I was 18 years old and a freshman in university, so, naturally, I was hitting the gym to get my ‘swole’ on. I never really paid much attention to what other people were doing (which definitely has it’s downside), and therefore probably missed out on learning quite a bit. I just went in, did what I had to do, and got out.
One thing I did notice was that a couple of the guys who REALLY pushed weight sometimes looked kinda goofey. I mean, they were strong and all, but they stood out for a couple reasons. A few of them wore converse shoes, and every once in a while, there was someone lifting barefoot. They certainly didn’t look like your average gym-goers.
I honestly thought nothing of it though. Initially I just figured they were jacked/strong dudes, and as a result, they would just wear whatever they wanted. You know when someone is THAT cool, they can do whatever they want; they challenged the status quo…to the extreme!
Years later when I seriously got into the fitness world, I realized that what you’re pushing into (yes, even the ground) plays an important role. Of course, you can get away with lifting weights in your New Balance kicks, but if you want to get serious about weights, get serious about your shoes.
Quick Facts About Shoes & Weightlifting
1. Shoes have the biggest effect on closed chain movements (e.g. squats, deadlifts). These are exercises where your feet aren’t going anywhere; they’re planted. All force is directed towards the ground, and your shoes will play a large role in what happens to the strength and power exerted.
2. The harder and flatter the sole, the better. Many of today’s ‘athletic’ shoes don’t actually promote or facilitate stability, athleticism, or other positive traits (as much as they claim to). The shoe with gel, or the shoe with the colourful zig-zag pattern (ahem Reebok) on the bottom will hinder you in the gym – not only lifting weights, but likely while running as well…but that’s a whole different topic altogether. You need a flat shoe so your feet can conform to the ground and function optimally. You want as little cushion separating your foot from the ground. Small, intrinsic muscles in your feet need to know exactly what’s going on. That can’t be done if there’s a massive barrier in the way.
3. Power and strength is lost in your shoes. Shoes that are advertised as good ‘shock absorbers’ are a no go when it comes to lifting weights…you should have already caught onto this by now though. It’s like wasted energy when you think about it. Picture this: you’re deadlifting 200lbs. You’re applying pressure through the feet and into the shoes that are built for absorbing pressure…not the greatest combination right?
4. Low cut shoes. Give your ankles some room to move. If you lock up your ankles, the lack of movement is just transmitted up the body (to the knee joint), and problems will just arise further up the chain. Anyone notice how a lot of basketball players are ditching the high tops and and shifting towards mid range/low cut shoes? It’s all about finding your comfort zone when it comes to stability vs. free range of movement.
5. So barefoot….is better? When it comes to closed chain exercises, absolutely. When you’re barefoot, proprioceptive feedback and muscular awareness are at their highest. There is also limited absorption of force when you’re barefoot. The next factor that would be considered is the floor itself – is it carpet, resilient floor etc.
Now I understand not everyone wants to be walking around barefoot, and some gyms don’t even permit this – so go with shoes that have a hard, flat sole and are low cut. It’s that easy.
So what does this say about the ‘goofey’ looking guys who I paid no mind to when I was younger? They actually knew what they were doing. They put some thought into their training and through experience discovered what actually works best. Getting a decent pair of shoes to train in is something pretty easy to do, and provides instant gratification.
So what shoes do I wear? Chuck’s of course! They’re perfect and are widely recommended for weightlifting.
Quite a few Adidas shoes are good for lifting as well. They tend to have pretty hard, flat soles.
Now that you’re armed with new knowledge, go out there and treat yourself to some new kicks!
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