Whether you want to join the 1,000 Pound Club or just want to get stronger, you need the best weightlifting shoes available to achieve your goals. But maybe you think they’ll be a crutch, or you don’t believe they’re worth the money.
If, however, you want to push yourself to the next level, you need to challenge yourself. And with the best weightlifting shoes, you can push yourself harder and farther than you could without them!
What Are Weightlifting Shoes?
The use of weightlifting shoes dates back to Olympic weightlifting in the early 1960s, when new squatting and weightlifting techniques started to emerge. As athletes reached for heavier weights, they tried new positions such as the deep split and squat. But they quickly realized that regular sneakers no longer provided enough support.
To lift the weights safely from their new stances, they not only needed extra support under their heels but also space for ankle flexibility. Weightlifters tried wearing boxing shoes and work boots onto the platforms. They weren’t perfect, but they were an important step towards understanding what kind of shoe design weightlifters actually needed.
The Soviets introduced a shoe with a raised wooden heel in the 1960s and subsequently dominated weightlifting competitions. American companies later improved on the design, with Adidas emerging as the leading brand for best weightlifting shoes in the 1970s.
How Do They Work?
Weightlifting shoes have a raised heel that provides more ankle mobility and can help athletes squat deeper with more weight. With the added height and stability from the heel, you can keep your chest upright, which then allows you to lift more weight with a lower risk of falling over. The heel platform is usually made from plastic, but older versions were made with wood. Either way, the heel is made of a hard material to prevent the shoe from compressing under the weight.
In comparison, running shoes have soft soles because people generally begin their step with their heels. When people run, they need a shoe to absorb the impact of their feet hitting the ground. Then the shoe needs to bend as the foot rolls from the heel to the toes in a stepping motion. Weightlifting shoes, on the other hand, are built for people remaining stationary, so they aren’t nearly as flexible. But when you’re lifting heavy weights, you don’t need — or want — the shoe to compress.
You may not notice it when you’re using lighter weights, but your body still has to balance itself on shoes with soft heels. It may not seem like a significant amount of material. But when you’re lifting challenging amounts of weight, that stability can make a huge difference in your power.
What Difference Does It Make?
The best weightlifting shoes can improve your leverage and balance while you squat. The hard platform of the shoe gives you a sturdy surface for balance, while the angle of the heel forces your feet — and therefore, the rest of your body — to sit under the bar better.
But depending on how you squat and what your goals are, weightlifting shoes might make no difference at all. For example, if you squat with a wide stance, having a raised heel won’t improve your squat. But if you do a back squat with a narrow stance, the raised heel may improve your results.
Weightlifting shoes provide a lot of benefits if you lack flexible ankles. The heel positions your ankle so that it doesn’t require as much movement from the rest of your body to get the depth it needs. And if you intend to do Olympic lifts such as the snatch or clean and jerk, weightlifting shoes can help you keep your chest upright. Ultimately, you want to make it easy on your body when you try to lift the heaviest weight you can.
Can I Wear Them In Competitions?
Different organizations have different regulations. Weightlifting shoes are permitted by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and the Olympics. The Strongman competitions, however, have varying rules for each event. For most events, weightlifting shoes are not necessary, but they may be helpful for training leading up to the competition.
How We Reviewed
In order to provide a list of the best weightlifting shoes, we conducted extensive research not just about the shoes themselves, but about why you may need them in the first place. We reviewed material from doctors like Aaron Horschig, weightlifting enthusiasts like Alan Thrall, and powerlifting organizations.
Also, we looked at product reviews on Amazon, sporting goods retailers, and brand websites. We evaluated a random selection of praises and complaints to determine what your product experience may be like.
What Are the Best Weightlifting Shoes?
So now that you know why you may need weightlifting shoes, here are some recommendations to help you make your choice.
The Adidas Adipower are one of the most popular choices for weightlifting shoes across the board. These are easily one of the best weightlifting shoes. Most users recommended them for squats, but not as much for deadlifts.
As one customer notes, the shoe offers so much stability that “you don’t need to worry about finding balances for every rep if your technique is on the point, which lets you focus on only lifting the weight nothing else.” Another customer said, “These shoes are solid. No more knee pain. The shoes literally put [you] in the best possible position to squat.”
From beginners to advanced weightlifters, happy customers praised the improvement the shoes offer. One customer nearly broke their state’s weightlifting record after wearing the Adidas Adipower shoes, and “They have lasted for the past 5-6 years, and I will probably only wear Adipowers for the rest of my lifting career.”
There are a few complaints regarding quality, but the most common issue is the fit. The shoe tends to have a snug fit, and some were not able to find their sizes at all. While some mentioned it takes a while to break in the shoes, the overall consensus seems to be that these are not the best option for lifters with wide feet.
- Pros: great stability, improve squat depth
- Cons: snug fit
- Specs: leather, laces with hook-and-loop strap, TPU heel at 0.75 inches
The Adidas Leistung 16 II only has great feedback. But in contrast to the 0.75-inch heel on the Adidas Adipower, the Adidas Leistung 16 II has a 1-inch heel. Some customers feel it’s helpful to have a higher heel — one says the shoes “allow me to squat deeper and with a narrower position.”
For others, the highlight of the shoe is the Boa lacing system. Customers appreciated how easy it is to adjust the fit during a workout, while others noted how easy it is to take the shoes on and off. A common complaint, similar to the Adidas Adipower, was that the shoes were a size too small. Customers with wider feet were less satisfied than those with narrow feet. Other customers and athletes noted that the heel was too high for them, but overall, this shoe is better for shorter lifters.
- Pros: higher heel, easy to lace
- Cons: narrow fit
- Specs: synthetic, Boa lacing system, TPU heel at 1 inch
Nike Romaleos 3
The Nike Romaleos 3 have great consumers feedback. This weightlifting shoe comes highly recommended for female athletes because of its snug fit. But if you’re a male weightlifter with narrow feet, this may benefit you as well. Customers were pleased with the improvement they saw in their workouts. One customer said they were great for his squat, and he “used them for my power cleans as well, but having these really makes a difference at the bottom [of] the squat.”
And despite the lightweight nature of the shoes, many customers felt secure while squatting or weightlifting in them. One customer noted, “It feels like my feet are glued to the floor everytime [sic] I snatch.” As with most other weightlifting shoes, the biggest complaint was the fit. Some customers felt the toe box was too small, while others felt the sizing was not true to size.
- Pros: good fit for narrow feet, great stability
- Cons: small toe box
- Specs: synthetic leather, laces with nylon strap, TPU heel at 0.75 inches
While the Reebok Lifters are on the lower end of the price scale for the best weightlifting shoes, they still receive a large amount of praise. Customers felt their stability and leverage improved with these weightlifting shoes.
One customer mentioned she struggles with cramping, but with the Reebok Lifters, she “was able to add 30 lb more to my squat PR yesterday with minimal foot cramping.” A customer from Rogue Fitness said, “My Olympic lifts improved in weight and balance instantly.” Unlike other options on this list, the Reebok Lifters are one of the best weightlifting shoes because they’re helpful for exercises other than weightlifting.
One customer wore them while doing “assault bike, V-ups and thrusters. These were extremely comfortable throughout the dynamic warm up and work out.” And while some had complaints with fit and size, these shoes generally help weightlifters with wide feet. Some negative reviews mentioned the fit being a size too large, while others felt the size was too small.
- Pros: good for wide feet, usable for other exercises
- Cons: size
- Specs: leather, laces with hook-and-loop strap, 0.6-inch heel
Another shoe on the lower end of the price scale, the Adidas Powerlift 3.1 has nicely accepted among users. Because of its pricing, the Adidas Powerlift is recommended for beginners who aren’t sure whether they need weightlifting shoes. Its shorter heel – 0.6 inches compared to the more common 0.75 inches – may also help athletes new to weightlifting.
Overall, customers praised how they performed while wearing these shoes. One even said that, after six weeks of using them, “I couldn’t imagine doing squats without these.” Another customer said, “these shoes really ground you when you’re going big on squats, deadlifts, any standing lift really.” Sizing, again, was the most common issue in both positive and negative reviews.
Most customers recommend that future buyers choose a half or whole size larger than they usually would wear. One customer, however, offered a trick in her positive review: “Trying different lace patterns helped ease the tightness around my toes.”
- Pros: good for beginners
- Cons: size tends to be too small
- Specs: synthetic leather, lace with hook-and-loop strap, high-density EVA foam heel at 0.6 inches
Yes, you read that correctly – Converse Chuck Taylors are some of the best weightlifting shoes. They don’t offer the heel technology that proper weightlifting shoes have, but nearly every weightlifter either recommends them or believes they’re worth mentioning. Chuck Taylors are sturdy and flat, which offers a secure foundation for your feet when squatting or weightlifting.
For anyone doing squats with a wide stance, weightlifting shoes with a raised heel will be uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. But the flat rubber sole of Chuck Taylors maximizes the use of your feet when pushing against the ground without slipping. One Amazon customer said, “I feel much more stable in these shoes doing heavy squats and deadlifts!”
Furthermore, Chuck Taylors can be easily used for more than just weightlifting. And in that sense, you can get more bang for your buck out of these compared to other weightlifting shoes. While they’re an excellent option for stability, they won’t necessarily give you better ankle mobility or help you lift heavier weights. So while you may feel secure in Chuck Taylors, they won’t help you get better leverage on the bar.
- Pros: great stability
- Cons: poor leverage
- Specs: canvas and rubber, laces only, flat heel
Are You Ready To Get Strong?
Ultimately, whether you need weightlifting shoes depends on your personal preference and your build. Some people will need narrower fits than others, and some athletes may prefer a higher heel. But the overall consensus is that the best weightlifting shoes will improve your squatting and weightlifting! And that’s the dream, isn’t it? What do you think are the best weightlifting shoes? Are we missing your favorite brand? Let us know in the comments!