How to find good lifting shoes for beginners
It can be hard to tell what the right pair of lifting shoes is for a beginner. Between the actual features and advertising hype, what actually matters? With a little guidance anyone can find good lifting shoes for their needs in the gym.
Everyone has different needs which makes choosing the right shoe extremely important. For example, a shoe designed with CrossFit in mind will not be ideal for someone only interested in weightlifting.
It might sound like a “Gee thanks, Captain Obvious” kind of statement, but if you’re a beginner then it might not be.
There’s a lot of overlap between all the shoes out there for lifting, but for each specialization there are significant differences.
Determining the differences
Typically the most obvious give-away of the purpose of any lifting shoe is the sole. That is arguably the most important factor, and here’s why:
- A flexible sole is designed more for movement, rather than stability (Usually resembles more of a running shoe sole)
- A rigid sole prioritizes stability over movement (Usually one flat piece of material)
- Some shoes mix the two together, often cross trainers designed for CrossFit (The front or back will have some flex, with the other side being rigid)
The thing is that a shoe that tries to do too much usually fails to achieve anything.
That’s why I consider picking a shoe based on your goals in the gym essential to avoiding injuries and performing as well as possible.
A beginner weightlifting shoe shouldn’t be used for CrossFit, or vice versa.
Additional factors to be aware of
So now that we’ve compared between the different types of shoes out there, let me go into a little bit more depth on what makes a good lifting shoe for a beginner.
In addition to the three categories above, there are other factors to consider before making a purchase.
- Materials used
- Brand / Fit
Lifting shoes have a fairly wide range of price ranging from dirt cheap to paying a premium for the brand name.
If you’re a beginner there’s plenty of room in between and you DON’T need to buy the top of the line shoes like Adipowers or Romaleos unless you have the budget.
Personally I tend to not invest in something until I know I’m going to do it for a long time. Lifting shoes are the kind of thing that will last you for many years, so you don’t have go all in at the start.
A lot of the cheaper options are surprisingly good and some mid-range ones as well. Click here for a list of cheap lifting shoes that will do the job.
Materials typically aren’t much of a concern for a beginner, but can be a factor in the shoes comfort and looks. 90% (I just made up that estimate on the spot) of shoes will be synthetic and that’s fine. The shoes that are made of materials like leather are few and far between.
Definitely not a realistic choice for a beginner to go with a hand carved wooden heel with a leather exterior weightlifting shoe imported from Japan. I’m only exaggerating a little bit, that is actually a thing.
A lifting shoe is typically going to fit a little snug. Notice I didn’t say tight. There isn’t supposed to be any movement within it while you’re walking or performing an exercise. Most companies will tell you if a shoe runs true to size or is half a size small, so pay attention to that!
It can also save you a lot of time if you know how a brand’s shoes tend to fit you. I realize this is only an option for major retailers like Nike, Adidas, or Reebok though. It’s better than going off of nothing though.
If purchasing a brand you don’t have a pair to compare with, you should always look at their sizing chart to minimize your chances of getting an ill-fit. Returns aren’t the end of the world, but they are a hassle no one wants to deal with.
Do I actually need lifting shoes?
If you are serious about lifting then I highly recommend them. I won’t act like it’s impossible to lift barefoot, but I think it’s definitely something that just works better for certain people.
When I started going to the gym I used tennis shoes to squat in. Even with the small amount of weight I was using at the time, I could tell that it wasn’t safe and my form was definitely crap. The sole just compressed under the weight which made me have an unstable foundation.
Barefoot is better than using tennis shoes because you don’t have the issue of compression mentioned above. However, you need to have good ankle mobility to squat barefoot correctly without the raised heel of a lifting shoe.
It also lacks the stability a lifting shoe can add to your lift with the increased surface area you have wearing one. Forget about doing olympic lifts without shoes!
Putting it all together to find the right pair of shoes
There are a lot of different options out there when it comes to choosing the right shoe for your needs in the gym.
Choose with your fitness goals in mind:
- Workouts with a lot of movement, not concerned with setting personal records? Get a shoe with a flexible sole. (Reebok Crossfit Shoes are great for this)
- Want to strictly work on the big three? (Squat, Deadlift, Bench) Get a rigid sole shoe with a raised heel around half an inch. (The Adidas Powerlift 3 are a good example)
- Olympic weightlifting? Badass. Make sure you get a shoe with an even more exaggerated heel (Take a look at the VS Athletics Weightlifting Shoe 2)
The great thing is you don’t have to break the bank to get a good pair that will last for years, so don’t get sucked into the hype for the more expensive ones! Don’t ignore the lesser known brands putting out great shoes. VS Athletics, Pendlay (defunct as of writing) are two examples that come to mind.
I know when I started getting serious about lifting, buying a proper pair of shoes was an instant boost to me in more ways than one.
Hopefully this article has been informative and helps you get going on the quest for gains.