Quick Fix: Get a Pair of Weightlifting Shoes

If you do not own a pair of weightlifting shoes, LISTEN UP—because this can make a huge difference in your lifting. Training on a Volt program means that you will be performing squats, Olympic lifts, and a plethora of free-weight movements in all planes of motion. And believe it or not, standard running or basketball shoes are NOT optimal footwear for this type of training. Do you know what type of footwear IS optimal? Weightlifting shoes! If you already have a pair of weightlifting-specific shoes, congratulations on being AWESOME! But if you haven’t made the switch to awesomeness yet, here's why a proper pair of weightlifting shoes will change your life.


Minimal Cushion = Maximum Efficiency

This is what typical running shoes feel like when squatting

This is what typical running shoes feel like when squatting

I know this may come as a shock to some, but running shoes are meant for running. Their heavy cushioning and thick soles are designed for the repetitive motion of running—NOT for movements that require high force and power production. In fact, not only are running shoes NOT designed for weightlifting, they can also be detrimental to your lifting.

Think about it: running shoes are very cushioned, and cushioned shoes, by definition, are squishy—they mold to your feet in a big, cushiony hug. While this cushion may be great for the repetitive nature of running, it does not lend itself to stability under heavy loads. So when you wear cushioned shoes while lifting, your stability is compromised and your ability to produce power in each movement is disrupted. Think of trying to jump in thick sand. As you jump, the sand gives way and dissipates some of the force needed to produce a powerful jump—meaning you can’t jump as high. For weightlifting, instead of cushioned shoes, what you want are shoes that have a very solid, flat, and firm sole. This allows every bit of force produced by your body to drive through the floor with minimal displacement from the bottom of the shoes. Every bit of force you put into the ground, the ground puts back into you—allowing you to lift heavier weights with better strength and power. You wouldn’t want all that force going to waste through squishy, sand-like shoes now, would you?

Ankles Are Meant To MOVE

I don't recommend snatching barefoot unless your name is Rigert...

I don't recommend snatching barefoot unless your name is Rigert...

While basketball shoes provide great support for the ankle during games, your ankles require more freedom of movement in the weight room than on the court. High-top shoes can impede ankle dorisflexion, which can negatively impact your squats. When your ankle range of motion is limited, your body will demand that mobility from higher up in your body, to compensate. This can lead to bad squats and injury, and causes a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Instead, stick to low-top shoes that allow the ankle enough freedom of movement to maintain a full-depth squat without compensating somewhere else. So, save your basketball shoes for pick-up games, and get something more in line with your goals in the weight room. 


So...Why Not Just Get a Pair of Actual Weightlifting Shoes?

I'm shocked when athletes don't know that there are shoes specifically designed for weightlifting. They offer the absolute best stability, with wooden or hard composite soles that provide the best possible feedback during squatting and pulling from the floor. They also have a raised heel wedge that allows for better ankle range of motion and allows you to sit deeper in the squat position. Yes, even athletes with very poor ankle mobility can find themselves finally squatting to depth! They can be a little pricey—around $80-200 a pair—but you'll most likely get 3-4 solid years of training out of them. Their lifespan depends on how you  treat them (weightlifting shoes are not meant for anything other than weightlifting!), so care for them lovingly, like a puppy. You'll also save whatever current pair of training shoes you have now for their original purpose, extending the lives of those shoes as well. It's a win-win situation!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and grab yourself some shoes designed to help you meet your training goals. And have fun with your new squat PR!


Here is a list of reputable and high-quality shoes that'll help your training:

A great and simple video from VS Athletics demonstrating the benefits of proper footwear.

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Jace Derwin, CSCS, RSCC, is one of the regular contributors to the Volt blog, and is the lead sport performance specialist at Volt Athletics. Jace manages Volt program design, content development, and educational resources for schools, clubs, and organizations. Jace is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®), and holds a Bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific University in Exercise Science. Follow Jace on Twitter @VoltCoachJace.