Many people choose the right shoe to go with their outfit, and it should not be any different when going to train; choosing the right shoe can help break any personal records and improve performance. There are many different types of shoes, and with this, the question arises: Which one is the right shoe? And the answer to that question is: it depends. As there is not only one type of training and each has its benefits, so are the shoes that can work better with it. There are pros and cons about each type of shoe.
First, the purpose of the training needs to be clear. If the session is based on running and dynamic movement, then dress shoes would not be the best option. So, the equipment needs to be the one that would benefit and help the most. Most of the time, regular running shoes or any tennis shoes are the to-go options when it comes to training and exercise in general. However, it is not the best option if the session has a weightlifting approach. Before breaking down the different shoes, there are the natural “everyday” shoes: our feet.
The Stable Foot
Feet are the base of every movement we do. Just like a pyramid, the base needs to be solid so the rest of the structure is stable. The foot is characteristically very mobile, however, when weightlifting, like the squat, it needs to be stable. The neutral arched position is the most stable position we can create. Regardless of barefoot or shoe, the arched stance should be supported.
These shoes provide the sensation of training barefoot while offering small protection to the feet. The reasoning behind it is that while still wearing a shoe, the person can still have the sensation of being “connected” to the ground, making the person more aware of the position of their feet, as well as being given the chance of still wearing a shoe while training. This shoe provides way more stability and when translated to training, a more stable base, which reassures good technique.
The Classic Running Shoe
As the name states, these shoes are intended to give support to the foot against the impact of the ground when running, absorbing the shock. With that said, running shoes are NOT the best choice for weightlifting. These shoes take away stability from the body, which is critical to lift. The base of the shoe compresses, mimicking lifting standing over pillows. When lifting heavy weights, the running shoe will not be able to support that neutral arch foot. Running shoes are great for running but not so much for weightlifting.
The purpose of these shoes are to protect lifters feet from falling weights while also providing a stable firm surface. It gives the ability to squat deeper while maintaining a more upright chest position. This is due to the raised heel.
During the lowering of the squat, the knees need to move forward at some point toward the toes. This allows the hips to go into a deep position. The further the knees can go forward at the bottom of the squat, the more upright the chest can be, allowing a better technique and not only this, but decreasing the risk of injury, which is commonly lower back pain. These shoes are great for anyone with poor ankle mobility. These shoes are accessible to anyone, not only professional lifters, and are an investment that will help the lifting training tremendously.
Flat Sole Shoes (Converse)
This is an alternative but not so great option to a weightlifting shoe. It does provide support to the foot but it does not let the foot be in its natural shape, meaning no room for the spread of the toes to create a wider and more stable base. It also does not provide the added benefit of the lifted heel which helps people with poor ankle mobility. For some people, this type of shoe might work fine. In which case, there is no need to switch but always take in consideration that there might be better options available.
Cross Trainer Shoes
These shoes offer good support and a small heel drop. They are not as great as the weightlifting shoe, but these shoes are a great alternative to the basic running shoe. For people who want to go from dynamic movement right into a barbell movement, these shoes offer a bridge between the “two worlds”. If the main goal is weightlifting itself, or entirely dynamic movement, then the weightlifting shoe or running shoe is by far the superior option.
With the feet in greater contact with the floor, the thought is that the body can sense the position and movement of the foot to a greater degree. By going barefoot, the goal is to then regain the conscious control of foot stability. I personally felt a huge difference when I started squatting barefoot. After so many years of squatting with, not even weightlifting shoes but regular tennis shoes, I felt how different my body would move and how much more aware of my position I was. Not to mention the reduction in the chances of getting injured. It was kind of difficult to adjust at the beginning, but it was a game changer.
As mentioned, lifting barefoot can be a gold mine. However, you must have the required amount of mobility to maintain balance. As natural barefoot lifting can be, it also means there is no aid for any imbalances. Ankle mobility should be something assessed and worked on if it is not there or is limited. If not addressed then leaning forward in the squat will take place to compensate for the mobility, compromising form and subsequently increasing the risk of injury. After all this information, we can conclude by stating the same answer as the beginning: which shoe is the best? It depends. It depends on the goals and the approach of the session. Find the shoe (or shoes) that best benefits you.
Author: Jesus Vicente