to achieve better performance has brought with it a demand for specialized shoes.
And thus you can now buy special shoes for nearly every sport or hobby. Shoes for boxing, shoes for wrestling, shoes for running, shoes for golf, walking shoes, dancing shoes. Even shoes made just crossfit! And yes, there’s weightlifting and Crossfit shoes too.
With the abundance of choice, it can be hard to figure out what shoes you should pick for weightlifting.
And that’s why you need to read my article. By the end of it, you should have a pretty good idea what’s the best shoe for you.
Table of Contents
Buyer’s Guide: What You Need to Know About Weightlifting Shoes
The Best Weightlifting Shoes: Our Recommendations
Why Wear Weightlifting Shoes
Here’s the short answer: you can lift more weight. Sometimes, a lot more weight.
A compelling reason, right?
So how to weightlifting shoes help you lift more weight. In the era where internet marketing commonly hawks all sorts of quick gimmicks, it’s good to be skeptical. The reason really comes down to one thing: physics.
No, I’m not going to launch into a college physics lecture about velocity, force, and all that. The reason why the right type of shoes can improve your overall lifting ability is that weightlifting shoes have a very flat, hard surface with little cushioning.
Running shoes, on the other hand, have soles built to absorb the impact force of your feet striking the ground. That impact is absorbed because the shoe sole (and whatever other fancy stuff like gel or air pockets are thrown into the shoe sole construction). Absorbing impact energy is great for activities where you are rapidly moving your feet, especially when your feet are repetitively striking hard surfaces.
However when it comes to weight lifting, especially heavy weight lifting such as Olympic Lifting, you don’t want to dissipate your force; you want to utilize every bit of it to lift the weight. Lifting heavy weights (i.e. maximal strength training) comes down to utilizing the force produced by your body.
And the difference between successfully lifting your heaviest weight or not often comes down to squeezing out every bit of force your body produces. And wearing the right type of shoes that can channel that force more efficiently into the ground can play a key role in that success.
In layman’s terms, the more force you can produce, the more weight you can lift. Weightlifting shoes allow you to optimize how that force is used by utilizing more of it than otherwise would be, should you wear inferior shoes.
But wait, I still don’t understand.
The above analogy is on the simplistic side. So let’s break down exactly how a pair of shoes can mean pulling that extra 30 kilos on the dead or failing.
Weightlifting Shoes Allow You To Generate More Downward Force Into the Ground
By evenly distributing the force the surface area of the shoe, weightlifting shoes allow more force to be channeled downward helps increase the maximum force you can apply to the bar. Now, the actual mechanics of how you apply that force vary depending on the type of lift.
Squats, Deadlifts, Cleans, Clean and Jerks, etc. Each of these compound lifts requires you to push downward onto the floor. The better connection your entire foot has with the ground, the more force you can apply upward from the floor, straight through your body, and into the bar movement.
The flat surface of the shoes also prevent you from ‘rolling’ your ankle under heavy weight, which can happen if you wear cushioning shoes that compress. Such shoes are not as stable under heavy weight and increase the risk of a lift going wrong; the heavier the weight, the higher the risk.
How Weightlifting Shoes are Superior for Lifting
Here’s why Weightlifting shoes are so much better for lifting weights when compared to a pair of sneakers or runnings shoes (and even your bare feet).
Weightlifting Shoes Have Flat Soles
One of the reasons weightlifting shoes are beneficial to lifting heavy weights is the flat soles that have very little compression under weight. However, there’s more than just flat soles. Frankly, if you just want flat soled shoes, you can get buy on a basic cheap pair of Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.
Weightlifting Shoes Have a Slightly Inclined Heel Position
Weightlifting shoes also have a slightly inclined heel (about a centimeter). This include proves advantageous for lifting, especially for squats where you can sit down into a deeper squat position. The slight incline also keeps your torso more upright which can improve some of the pushing lifts (overhead press, jerk and cleans).
The argument is that by raising your heel slightly, you are forcing your body to recruit more muscle fibers during (some) of the lifts which may give a slight increase in strength due to the increased muscle fiber recruitment. This is the theory anyways. In practicality, I’ve noticed my PR’s (Personal Records) for strength were made when wearing my weight lifting shoes.
Weighting Shoes Offer Better Stability
Another advantage weightlifting shoes have over non-specialized shoes is that they offer more stability than regular shoes do, especially when heavy force is placed on them.
Every specialized shoe always advertises itself as providing stability.
Running shoes, for example. You’ll often see running shoes advertised as providing stability to the foot. This is true, but only in a forward and backward motion as the foot heel strikes the ground. Stability is provided, but only in motions aligned with running.
Boxing shoes offer stability too, but that stability is provided by the higher shoe top which sits above the ankle and the shoes are designed in such a way to provide ankle stability in the side-to-side motion as the boxer moves in a lateral direction or as he pivots the foot.
Weightlifting shoes are not designed to provide stability for rapid foot movements, for forward & backward motions, or for lateral movements (in fact, if you try to run or box in a pair of weightlifting shoes, you’ll feel like you have blocks of wood strapped to your feet!). But weightlifting shoes offer superb stability when you stand still and put extreme force directly downward.
Because weightlifting shoes offer more stability, they also reduce the chances of injuries. Less injury mean you can lift more consistently and as such, possible become stronger over time without your gains being derailed by time off and nagging injuries.
Weightlifting Shoes vs Barefoot / Minimalist Shoes
Many people (especially Crossfitters) often wear barefoot or minimalist shoes for weightlifting, especially for some of the more dynamic lifts that require some quick foot movement as found in the Olympic lifts like the Snatch and the Clean.
Barefoot shoes typically allow better balance and foot control by allowing your foot muscles to move independently from each other. For activities that require footwork and some moderate weight, these shoes are beneficial. The sole is ‘flatter’ than your regular running shoe and far more flexible than a pair of sneakers or hard-soled weightlifting shoes.
However, they do not offer the stability and maximum-lift advantage of weightlifting shoes, especially when it comes to pulling or pushing for maximum weight. Barefoot shoes don’t have as much stability under the foot and also in the area ‘around’ the foot.
As such, for pure weightlifting work, especially for work that focuses on maximum strength lifts, weightlifting shoes are the superior choice. For moderate weight or for activities that emphasize some compound lifts but with plenty of foot movement (such as running, sprinting, jumping around) such as Crossfit, then barefoot/minimalist shoes might be the better choice.
A good pair of wrestling shoes (such as the Asics Split Second 9’s) are also a good option for these types of activities.
What Weightlifting Activities Should You Use Weightlifting Shoes For
The truth is that there’s a plethora of different lifts and weightlifting training goals, with some lifts (and workout routines) focusing more on improving maximum strength (powerlifting/strength training), some lifts focusing on building muscle (bodybuilding), and some type of lifting focused on improving sport-specific athletic performance (i.e. strength & conditioning work).
As such, weightlifting shoes are not necessarily the best shoe for ALL types of lifting. Generally, weightlifting shoes are the best choice for maximal strength training / powerlifting type lifts — those compound lifts that require a barbell.
Some sports where weightlifting shoes provide benefits:
- Maximal Strength Training
- CrossFit (some lifts)
Some specific lifts that weightlifting shoes may improve overall strength performance:
- Deadlifts (stiff leg, sumo, etc)
- Squats (Back Squat, Front squat, etc)
- Overhead Press
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- Clean and Jerk
What Activities Are Weightlifting Shoes Not Ideal?
Look, if lifting heavy weights from a primarily stationary position is what you are mostly doing, then weightlifting shoes will be beneficial.
If you are actively moving on your feet between different exercises and there is an element of speed and footwork involved in the training session, then you may be better off with running shoes, wrestling shoes, barefoot shoes, or special weightlifting shoes designed for mobility.
Specifically for Crossfit, you are probably better off wearing weightlifting shoes specifically designed for Crossfit or wearing a pair of wrestling shoes rather than a pure of pure weightlifting shoes designed ONLY for lifting.
Can You Wear Weightlifting Shoes for Crossfit?
While Olympic lifting makes up a core part of the usual Crossfit WOD, there are plenty of non-lifting activities that require mobility and some footwork.
Weightlifting shoes will slow you down here. While some of your lifts during the WOD may benefit, some of your other WOD lifts won’t. My advice here is to wear wrestling shoes, or pick up a pair of weightlifting shoe designed for Crossfit. You don’t want to wear a narrowly specialized shoe that will benefit some of your lifts while impeding the rest.
Types of Weightlifting Shoes
Because ‘weightlifting’ is such a big category of shoe, we can divide up the shoes based on their function. And that function can lead to distinct shoe requirements. A shoe that’s designed to help you break your deadlift or squat PR is not going to be an ideal shoe for CrossFit or calisthenics. Sure you can try using it, but you’ll hate your shoes the whole time!
So there are four broad categories: Olympic weightlifting shoes, flat soled weightlifting shoes, powerlifting shoes, and multi training shoes.
Olympic Weightlifting Shoes
These are designed for maximum stability, specifically for Olympic lifts. These shoes need to allow some flexibility for quick movements yet also provide a flat sole for maximum force transference. Theses shoes typically have thick soles and a raised heel area.
The lifts these shoes are specifically beneficial for are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The inclined heel gives a deeper squat and allows for a straighter posture, two very important positions in the Olympic Clean or Snatch lifts.
Flat Sole Deadlift/Squat Shoes
While you can use Olympic shoes for these, you can also use more flat shoes that offer little mobility but maximum support and force transference. Typically, the soles are completely flat. These are on the opposite spectrum from the Olympic lifting shoes that have the inclined heel.
The flat soles allow for low back squats which allow for maximum surface area contact with the ground. Since the force is spread evenly on the surface of the ground, force is not bled away and can be channeled more efficiently.
Another advantage of the flat soled shoe is that you won’t fall forward during the lifting motion, something that can happen when you wear the inclined heeled Olympic Style weightlifting shoes.
We can further break down the weightlifting shoe category to include ‘powerlifting shoes’. These occupy the middle ground between the raised-heel Olympic shoes and Flat-Soled shoes.
The shoes have a slight heel incline, but not over exaggerated as in the Olympic style shoe. The raised heel offers the advantages of a lower squat stance, but not so much that you lean forward.
For squats — especially at weights near your maximum — this can be an advantage as you can sit back and better engage your posterior chain for more lifting ability.
Crossfit Shoes / Multi Training Shoes
A shoe that offers some of the benefits of the pure ‘lifting’ shoes above, but with more flexibility in the sole area. These are shoes that you can use for calisthenics, gymnastics, and of course, CrossFit.
As CrossFit incorporates some Olympic lifts and other calisthenic movements such as Double Unders and Box Jumps, the shoe must be somewhat flexible and allow quick foot motion with feeling like you are wearing a pair of bowling shoes (which pure weightlifting shoes can feel like at times).
So think of these as good ‘all round shoes’ — suitable for some weightlifting, but also for foot heavy movements where you need to jump and run.
How to Choose a Pair of Weightlifting Shoes
When it comes to buying my own gear, from boxing shoes, wrestling shoes, boxing gloves, shin pads — any piece of gear that I actually rely on for performance — I keep two things in mind:
a) I never buy the cheapest gear. Often you spend MORE money tossing it away after a few months and replacing it with something of quality.
b) I don’t buy the premium choice if I’ve just started the activity. If I’ve been doing the sport for more than a few months and I’ve been consistent with it, then I’ll spring for the more expensive option. But when I’m just starting out, I don’t buy the premium-priced product.
This basically leaves you right in the middle range. And while this is just my philosophy when it comes to buying gear, I do suggest you follow this advice. You’ll save a lot of wasted money.
Things to Consider When Buying a Weightlifting Shoe
Unlike some of the other shoe guides I’ve written (boxing shoes, wrestling shoes, running shoes), weightlifting shoes are much easier to choose. There are only a few important points to consider to find the perfect pair.
- Heel height
- Shoe Durability
- Shoe Material
- Style (generally speaking, weightlifting shoe are pretty ugly, but…)
Let’s break these down specifically, so you have a good idea where to begin.
Heel Height is one of the biggest benefits to wearing weightlifting shoes. Unlike other shoe types, weightlifting shoes will have a slightly inclined heel.
When you walk around on a pair of weightlifting shoes, you should feel like you are slightly leaning forward due to the raised heel. This is natural, though it can take getting used to if you’ve never worn weightlifting shoes before.
The incline height can vary between brands and WILL MAKE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in your lifting. It may take you few weeks to get used to a new brand if you switch, due to slight heel height differences.
If you want to get value out of your shoes, durability is what you want. It’s nice to have a superbly comfortable pair of shoes — shoes that enhance a specific activity — but if those shoes fall apart in only a few months, then that’s shitty value for money.
I expect at least a year out of an entry level shoe and multiple years out of a higher end shoe (the exception being running shoes which need to be chucked out depending on your mileage).
The good new here is that weightlifting shoes will usually last you for years if you treat them right, even the lower-priced ones. And by treating them right, that means NEVER WEARING THEM OUTSIDE OF THE GYM. Hell, my pair of weightlifting shoes are over five years old!
Shoe Construction (What It’s Designed For)
‘Weightlifting’ is a pretty broad category. There are different types of weightlifting activities: stationary ones that require very little foot movement (mainly just for barbell lifting) and multipurpose weightlifting (Crossfit or strength and conditioning). The construction type makes a specific shoe more suitable for one type of activity or the other.
We can really break down ‘weight lifting’ into:
- Olympic lifting
- Deadlift / Squats / General Strength Training
There are overlaps between these, but if you want to specialize in one area, you may want to choose a specific shoe that offers a particular advantage to that form of training.
Typically, I find the Nike, Risto, VS Athletics, Adipower’s are designed primarily for barbell lifting, and specifically for the Olympic style lifts.
Then you have the more flat-soled shoe that gumshoe best for deadlifts as they distribute the force equally downward.
These shoes have a very flat, stiff sole (for maximum force transfer to the ground) and a stiff upper area.
If you plan on pushing your deadlift PR’s, then might want to opt for a flat soled weightlifting shoe as it allows the lifter to sit back and drive more force into the heel area as you lean back into the bar. Because of this stiffness, you’ll find these shoes are NOT good for fast footwork, jumping around, and the like.
Then you have the powerlifting style shoes which are a sort of compromise between the inclined heeled Olympic shoes and flat weightlifting shoes for the deadlift. These shoes have some incline, but not as high. The slight incline is particularly suitable for squatting as you can sit back onto your heels and get a real low squat.
The other type of shoe to consider are the more functional fitness shoes. These are shoes that have more flexibility in the sole area (i.e. the sole will bend) yet more stiffness than a regular pair of shoes.
You essentially get the extra ‘support’ to do weightlifting while also more mobility so you can throw in footwork drills, calisthenics, gymnastics, and other movement-oriented activities. For conditioning work and CrossFit, these shoes are more suitable.
Inov-8 and Reebok have multipurpose weightlifting shoes with semi-rigid soles designed with more flex. These are great if you do CrossFit or other types of functional fitness; they allow you to do workouts that combine lifting with cardio, calisthenics, or gymnastics. There are many brands specializing in these ‘functional fitness shoes’, look at Reebok and Inov-8 brands.
Alternatively, if you are NOT lifting heavy-ass weights, but still doing some weight (deadlifts, Olympics), you might want to consider wrestling shoes, especially ASICS which are especially suitable for movement-orientated activities, yet still have a fairly flat (though highly flexible) sole.
The old style of weightlifting shoes looked pretty ugly ass. These are how my original pair looked. They were effective when it came to pushing maximum weight, but embarrassingly ugly! However, with the whole ‘fit is the new beautiful’, ‘fitspo’ exploding, so has the market for weightlifting shoes. As such, many of the big companies have jumped on board and produce some pretty nifty looking shoes now. You’ll find a wide range of attractive shoes.
The price range for weight anywhere from $70 to $200. Frankly, weightlifting shoes are so specialized (and far less mainstream than say runnings shoes) they command a hefty price tag. Don’t expect to find a budget weightlifting shoe for $20 — and if you do, don’t buy it! For new lifters, I recommend the lower range or the mid-range (70-130). If you are an experienced lifter or you take your crossfit seriously, you might want to spring for the mid range to upper range price ($120 to $200) for something a bit more comfortable and, in some case, activity specific.
You can find last year’s model heavily discounted (30-60 percent sometimes). Yearly model changes are like updated college textbooks: usually just rearrangements of the same exact thing. Sometimes though, there are significant improvements, but usually not. Buy online as you’ll save a lot more money.
The Best Weightlifting Shoes
We’ve done our best here to give recommendations that target specific types of shoe usage (general weight lifting, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, Crossfit, running, etc). There is NO single best weightlifting shoe that covers ALL categories. You will have to look at what you want to use the shoe for most, then pick a shoe tailored for that activity or sport. The more ‘generalist’ a shoe is, the less benefit that shoe will offer for specific activities.
The Best Weightlifting Shoes (for General Lifting & Olympic Lifting)
When it comes to choosing the best weightlifting shoe, there’s a few brands (and particular models) that are quite well regarded. The ‘best’ though is always a highly subjective opinion. I will point out several of my favorite weightlifting shoes that are highly regarded by many fitness types (bloggers, trainers, regular joes). You should, of course, do your own research. But you definitely can’t go wrong with these shoes. These are my picks for the best general weightlifting shoes. You can use these shoes for anything — Olympic lifting, strength training, powerlifting — and in some situations, even Crossfit.
Adipowers have an outstanding reputation among lifters — especially with Olympic lifters. In fact, the whole ‘weightlifting shoe thing’ is only a recent phenomena. As of the early 2000′, ‘weightlifting shoes’ were not really even a shoe category. But before the category existed, there were Adidas shoes which filled that market gap.
Fast forward a couple decades and Adidas now has many a lifting shoe, but their original ‘lifting shoe’ and their overall best is the Adipower. While these shoes are especially recommended for Olympic lifters, they can be used by anyone who wants to strength train, power lift, or just push some weight around with the barbell.
Again, these shoes are especially suitable for anyone doing heavy lifting, especially intense compound movements with an emphasis on explosive power (Olympic Lifters). The only downside is the shoes are more on the narrow-sided…which means the flat footed are out of luck.
Why Are These The Best Weighting Shoe
These shoes have a nice flat sole and the traction at the bottom of the sole is good — something that’s of particular benefit for explosive lifts like Jerks, which require some quick foot movement with grip to hold the sudden downward force of weight.
The downside with the Adidas Powers is that the hard, flat soles make them rather uncomfortable to walk around with or even to loaf around the gym in them. These are shoes engineered specifically for weightlifting action and nothing outside of this. If you are looking for a more flexible shoe that can be used for a broad range of activities in the gym outside of compound lifts, you are better off choosing a more flexible shoe.
Hands On with the Shoe
The heel is inclined at 3/4 an inch. This incline booster some lifts like the squat, allowing you more easily drop into a deeper position than flat heeled shoes. The weight you put on these shoes is evenly distributed and the shoes are highly stable; this is one of the reasons why these shoes are so highly favored with Olympic lifters.
The drawbacks are the price (these shoes hover between $130 to $200), how narrow they can be. Finally, these shoes are great for powerlifting, but outside of heavy lifting, these shoes do not make for comfortable wearing. Don’t buy these thinking you are going to walk around a gym in them or break a box jump record at your local ‘Box’.
Note that while Adipower’s do have a pretty stellar reputation, there are a few other shoe brands that are equally as good. In fact, some lifters will tell you they are better, though it comes down to a personal choice.
Another ‘in the running’ for the best weightlifting shoes, especially for the Olympic lifters who are serious about their sport are the Nike Romaleos. If you can live with the high price, these are nearly equal to the Adipowers and only knocked down to second place due to a slightly lesser quality of materials.
The Romaleos were actually designed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and worn by a number of the Olympic lifters during the event — so these shoes are backed with serious lifting street cred. You can bet that if some of the best lifters in the world competed (and still compete) in these, that they are good enough for you.
Now for most lifters, you probably don’t need to spend $200 on the best weightlifting shoe. But for those who are trying to lift as much weight as possible or who are competitive, a better shoe might give you a slight lifting advantage. For casual lifters, you don’t care if you can gain a 1% advantage; but for competitive lifters, every little bit can help. Which is why
If you are looking for the lightest weightlifting shoes, well, the Nike’s won’t win that award. But while they are on the heavier side, they more than makeup for this in stability and strength. Now these shoes are not cheap; in fact, they are one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, pick on this list. But for ALL your lifts — squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts, you can gain a lifting advantage wearing these shoes.
These shoes are some of the most comfortable weight lifting shoes you can buy. They offer serious ankle reinforcement with a tight fit and double straps. The heel, like all good Olympic style weightlifting shoes, gives you about a 3/4 heel incline.
Overall, the Nikes offer very good stability and support — some of the best in fact — while underweight during a lift. And they are also comfortable to wear, which is something that many of the weightlifting shoes do NOT offer.
The materials are a bit on the cheap side, to be honest. Perhaps it’s just how the synthetic material feels, but you may or may not find this an issue. Given you are spending at least $200, this is a bit of a knock against the Nikes.
Nike Romaleo Vs the Adidas Adipower
Note that these offer about the same heel drop as the AdiPowers (about 19mm). Personal preference about which shoe model is superior comes into play here and you’ll certainly find vocal support for both among lifters. In general, though I feel the Adipower has a slight edge over the Romaleos; the Romaleos have a slightly wider, heavier, and clunkier feeling to them versus the more narrow, more dynamically designed Adipowers.
The Adipowers are also more flexible and frankly, a whole lot more comfortable to actually wear. The Nikes feel a bit ‘cheaper’ than the Adipowers in how the material feels.
However, the Romaleos are a pretty close second pick and a solid Runner Up choice.
Note that the Romaleos are wider than the Adipower, so if you have wider feet, you may want to opt for these as a more comfortable fit.
If you are primarily going for Olympic lifting, consider the Pendlay Do-Win as one of the best Olympic weightlifting shoes, especially if you have wider feet.
These shoes are made for Olympic lifters by an actual Olympic lifter (Glenn Pendlay). These shoes are specialized and we recommend them specifically for Olympic lifters, though a fair amount of people are also using these shoes for Crossfit as well.
If you are powerlifting, looking for functional training shoes, or you just want a pair of weight training shoes, these shoes are probably overkill for that, but for Olympic lifting, Pendlay’s are the real deal.
Like most specialized shoes for Olympic lifting — and as recommended for the sport — these have a 3/4 inch heel with tight-fitting straps for extra support. The shoes have a reputation for being tight-fitting, which is something you want in a pair of quality Olympic shoes. The shoes are also quite comfortable — providing the ideal balance between support, tightness, and comfort.
It’s often difficult to produce Olympic shoes that are both comfortable and supportive, mainly due to the sharp include on the heel, the hard shoe sole, and tight fit required in such a shoe design. I will say though that Pendlay’s done a very good job here and the shoes remain comfortable for lifting — certainly much better than the pair of basic VS Athletics I’ve compared these shoes to.
Pendlay Do-Win’s are considered a hardcore lifting brand. Unlike some of the other shoe brands which try to cross into every different type of shoe market, Pendlay’s are specialized only for one thing: lifting. And because of this, they make a better weight lifting shoe than many of the better-known brands. As such, these shoes best appeal to serious Olympic lifters.
I particularly recommend this shoe for the wide footed. If the Adipowers are too narrow and the slightly wider Nike Romaleo’s are still too narrow, the Pendlay’s are the perfect shoe as they are some of the widest shoes of all the weightlifting shoes on this list.
If you are just getting into the sport, you are only a casual lifter wanting to try out Olympic lifting, we recommend looking at a different shoe brand. But serious lifters should consider this brand; it’s one of the best pure weightlifting shoes.
Another ‘pure lifting’ shoe is the Risto Olimpico. And with the name, you can probably guess what these shoes are designed for.
If you said ‘Olympic Lifting’ you guessed right!
Like the Pendlay’s, Risto’s are another hardcore weightlifting shoe brand. If anything, these shoes are even more specialized than the Pendlays; these shoes actually have a wooden heel.
If that’s not hardcore in a shoe, then I don’t know what would count as hardcore. Overall, the Risto Olimpico are fantastic pure lifting shoes. When you put the shoes on, they become part of your body.
For Olympic lifting, the Risto’s are a classic choice and highly regarded. I still prefer the Adipower as a better choice, but the Risto’s are a compelling alternative if you don’t mind the no-frills design and the wooden heel.
Note that because the heels are wood, you are getting high stability but very little ‘give’ as far as padding goes in the heel area. This is not necessarily a bad thing in a weightlifting shoe — the hard heel gives better force transfer to the floor as you don’t lose force like you would in a rubber heel that slightly compresses — but you do lose a bit comfort.
While I can make a claim that all weightlifting shoes designed for pure lifting are not exactly the shoes you want to loaf around in at the gym or do a running session in, the Risto’s with the hard wooden heel area are particularly not suited for non-lifting activities.
If you plan to stand around in your shoes for hours, consider bringing a second pair of shoes to change into — you might need them.
Best Budget Weightlifting Shoes
Weightlifting shoes have a reputation for being on the expensive side, with some shoes running past $200. Typically, you can expect to pay in the mid 100’s. But for those more price conscious who don’t want to drop a few Benjamins for a pair of weight training shoes, there are some very reasonably priced options that won’t break the bank.
For an ‘everything’ shoe that you can do any sort of lifts in, and do them well in, look no further than your good old Converse.
Indeed, you can get any cheaper than this. For basic lifting shoes under $40, Chuck delivers here.
Why are these shoes so good for lifting of any sort?
Well in short, besides the ridiculously cheap price, Converse have a flat rubber sole, making them well suited for squats and deadlifts. The flat sole gives you more surface area to transfer force onto the ground and the rubber gumshoe material gives you a fantastic grip on the ground. Chuck’s are mid-top shoes, so you get additional ankle support from the shoe.
As such, Chuck Taylors can be used for any sort of lifting: powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and general strength training. Heck, I’ve even used these shoes for boxing (you won’t find I’m the only one either).
While there are better shoes specifically for powerlifting or Olympic lifting, Chuck Taylors will work ok.
If you plan to do Olympic Lifting on a regular basis, I don’t recommend these, however. Chuck Taylors don’t offer a lot of stability and support in the shoe itself and you don’t want your angles bending in the wrong direction when doing a Snatch or Clean and Jerk.
For basic deadlifting and squats, though, these shoes are pretty good — and some people will tell you they are the best even.
For functional lifting / dynamic workouts like Crossfit, however, Chuck Taylors are not comfortable to wear due to the rather flat heel and minimal padding; you should look at another shoe option.
If you have a wider squat stance, you may find Chuck Taylors to be a good fit — nearly as good as the actual weight lifting shoes. For more narrow squatting stances, the weightlifting shoes with an inclined heel may offer you an advantage (and feel more comfortable)
You’ll find a lot of powerlifters swear by Chuck Taylors, so give these shoes a try — you may find the work better for you than any expensive specialized shoe.
If you are looking for a solid pair of weightlifting shoes without dropping down the cash, consider the VS Athletics II.
At $50-$100 less than some of the competing brands and offering nearly the same, the VS Athletics are the best value buy for pure weightlifting shoes.
These VS Athletics (I) shoes were my very first pair of weightlifting shoes and I can personally vouch for them being the real deal. The new model improves on the original model in just about every way — including better aesthetics and better heel support system.
These shoes have the incline typical of the Olympic Style shoes but can be used quite comfortable for powerlifting as well. I used to wear these all the time during my strength training sessions. VS shoes feature a thick rubber sole and offer good pretty good stability. You don’t get the fancy colors, light weight, or breathability of the more expensive shoes, but you also pay $100 dollars less than other brands too.
You don’t get the fancy colors, light weight, or breathability of the more expensive shoes, but you also pay $100 dollars less than other brands too.
Note that while these shoes excel for barbell lifting exercises, they are somewhat uncomfortable to walk around in (both VS Atheletics I & II models). And they are pretty plain-looking; so if you want some snazzy shoes to impress visually with, these shoes are NOT the shoes to do it with.
And they are pretty plain-looking — especially the original model; so if you want some snazzy shoes to impress visually with, these shoes are NOT the shoes to do it with.
However, for a shoe that’s affordable and all about function over style, VS Athletics are the shoe to get.
Best Shoes for Crossfit
Because a significant portion of people looking for ‘weightlifting shoes’ are primarily looking for shoes to use during CrossFit workouts, I’ve given two of my top recommendations.
CrossFit suitable shoes are a bit different than standard weightlifting / Olympic lifting shoes. The difference is that the shoes must be flexible enough to allow rapid foot movements while also providing excellent stability for weightlifting activities. This sort of combination is not easy to achieve because a shoe must be rigid and fairly flat (with an inclined heel) to provide the ideal platform for weightlifting. But flat-soled shoes that are rigid do not work so well for footwork type movements, such as box jumps, calisthenics, sprinting, and other activities that might make up a typical CrossFit WOD.
As such, you’ll find Crossfit suitable shoes tend to be much lighter with far more flexible soles than pure weightlifting shoes. Note that as there is a significant difference in WOD’s, some people who focus more on the Olympic lifting might be able to get by one pure weightlifting shoes while those who focus more on the functional fitness activities of CrossFit will probably find a pure weightlifting shoe uncomfortable and restrictive to wear.
The best overall CrossFit shoes go to the Reebok Nano. While there’s a good dozen or so shoes I could recommend here, the Nano takes the edge in that it offers the complete package: enough support to enhance your CrossFit weightlifting activities yet flexible and lightweight enough for the non-weightlifting activities.
The Nano’s are also made from Kevlar which offer a lot of foot support while still allowing the shoes to be light. These are performance-based shoes: if you want the best shoe for Crossfit performance, well I feel the Nano 6 delivers on all that. They are a sort of generalist ‘Jack of all Trades’ workout shoe, but this is exactly what defines a normal Crossfit workout — a combination of many discrete, completely different activities.
Even better, the price you pay is quite affordable — somewhere between 60 to 130 USD. Considering some of the pure weightlifting shoes are over $200, paying a Benjamin for an outstanding shoe is a breath of fresh air.
The inov-8’s are one of the most popular shoes when it comes to Crossfit. There are more models than you can shake a stick at. Of particular note are the Inov-8 Bare-XF line, the FastLift line, and F-Lite line.
The Bare-XF (currently at the Bare-XF 210 model) are basically a minimalist shoe for Crossfiters (i.e. the heel is thin). Those who like Nike Free’s, Merrel’s, or Vibram’s, will find these shoes outstanding. The shoe wraps tightly around your foot, are lightweight and have a very thin sole.
The FASTLIFT line is geared towards lifters and would be an alternative to something like the Adipower’s. The F-Lite lineup are the more generalist Crossfit training shoes…and a great alternative to the Reebok Nano’s.
You can basically fine grain your choice to something highly specific to your training needs between all the models. However, my favorite overall choice for CrossFit would be the F-Lite 235. The shoes have slightly more of a drop (i.e. angled heel height) over the Nano’s which benefit your lifts but the drop is minor which makes the shoes outstanding for other activities without interfering.
A fair amount of people also use non-weightlifting shoes for Crossfit. I’ve seen more than a few using wrestling shoes. The ASICS Split Second 9 is a popular shoe, both for Crossfit and for general weight lifting. This is because of the thin heel, the grippy bottom, and the split sole that offers maximum foot flexibility. For foot-nimble movements, these shoes are great. But the flat sole and strong bottom grip also make them good for lifting. you can easily do deadlifts and Olympic lifts in them.
However, wrestlings shoes do not have an inclined heel like weightlifting shoes. If you are looking for this feature (which can assist in some of your Olympic lifts and for low squats), then Wrestling shoes will not be what you are looking for.
Specialized Weightlifting Shoes
These are shoes that may be specifically suited to ONE particular form of weightlifting. Lifting can be so specific that you can actually benefit with certain shoes for specific kinds of lifts.
Best Shoes for Squats
Yes, there are some shoes that are particularly suitable for Squats. While you can certainly use any proper weightlifting shoe to gain a boost on the squat, some shoes may give you a particular edge.
- Wide Stance Squats: Chuck Taylors
- Narrow stances and quadriceps-based squatters: Heeled weightlifting shoes (Adipower) or boxing shoes; Crossfit shoes (Reebok Men’s Crossfit Lite)
Best Shoes for Deadlifting
Typically, a flat-soled shoe offers an advantage for deadlifting. Flat shoes allow you to fall back slightly onto your heel of your foot, thus pulling through your heel area — an advantageous mechanic to lift more weight through the bar during deadlifts. There’s a lot of flexibility here when it comes to shoe types.
- Chuck Taylors for barebones flat-heeled shoes that are dirt cheap as shoes go.
- Wrestling shoes (ASICS Split Second 9 or Adidas Combat Speed 4) which are flat soled, light, and offer superior grip (see our guide to the best wrestling shoes)
- Boxing shoes also work. Some people find they like Vibram 5 Fingers shoes for deadlifting (see our guide to the best boxing shoes)
Personally, my favorite deadlift shoes are simple Chuck Taylor’s. They are dirt cheap. But a more flat-soled weightlifting shoe, if you have one, works just as well. I’ve also used Boxing Shoes and Wrestling shoes — both of which have a thin flat undersole with very little ‘squish’ making them perfect for deadlifting massive weight.
Best for Powerlifting
Powerlifting can go either way, depending on the type of lifts. If you ask many a powerlifter, they will recommend good old Chuck Taylors. However, as Squating is a key powerlifting exercise (and likely to be the basis for every proper powerlifting routine), you may benefit from a weightlifting shoe with a slight heel incline so you can sit back even deeper in the squat stance.
- Chuck Taylors
- Inclined Heel Weightlifting Shoes
Best for Olympic Lifting
Olympic weightlifting shoes always have an inclined heel for the extra support. There are quite a few good brands to choose from.
You’ll find a number of the top Olympic lifters wearing the following:
The Final Word
Finding a pair of weightlifting shoes is not so simple if you’ve made it through the list to this point.
The problem is that there’s different requirements in a shoe depending on the type of lifting ‘sport’ you participate in (Olympic Lifting, Powerlifting, Crossfit). Even more, some shoes are better for certain lifts (squats, deadlifts, etc) than others.
Perhaps the most general lifting shoe recommendation I can give is the humble old Chuck Taylor. You can use this shoe for any type of lifting outside of Crossfit . While these shoes might not be the most comfortable or aesthetic of shoes, it’s functional and cheap.
You might benefit specifically by owning two pairs of shoes: a multi training shoe (such as the Rebook Nano 6) and a dedicated lifting shoe (Adidas Adipower). Having a couple shoes you can choose from will give you the most flexible approach to your training, and you’ll always have the right shoe for the right kind of workout.
Keep in mind that everyone has different preferences for shoes. If you are just starting out with weight lifting, I recommend sticking with something basic (like Chuck Taylors). Only worry about specific shoes when you are comfortable with lifting and you have a good grasp on what sort of shoe might further enhance your performance. Otherwise, you may just be wasting your money on expensive shoes that you won’t really benefit from.
What do I like?
Personally I love the Addidas Adipower’s. I find these shoes hit every spot I need for general weightlifting — from trying to improve my deadlift and squat strength to my recreational Olympic lifting. They are not as well suited for Crossfit or multi-training though. If I had to say, the perfect combination I recommend would be:
- Adipower or Nike Romaleo (for general lifting)
- Adidas Nano 6’s for functional training activities (i.e. Crossfit)
If you guys have any personal recommendations for a great Weightlifting shoe, please share in the comments!