Do You Really Need Weightlifting Shoes to Work Out?

Weightlifting shoes have become a popular training accessory for many lifters. These shoes typically have a raised heel and less compression than standard workout shoes. Some trainers actually take two pairs of footwear to the gym - weightlifting shoes for squats and standard shoes for the rest of their workout. But do you really need to go to that extra expense and effort?

In this article, we’ll look into the facts to answer whether you really need weightlifting shoes.

The body is only as strong as its foundation. When you are pushing a heavy weight upward, your feet are that foundation. The more stable, secure and solid the connection between your feet and the floor, the more power you will exert.

Imagine trying to squat while standing on a mattress. Most of your power will be lost to the compressive force under your feet.That’s what it’s like when you squat while wearing standard cushioned shoes. When your shoes are rigid, compression free and tight, as with a weightlifting shoe, you will be able to put every ounce of your power into the lift.

Here are 4 more reasons to wear a weightlifting shoe:

The raised heel of a weightlifting shoe keeps your torso more upright when you squat.

As a result, there will be significantly less tendency to round the spine when pushing out of the bottom squat position. This will lessen the possibility of experiencing lower back pain.

By squatting with your heels raised, you're establishing a situation that promotes more forward knee translation. Your knees will track further forward than they would be if you were standing on flat ground. You can maintain an upright torso and more neutral pelvis thanks to this increased knee translation.

In a 2012 study that was published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, weightlifting shoes were shown to be helpful in minimizing forward trunk lean, reducing the amount of shear stress in the lower back. The researchers advised using weightlifting shoes for those who are prone to forward trunk lean and want to boost knee extensor activation.

The raised heel on your weightlifting shoe will also allow you to squat more deeply. And you'll be able to better engage your quadriceps muscles by being able to fully track your knees over your toes.

The quadriceps' primary function is knee flexion. You can attain more knee flexion and less hip flexion when your heels are lifted.

Weightlifting success depends on having a solid foundation because it gives you a solid surface to push from and won't let any of your power escape. Because of this, you should never squat while wearing running or other shoes with a lot of padding.

Men’s weightlifting shoes often feature a wooden or durable plastic sole with minimal padding incorporated into them. With no give or lateral movement while you lift, they are made more for form than for comfort. On exercises like the squat and clean and jerk, the stiffness of the shoe will combine with your strength and power to propel the weight upward as you rise out of the hole rather than absorbing and spreading the force.

The last thing you want to think about while you're focused on raising a substantial amount of weight is your feet slipping. Men's weightlifting shoes are designed with a sturdy, flat, textured sole that can securely grasp and hold onto the ground.

The improved biomechanics and increased traction that a weightlifting shoe provides will improve your performance while also decreasing your risk of injury.

Weightlifting shoes were created to be worn with the following exercises in all their varieties:

  • Squats
  • The Jerk
  • The Clean
  • The Snatch
  • The Push Press

When performing any type of deadlift, weightlifting shoes should not be used. With this exercise, you want a flat rather than a raised heel. A high heel will just make you have to pull through a greater range of motion, which is the last thing you want.

No, weightlifting shoes do not make it easier to squat. If they did, athletes would not be permitted to wear them while competing in weightlifting events (which they are). Instead, they will help you squat more effectively. As you push out of the bottom squat position, the elevated heel will keep your torso upright. It will also help your knees to better track over your toes. The vastus medialis is better activated and ankle dorsiflexion is encouraged without compromising balance.

Here’s a workout program you should try:

A large number of people prefer to squat with nothing on their feet at all. As a result, there is an ongoing debate among lifters about which is best - squatting in bare feet or shoes. Many people find having bare feet to be more comfortable and that it avoids ankle mobility issues. However, it can also be harder to achieve a deep squat position due to the lack of heel elevation.

Barefoot squatting will feel more comfortable for people with wide feet. They won’t feel any foot constriction, especially when they splay their toes, as naturally occurs when you exert upward force.

Barefoot squatters often claim that they can sustain a more solid foot position. This is when the base of the heel big toe and pinky toe from your key grounding points.

At the end of the day, squatting barefoot as opposed to wearing weightlifting shoes is a matter of personal preference. Experiment with both to find out which works best for you. Remember, too, that if you love the freedom of squatting barefoot but also need heel elevation, you can also squat barefoot on a slant board.

Many weightlifting coaches discourage beginners from wearing weightlifting shoes, claiming that they should first establish a solid foundation of correct mechanical technique. Others think that a weightlifting shoe's heel wedge will aid a novice in mastering good knee tracking techniques. In particular, a weightlifting shoe can help a novice maintain balance while squatting, keeping the torso upright, and get better quad activation.

A weightlifting shoe will be especially helpful if you are a beginner who has a tendency to lift your heels when squatting or who rounds the back during the push out of the hole.

So, what’s the verdict - do you need weightlifting shoes or not?

The answer is no, you do not need to invest in a pair of weightlifting shoes.The key benefit of a weightlifting shoe is its raised heel. This enables you to squat more correctly from a biomechanical standpoint. If you don’t want to invest in a pair of weightlifting shoes, you can get a similar effect by standing on a slant board or placing an external wedge beneath your heels as you squat. Or you could just place a 5 pound Olympic weight plate under your heels.

The fact that you don’t need to buy weightlifting shoes, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. As we’ve discussed, weightlifting shoes do have some real training benefits. If you spend a decent portion of your workout doing Olympic lifts, then we recommend investing in a good pair of weightlifting shoes if your budget allows. You can pick up a very good shoe, such as the Reebok Lifter PRII, for around $100.

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Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.
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