by Janice Marie Ferguson
What are “weightlifting shoes?”
Now that have a good idea of general purpose training shoes (check my first post in the series: “CrossFit Gear Essentials: General Training Shoes“), it’s time to fill up your bag with one more shoe. You don’t really “need” them, but you will be really glad that you have a pair of weightlifting shoes.
Weightlifting shoes have been around for decades–long before CrossFit came along. But, thanks in part to CrossFit, they are much more readily available, and a lot more stylish. I can see you wrinkling your nose at the photo I posted of our members’ lifters above. But, trust me. If you’ve never owned a pair of 15 or 20-year-old Do-Wins, you don’t know what ugly is. Anyway, style is not what we are looking for. We want function. And these type of shoes give you a solid base when working with heavy weights, and they also give your heel a lift that gives you an advantage in your squat.
But, here’s where things get a little complicated. I would consider there to be two categories of weightlifting shoes. And when I say “weightlifting,” I’m talking Olympic weightlifting. I don’t even want to get into powerlifting here.
The categories of lifters I have:
1) CrossFit hybrid lifting shoes
2) Regular weightlifting shoes.
CrossFit lifting shoes and traditional lifting shoes can both be expensive– especially if you’ve already spent $100 or more on general training shoes. I always recommend to anyone who is just starting out that he or she will get more bang for the buck out of a CrossFit/Lifting hybrid shoe, which are typically made by Reebok and Inov8. These shoes are designed for more than just lifting. Nike and Adidas make top quality shoes that are designed strictly for lifting. Many of the top weightlifters in the world wear them, but they are usually more expensive, and as mentioned, they are designed for lifting only with their tight fit and smaller toe boxes. Also, with their cost of their higher-end models (more than $200), you really don’t want to jump around in them and wear them out doing something they weren’t intended for. So, for that reason, I recommend that you wait until you decide to become a more serious lifter before you invest in a pair shoes designed strictly for lifting.
So, let’s go over the different options for a great first CrossFit weightlifting shoe:
Reebok Lifter Plus 2.0: About $125 for the newer versions
This shoe, just like the Nano, has seen several models. And just like the Nano, you can often find great deals on the earlier versions of the shoe, and sometimes find them in the Reebok Outlet store. The shoe is designed with a more flexible bottom sole that allows you more versatility in your activity. I have read reviews that the earlier versions of this shoe seemed to have a wider toe box that was more accommodating for jumping. But even the latest version, the Lifter 2.0, has more room than the traditional weightlifting shoe, which has a very tight fit and small toe box to keep your feet in place when lifting heavy. The Reeboks are allegedly designed for you to do a workout with squats, and then grab your jump rope to continue your workout somewhat seamlessly as if you were wearing a pair of cross training shoes. The versions of these shoes that I’ve owned have all fit me true to size. But, you will need to make sure for yourself.
Inov8 Fast Lift 325: About $160 for the latest models
Just like any other shoe, you can often get the older versions at a discount rate. This running shoe company had almost cornered the CrossFit market before Reebok came along, and I assume that’s why a trail running shoe company-turned accidental CrossFit shoe company, made a lifting shoe. I have never tried a pair of these before, but they are supposedly just as versatile as the Reebok Lifter, and even more comfortable when it comes to lifting and jumping/running in the same workout. Coach Sam has a pair, so if you’d like a review, feel free to ask her for some feedback.
Again, when you get more serious about lifting, we can start to talk about some strictly lifting shoes, such as the Adidas Adipower, or the Nike Romaleos. These shoes can run more than $200. No Bull makes a pair that appear to be for lifting only. They are $299, but they are beautiful. See them here. I have seen some fairly inexpensive models of Adidas, called the Powerlift, for $90, and also some sales on earlier models or discontinued colors for as low as $60. I have never tried these, but the product specs seem to indicate that you could do some jumping in them. These may be my next pair to try for that purpose. But, as for strictly lifting, I’m a fan of the Adidas Adipower. Coach Li-Ping also has a pair. I know Rachel and Ronnie have some Nike lifters, and they could give you a solid opinion on them, if you’re in the market for a pair of lifting shoes.
Why do you “need” a pair of lifting shoes?
1. The best lifters in the world, who pride themselves with world class strength and mobility use lifting shoes to get the most out of their lifting. You don’t have to have them, but you would notice a difference if you did use them, particularly if you have trouble squatting in flat shoes.*
2. The lift on the heel of the shoe allows you for greater ankle flexion and greater hip mobility in your squat. Even if you have great mobility in your ankle and hips, this lift on the heel is very comfortable and provides a greater capacity for lifting.
3. Lifting heavy weights in loose-fitting or cushioned shoes can make you feel unstable and perhaps cause a safety issue, or put you at risk of rolling an ankle or tweaking a muscle or joint.
*Disclaimer: I don’t believe in masking issues, and sometimes these shoes can do that. However, I will still recommend these shoes to our athletes as we spend so much time weightlifting in our gym that you will really get a lot of use out of them. If you have a mobility issue, over time, your mobility will improve with all the drills and warmups we give you, and you will have been squatting with really nice form with these shoes for a good amount of time. One of our mantras is movement causes change. So, until I see that a weightlifting shoe has caused a negative effect on one of our people, we will continue to recommend them.
Stay tuned for the next piece in this series to find out some more “essentials” that you may want to invest in to make the most out of your CrossFit experience. That will be coming out next week sometime. Until then, see you in the gym!