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The Minimalist’s Guide to the Best Shoes for Weightlifting

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The Minimalist’s Guide to the Best Shoes for Weightlifting

If you’re looking for a short and sweet guide on what shoes are best for weightlifting and why, you want to read this article.

 

Getting fit isn’t necessarily cheap.

The gym membership…the food and supplement bills…the books, courses, and membership sites…your insatiable love of workout clothing…straps, belts, gloves, sleeves…it all adds up.

And then there’s the matter of shoes.

There’s no question that proper running shoes are a worthy investment if you’re going to pound the pavement regularly (rotating between several pairs is best, actually), but do we really need to pony up for something special for our weightlifting too? Or will any ratty ol’ pair of anything be as good as another?

Well, a good weightlifting shoe does a few things:

  1. It provides a stable surface to help us balance and support heavy loads. This is particularly important with exercises like the deadlift, squat, and overhead press.
  2. It fits your feet snugly and leaves no wiggle room. You don’t want your feet moving around in your shoes as you train.
  3. It provides good traction so your feet don’t slip or shift during a lift.

The right weightlifting shoes not only improve your performance of important lifts like the squat and deadlift but they reduce the risk of injury as well.

As you can imagine, not all types of shoes meet these criteria.

Running shoes, for example, have squishy soles that can become quite unstable when placed under large amounts of weight. Instead, we want a rigid, noncompressive sole that serves as a base we can press off of.

Loose-fitting shoes meant for lounging and shoes with treadless soles that don’t grip the ground when torque is applied are equally inadequate for weightlifting. You want to feel like your feet are solidly connected to the ground and can “screw in” as you load them.

So, to answer the question posted in the beginning of this article: yes, I do think serious weightlifters can benefit from good weightlifting shoes. Many brands last damn near forever as well so it’s not much of a financial burden when viewed in context of how long you’ll be using them.

Now, not all weightlifting shoes are the same, though. Which are the best?

Let’s find out…

Olympic Weightlifting Shoes Look Damn Cool But Are They Worth It?

best-shoes-for-weightlifting

We might as well start at the top of the weightlifting shoe pyramid and work our way down. And the top is a pair of awesome weightlifting shoes like the Adidas Adipowers pictured above.

Getting right to the point: if your workouts involve Olympic lifts, heavy squats, deadlifts, and/or overhead presses, and you don’t mind the price tag, you want a pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes.

I held out for years before buying a pair, assuming they probably weren’t all that different from the other types of shoes I’m going to recommend in this article…but I was wrong.

Now that I’ve used Olys for a good 4 to 5 months, I’ll never look back. Here’s why:

  1. Olympic weightlifting shoes have straps that allow you to push against the sides with your feet. This helps you better activate your hips when you pull and squat, which allows you to move heavier weights.
  2. Olympic shoes have hard, noncompressible soles that give you a wide, rock-solid, and consistent base to push off of. The increased stability during your big lifts is something you immediately notice when you first make the switch to an Oly shoe.
  3. Olympic lifting shoes have a slightly elevated heel (0.5 to 1 inch of elevation) that allows you to more easily squat into a deep position while keeping your chest upright.

Again, if you’re doing heavy, compound lifts regularly, I highly recommend you consider a pair of good Olympic weightlifting shoes. It’s money well spent.

The Best Olympic Weightlifting Shoes

Like with any type of shoe, there are a lot of different brands of Olympic shoes and prices are all over the place.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to the best Olympic lifting shoes.

Top Tier
Adidas Adipower

adidas-adipower-weightlifting-shoe

There’s a reason why you see these all over Olympic weightlifting stages: they’re widely considered the gold standard of Olympic lifting shoes.

Well designed, sturdy, durable, comfortable, good traction, and great looking…what else could you want? These are what I personally use.

The only downside is price $180-200), but if that doesn’t deter you, stop reading this article, buy a pair, and get ready to experience the best.

Top Tier
Nike Romaleos II

nike-romaleos-weightlifting-shoe

I have a hard time choosing a favorite between the Adipower and Romeleos II. They’re both outstanding weightlifting shoes and really don’t differ in any substantial ways that I could tell.

They fit and perform equally well and cost the same so, in my opinion, it just comes down to personal style. You can’t go wrong either way.

Great Value
Adidas Powerlift 2

adidas-powerlift-2-weightlifting-shoe

The Powerlife 2 is the Adipower’s little brother and it lives up to the family’s reputation.

The heel is a little lower than most pure weightlifting shoes but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some people find it more comfortable when squatting deep (especially people that use a wider stance).

The sole also compresses slightly but the inclusion of a plastic plate that runs above it keeps it feeling stable throughout your lifts.

Cross-Training Shoes Are More Popular Than Ever For Good Reason

If your workout routine doesn’t involve heavy Olympic lifting or heavy squatting, deadlifting, or overhead pressing, you don’t need a pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes. A cross-training shoe will better meet your needs.

Cross-trainers offer flat soles and enough ankle support for weightlifting and enough comfort and foot support for shorter runs (up to 5k, generally) and aerobics. They’re also comfortable enough for use outside of the gym.

The Best Cross-Training Shoes

CrossFit’s blitzkrieg across the fitness lands has spawned a ton of different cross-training shoes, but you don’t need to try them all to find something you’ll love.

I lifted in cross-trainers for years and have tried quite a few brands and models, and here are my recommendations.

Top Tier
Reebok Nano 4.0

reebok-mens-crossfit-nano-4.0

I’m not a huge fan of Crossfit but I’m not going to hold that against the brand’s official, and fantastic, training shoe.

Reebok has done a great job leveraging the popularity of CrossFit to solicit a ton of customer feedback and then actually use it to guide the progression of the Nano model to its current “4.0” version.

What’s you’ll find in the Nano 4.0 is an extremely well-rounded workout shoe. It fits snugly, but isn’t too tight; its flat, rigid soles provide stability and traction; its rubber exterior shell gives durability and a bit of protection against impacts; and its lightness and flexibility make it suitable for short runs as well.

Great Value
New Balance Minimus MX20V4

new-balance-mx20v4-weightlifting-shoe

I’ve been a fan of the New Balance Minimus line for several years now. I used and abused my MX20V3s for about a year before upgrading and they performed admirably.

What first struck me about these shoes is how light and comfortable they are. It’s like they mold to your foot and become an extension of it.

Like the Nano 4.0s, the MX20V4s are made for weightlifting, aerobics, and running, and they work well for each.

The flat, rubberized sole compresses minimally and provides a good base, but now that I’ve tried Olympic weightlifting shoes, I have to say I like something wider and more rigid for my squatting. The comfort, foot support, and flexible shell makes them suitable for cardio as well, including jogging.

The Bottom Line of the Best Shoes for Weightlifting

You don’t need fancy shoes for weightlifting–many people do just fine with the classic Chucks–but a good pair of weightlifting shoes will make a difference in your training.

If you’re spending a good amount of time with the weights every week, and especially if your training focuses on heavy, compound lifting, I highly recommend you invest a little money into the right shoes. You’ll be glad you did.

 

What are your thoughts on weightlifting shoes? Do you have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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    • Law

      Hey Mike, I was wondering, I use a shoulder wide stance for squats and a narrower stance for deads. I’m 6’2″ so I tend to lean a bit far forward on squats. Would the powerlift 2.0 be a good buy for a guy like me? I’ve never used Oly shoes so I’m not sure what to expect. Any info or opinions would be appreciated. Thanks bud

      • That’s what I do. Slightly wider than shoulder for squat and slightly narrower for deads.

        I think you’ll like them especially for the squats.

        • Law

          Awesome. I’m going to take the plunge! Thanks brother

  • Pingback: The Minimalist Guide to the Best Shoes for Weightlifting | georgeherman205()

  • Ollie

    Hey Mike,

    I see a lot of people online saying your shouldn’t wear weightlifting shoes like the Adidas Adipowers whilst deadlifting because of the elevated heel, personal I use them and prefer it, what do you think?

    • It depends on your body/proportions. I have monkey arms so I like the little bit of heel elevation.

      • Ollie

        Hahaha thanks, I can relate to this so much I’ve been called monkey arms myself before

  • Sajith Bandara

    I think a shoe that should get a LOT more attention that you left out is the Reebok Power shoe (Reebok Crossfit Lite TR) by Mark Bell. It is by far the best flat soled shoe I’ve used for all my heavy deadlifts.

    • Oh yeah? I’ve heard of it but haven’t tried it.

      • Guest

        I use Five Fingers. They work perfectly for me. Regarding stench: never had that problem because the shoes are machine washable. I wash them once every week; they don’t smell, and they look practically brand new (been 8 months).

  • anton

    what do you think about weightlifting barefoot? if hygiene isn’t an issue, like if you have a decent home gym, do these shoes have any benefit over not wearing any shoes at all?

    • I wouldn’t just because it’s kind of dangerous. Drop a weight and your foot is done. And proper weightlifting shoes would really make a difference in your squatting…

      • Steven Sashen

        The minimal amount of material in any shoe won’t really protect you from the effects of dropping a weight on your foot (been there, done that, got the bloody shoe to prove it 😉 ).

        • Bob

          That’s why I lift in a pair of 25-year-old steel toe Georgia Boot Wellingtons. Noncompressible sole, low heel, sturdy and don’t cost near a pair of Oly’s.

        • Hahah depends on how heavy the weights are I guess. 🙂

    • Jay

      I was thinking the same since I have a decent set up. Just went and ordered the adipowers and Leg day is Friday so hopefully they fit right and can test them out and compare

      • jay

        got them in the mail td, threw them on to check fit and feel great (look sweet too) So sturdy, feels like you’re almost anchored down… squats tm

  • Benito

    I lift with the five fingers and honestly I feel good with them, they fit my feet perfectly and there is no elevation whatsoever, but maybe in the future I would think about these shoes since I am crazy for all adidas shoes.

    • Yeah some people like them. I’ve never tried because after a bit they start smelling like death.

  • Eric

    Mike, got the Adidas powerlift 2’s for Christmas and so far I love them. I like the flatter soles as it gives me a sturdier base as I was use to lifting in Nike Air Max’s with the elevated heels which always made me feel like I was leaning forward. I have even gotten quite a few comments on the new shoes from fellow gym-goers, so thanks for the recommendation.

    • Nice! Yeah too much elevation sucks. Glad you’re liking the shoe.

  • Everett

    If I train with the BLS protocol and do some 30-min-running session during the weak should I get the Olympic shoes? Thanks.

    • You don’t NEED them but I think you’ll like them for squatting and deadlifting.

  • Steven Scott

    If they’re meant to be tight, is it best to order your regular size or maybe a bit smaller? I checked locally, nobody has any of those to try on. I wear a 13 in work boots and hiking boots, but I have no clue about athletic shoes.

    • I always order my reg size and haven’t had issues.

    • Jonny

      Adidas recommends ordering half a size down unless you have wide feet. I ordered Adipowers in my size and half a size down to be safe. Half a size down was a snugger fit for me without being too tight.

  • adubya

    Been using Topo Sante and so far they are awesome!

    • Nice! Thanks for sharing.

    • Orion Antares

      Still using them? Are they firm for heavy squat and deadlift?

  • GingerHead Man

    Anyone had experience with Reebok Crossfit Lifters 2.0? I like the idea of the versatility they offer.

  • Law

    Hey Mike, I was wondering, I use a shoulder wide stance for squats and a narrower stance for deads. I’m 6’2″ so I tend to lean a bit far forward on squats. Would the powerlift 2.0 be a good buy for a guy like me? I’ve never used Oly shoes so I’m not sure what to expect. Any info or opinions would be appreciated. Thanks bud

    • Generally speaking Oly shoe = better squat mechanics. I’m 6’2 as well and prefer low-bar squatting so I have more trunk lean than your typical high-bar position, but that’s normal.

  • Bobby Dyl

    I am surprised that you did not mention wrestling shoes. Flat sole and very snug. I wear them and they are awesome

    • True! I haven’t tried them though.

      • NoApoloG

        Hey Mike have you tried any or had and feedback on squatting or deadlifting in wrestling shoes yet?

  • Alexa White

    Any suggestions for women’s shoes?

  • Steven Sashen

    I would just add that for people who like a barefoot feel, but don’t want to walk around in other people’s sweat, try http://www.XeroShoes.com (especially the new Z-Trek)

  • adi

    Hey im 13 and train 2 hours, 5 times a week I include heavy compound workouts each session do you think I should still buy a pair??? Thanks 😉

    • Hey!

      It depends how heavy you’re training. At your age I wouldn’t recommend a bunch of heavy weightlifting. I would recommend something like 3 days of weights per week in the 10 to 12 rep range and sports and possibly bodyweight training outside the gym.

      All that said, yes I think you would like the proper shoes for your lifting.

  • Fra

    I use these for lifting

  • biker joe

    I was using a track running shoe for lifting. I couldn’t squat without falling back. I found these shoes to be very good for the money, about $80.00. They are VS-Athletics-Weightlifting-Shoe. They have a slight rise in the heal and support the feet and ankles.
    For deadlifting I was doing them in stocking feet. I then got a pair of Chucks. They have a thin sole but it was not as good as doing them in stocking feet. I could feel my heal pushing into the rubber sole. Did not like the feeling. I got a pair of deadlift slippers. The best thing I ever did. It’s like deadlifting barefoot.
    So now I use my VS shoes for squats, slippers for deadlifts and Chucks for every thing else. Oh. I still use my track shoes for wind sprints.
    .

  • On occasion, the problem is the fit itself with athletic shoes. I am a slave to New Balance (and Red Wing work boots) because of the very large widths they come in. Often, with a wide foot, the tradeoff is between a shoe that is too long, or too narrow. Having tried a number of weightlifting shoes, I can say with confidence that the same is true.

    While the NB MX20 doesn’t come in the complete range of widths that their higher end sport offerings usually do, they do come up to a 2E (substantially wider than most brands’ “wide” designation). They are a phenomenal lifting shoe, while simultaneously appropriate for that 15 min HIIT session on the bike or treadmill. I wouldn’t jog with them, but anything you do in a gym, they are ideal and fit a wide foot. If any MFL readers have really wide (5H redwing) foot, this is THE lifting shoe for you.

  • Renier

    Great article, however I don’t feel like addi powers are good for deadlift, I think it’s better to have a flat shoe when you pull, I personally have the adipowers and I love them for overhead press, high bar squat and front squat, however I feel that they are uncomfortable for low bar squat IMO, good article nonetheless!

    • Thanks! It depends on your body, really. I have long legs and really long arms and find the heel elevation more comfortable on the deads.

      I’m surprised you don’t like them on low-bar squat.

  • Patrick King

    I found the Asics Gel Unifire TR crossstraining shoes are light, fit snug and work great for all of my training needs. Relatively inexpensive at $55.00 and they look good.

  • michelle

    I just wear a pair of cheap Mossimo oxfords from Target. After a few months of wearing the ones I have, I got another pair just to rotate with my existing ones for a different look. The new pair has animal print 😀

  • Martin

    Two quick questions:

    1) I use simple Converse Chuck Taylors for squats, deadlifts, etc because they don’t have much compression in the sole. Mike – what are your thoughts on chuck taylors?

    2) I do sqauts and deadlifts, but I don’t know if I’m doing “heavy enough” squats/deadlifts to justify getting Oly shoes. I’m 5′ 9.5″ and I weigh 156/157 lbs. My max squat is around 215 to 225 lbs and my max deadlift is around ~200 lbs. Do you think its justifiable for me to get Oly shoes with the weight that I’m lifting right now?

    • 1. They work well. You may like some heel elevation for squatting though.

      2. Yeah total weight lifted isn’t relevant. If you’re working in a rep range lower than 10, I think you’ll benefit from them.

  • Wigster

    Hi Mike,

    What I have been using for some time (in the UK) are some Lonsdale Typhoon Boxing boots, which seem to fit your three requirements at the top of the article. They’ve got good grip, the soles are firm and thin, but unlike going barefoot, they have good arch support.

    They do have quite soft uppers, so wouldn’t give any protection if I dropped a weight on them. However, I think I’m no more likely to do that then doing any my exercises, be it dumbbell, barbell, or plate loaded machine.

    Best of all, they’re only about £25-30! (About $40).

    P.S. I have an MFL account, which I’ve logged into, but the comments area doesn’t seem to recognise that login.

    • Great! I wouldn’t worry about the uppers. If you drop a plate on your food no shoe is going to save you anyway, haha.

      Yeah the comments plugin is different. 🙂

  • Donna

    Thanks for another awesome article Mike. The Adidas Powerlift shoes for women are a great value and really help my squats.

  • R

    Hi Mike,

    Would like to hear your opinion on whether I should get the Adidas power perfect II’s or the Adidas powerlift 2.0?
    And which is your favorite if you’ve tried them both.

    Kind regards,
    /R

    • I haven’t tried Power Perfect but have tried the Adipowers and PL 2.0s and I really like both but the Adipowers are just the gold standard IMO.

  • fraz_Mc

    Mike have you had the chance to try the Nike Metcon shoe? I’m looking into buying a shoe more suited for lifting in, the adidas powerlift 2 are roughly same price as Nano’s, from your review I’m thinking the powerlift 2 will be the better option? But then I started reading about the Nike Metcon, as always any input appreciated.

    • No I haven’t tried the Metcon. I really like my PL2s. They’re great. I actually don’t like deadlifting in them as much as a simple, flat shoe.

  • Matt
  • Rhiannon Tenney

    Wearing the right shoe for your activities is such an important thing to do. So many people neglect their feet which can effect so many other things. I like to switch up my workouts so I like that the cross-training shoes are so versatile. Thanks for all of this great information on shoes.

    http://www.cincinnatifootcare.com/dr-titko

  • Mikkel Mücke

    Mike, have you tested Nike Metcons? I think they look better than Adidas, but have read some mixed reviews….they are flat which ppl seem to like more for DLs but dislike for Squats where ppl prefer elevated heels…

  • Laura

    Hi Mike! What do you think about squatting barefoot? I have the nike free tr fit 4 but I feel my form is not the best, I feel that I lean forward a little bit and I definitely could get lower/deeper! Today I took my shoes off to squat and it felt amazing!!! I went much deeper and felt more stable! But how good/bad is to train without shoes?
    I am doing your TLS program and LOVE it 🙂 thank you for everything!

    • Totally fine to squat barefoot if that works better for you.

      You definitely want to make sure you have the form down too. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-increase-squat/

      For more info on the squat form, take a look at this:

      http://strengtheory.com/how-to-squat/

      Those shoes are fine for general exercise, but I wouldn’t recommend them for squatting or deadlifting. You want a hard and flat or inclined sole.

      Glad you’re enjoying the program. 🙂 My pleasure!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Laura

        Thanks a lot Mike! 🙂 I don’t know why I hadn’t seen your reply before… Anyway.. so would you recommend these instead accordingly to what you said? http://www.adidas.com/us/powerlift.3-shoes/AQ3333.html

        And how do I know if i need a flat or incline sole? Does it have to do with body type or something?

        And thank you very much! I am doing great and have been noticing great changes so far! I will def keep you posted 🙂

        • NP!

          Yup, those shoes are great and Chucks work too! Really whichever you prefer and are more comfortable is what I recommend. Incline soles can be specifically helpful if you have mobility issues.

          My pleasure! Keep up the good work.

          • Laura

            Thanks Mike! After doing some more research, my two options are the Adidas Superstar and the Adidas Powerlift 3 :).

            I already decided I am going to deadlift with dl slippers or with my old chucks. BUT I wanted to ask you.. if I get the Adidas Powerlift 3, will they only be useful for squats or also for lunges, hip thrusts, bent over rows, bulgarian split squats, etc??

          • Welcome! I’d go with the Poweflift 3.0. And yeah, you can use them for your other exercises too. 🙂

  • Mike

    Hi Mike!

    Great articles, and I’m a big fan! Just finished my first week of the Bigger, Leaner, Stronger program and have been using Shredded Chef as well. I love how you break everything down and especially love the inclusion of all the research articles to support your advice. This program is definitely a far cry from my 3+ hour LISS and isolation exercise sessions that just were not sustainable. Looking forward to following this program!

    Unfortunately, my schedule right now is best when I do HIIT cardio right after my lifting each day (hard to split it up), even though BLS mentioned it wasn’t ideal.

    For weightlifting shoes, are they ok to use during HIIT cardio on stationary machines (e.g. rowing, bike, elliptical), or would you recommend I bring my running shoes to change into just before?

    Do the shoes “last longer” if I keep them away from the cardio/is there any difference in pressure on my feet?

    • Awesome! Glad you’re enjoying the content, and are on the program. No problem if you’re doing your HIIT cardio after weights. I don’t recommend using your weight lifting shoes for running, though it’s not a deal breaker for rowing and biking. No problem running in the Minimus, however.

      • Mike

        Thanks very much, Mike – much appreciated!

        I’ve decided to go with the Adipowers – found a decent deal for them, and I’m definitely going to stick with this 🙂

        • Sweet!

          • Mike

            Hi Mike,

            Just wanted to follow up: between using these for leg day and increasing my carb intake from your other articles, wowza, what a difference in my workout! I was able to get much further down (to 90 degrees) in my squat form – that solid heel really makes me feel more confident about getting lower, and I’ll just need to work on my mobility to get even further.

            Since my shoes are white and the straps for the recumbent bike have trashed my other non-black shoes, I decided to just do a quick shoe change before HIIT :-D.

            Anyway, thanks again very much for all your work, and I’ll keep grinding away!

          • Haha great! Glad to hear it.

  • Kirk

    Mike, let me first say it is super cool dude that you seem genuinely committed to the health and well-being of the people who follow your work. I applaud you. Question regarding the Adipower… obviously they are great for squatting, but is this also true for deadlifts? I’ve frequently heard that a flatter shoe actually helps for a quality deadlift, and that the raised heel can set you back. If this is true, do you have a separate recommendation for a deadlift shoe? Thanks!!

    • Happy to do what I do and help any way I can. 🙂

      For deadlifting they’re fine, but you’re better off with a flatter shoe or just doing them barefoot.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Article may need updating then? It appears to imply that inclined weightlifting shoes are optimal for deadlifts.

        • The stable base helps and I’m probably just being overly picky with the incline, haha.

  • Jackson Upmann

    Mike, love your articles and the info you give us. Top quality all the time. I was wondering at what age do you think cutting diets are safe for teenagers to get to lower bf percentages. I’m talking around 10ish % without harming growth or hormones. Much appreciated and thanks for your hard work.

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