One of the more important decisions a lifter can make is what type of shoes they choose to lift in. Weightlifting shoes/lifting shoes, or lifters, are becoming increasingly more popular among all strength sports for their abilities to support an athlete’s performance.
Over the last two years, we’ve been on a mission dedicated to reviewing and ranking the industry’s top lifting shoes. We looked at both older and newer models from some of the biggest companies that have built strong reputations in the market. For the newer lifter, and even the weathered athlete, finding the perfect pair of shoes can be a daunting task.
Lifting shoes are designed to increase a lifter’s stability, support mobility, and enhance platform feedback. They’re composed of multiple features that benefit the above three categories, and these characteristics are what make every shoe slightly different and individual for an athlete.
We’re not saying you absolutely need lifters to perform well, but they’re something that can help push your lifting to the next level. Generally, there are five main shoe characteristics that make every pair of lifters different than a regular pair of sneakers. Additionally, things like a lifting shoe’s heel height and type, and lacing/strapping system offered can be major players in assisting you with your decision.
Best Lifting Shoes Picks
- Best Weightlifting Shoes: Adidas Adipower 2
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for Squats: Adidas Powerlift 4
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for Women: Reebok Legacy Lifter II
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for Men: Adidas Adipower 2
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for CrossFit: Adidas Powerlift 4
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for Flat Feet: Reebok Legacy Lifter II
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for Wide Feed: Do-Win Weightlifting Shoe
- Best Weightlifting Shoes for the Money: Adidas Powerlift 4
Luckily for you, we’re lifting shoe fiends (call us lifting shoe sneakerheads), and took the time to analyze every single aspect that comes with some of the market’s top shoes. At the bottom of this article, we’ve also included in-depth info on the logic behind weightlifting shoes, along with popular points of construction and materials.
Why Lifting Shoes?
The elevated heel on lifting shoes supports mobility and provides a stable base for lifters to sit back on. A planted stable foot is a must for athletes, especially when moving heavy weight, so a stable elevated heel can help a lifter to increase their confidence.
A heel’s elevation can range from as low as .3″ – 1″, and every lifter will have a heel height that works best for them. This is dependent on a lifter’s sport and anthropometrics.
Additionally, the extra heel height helps support a lifter moving weight through a variety of positions with optimal posture angles (easier to keep chest tall, knees track properly, etc). The table below can help give you an idea of which heel heights work best for different lifting stances and squat styles.
Lacing and Strapping System
The way a shoe laces, or straps can be a big deal for lifters who prioritize foot security. Of the shoes we reviewed, you’ll find single strap, double strap, and BOA lacing models. Each come with different levels of security for different areas of the foot. For maximal security, we found double straps and BOA lacing to top the list, but single straps also provide plenty of security.
Type of Heel
Regular sneakers have a compressible rubber-based heel, which is not ideal for catching, or moving weight. The lifting shoes we reviewed come in four different options: EVA, TPU, stacked leather, and wood. Each of these heels will have a different appearance, level of stability, performance, and feel on the platform.
[Still confused? Check out our in-depth descriptive Guide to Lifting Shoes.]
When it comes to deciding which heel is best for an athlete, it’s often up to a lifter’s preferences and discretion. Below are a few reasons a lifter might choose one of the four heels listed above.
- EVA Heel: Lightweight, somewhat compressible/maneuverable, and durable.
- TPU Heel: Lightweight, long-lasting, and resistant to abrasion and compression.
- Stacked Leather Heel: Old school appearance, lightweight, platform feedback.
- Wood Heel: Platform feedback, stable base, and old school appearance.
Every shoe listed below in their respective categories was selected for a specific reason. The characteristics listed above, along with other factors like a shoe’s weight, are what helped us to divide each shoe into their “best” category.
Lifting Shoes and the Research
Believe it or not, weightlifting shoes have been studied on a couple occasions, although, not incredibly in-depth. The topics that have been researched have mostly been focused on the idea of how an elevated heel can alter performance and mechanics. Before diving into our favorite weightlifting shoe picks below, it’s a probably a good idea to look at the current research on lifting shoes.
The first study we’ll look at comes from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In this research, authors assessed kinematic changes weightlifting shoes have on the barbell back squat (1). An elevated heel is often thought to promote mobility, but what did their research find when compared to a running shoe?
From the study, researchers suggested that weightlifting shoes changed an athlete’s foot angle and forward lean, but didn’t change thigh angle to a high degree. They suggested that weightlifting shoes were seen to be beneficial when reducing forward torso lean, which can at times cause additional sheer stress on the lower back. Also, researchers suggested that weightlifting shoes could be useful tools to increase knee extensor activation.
Another study from 2017 published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research sought out to explore the same idea of how weightlifting shoes impact trunk and leg mechanics in the back squat (2). For this study, researchers noted that this topic was lacking research and they wanted to challenge the idea that weightlifting shoes led to a more upright torso in the squat, which has been suggest to protect the back from injury.
In their study, authors took 14 recreational weightlifters who ranged from the ages of 18-50 and had them squat in three different conditions: Barefoot, with an elevated platform, and with weightlifting shoes. They performed a 3-D motion analysis and tracked the EMG activity of the knee extensors and the paraspinal muscles of L-3 and T-12.
Unlike the 2012 study, their research suggested that neither of the heel elevated conditions led to a significant difference in biomechanics, especially in respects to forward torso lean. They suggested that weightlifting shoes are unlikely to lead to a significant amount of back protection in the squat.
Research Takeaways: When you consider both studies and how they assessed their participants it makes sense that they found varied results. Everyone will have slightly different mechanics based off their lifting experience, training history, and anthropometrics, so believing a weightlifting shoe will make a significant impact on lifting by itself is a reach.
Our advice: Assess your body’s needs, your sport’s demands, and the different construction characteristics of each shoe to find the perfect fit.
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Best Weight Lifting Shoes – Wrapping Up
A great pair of lifting shoes isn’t necessarily the newest model, but the model that fits the lifter best. There are so many models and designs out there, so a lifter should find it relatively easy to find their perfect shoe.
Before investing in a new pair of shoes, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for. It’s always a good idea to base your decision off of individual needs and preferences. Often the best shoes are the pair that fits your strength sport and anthropometrics best.
1. Sato K, e. (2018). Kinematic changes using weightlifting shoes on barbell back squat. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 10 October 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22201687
2. Lee SP, e. (2018). Heel-Raised Foot Posture Do Not Affect Trunk And Lower Extremity Biomechanics During A Barbell Back Squat In Recreational Weightlifters. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 10 October 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28644193