When I first started lifting weights in the gym, I didn’t know there were specific shoes customized for better performance based on the training I was doing. I knew there were different shoes for different sports like basketball, soccer, football, track and field, etc.… But when I thought of a shoe for the gym, I went for whatever was the most stylish looking shoe I could find that would match my workout apparel with the most comfort.
While purchasing a shoe that looks good is not necessarily a bad way to go about things if you’re solely focused on style, it’s not the best way to go about selecting a shoe to lift weights in to optimize performance and get the most benefit out of your workout.
I showed up to the gym in Asics GT 2000 running shoes for a full year after taking my weight training more seriously and training for my first bikini competition. Most people who want to look aesthetically better but don’t know where to begin will start doing cardio to try to lose weight. Before realizing that weight training was the best way I was going to get the sexy curves I saw on the cover of fitness magazines, I was an avid runner and was familiar with “running shoes” which I assumed were perfect for performing all exercises at the gym. I started working with a new personal trainer at the end of 2015 to focus on my posterior chain and he changed that perception!
We were outside his gym on a nice day and I had a barbell on my back performing walking lunges and side lateral lunges and my balance was completely off. I was wobbling all over the place.
He just so happened to have a pair of Adidas AdiPower weightlifting shoes in my size and had me try them on. For the next two months I was wearing these random shoes he had at the gym in my size and it completely transformed my lifting experience.
So why are weightlifting shoes so much better for performing posterior chain training? There are a few reasons:
A soft sole with cushioning is great for when you are running. Running is performed using a repetitive motion where you are hitting the ground repeatedly with the sole of your shoe. Most runners would agree that it is very helpful to have some of the force of impact absorbed to prevent joint stress. However, when weight lifting, you want to be able to recruit the muscles you intend to engage without a bunch of other stuff going on… such as impact absorption or stability issues. So instead of the weight lifting shoe absorbing force through the sole, you are able to utilize all the force your body produces to lift the weights more efficiently with a rigid sole. It enables your feet to be planted more stably on the ground with a hard, flat sole and a snug fit around your foot.
A slightly raised heel can be an advantage for performing a squat because it allows for a deeper squat through increased ankle range of motion. And we all know by now that to maximize the benefit of a squat, you want to get as low (past 90 degrees at your knee) as you can.
I finally made my way to the Adidas employee store and bought my own pair of AdiPower weightlifting shoes after using the pair my trainer happened to have in my size for about 2 months and experiencing the huge benefits in stability, range of motion, and mind-muscle connection. I wore my brand spanking new AdiPowers for about a year straight during my gym sessions where I would train my posterior chain.
Then I heard about the Nike Metcon shoe that crossfitters were wearing and raving about. These shoes have a hard sole as well but they are a little more functional and versatile than the typical weightlifting shoe. Crossfitters love them because they allow for more mobility without such a wide, elevated, or rigid platform while still providing a weightlifting advantage. I had to try them out… Even though I’m not a crossfitter and never will be, I could see the benefit of trying different types of shoes for different types of exercises. I invested in a pair of Metcon shoes and really enjoy training in them for workouts where I perform a variety of calisthenics and plyometrics in addition to weight lifting and; I preferred the versatility it provided vs. the AdiPower. The Metcon are a lot less heavy duty than the AdiPower shoe. I actually switch up what shoe I use depending on the focus of my workouts to determine what works best for me. I never do cardio in the AdiPower shoe. I will sometimes do cardio in the Metcon but I will usually bring a change of shoes to the gym and wear something that has more cushion in the sole if I’m going to be performing cardio at the end of a workout.
Recently, I had lunch with a friend and colleague at the Nike headquarters campus in Beaverton, OR and she gave me an employee store pass. So of course I had to go take a look at all the shoes and clothing there because I can’t pass up a deal. I ended up purchasing a new pair of Nike Metcon to switch it up. I believe they are on version three of the shoe at this point.
I also got a pair of the Nike Romaleos, which I’m super excited to try! They look very similar to the Adidas AdiPower weightlifting shoe with the hard sole, wide base, elevated heel, sturdy material, and Velcro strap for a snug fit, but it’s always nice to just try something new and see what the different brands have to offer and how they wear over time.
I realize many people may be in the same position I was with not understanding the benefits of a weight lifting shoe when first getting into lifting. Make sure you are using the proper shoes for your training to make the most of your workouts by working smarter not harder and staying healthy and injury free!