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The 5 Best Weightlifting Shoes for Men and Women

The 5 Best Weightlifting Shoes for Men and Women

After a weight lifting session, do you check out the progress you made in the mirror? Do you focus on how your muscles look and/or how lean you have gotten? If you are only focusing on your body during your weight lifting session, then you’re overlooking something huge! What could that be? You’re overlooking your shoes! Shoes are extremely important for serious weight lifters, so make sure you get yourself a good pair of weightlifting shoes.

In this article, we will detail 5 of the best shoes for weight lifting so that you can make a good purchasing decision. Once you read the reviews, compare them all in our easy-to-read chart in “The Rundown” section.  Also, if you aren’t convinced that you need powerlifting shoes, we will discuss the research and benefits behind using weight training shoes. Don’t forget to check out our “Checklist for Buying Weightlifting Shoes” before you go ahead and make a purchase.

The Importance of Weight Training Shoes

Sportsman Wearing Weightlifting Shoes For FitnessYou may be looking at your old gym shoes and wondering why those are not a good option for weight lifting. According to the research, there are several differences between gym shoes and powerlifting shoes. Also, there are several benefits of weightlifting shoes that you should consider. Let’s breakdown the facts about weightlifting shoes to see if they will be beneficial for you.

Gym Shoes versus Powerlifting Shoes

If you’re a novice, then using gym shoes for weight lifting may be sufficient for you. However, if you are a professional (or want to be one), squat shoes are essential to make gains, lift better and lift more weight. Let’s take a look at different features in gym shoes and weightlifting shoes:

Gym Shoes

Similarities

Weightlifting Shoes

Can be worn during exercise and daily activities.
Constructed with a soft, cushiony base for comfort.
Support the foot during exercise.
Athletic shoes are often built for specific purposes to provide advantages over other types of shoes (i.e. powerlifting shoes, running shoes).
Should only be worn when doing squats, cleans, overhead squats and other weight lifting exercises.
Constructed with a firm base to better push off for heavy power lifts. Some weightlifting shoes even have a wooden heel!
Squat shoes have raised heels to assist you in the lift. If you need to know more, then read more in the next section.

 

The Benefits of Weight Training Shoes

Still unconvinced? Let’s explore the research behind weightlifting shoes so that you can better see the value in them.

You get a deeper squat with weightlifting shoes.

Since weightlifting shoes have a raised heel, you can get more knee and hip flexion, leading to a deeper, more intense squat. According to one 2016 study, expert lifters who used weightlifting shoes had really low, muscle-shredding squats.

Weightlifting shoes offer comparable results to barefoot.

Barefoot lifting is the new craze in the fitness industry, but research behind it is lacking. In one study that compared weight lifting power and technique when using weightlifting shoes and going barefoot, the researchers found no significant differences between the two (1). So, if you don’t want your little piggies exposed, choose to wear your powerlifting shoes!

A raised heel can help you keep your chest up during a squat.

In one study that used a heel wedge during a squat exercise, the researchers found that having a raised heel is important for preventing a forward lean in your trunk. Proper posture is essential during a squat exercise, so having a raised heel, as you see in a weightlifting shoe, is good for technique.

The Best Weight Training Shoes

If you’re ready to up the ante of your heavy weight lifting workout, then it is time to get yourself a pair of weightlifting shoes! These shoes can improve your technique, improve your posture and give you the ability to lift more weight. Keep reading for the best weightlifting shoes on the market. Also, make sure you compare all these products in “The Rundown” section below. To make the best choice possible in athletic shoes, then refer back to our buying checklist for each and every squat shoe you are considering. 

Fitnessator’s Top Pick 

Nordic Powerlifting Shoes – The Best Weightlifting Shoe for the Price

Nordic Powerlifting Shoes For FitnessWhy We Love It:

If you need a great powerlifting shoe but don’t want to spend a ton of money, then the Nordic powerlifting shoes are your best bet!

The Research:

In a report about power lifting gear to better enhance your power lifting abilities, even the most elite professional athletes believe in the performance-enhancing benefits of weightlifting shoes and other equipment (2).  

Details:
  • Available in black and bright blue
  • 1-year warranty available
  • Nordic Website Price: $79.95 (may be on sale from the $149 price) 
Things to Consider:

This is a unisex shoe since the company does not offer a male or female counterpart product. That being said, unisex shoes may not be the best for each gender since both genders have different needs in a powerlifting shoe. For example, men and women’s shoe sizes vary greatly (especially in fit), so if you are concerned about sizing, then find a shoe that is specific to your gender.

Customer Reviews:

As you may imagine from a thicker shoe like this, customers claim that this shoe helps control ankle rolling during squats.

On the other hand, some customers question the quality of these shoes. Compared to Nike, Adidas and other top brand shoes, these do not seem to last as long as other brands.

Who Should Purchase this Product:

If the best value for money is your ultimate goal, then the Nordic powerlifting shoes are for you. So, you can start to get the benefits of squat shoes without spending lots of money. 

Fitnessator’s Runner Up 

Inov-8 335 Weightlifting Shoes – The Best Lightweight Weightlifting Shoe

Inov-8 335 Weightlifting ShoesWhy We Love It:

Unlike the Fitnessator’s Top Pick, this shoe is super lightweight! The Inov-8 335 weightlifting shoe is great for anyone who prefers to have minimal support during weight lifting exercises. 

Details:
  • Imported from England
  • Available in gray/green with orange and black
  • Inov-8 Website Price: $160
Things to Consider:

This shoe has a super sticky rubber bottom, which is great for stability, however, use caution with these shoes. If you plan to do any footwork in your exercises, then know that your feet may stick (which can lead to injury).

Customer Reviews:

Since these shoes come equipped with a sticky rubber bottom, customers rave about how stable these shoes are. They give you a good grip on the floor so that you can remain stable during overhead squats and cleans.

For those that like to look stylish, the biggest complaint about these shoes is that they do not come in great colors.

Who Should Purchase this Product:

If you’d rather not cut corners, then the Inov-8 weightlifting shoe is the best option for you. As mentioned before, research shows that thinner shoes are better for working on stability and utilizing your ancillary muscles! 

Fitnessator’s Honorable Mention 

New Balance Mx608v4 Weightlifting Shoes – The Best Cheap Weightlifting Shoe

New Balance Mx608v4 Weightlifting Shoes Why We Love It:

Weightlifting shoes don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they can be under $60! We love these New Balance shoes because you can use them outside of weight lifting.

Details:
  • Comes in a wide selection of colors, color combinations and styles
  • Is not made specifically for weight lifting
  • Zappos Website Price: $56.21
Things to Consider:

Even though this pair has made the list for the best weightlifting shoes, these New Balance shoes have the least incline in the heel.

Customer Reviews:

Much like with other New Balance shoes, people love how durable and how long they last. If you need shoes that will last you for the long term, then choose New Balance.

Despite this shoe being exceptionally thick and padded, many customers find that the padding around the heel is minimal. Also, customers complain of frequent blisters.

Who Should Purchase this Product:

If you’re trying to save money, then these cheap weight training shoes can be your all-around weightlifting and exercise shoes. They are thick, durable and have a slight heel raise, however, they can still be used for other exercises.

The Best Brand Name Weightlifting Shoe

Reebok Legacy Lifter Shoes

Reebok Legacy Lifter ShoesWhy We Love It:

We love the Reebok Legacy Lifter shoes because of their ability to be adjusted to exactly what feels best. Unlike the top pick products, the Reebok shoes have two different Velcro straps: one at the top of the laces and one near the ball of your foot. So, this gives you added support and customization.

Details:
  • 3/4 inch heel raise
  • Available in black and white varieties
  • Reebok Website Price: $200
Things to Consider:

According to some customers, this shoe runs a bit small. If you can find these in a brick and mortar store, then be sure to get sized there. Whether or not you buy them at that store is another story.

Customer Reviews:

As you can imagine, customers love how grounded their feet feel during power lifts. This stability is derived from the double Velcro feature that is specific to this shoe.

Since this pair costs $200, many people expect these shoes to be absolutely perfect in order to justify the cost. That being said, no shoe is perfect, so some people regret their expensive shoe purchase. Above all, it is important that we all weigh the cost and benefits of the products we buy. 

Who Should Purchase this Product:

If you’re willing to pay more for further stability and customization (particularly in the front of your foot), then you should save up for these awesome Reebok weightlifting shoes.

The Best Weightlifting Shoe with High Heels

Adidas Adipower Weightlifting Shoes

Adidas Adipower Weightlifting ShoesWhy We Love It:

The high heel of the Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes is great! As mentioned before, we found in the research, that high, raised heels allow you to get deeper into your squats than if you are exercising in flat shoes. 

Details:
  • 3-inch heel raise
  • Available in white, black and red
  • Dynamic Fitness Equipment Website Price: $86 (may be on sale from the $199 price)
Things to Consider:

Unless you buy them on sale, these shoes are also one of the most expensive on the list. Think seriously about the price and the benefits you will get from these shoes before purchasing. 

Customer Reviews:

Per customer reviews, these shoes are best equipped for deadlifts and squats. Since the heel is high, you can really pump a lot of weight with these shoes for your heavy weight exercises. 

According to customers, these shoes have a narrow fit, so if you have wide feet, you may not be comfortable in these shoes. 

Who Should Purchase this Product:

Those who need a weightlifting shoe that has a high heel for the ultimate flexion should consider the Adidas Adipower shoes. Above all, the 1.3-inch heel can give you great flexion in your knees, ankles and hips, allowing you to get super deep into your squats.

The Rundown on Weightlifting Shoes

Now that we’ve reviewed the Fitnessator’s top picks in squat shoes, use this helpful comparative chart that will help you distinguish the main differences between the shoes we’ve reviewed:

Product

Less than $150

Products are available for both men and women?

Type of heel on the shoe

Shoe sizing notes

Nordic Powerlifting Shoes (Top Pick) X Unisex Raised, firm foam Fits as intended most of the time
Inov-8 335 Weightlifting Shoes (Runner Up) Men Raised, rubber sole Fits as intended most of the time
New Balance Weightlifting Shoes (Honorable Mention) X Men (women can purchase similar shoes) Padded Fits as intended most of the time
Reebok Legacy Lifter Shoes Men Raised, firm foam May run small
Adidas Adipower Weightlifting Shoes Men (women can purchase similar shoes) Raised, high Olympic heel Narrow fit

 

Checklist for Buying Weightlifting Shoes 

Man and Woman Choosing Weightlifting ShoesNow that you have an idea of what types of weightlifting shoes are out there, make sure you read our checklist for buying the best powerlifting shoes. Before you purchase a pair of shoes, make sure your shoes fit in with most (if not all) of these considerations:

  1. Thinner weightlifting shoes are better than thicker weightlifting shoes.

According to one study from Southwestern University in Texas, thinner shoes make the weightlifter use their balance and ancillary muscles for stabilization, resulting in a more intense squat exercise. Therefore, if you find really thick weightlifting shoes, consider something else. Extra padding means less work during the power lift, which can lead to cutting corners. Do it the right way (which in this case may be the harder way)!

  1. Better color and aesthetics doesn’t mean that it’s a better powerlifting shoe.

Don’t be fooled by cool colors and design! If you really want to make mega heavy lifting gains, make sure you are getting a shoe that is designed well for proper technique. Above all, some shoes may look cool but lack proper structure for weight lifting gains.

  1. The shoes are specific to weight lifting.

As you may imagine, weightlifting shoes are best for weight lifting exercises only. If you find a cross fit shoe that claims it is great for a variety of exercises, it may not be best for making weight lifting gains. Above all, remember that weightlifting shoes are designed to give you deeper squats and more flexion in your knees, ankles and hips. This may actually be detrimental in some exercises and lead to injury!

  1. Check the sizing chart.

If you can go to a brick and mortar store to find weightlifting shoes, then you should definitely go there first! As with any shoes, some brands run large and others run small, so it is always a guessing game if you’re buying shoes online.

  1. Gender may matter when buying weightlifting shoes.

In your search for the best shoes for weight lifting, you may see both unisex and gender-specific weightlifting shoes. Take this into consideration, since sizing can be gender specific. Also, since men and women tend to carry their weight in different areas of the body, men’s weightlifting shoes may differ from women’s weightlifting shoes. If a brand says that their shoes are unisex, then you should be skeptical about buying them.

  1. Know the different weightlifting shoe categories.

There are three different types of weightlifting shoes to consider. Knowing which category you need will help you narrow your search. So, let’s take a look at the three categories of powerlifting shoes:

Olympic Weightlifting Shoes

Flat-Soled Weightlifting Shoes

Powerlift Weightlifting Shoes

Besides being able to lift more weight with Olympic weightlifting shoes, you can also get a higher range of motion in the knees, ankles and hips. Olympic shoes have the highest heels compared to the other two categories. As the name suggests, the flat-soled weightlifting shoes have a lower heel than the other types. Above all, their main benefit is the fact that the exerciser can evenly distribute their weight on the floor and are not at risk of falling forward (as is seen in shoes with raised heels). If you don’t want a really high heel and don’t want a really flat shoe, then consider the powerlift weightlifting shoes. These shoes have a moderate heel raise, which gives you the stability of a flat shoe and the performance enhancement of an Olympic weightlifting shoe.

Olympic Weightlifting Shoes: The Best Exercises

Flat-Soled Weightlifting Shoes: The Best Exercises

Powerlift Weightlifting Shoes:  The Best Exercises

For those who love doing the classic Olympic weight lifting exercises, choose the Olympic weightlifting shoes. The best exercises for these shoes would be the snatch and the clean and jerk. If you want to work on deadlifts and low-bar back squats, then these are the best shoes you should get. Since the heel on the powerlift weightlifting shoes falls in between flat and Olympic shoes, the powerlift shoes are great for many exercises. However, the best exercises to do with these shoes would be the low-bar back squat and barbell press.

 

  1. Ask yourself: Will the shoes be better than using other methods to get the same results?

Aside from weightlifting shoes, there are other ways to get the increased range of motion in your squats. While squat shoes are great, you may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes. If you are reconsidering your need for weightlifting shoes, then you can always try putting a weight plate under your heels during the exercises. For a list of the best weight plates available, click here.

  1. Know your weight lifting goals.

If you are someone who lifts a few times per week for getting toned and for overall health, then you may not need weightlifting shoes! For those who are not getting into professional weight lifting, you may need to think about where you want to spend your money. Perhaps you also want to buy fitness equipment or you want to budget for getting into the most elite (and most expensive) gym in your area. So, knowing your goals will help you weigh the costs and benefits of purchasing weightlifting-specific shoes.

Before You Purchase 

Having read our detailed reviews for Fitnessator’s top picks in the best powerlifting shoes, you have a good selection of the best shoes to choose from. Before you purchase your new pair of shoes, make sure you go through our “Checklist for Buying Weightlifting Shoes” for each pair you are looking at.

Going through the checklist will help you make sure you are looking at the key features (and are not being misled by marketing or cool designs). Above all, the best weightlifting shoes for you are the ones that are comfortable and effective for training. The best shoes will improve your technique and help you lift more weight and lift more times.

So, what are you looking for in weightlifting shoes? For those who have used weightlifting shoes before, did you notice a difference in your exercise technique? Once you buy your weightlifting shoes, make sure to come back and comment on your experience below!

One Comment

  • Nick Evans says:

    “Above all, the best weightlifting shoes for you are the ones that are comfortable and effective for training.” I love that, sometimes no matter what the price is, if i find a pair that i feel comfortable in, i buy them.

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