Are weightlifting shoes worth it?
Let’s face it – becoming a lifter doesn’t require much equipment. Many of us have gotten by with a pair of old shorts, a tattered T-shirt, and a rusty barbell.
But as you grow in strength and begin to take your training more seriously, you might consider investing in some accessories to take your performance to the next level.
The weightlifting shoe is one of the most popular and effective additions to your arsenal. Unlike your everyday gym shoes, weightlifting shoes are primarily designed to improve your depth in the squat. They can also improve your pushing, snatching, and pressing performance.
Weightlifting shoes are made with an elevated heel to reduce the demand for ankle and hip mobility during a squat, allowing the knee to travel forward while keeping the heel grounded, ensuring a stable and biomechanically efficient position. This translates to better alignment, force distribution, and overall performance.
Read on to learn what the science says about weightlifting shoes and whether they’re worth your money.
In this article:What are the benefits of weightlifting shoes?
What to look for in weightlifting shoes
Why you should choose the Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoes
Already sold on the benefits? Check out Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoes
What are the benefits of weightlifting shoes?
Unlike general training shoes, which many people wear outside the gym, weightlifting shoes have a focused purpose – to help you lift more and reduce your chance of injury.
So, what does the science say about weightlifting shoes? Are they actually effective, or are they just a marketing gimmick?
Here are four benefits of weightlifting shoes:
1. Improved stability
Weightlifting shoes have a hard, non-compressible sole – a stark contrast to the compressible soles of regular athletic shoes.
A study by Sato et al. (2012) examined the difference between regular athletic and weightlifting shoes. They found that weightlifting shoes offer a more stable base – particularly while squatting – and help maximise force production. This stability is crucial as it ensures you use your energy to lift the weight without losing it through sole compression.
The concept of stability extends beyond force transmission, though. A study by Hartman et al. (2013) found that having a more stable base while squatting can help to improve your technique, avoid muscle imbalances, and reduce stress on joints and ligaments.
2. Improved posture and technique
The elevated heel of weightlifting shoes significantly influences a lifter's posture and squatting technique.
One study by Sato et al. (2012) demonstrated that weightlifting shoes' raised heel markedly affects squat performance by facilitating enhanced ankle dorsiflexion – allowing for deeper squats.
This improvement leads to better knee alignment over the toes and helps keep the torso upright, essential for reducing the excessive forward lean often seen in deep squats performed in regular shoes.
An upright posture during squats is paramount. Stoehr et al. (2017) pinpointed excessive forward lean as a contributor to increased lumbar spine stress, potentially escalating injury risks. Weightlifting shoes help to counteract this by ensuring better spinal alignment, reducing the load on the lower back and your chance of injury.
3. Enhanced quadriceps activation
By wearing weightlifting shoes, you can better engage your quads.
Sato et al. (2012) found that weightlifting shoes alter the squatting biomechanics, specifically increasing knee flexion and decreasing hip flexion, resulting in more pronounced quadriceps engagement.
Similar studies found the same result. Fry, Smith, and Schilling (2003) noted that the squat depth and stance adjustments made possible by weightlifting shoes result in heightened electromyographical (EMG) activity in the quads. This neural upsurge enhances muscle recruitment.
From a rehabilitation standpoint, Escamilla et al. (2001) recognised the importance of targeted quadriceps reinforcement, particularly for managing and preventing knee problems.
4. Reduced risk of injury
While you undoubtedly want to get stronger and improve your lifts each month, you won’t be able to do so if you’re injured.
Thanks to the benefits mentioned above, the design of weightlifting shoes can reduce the chances of injury – namely in your spine and knees.
Weightlifting shoes promote a more balanced distribution of weight across the foot, a key factor during heavy lifting sessions. Southwell et al. (2019) found that preventing weight imbalances reduces asymmetric loading, which is a precursor to more serious injuries.
Ready to improve your strength training? Try the Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoes
What to look for in weightlifting shoes
So you’ve decided to try weightlifting shoes, but you’re wondering what you should be looking out for.
The significance of the heel height in weightlifting shoes can’t be overstated. A raised heel helps improve stability, posture, and muscle activation, reducing your risk of injuries and increasing your lifts.
We’d recommend a 2.3cm heel. This elevation facilitates better ankle movement, helping maintain an upright posture and reducing the strain on the lower back.
A hallmark of quality weightlifting shoes is a sturdy, non-compressible base, essential for stability during lifts. To ensure you’re buying a durable shoe, look for a shoe with a base constructed from materials such as TPU, wood, or rubber. A high-quality sole with a good grip also prevents slippage, reducing the risk of accidents.
Effective ankle support in weightlifting shoes provides a secure and stable lifting experience. Optimal designs involve reinforcements around the heel and include Velcro straps extending over the midfoot area. These features help to minimise lateral foot movement, preventing potential injuries during lifting sessions.
The fit and comfort
Ensuring the shoes fit well and are comfortable is fundamental. The interior should prevent any internal foot movement that could detract from the lifter's focus or performance. A combination of lacing and additional straps can provide a customised, snug fit, essential for both comfort and safety during lifts.
Whether you prefer a classic colour scheme, like white with black accents, or something more eye-catching, choose a design that reflects your personality and makes you feel confident in the gym.
Why you should choose the Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoes
We design every piece of equipment with one group in mind: lifters and strength athletes.
The Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoe will help you improve your lifts and reduce your chances of injury. The shoes feature:
A 2.3cm raised heel: The Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoe features a 2.3cm hard plastic wedge to help you improve your body mechanics as you lift and promote a more upright torso. This raised heel facilitates proper squat form, improving your performance and safety.
Double-reinforcement: The Strength Shop shoes incorporate double-reinforcement from the heel through the midfoot. This design, coupled with dual Velcro fasteners, ensures your foot remains secure and stable, virtually anchored into position for maximum safety and performance output.
Reliable grip: The sole of a weightlifting shoe serves as your foundation, the pivotal point between you and the ground. The Strength Shop shoes feature a sole that is rigid and boasts a reliable grip. This is invaluable during dynamic movements, providing the control and confidence needed to execute complex lifts like snatches or power cleans.
Durable and comfortable materials: The upper shoe is crafted with synthetic leather and Oxford cloth to withstand the wear and tear of regular training while ensuring your feet can breathe. The sole, a blend of rubber and TPU, provides firmness without sacrificing comfort, supporting prolonged training sessions.
Choosing the Strength Shop Weightlifting Shoes is more than a purchase: it's an investment in your continual progress and safety.
Are weightlifting shoes legal in powerlifting meets/weightlifting competitions?
Most powerlifting federations, such as the IPF, permit weightlifting shoes. They are also legal and widely popular in weightlifting competitions, given their inherent advantages for Olympic lifts.
Will weightlifting shoes help with ankle issues?
Weightlifting shoes help to support lifters who face challenges with ankle mobility. The raised heel allows for greater ankle flexion, meaning getting into a deep squat is easier.
Are weightlifting shoes helpful for tall lifters?
Taller lifters, or those with proportionally longer femurs, often struggle with conventional flat-soled shoes because they require more ankle flexion for a correct, balanced squat posture. Weightlifting shoes, such as Strength Shop shoes, have elevated heels, reducing the need for extreme ankle flexibility and allowing for a more upright squat position.
Can I run in weightlifting shoes?
Weightlifting shoes lack the cushioning and flexibility that running shoes offer, which are essential for the repetitive, high-impact nature of running. Using weightlifting shoes for running could lead to discomfort and potentially increase the risk of injury.
Are the Strength Shop shoes vegan?
Yes, the Strength Shop weightlifting shoes are vegan-friendly. We’ve crafted them using high-quality synthetic leather, avoiding the use of any animal-derived materials while still providing the durability, support, and comfort that lifters need.
Hartmann, H., Wirth, K., Klusemann, M., Dalic, J., Matuschek, C., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (2012). Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(12), 3243–3261.
Sato, K., Fortenbaugh, D., & Hydock, D. S. (2012). Kinematic changes using weightlifting shoes on barbell back squat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(1), 290–295.
Stoehr, A., Smith, L. K., McClaran, S. R., & Flanagan, S. D. (2017). Biomechanical analysis of the deadlift during the Special Olympics World Games. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(5), 1228–1236.
Fry, A. C., Smith, J. C., & Schilling, B. K. (2003). Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(4), 629–633.
Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., Zheng, N., Lander, J. E., Barrentine, S. W., Andrews, J. R., ... & Moorman, C. T. (2001). Effects of technique variations on knee biomechanics during the squat and leg press. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(9), 1552–1566.
Southwell, D. J., Petersen, S. A., Beach, T. A., & Graham, R. B. (2019). The influence of surface stability on bilateral muscle activation during loaded squat exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(Supplement 1), S45–S54.