You can walk into the gym on any given day and see a wild array of many different shoes. If you’re new to the gym, this is likely confusing – I know when I first started working out I hadn’t the slightest clue what I should be throwing on my feet. I was a wrestler before I was a gym goer so all I knew were wrestling boots, and though fantastic for the sport itself, not super ideal for a weight lifting environment.
There are four different kinds of shoes that I workout in, depending on the workout:
What I use them for:
- Deadlifts (and then the back workout following)
- Glute focused workouts (think: hip thrusts, stiff leg deadlifts)
- Basically anything that requires me to drive my legs/feet into the ground
Chuck Taylors have a flat sole which keeps your foot close to the ground, allowing you to push through your heels more effectively seeing as your heels sense the weight being bared on them better than the rest of your foot. The closer you are to the ground, the easier it is to exert energy into the ground. Why is this important? Because the more energy you can thrust into the ground, the more weight you can lift.
To perform a proper deadlift, we must pull the loaded barbell from the ground, maintaining core stabilization, by driving our heels against the floor. When wearing a traditional running shoe like the GT-2150s, that thick, shock absorbing sole will do exactly what it’s designed to do: absorb force. What do I mean? The cushiony sole has to be compressed before any force is applied to the barbell. Imagine deadlifting while standing on a mattress. Sound ridiculous? It is! So why do it by wearing high heeled running shoes? (CrossFit Impulse)
Not only that, but Converse and similar style shoes are super lightweight, easy to wear, and really comfortable. I buy mine from Ardene, they’re about half the price of brand name Converse and work just the same.
I use my Chucks on deadlift days, and hip thrust days as I find that I get the best muscle recruitment for those exercises when I’m in my flat soles. I find that they’re also great for many glute exercises due to my heel being so close to the ground it allows me to really zone in on the stretch of my glutes/hamstrings during movements focused on those muscle groups.
Squat Shoes/Weightlifting Shoes
What I use them for:
- Olympic lifting
Weightlifting shoes have a slight lift in the heel which gives lifters – more specifically squatters and Olympic weight lifters – a huge advantage due to the increase in ankle range of motion. An increase in ankle range of motion gives lifters the ability to sit in a more upright position at the bottom of a squat, which gives them a better chance of executing their desired movement.
Weightlifting shoes are also more stable than your typical barefoot or minimalist shoe, not just underfoot, but around your foot. Again this ensures you have a strong and consistent base to land on, push through, and push out into – important for performance and injury prevention in equal measure. And the less you get injured, the more you can train. The more you can train, the more you can increase how much you lift! (Chet Morjaria, Breaking Muscle)
I also find that due to the very solid, flat base on these shoes that stability is increased, and it becomes easier for your knees to track in the right direction. Similar to the Chuck Taylor’s, although there is a lift in the heel, it isn’t very spongey, which makes producing force through them just as efficient.
What I use them for:
- I sometimes change into them after squatting (in my squat shoes) to do the remainder of my leg workout in
- Upper body workouts (think: shoulders, chest, core…)
- Jumping movements
Minimalist shoes are exactly that… minimal. They are designed to make the wearer feel as though they have very little on their feet. They are lightweight, comfortable, and easy to wear.
Their soles are generally a little more spongey than squat shoes and chucks, so if you plan on starting to increase your strength in movements that require force to be applied through the ground then I would recommend buying yourself a pair of squat shoes or chucks.
They’re super easy to move in, I find that during workouts where I’m training for agility or doing a fair amount of jumping/stairs, these shoes feel the best for me. I think this is because of how bendy the sole is on them – it’s like having the flexibility of being barefoot, but with a protective cushion.
I think that this type of shoe is perfect for someone that has just started working out/is not working towards any specific goal other than to get fit. I say this because they’re versatile; you can pretty much do anything in them and your ability to move won’t be hindered by them.
High-Support Running Shoes
What I use them for:
- Any outdoor cardio with uneven ground
Running shoes are literally for just that… running. I see many people in the gym with running shoes on and it hurts me a little.
No, running shoes are not bad for you, but when brought into a weight lifting environment, strength training is going to be frustrating and difficult for you. Not only that, but the integrity of the running shoe is also going to be compromised because you’re not using them how they’re supposed to be.
Think back to the mattress analogy from the Chuck Taylor’s section. Running shoes are the mattress shoe of the lifting world. They generally have a thick, spongey base on them because this is what absorbs the impact of your feet hitting the pavement while running. Unless you’re into barefoot/minimalist running (which I am not), you WANT your running shoes to have a thick base as this reduces the stress than running places on your lower limbs.
I ran 2 half marathons in my high support running shoes and I don’t think I could have done it without them to be honest.
If you’re looking into buying yourself some running shoes because you actually plan on running in them, make sure you purchase them from a store that analyzes your running style and gait so that they can find they best style for you!
At the end of the day, it comes down to whatever you’re comfortable in, these recommendations are based on my experience and the knowledge I’ve gained during my years of doing fitness!
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Until next time