If you’re a newbie to fitness and strength training, footwear might not seem very important. And, it isn’t the most important thing when you’re just starting out on your journey. The most important thing is just getting started. However, after building up consistent time in the gym, a lot of people discover that they may need to invest in a better pair of shoes to get more out of their strength training experience. At Force Barbell, we believe that proper footwear is definitely important to help you get the results you need in the gym. While getting new shoes is cool and all, the only thing that will truly get you the results you want is hard work and consistency. That new pair of Nike Metcons won’t do that for you.
Proper footwear depends on what you’re currently pursuing in the gym. The best shoes to wear for a group conditioning class will greatly differ from shoes an Olympic Weightlifter should be wearing. So, next, I’ll show you the different types of shoes that are best for different activities and why they’re the best for said activities.
Group Fitness Training
The best pair of shoes for a group fitness class are ones that are flat and still have some cushion at the bottom. A lot of times, we see people wearing the typical tennis shoe, which has too much cushion and isn’t flat, making it really difficult to feel where the pressure of your foot is in relation to the floor. This makes all the difference when completing movements like squats and deadlifts, where it’s important to know where the weight of your foot is being distributed. You also don’t want a shoe on the opposite end of the spectrum that’s really flat but has no cushion. An example would be Converse’s Chuck Taylors. Really flat, where you feel the weight of your foot, but they might be too hard on the bottom of your foot when a lot of running, jumping, carrying, and other types of impact activities are involved. Below are a couple pairs of shoes that fit this description, which we recommend. These are typically called “cross-training” shoes.
If you’re looking to be competitive in the sport of Weightlifting (commonly known as Olympic lifting) or Powerlifting, then it’s important to purchase the proper footwear for your training. For people new to the sport of Weightlifting, I’ll even suggest getting a Weightlifting shoe (or “squat” shoes) before starting training. Weightlifting requires getting into very difficult positions. This is where the Weightlifting shoe helps a lot. As for Powerlifting, I highly suggest getting a Weightlifting shoe for squats, and the flattest shoe possible for deadlifts. When it comes to doing a bench press, your shoes are more of a personal preference. If you’re interested in training for Powerlifting but are unsure whether you want to eventually compete, then I suggest going with a simple shoe like the ones mentioned above, or even a Chuck Taylor shoe would work, because you’re not going to be involved in a lot of movement that requires much impact, so a flat shoe will do fine.
Weightlifting shoes are a big help when it comes to doing Olympic movements and squats, mostly because of the raised heel that they offer. The typical Weightlifting shoe has a very flat, hard surface (almost like a block of wood) that is also raised in the heel. Why this helps these movements so much is because the raised heel throws your center of gravity forward, releasing the range of motion demands at the ankle, and allowing the lifter to squat very upright without having to excessively arch the back or keep the heels from coming off the ground. This shoe is also very flat and tough, so it’s easy to feel where the weight is at on your foot.
I mentioned that for deadlifts you should use the flattest shoe possible. There are also deadlift “slippers” that basically act as nothing, but in the sport of Powerlifting, you’re required to wear something, as no shoes are prohibited. You should seek the flattest shoe possible for deadlifts, because they help to shorten the range of motion that the bar has to go. If you have a big cushion in your shoe, you’re basically raising yourself off the floor, requiring yourself to pull the heavy barbell further. This is another reason why Weightlifting (or squat) shoes are not optimal for deadlifts.
Weightlifting shoes can be expensive, so if you’re unsure how dedicated you are to the sport, I suggest that you go with the least expensive ones initially. The higher the raised heel, the better, but that also becomes a personal preference once you get more acquainted with the sport. Below are recommended Weightlifting shoes that fit the above description. I’ve listed both expensive and least expensive ones to consider.
Below is what we recommend as deadlift-specific shoes. Some may serve more of a purpose, but these are the shoes that are typically what you’re looking for when deadlifting.
(Similar to a wrestling shoe, which works really well as well.)
When it comes to proper footwear, the information above is pretty much what you’ll need. Generally, most people just need a shoe that fits the mold of the “Group Fitness Training.” With that being said, some people have more of a competitive itch that they want to scratch and they want something that’s going to help give their game a bit more advantage. There are other strength-related sports that may need different footwear, but most people who train at Force Barbell or similar facilities all fit within the group fitness, Powerlifting, or Weightlifting mold. Strongman competitors are a different breed, and it seems as if they have a completely different set of equipment that they need for each lift, and I don’t wish to dive into that right now.
While footwear can be extremely important, it doesn’t make your gains in the gym. I remember Chad Wesley Smith (look him up) saying that he competed in his first Powerlifting competition wearing a pair of tennis shoes (he has since squatted over 800lbs). That would frighten most dedicated Powerlifters these days, but it brings up a good point. While footwear is important, make sure you’re not that person who is so fixated on equipment and shoes that you forget the true purpose of training and strength sports. It’s to tap into a side of you that makes you focus more, work harder, and do things you didn’t originally think were possible. All of that happens in your mind and doesn’t depend on whether or not you’re wearing the newest pair of Nike Romaleos. The strongest people in the gym are the ones who are going to pick up heavy weight in dress shoes, if they have too.