By James Hein
It is time to get rid of a damned silly myth: weightlifting shoes are NOT a crutch. Simply put, a weight lifting shoe gives you improved position, stability and power production under the bar so that you can perform better. If you’re squatting, cleaning, snatching, or jerking it’s time to consider picking up a pair. Style and features differ from shoe to shoe but the overall concept remains the same.
Notice the upright position of the spine when given the extra range of motion in the ankle.
The weight sits more comfortably on the athletes shoulders instead of in his hands.
The first thing you may notice is the slight rise or elevation in the shoe’s heel. This gives you a more optimal ankle, knee, hip, and torso position. This is especially helpful for someone with tight hips or ankles while they deal with their mobility issues. Even if you have good hip and ankle mobility test the concept out by throwing some small change plates under your heels and cranking out a few squats. Voila! You’ll notice it’s easier to get lower and keep your back straighter even under higher loads. This is how weight lifting shoes help everyone train better, but are especially useful for those who are working on their mobility.
Another thing you’ll notice is that the soles of weightlifting shoes are hard and flat. This is very different from the squishy, textured soles of running shoes that are great for cushioning your feet, but compress under load and rob you of power production. The hard soles of weightlifting shoes prevent that, allowing you to use all of the energy you generate to move your barbell. Weightlifting shoes are also more stable since the soles do not compress (or shift) no matter how much weight you put on them, which translates to a much lower likelihood of injury for you.
You’ll see that in addition to the shoe’s lacing there’s a strap running up and over the mid foot. That strap allows for you to push out and against the floor without the upper foot rolling outwards. Pushing down and out – commonly the cue is to “spread the floor” – recruits additional musculature from the hip and glutes. Greater muscle recruitment coupled with a stable platform allows you to drive even more force into the ground.
Which brand or style of shoe is best for you depends on your individual tastes and how they feel. It may take you a couple of times to find the right pair but when you do you’ll greatly enjoy the benefits of increased stability, better positioning, and power production, all of which lead to better performance and better results. You do not need the most expensive pair out there and if you treat them right they’ll last forever. At the end of the day stop viewing such an essential piece of equipment as a crutch and instead view it for what it is: an effective piece of gear that allows you to train not only harder, but smarter as well.
James Hein is a Poliquin International Certification Program Performance Specialist Level 4, a former Navy SEAL and is co-owner of moveSKILL.com