Here’s how it works.
Strength training has a flurry of benefits like helping you build more muscle, improve your balance, and keep joints flexible. Just like many other sports, weightlifting requires the proper equipment and apparel. For example, a weightlifting belt can stabilize your core during squats and deadlifts and barbell clips secure your weight plates on a barbell so they don’t fall off.
While these types of accessories are super important for heavy lifting, no matter how much load you plan to move, everyone needs a good pair of weightlifting shoes. Not only can the right ones amp up your performance, the best weightlifting shoes offer stability and prevent injuries from occurring.
Best weightlifting shoes, at a glance:
- Best value: Adidas Powerlift 5 Weightlifting Shoes, $130
- Best for form: Nike Romaleos 4, $200
- Best durable: Nobull Lifter, $300
- Best cross-training: Nike Metcon 5, $120
- Best for squatting: TYR L-1 Lifter, $200
- Best no frills: Vans Old Skool, $70
What to look for in a weightlifting shoe
When scoping out weightlifting shoes, Rachel MacPherson, CPT, an ACE certified personal trainer who has been lifting for 15 years, tells us that shoes need a wide toe box. “Many shoes are too narrow, and your toes cannot spread to provide stability,” she says. For reference, MacPherson recommends that feet make a tripod shape to offer equal pressure to both sides of your forefoot and heel.
A heel lift, while not mandatory, is also nice to have as it can help people who struggle to keep their back straight and chest up during squats. “In terms of height, shoes with a heel lift can help you get into proper form for squatting, avoiding ‘butt wink,’ which is a spinal flexion that can cause pain and injury under the load of a bar,” says MacPherson.
What shoes to avoid
There’s a time and a place for running shoes, but weightlifting sessions are not it, according to MacPherson. “The ones that have curved toes for running can put you off balance and are also too cushioned and unstable,” she says. In this case, the flatter the shoe, the better.
Finding the right weightlifting shoe for you
In many instances, the best weightlifting shoes can help you practice proper form, lift heavier, and ward off injuries. We chatted with a pro weightlifter for their recommendations. Here are six pairs that will help you feel strong and stable.
Sizes available: 5–15
MacPherson has owned the Adidas Powerlift shoes for 10 years and swears by them for getting in a good pump. The shoe is constructed out of mesh, so your feet don’t feel like they’ve entered a sauna, and it features a lace and strap to secure your feet in place. Not only is this pair affordable, but “the heel is less prominent, so you can use these shoes for more than just squats,” MacPherson says. Also nice? They a grippy sole to keep you planted during squats, deadlifts, lunges, and more.
- Adjustable straps
- Toe box may be too rigid for some
Sizes available: 5–16.5
For people who need a jolt of back or chest support, Nike Romaleos 4’s heel lift is a great feature. “They have a supportive midsole and a pretty large heel lift for anyone who needs extra help getting deep in their squat,” says MacPherson. The outsole is wide and flat, so it’s perfect for folks who want to work on their strength and stability. For an added touch of security, the adjustable straps are there to lock your foot in, so you can make contact with the ground during heavy lifts.
- Large heel lift for added support
- Adjustable straps
Sizes available: 5–11
These are a favorite among lifters, and for good reason: Each pair is handmade by craftsman. “They are extremely durable and appealing and are likely the last lifting shoes you’ll ever need to buy as they are made from tough leather, including the strap,” MacPherson tells us. Because of this, the shoe is considered crème de la crème by pro weightlifters. One caveat, though, is that the leather can be stiff, making these shoes more difficult to break in—but squatting in them regularly can loosen up the leather. Additionally, the shoe has a built-in stacked heel height to support your chest and back when you decide to lift heavy. It’ll be a staple for gym sessions to come.
- Heel lift for added support
- Hand crafted
- Requires break-in time
Sizes available: 5–12
With forefoot flexibility and a molded heel that cups your foot for extra stability, these shoes are ideal for cross-training, whether you’re doing HIIT or hitting the weights. “They have a wide toe box and suite people with wider feet as well,” says MacPherson. And for people with narrow feet, the lace-up system comes in handy to find a secure footing. The upper is constructed out of mesh to give your feet breathing room no matter how sweaty the workout. From burpees to chest presses, these kicks offer flexibility and will be there for you every step of the way.
- Molded heel cup
- May not be ideal for lower body lifting
Sizes available: 6–15.5
This shoe is top-notch, according to MacPherson. That’s because it has all of the qualities of a good lifting shoe: It comes with a 21mm heel drop to improve depth and keep your torso upright, heel support, and a strap system to adjust the fit to your width, rendering them stable and comfy. What’s more, the anatomical, wide toe box gives your feet enough room to spread, so stability with these kicks isn’t an issue.
- Great for heavy lifting
- Roomy toe box
- Adjustable straps
- Limited color ways
Sizes available: 5–17.5
If you’re looking for a no-frills lifting shoe, look no further than the Vans Old Skool kicks. While these skater-like sneakers may look like you can only go boarding, their flat sole and wide toe box are ideal when it comes to stability. Durable, comfy, and affordable, these shoes will deliver in the gym and on the street.
- Offered in multiple colors
- Lace-up system
- No heel lift
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