I had planned to ramble on about the benefits of weightlifting shoes, but O-lifting guru Greg Everett recently discussed the topic on Robb Wolf’s podcast, and did so with more panache and conciseness than I ever could:
We get this a lot, honestly, with some of our fitness clients: “I don’t wanna wear weightlifting shoes! Oh, that’s cheating -- this and that -- and it’s not natural!”
Well, the barbell you’re holding right now isn’t natural either, so if you really want to [go with] the “natural” argument, you need to go swing around some trees and pick up some rocks. Otherwise, save it.
...This happened again really recently with one of our clients [who was] completely resistant to wearing weightlifting shoes. [He] didn’t want to hear it. Finally, Steve actually talked him into wearing weightlifting shoes one night. He did a set of squats, looked at Steve, and -- [we] didn’t even have to say anything -- was just like, “Okay. I get it. I’m not going to say another word.” And now he wears weightlifting shoes when he does the lifts.More after the jump...
Why spend money on a pair of shoes that you'll wear only when you're chucking barbells into the air? 'Cause if you're going to pay for expensive equipment and/or gym fees, and if you're going to invest your time and effort into learning how to lift properly and safely, you might as well do it with the optimal footwear for the activity.
I'm all about finding a good, versatile shoe for varied and variable WOD movements. But skills training and strength development with Olympic lifting calls for something a little more specialized.
Weightlifting shoes exist for a reason. It's not an accident. You have a raised heel ‘cause that increases the range of motion of the ankle. And the ankle has to flex -- dorsiflex -- a great deal to hit those bottom positions with an upright torso, which is just unavoidable unless your femur is only four inches long. So in one regard, it’s a safety issue: If you bottom out that ankle, you’re going to be in big trouble. It’s not going to feel good, it’s going to take a long time to recover from, and it’s going to be a huge limiting factor forever, essentially.
[Finally, weightlifting shoes are beneficial because] you also have an extremely rigid, stable platform to stand on. The response to that is usually like, “Oh, well I wear Chuck Taylors” or “I wear old school Vans -- that’s a flat sole.” Yeah, it’s flat, but it’s still squishy. I promise you: No matter how hard you think it is, it’s a lot squishier than a weightlifting shoe.
So, like the whole Paleo deal that Robb always spits out, try it, okay? Stop freaking pontificating about it all over the Internet -- wear them. If you like them, if they work for you, continue to wear them. If you don’t, well, then wear dress shoes or toe shoes or whatever you want. I don’t care if you wear Jerusalem cruisers. You know what I mean? Do what works for you, and enjoy it.Really -- try it. You'll like it.
[Related: In My Shoes | In Search of the Next CrossFit Shoe]