I have a closet full of shoes. And while I may not actually need seven pairs of boots (but I do, I do!) or six different colors of the same sneakers, some shoes do serve an important purpose: Shoes for the rain? Yep. Shoes for the sports I play? Yep.
Most sports have specific shoes that serve the athlete for that sport. Baseball, football, and futbol players all wear some version of cleats to grip the field while running. There’s racing spikes, wrestling shoes, even indoor soccer shoes.
Now, even though running shoes are called just that – running shoes – they seem to be the default shoe for all general athletic activities. Going to the gym? Put on your running shoes. But as many of you have noticed, traditional running shoes with all the extra padding may be your poorest choice for the stuff we do at Santa Rosa Strength and Conditioning. Let’s examine why.
Think of setting up for a deadlift. You bend down to grip the bar, set your back properly, and get ready to drive your heels hard into the ground to lift this heavy weight. You want the force generated by your legs to be transferred directly into the ground. If you’re wearing running shoes, however, that force is being partially stolen by the big old, squishy heel cushion. That heel cushion was made to absorb shock while running, but now it’s absorbing the energy you need to lift the weight.
Now picture yourself doing jerks. Dip, big drive…and land, solid, with the weight locked out overhead. Same issue: you want that drive to be strong, you want to push off the ground and force that weight up! In this case, though, not only has the squishy heel stolen some of your power, but it’s also given you an unstable surface to land on. Instead of landing on hard ground, you land on the squish. With heavy weight over your head. Sound safe?
So what shoes do we want to wear while doing Weightlifting or CrossFit training? What you want is a shoe with a thin, non-compressible sole to provide you stability. If you’re doing barbell work, a solid wedge heel is preferred. Here’s a layout of the land of your shoe choices:
Minimalist Running Shoes
Minimalist shoes, aka ‘low profile’ simply means that there’s no big squishy heel, but rather a thin, even sole. There’s been a boom in the production of minimalist athletic shoes due to their popularity, and almost all the running shoe companies now make at least one low profile model. Try different brands and models and find ones you like.
Here’s someone’s Top 10 Minimalist Shoes list that includes some favorites we see at SRSC, including models from Merrell and New Balance. Here’s one of many websites devoted to minimalist shoes for your perusal. Rogue sells all the Reebok CrossFit shoes and Zappos has a great selection of Inov8s. What are your favorites? Do share.
They might be weird looking, but they do the job right. Weightlifting shoes have a non-compressible sole with a wedge heel. Keep in mind that weightlifting shoes shouldn’t be used for running, and wouldn’t be so great for CrossFit workouts that include things like high rep box jumps or hundreds of double unders. If you want an all-purpose shoe for CrossFit training, this isn’t it. But if you’re a regular in Strength classes and often do heavy squatting, deadlifting, and pressing, or you’re getting into Olympic lifting, consider investing in a pair of weightlifting shoes, as they will improve your performance.
A great entry-level weightlifting shoe, perfect for all strength training with a barbell, is the Adidas Powerlift and it comes in all kinds of colors. There’s also VS Athletics and Do Wins. At the higher-priced end and more specific to Olympic Weightlifting are the Adidas Adipowers, Nike Romaleos, and Ristos.
Hybrids for CrossFit
Reebok was the first company to create a “hybrid” weightlifting/fitness shoe specifically for CrossFitters, and now Inov8 has followed with a very similar model. These shoes feature the rigid, wedge heel for stability and look like weightlifting shoes, but have a thin and flexible forefoot for jumping. I recommend trying one of these hybrids if you identify more as a CrossFitter rather than a lifter, you’re moving challenging weights in your WODs, and you’re seeking top performance.
Old School and All Purpose
Chuck Taylors or Sambas (or any indoor soccer shoes) are the preferred shoes of many that have been in the iron game for a while and don’t care about those new trends and hype. They’re easy to find, aren’t a major investment, and even the knock offs are fine. They have thin, non-compressible soles so they won’t steal your power, and they provide a stable surface to land on and push off from. They’re great for deadlifting or pressing, and can handle your running, box jumps, double unders – anything. Overall, they are a great, affordable all-around shoe for training – and you can wear them outside of the gym too!
What are your favorite shoes for training? Feel free to share your thoughts, experiences, and questions below in comments.