Best Weightlifting Shoes Reviewed & Tested for Performance
The dependability of any durable construction is literally based on the foundations on which it stands. Buildings, trees, and even mountains have supporting undersides that save them from crumbling into themselves from the crushing weight pushing down from above. The human form handling heavy loads through weightlifting and workout is no different, in this regard; our lower body serving as our foundation, our base on which we stand, and press upward against that otherwise crushing weight.
Our feet, in particular, from the ankles down are among the first responders to any kinetic loads; thereby, sometimes placing heavy demands on our skeletal frame. The ever-present force of gravity – and then taking into account movement and the resulting inertia – can present a great deal of stress to the heel, arches, balls of the feet, toes, and the various array of tendons and ligaments involved.
This is why it’s vital and extremely important (and never to be underestimated) that your weightlifting shoes are up for the task of delivering a safe set, free of the threat of muscular or skeletal injury.
- Adidas Adipower
- Anti-Slip Outsole
- Adidas Powerlift 3.1
- Allows Foot Splay
- Converse Chuck Taylor
- Zero Drop
For any job at hand, there are tools. For any occupation there is attire. Golfers wear golf shoes. Divers wear diving fins. Climbers wear climbing shoes. And runners wear running shoes. So, it’s fair to deduce that if you’re a weightlifter, then you should wear… (All together now)… That’s right, weightlifting shoes!
This list of the top ten best weightlifting shoes will give you a comprehensive idea of which styles, makes, and brand of a shoe may work best for your needs. Whether it’s the casual lifter or the powerlifter at Olympic levels; by the end of this list, the importance of why a running sneaker doesn’t work at the squat rack will be that much clearer to you.
10 Best Weightlifting Shoes
1. Adidas Adipower
Totally suited to high-demand reps and Olympic-level lifting, it is extremely stable and exceedingly durable footwear. Its high heel keeps your rearfoot planted during low squats and thick deadlifts.
Described as: “like lifting on a bed of marshmallows,” this is footwear so well engineered and crafted, it curves more effectively to your foot’s contours than many other training shoes.
Cost and Value
Always a concern, the price of anything above a certain mark may cause some hesitation. These rank high for this list, in terms of cost. Adipower, however, is worth its weight in the wallet. Most agree it is a bargain.
- Heel height makes it great for squatting.
- Durable and high quality material.
- Excellent for powerlifting.
- Good ventilation.
- Sleek appearance.
- Toe box may be too tight on wider feet.
- Laces not easily tightened.
2. Adidas Powerlift.3.1
This outsole provides an anti-slip environment. This is important when considering lifting heavier weights. The last thing you want to do under immense weight is to slip. With this outsole, you will not have to worry about that.
Synthetic Leather Upper
The synthetic leather upper is designed for the weightlifter. It is durable; yet, provides a lightweight experience. Furthermore, this design gives you a bit more ankle support; great for anyone who needs extra reinforcement.
Cost and Value
The cost-range associated with this pair of best weightlifting shoes is a bit high on the upper end. With that being said, however, the lower end of the range is extremely low; that is, these shoes have a very, wide range in cost association. At the end of the day, these shoes are worth the investment; no matter which of the ends you may find yourself in.
- Synthetic Leather Upper
- Open Forefoot Structure; Flexible Toe
- High-density, Die-cut Midsole Wedge
- ADIWEAR™ Outsole
- Variety of Colors
- A wide range of cost association
- Extra-wide fit; may not be suitable to narrow feet
3. PUMA Fierce Core
Although most heavy weight bearing movements utilize a footwear constructed of more rigidity, the Fierce Core allows you to safely lift heavy with a stable platform, as well as let you fine tune adjustments. High top design gives added ankle support without constricting laces, and provides solid support where needed across the top of the foot and lateral sides. You’ll be able to hit snatches and cleans with no worries about stability.
With mesh top layer providing ample ventilation and flexibility, and an upper ankle design that allows mobility, squats aren’t hindered, and there’s plenty of capability for more agile functions such as running or burpees. A thick heel gives support and cushion without compromising power exchange.
Cost and Value
On the more budget friendly side of some on our list, the PUMA Fierce Core is perfect for CrossFit or Olympic style lifting, where an athlete needs stability as well as mobility. For those starting out into CrossFit style workouts, or advanced athletes who appreciate flexibility in their footwear, it’s worth the small investment!
Not True To Size
4. Nordic Powerlifting Megin
With a 1.4" raised heel, this pair of best weightlifting shoes is ideal for squats utilizing weight which leans on the heavier side. Furthermore, posture improvement is the driving force behind these particular shoes. As such, your body will notice a difference.
Anti-slip matters when you are handling the weight. Nothing could be more damaging than slipping. As such, an anti-slip outsole can be the difference between a safe environment and an unsafe one. This is why we recommend this pair of shoes designed for heavy weightlifting.
Cost and Value
These heavy weightlifting shoes are priced low and come with an added 1-year manufacturer's warranty. Although minimal in your color choices, the quality of this pair of best weightlifting shoes makes this a purchase worthwhile of your time.
- Improve Lifting Posture
- Anti-slip Outsole
- 1-year Manufacturer Warranty
- Designed for squats; not shoes created for deadlifts
- Minimal color variety
5. Converse Chuck Taylor
Although the Chuck Taylor has a rubber sole which may be slightly more flexible than some high-end weightlifting shoes, it still has a zero drop which can be ideal for lifting, especially deadlifts. For those starting out into weightlifting or Olympic lifts, it provides a solid platform for learning basic technique, and won’t cost more than an average pair of sneakers. Lace up closures will help make a perfect fit to keep you snug and secure.
Canvas uppers help keep these Chucks breathable and lightweight, as well as washable should you need to after working up a sweat. They were initially designed for court play sports, so they’ve plenty of grippy traction for walking lunges, HIIT movements, or Olympic lifts.
Cost and Value
At a very budget friendly price, Converse Chuck Taylors help introduce weightlifting to beginners at minimal cost, and still provide a great platform for learning moves and proper techniques. Breathable and lightweight, they make good gym shoes as they can be washed after several sweaty sessions. If you’re just starting out, or perhaps are a veteran lifter on a budget, this shoe is a solid option to consider!
Not As Stiff
6. Adidas Powerlift 2
With its beautiful fit (synthetic leather upper for lightweight support and durability) and its engineering (for heavy load-bearing), this pair of best shoes for weightlifting is of great quality and stylish, too. Furthermore, its air mesh lining provides maximum breathability.
Heavier than most sneakers and with a supportive heel, it offers noticeable flexibility in the sole and toe box; providing stability without the regimented feel to it, as sometimes found when wearing a boot.
Cost and Value
If you’re serious about your lifts and want a shoe which can support your goals, then this price is worth it. These rank low for this list, in terms of cost.
- Engineered for feet contour.
- A powerlifting shoe that can handle any load.
- A reinforced, thick sole.
- Made of synthetic leather. Good for vegans and vegetarians.
- A bit stiff, they may limit range of foot motion.
- Better for wider feet than narrow.
7. Reebok CrossFit Nano 4.0
Within the outsole and midsole of the Nano 4.0 lies the RopePro technology, which helps to wrap the foot and guard it against abrasions from specific CrossFit style movements such as rope climbs. The shoe won’t take a beating that regular mesh may from rope climbing, where it can fray and tear. ETC anti-friction lining helps keep your foot in place during movements, so slippage won’t be an issue.
To help protect the quality and lifespan of the shoe even further, a multi-density DURACAGE technology helps the uppers of the shoe keep their integrity, and is lightweight so you won’t be held back. Maximum foot splay is possible due to the MetaSplit outsole, so you’ll have a solid base under heavy weight without restriction. Top all it off with a dual density foam to help cushion the forefoot, and keep the heel stable, and you’ll be powering through moves!
Cost and Value
Similarly priced to a quality running shoe, the CrossFit Nano 4.0 is great for not just CrossFit enthusiasts, but anyone who may need the support and durability it provides for weightlifting endeavors. For beginners or veteran lifters alike, the Nano 4.0 is packed full of technology to get you to the next PR!
Not Ideal For Running
8. Adidas Powerlift 3
Flexibility with luxury! They aren’t tight like rock-climbing shoes and some running brands. With tiny vents, allowing air flow while you move about, your feet can breathe in these babies. Tough workouts require max effort, so sweat away in this without worry!
The performance shoe is engineered precisely for weightlifting with its flat-profile outsole and single instep, strap-reinforcing rearfoot integrity. Its high-density, die-cut midsole wedge is perfect for lightweight stability.
Cost and Value
You really get your bang for the buck with this product. Inexpensive, when compared to newer weightlifting shoe models, but they are sturdy and consistent with rigorous daily workout agendas. These rank average for this list, in terms of cost.
- Perfectly priced for a beginner shoe.
- Durable, holding firm during heavy lifts.
- Provide added support for the knees.
- Very appealing design.
- Synthetic leather.
- Not good for everyday use.
- May not be a good fit for wide feet.
9. Reebok CrossFit Nano 6.0
Uppers in the Nano 6.0 have been updated so as to make them even more durable. Designed with a Kevlar infused mesh, the shoe is not only lightweight, but can withstand abrasions, frays, and sweat so you can get the most from this pair. Combined with the RopePro technology, Kevlar gives it a sandpaper like feel for added grip when on the ropes.
Similar foam cushioning lines the midsole of the Nano 6.0, and with its anatomical fit for proper foot splay, and heel stability, you’ll still have the support needed for proper technique and Olympic moves. The outsole now has Piston technology which gives it extra grip for running across uneven ground.
Cost and Value
Similarly priced to the CrossFit Nano 4.0, it’s a great option if you’re looking to upgrade your weightlifting footwear, or want something packed with tech that will help with CrossFit specific moves such as rope climbs. With better traction, the Nano 6.0 still maintains all the great features of the Nano 4.0, but with a more concise and clean upper design. A smart purchase for those in the market for an upgrade!
Updated For Running
10. VS Athletics II
With its dual Velcro hook and loop closure on top of lace ups, you’ll find the perfect level of snug needed to help keep you firmly in place in the VS Athletics II. This helps to give just a bit more stability to the foot making sure you won’t slip around in the shoe during movements. A padded collar helps to prevent blistering or rubbing, so you can walk or run if you choose as well.
Minimal heel drop make these ideal for deadlifting or squatting, keeping a 3.5cm that can make both moves possible without compromising form. A solid, more rigid sole helps give maximal power transfer, so you won’t waste any energy lost in softer soles. And with the leather and fabric uppers, you’ll stay snug during movements, but will be able to keep these shoes in training months to hit the next goal.
Cost and Value
A reasonably priced weightlifting option, the VS Athletics II is the next step up from sneaker style into technical weightlifting footwear, and great for those who’ve found a passion for lifting. It’s solid base and snug closure will keep you throwing pull after pull without compromising form, but are versatile enough in construction all powerlifting style moves. It’s a great option to consider when looking for an upgrade in current footwear, or are curious about technical weightlifting style shoes!
Dual Loop Closure
Minimal Foot Slip
Runs Half Size Smaller
And here we have it. The complete list of the top ten best weightlifting shoes. Not only now do you have a clearer and better understanding as to what shoes may work best, taking into account comfort, quality, and comparable cost factors – perhaps prohibitively expensive in at least one case – but you should now have in your arsenal a comprehensive grasp. In essence, you are better equipped in making a more-informed decision, as to why choosing the best shoe for the job is as equally important a difference as a ballet dancer choosing Doc Martins to dance the Sugarplum fairy. It would be a counterproductive move. And certainly, those of us not in the know may still enjoy the show of watching her or him plop and clunk about on that stage in some footwear that isn’t at all applicable to that discipline. The real deal, however, is there could be some damage done to the dancer, the stage floor, and to the integrity of that piece.
Choose the correct footwear for the job; this is one of the most important characteristics of purchasing shoes. Buying a pair of shock-absorbing running shoes is not ideal when you are planning your day around deadlifts. In this case scenario, a flat-sole shoe would be the better choice, from both comfort and safety points-of-view. After all, we care and desire for you to keep your health well, above all else.
Pick your shoe as carefully as you would, hopefully, pick your battles: after careful observation, research, peer review, and study. Assess what your needs are, what your involvement will be, and how much time you’re going to actually spend in the gym. There is no point in buying a shoe like the Adidas Performance Adipower if you’re in there every day; whereas, the PUMA Fierce Core may be just what the trainer ordered.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Weightlifting Shoes
Weightlifting involves very complex exercises which, at advanced levels, usually involve carrying, pulling, pushing, and lifting excessive amounts of weight. Additionally, some weight lifting practices require complex motions while remaining in control of a loaded barbell. As you can probably guess, this is not a scenario where you want shoes with poor stability, but rather the complete opposite.
Though multiple factors have an impact on the stability of a shoe, it ultimately comes down to the outsole height. The higher you are off the ground, the less stability you’ll have. When dealing with big weights, it’s important to remain as close to the ground as possible. However, a totally flat outsole might not be convenient for some weightlifting exercises. The higher you are off the ground, the more likely you are to lose lateral balance.
Regardless, of the exercise you’re performing, if it involves no support, you want as much stability as you can get. Unstable shoes are extremely hazardous in the lifting room and become more dangerous as you hit heavier. Losing control of the barbell not only creates the possibility of being hit directly by the loaded bar but it, also, exposes you to injuries. If your knees or ankles start tilting inwards or outwards because of an unstable shoe, you’re guaranteed to have a bad time when lifting heavy.
But it doesn’t stop there. Stability is not just a matter of safety but, also, a matter of optimal performance. Poor balance can actually reduce your capacity to lift more weight. The lack of stability can affect your form, range of motion, and endurance.
In the opposite case, a solid and steady shoe allows you to perform at your best. This is due to your positioning and impulse when performing an exercise. While deadlifting, for example, shoes should act as a firm platform to push your feet against the ground, helping you to lift the barbell. Stability is of utter importance during dynamic exercises as well, such as the clean and jerk, the barbell snatch, and barbell lunges.
The main elements that contribute to the stability of a weightlifting shoe are the sole grip, the ankle support, and the shoe height.
When it comes to performance shoes, weightlifting performer shoes are very alike to running ones. While there’s the traditional multi-purpose running sneaker, more specific activities like trail running require additional features. This is the cause of weightlifting. While it might all look like the same at first hand, there’s a wide variety of differences amongst lifting performances.
This doesn’t mean that it’s forbidden to train with other shoes. You might, eventually, get away with weight training in sneakers in some cases, such as Converse. Although the shoe variations aren’t too different physically, there are certain key aspects that do matter. Keep in mind this is by no means necessary to train, but it’s something to consider; especially, if you’re after the most optimal performance.
For instance, steady and heavy compound movements such as the deadlift are best performed with flat soles. The midsole shouldn’t be too thick or too high, and the outsole should provide an adequate grip to the training surface.
The better grasp you have of the surface, the better you’ll perform. In fact, old school lifters often preferred going barefoot on deadlifts. This is because they believed every inch between you and the ground affects your form. This distance can, also, cut off some pounds you could be potentially lifting.
Squats, on the other hand, are best performed with a raised heel. Now, there’s a lot of controversies whether this is actually good or not. It all comes down to each person’s preference (and anatomy in some cases); what’s comfortable for you might be utterly annoying for others. Some heavy hitters will tell you their $200 raised-heel squatting shoes is the key to breaking personal records. On the other hand, you’ll also see gym veterans (and even Olympic lifters) rocking a good ole’ pair of Chuck Taylors.
So, what’s behind each shoe?
Raised heel shoes are what’s commonly known as a weightlifting shoe. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) defines it as “a shoe to protect lifters feet from falling weights while, also, providing a stable, firm surface.” This is why you might have seen some shoes with a type of protective cap around the toe box.
As for the raised heel, it helps some users to drop the hip as much as possible while maintaining an upright back. Because of this, there’s a considerable decrease in shear stress to the lumbar spine, also activating more the quadriceps. They’re a really good way to hit those ass-to-grass squats. The heel is, usually, 3cm tall and should be no higher than that. Additionally, the raised heel helps prevent bad form; as well as, the valgus knee collapse.
Lastly, Chuck Taylors are the old-school favorites. If you want an unbendable rubber outsole that acts as a solid platform, Converse is where you go. They deliver a good squatting performance for beginners, and you don’t have to break the bank. Though, they suck for running; no debate on that. These won’t support your depth or your spine, but you can place two small plates below your heels to simulate a raised heel.
Just like the outsole cases we just mentioned, there’s a moment when you could use heel height and moments when you must not. Regardless of the exercise, you’re performing and the type of shoe you’re wearing, you can’t have 7cm of a heel. That’s just asking for an accident.
Heel height is a key point in the realm of stability and form; get those two things wrong and your performance will suck; not to mention, you’re waiting for an injury.
A heel raise, if any, should be no higher than 3cm. This is, of course, depending on the exercise you’ll perform. During deadlifts and similar practices, a raised heel is the last thing you want in your shoe. Once again, we’re not telling you to get the most expensive pair of Olympic shoes available; just don’t wear the wrong ones.
A raised heel during a deadlift, such as the one in running shoes, decreases your vertical balance. By having your heels higher than your toes, you’re likely to lean forward when pulling the weight off the ground. If by any chance you start inclining forward when the bar is on the way up, we can guarantee you a painful result.
But heel height is not always a negative thing. Like we previously explained, it can be beneficial for your posture and performance in exercises such as the squat. Additionally, in Olympic lifting shoes, heel height often comes from raised heels.
Raised heels are not just a bulk of rubber that goes on the back of your outsole. In fact, what people often don’t know is that raised heels are, usually, made of wood or plastic. They are, also, equipped with a rubber outsole to prevent slipping.
Heel height can be a very useful tool for users with ankle mobility and flexibility issues. This heel platform, also, relieves some of the pressure involving the muscles in the lower body (peroneal, soleus, and lateral gastrocnemius). These muscles often get the stiffest during heavy squatting. Lastly, the raised heel can help to preserve a neutral arch on the foot.
Durability and Performance
Weightlifting shoes need to be able to endure heavy exercising. This involves both static and dynamic weight training. As soon as the elements of a weightlifting shoe start deteriorating, performance becomes heavily affected. As you can imagine, durability and performance are parameters that go hand-in-hand.
The durability of all kinds of shoes is mostly related to the material they’re built with; as well as, the manufacturing quality. Weightlifting shoes are pretty much the same. Believe or not, deterioration in your weightlifting shoes can determine how much you can lift. It, also, determines your performance and potential risk of injury.
Each element degrades individually, but it’s equally important to understand the shoe degrades as a whole. This means every element should be in a similar state as the rest of them. If one element degrades much faster than the rest of the shoe, it will lose its quality and the potential usage the rest of the elements may still have. For instance, if the upper build rips apart while the outsole rubber is in good shape, the shoe is unusable now and a healthy outsole goes to the trash.
Generally, the piece that degrades the fastest in a weightlifting shoe is the sole. This is no surprise, as it’s the part of the shoe that handles the most tension. The heavier you lift, the more your sole will suffer. This doesn’t mean you should go light to avoid killing your shoes; they’re made for weightlifting, after all. If, however, you’re using the wrong shoe for a heavy deadlift, you can considerably reduce its lifetime by squashing the sole.
One of the most important concepts of durability is proper usage and care. The case we just mentioned, for example, is a common result of what happens when people do weight training while wearing running sneakers. These sneakers are designed to provide comfort and protection to the foot during aerobic activities, such as running. Put them under hundreds of pounds, however, and they’re not so good, anymore.
It’s, also, important to know when your shoe has reached its time. Weightlifting shoes are, definitely, not the kind of footwear you want to push over its durability. We’re no longer talking about comfort or efficiency but rather safety. Worn-out shoes can put you in many of the unfortunate situations we’ve mentioned here, such as losing balance under a loaded barbell.
You must be wondering, “Didn’t you just tell us we need rigid, solid platforms for lifting?” We did. And we reaffirm that claim when it comes to certain exercises. However, weightlifting is much more extensive than you might think. At a simple glance, it all looks like the same; barbells, dumbbells, lifting, pulling and pushing. There are, however, more differences than you can probably notice.
For instance, a lunge is considerably easier to perform in a flexible shoe rather than a stiff one. And yes, a lunge is a weightlifting exercise, just as much as any other. Like we mentioned in the outsole specialty section, weightlifting shoes vary according to the practice. Yet again, this doesn’t mean you need one pair of each kind of shoe.
Ask yourself: is my training dynamic, or is it steady and heavy? In other words, what kind of mobility do you expect during your training?
If you’re going to be moving around in dynamic motions with a barbell on your shoulders, you’ll want a flexible shoe. Total stiffness will do you no good during mixed training that requires a lot of mobility.
That being said, there are heavy training shoes which are flexible. You don’t have to limit yourself to the benefits and appliances of just one type of shoe. There are special shoes for specific activities, but those are meant for people who dedicate precisely to those specific practices. Keep in mind we always target our advice towards the most optimal performance; as well as, your personal health. This is why we may recommend such a large variety of shoe styles.
We’re not saying there’s no other possible approach to deadlifting than deadlifting shoes. If you want a shoe that is flexible when moving around but stable when lifting, that’s just fine. As long as they don’t bend around when you’re lifting heavy, they do the trick. Of course, specific shoes for each activity would deliver better results, but at the cost of convenience and expenses. On the other hand, knowing your safety is in a good place is always worth the extra penny.
The Human Body in Weightlifting
According to Dimon Theodore, there are 19 muscles, 26 bones, and 33 joints within the foot (2008). This means there is a lot going on inside of your feet. Additionally, your foot bones are arranged in such a way (longitudinal), your body can support all of its weight while standing on both feet. When we add additional weight via the weight room, however, we are asking our feet to handle more weight which is not originally expected. In essence, our feet are not prepared for the onslaught we are about to impose when we lift heavier than normal. So, the question remains, ‘Is it better to wear shoes when weightlifting?’
In general, wearing shoes all of the time has been shown to decrease the spread of the forefoot (2015). Deadlifts; especially, require a splay (spreading of your toes) to gain better hold within the foot area. This is why a lot of weightlifting shoes designed for deadlifts have a wider toe box. If wearing shoes on the regular can cause feet to reduce the natural spread of the forefoot, then it only makes sense there is an added risk associated to lifting heavy weights; at least, in the realm of wearing regular shoes, such as those deemed appropriate for running.
Technically, you can go barefoot to lift weights; nothing is stopping you from doing so and many people do it. Certain exercises, as previously mentioned, may work a little better with a raised heel (squats). On the other hand, deadlifts work better in relation to your heel closer to the ground. In this case, barefoot could be fine, but is it?
Traction is an important aspect when considering a deadlift. This is why your toes splay when you lift. The splay gives you more traction and balance. If, however, your feet tend to become moist under pressure; then, weightlifting shoes are the obvious solution. Furthermore, you will provide yourself with security in knowing that you won’t be slipping under all of that weight. That is both piece of mind to you and your very, thankful feet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do weightlifting shoes really help or make a difference?
A: If you’re wearing a pair of weightlifters that are suitable for your exercise, you’ll find yourself lifting more weight; more comfortably and more efficiently.
Q: What do weightlifting shoes do to assist in lifting?
A: Their effects go from lumbar spine stability to an enhanced range of motion, and considerably better balance. This all adds up to a better performance, in general; not to mention, reduced heel/foot pain.
Q: Can I wear these shoes outside of weightlifting?
A: Weightlifter shoes can get to be very specific. The more lifting-oriented they are, the more efficiently they perform in the weight room. This does mean, however, they have little usage outside of the weight room.
Q: How should weightlifting shoes fit?
A: They should always keep a tight fit; yet, still remain comfortable to wear. A lifting shoe is not something you want loose and sliding back-and-forth during strength training.
Q: What kind of exercises can I perform with them?
A: Well, it all comes down to the type of shoe you choose. But, unless, they’re for a specific exercise, they should endure about any exercise you can come up with when working out in a gym; except running, that is.
Q: Where can I buy proper weightlifting shoes?
A: Retail stores have the advantage of trying on the shoes before purchasing. Amazon, however, offers a much greater variety and their return policies make online shopping much more comfortable.
Q: How long do these shoes typically last?
A: Unless you use them for something you’re not supposed to, these shoes should comfortably endure over a year.
Q: Can raised heels lead to damage to your knees?
A: No. We can guarantee you any sort of knee comfortability factors (which are negative) is unrelated to a 3cm maximum raised heel. If there’s one present, you might want to check for previous injuries or conditions.
Q: What kind of weightlifting shoes should I buy or look for?
A: Depending on the exercises you’ll perform, buy a shoe that fits your routine. You can rely on our recommended criteria, and consult the store’s shoe expert for further advice.
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