How to find them
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.
However, everyone has different needs which can make choosing the right shoe a little difficult for beginners. For example, a shoe designed with CrossFit in mind will not be ideal for someone only interested in exclusively Olympic weightlifting.
It might sound like a “Gee thanks, Captain Obvious” kind of statement, but if you’re a beginner then it might not be!
Determining what YOU need for the gym
Typically the most obvious giveaway of the purpose of any workout 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)
Here are some examples of the above points (The Crossfit shoe being the most flexible, Powerlift being more rigid, and the VS athletics having a taller heel along with the rigid sole)
The thing is that a shoe that tries to do too much usually fails to achieve ideal performance in anything.
That’s why I consider picking a shoe based on your goals in the gym essential to avoiding injuries and performing optimally.
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 price rane. They go all the way from dirt cheap to having to pay 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. It’s just not necessary.
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 to go all in at the start. They’re only going to get worn when you’re at the gym which pretty much cancels out the normal wear and tear of walking around.
But I want the best workout shoe of all time!
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 more than well enough.
Materials typically aren’t much of a concern for a beginner but can be a factor in the shoe 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 but are a nice higher end option out there.
If you are just starting…DO NOT go for the 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! The fit is incredibly important when you’re lifting heavy weights.
Safety is everything when it comes to staying healthy and continuing to make gains in the gym.
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. I personally favor Adidas shoes for this reason.
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 even the slightest bit serious about lifting then I highly recommend them. I won’t act like it’s impossible to lift barefoot, but unless you have a home gym that just isn’t an option. I know I don’t want to smell other people’s feet at the gym.
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 was squishy and compressed under the weight which made me have a very unstable foundation.
Barefoot actually has potential to be better than using tennis shoes because you don’t have the issue of compression. However, you need to have good ankle mobility to squat barefoot correctly without the raised heel of a lifting shoe. It just isn’t a feasible option for a beginner.
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 a pair of shoes with your fitness goals in mind:
- Workouts with a lot of movement, not concerned with setting personal records and heavy lifting? 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. 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. My original pair of Powerlifts are still in great shape years later.
Hopefully, this article has been informative and helps you get going on the quest for gains.