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Choosing Weight Training Shoes

This article discusses how to choose the right weightlifting footwear and the importance of good footwear during weight training activities. The ideal characteristics to look out for in weightlifting shoes and tips to follow when purchasing shoes for weight lifting will also be discussed.

Importance of Proper Footwear for Weight Training

The importance and influence of footwear during weight training is very often overlooked and ignored by most bodybuilders and weight trainers, whether they are at the amateur or elite level. Proper footwear is vital in preventing injury as well as in allowing for proper form and balance, especially in lower limb exercises. The use of poor or good shoes during weight training can have a large influence on many factors in the gym. They will affect the amount of weight that you are able to lift. They will affect your form during these lifts, especially if they are lower limb exercises. With that being said however, upper body exercises that require you to stand on your feet will also be affected by footwear. They will also importantly affect our balance, which when lifting weights is important for correct form as well as injury prevention. Individuals with poor foot biomechanics or previous history of foot injury especially need to use proper footwear when lifting weights. The use of poor footwear during weight training, when combined with poor foot and ankle biomechanics and even poor weightlifting form, can be a catastrophic combination leading to injury. Poor footwear can refer to a number of things; excessively worn footwear, poorly fitting footwear and lastly poor structure and characteristics of the shoe itself. Good weightlifting footwear is obviously vital to any and all weight trainers, regardless of their experience levels and goals. With the importance of proper weight lifting footwear highlighted, we can now move onto the characteristics to look for in a good weight lifting shoe. A good shoe does not necessarily have to be an expensive shoe. It is not the brand of the shoe that matters. It is simply the innate characteristics and structure of the shoe that make it a good shoe or a bad shoe. When looking at purchasing shoes for weight training, it is important that the following characteristics are taken into account. Shoes designed for weight training should:

  • Have adequate length and width for the toes to move around, especially in the toe box.
  • Have adequate depth; again, especially in the toe box so that the toes are able to freely move around in the shoe.
  • Have a firm heel collar and heel cup in order to control motion at the rearfoot joints.
  • Have a deep heel cup to provide support to the foot and ankle and prevent ankle sprain injuries.
  • Have a rigid midsole in order to help support the longitudinal arch of the foot, which is important in preventing overuse injuries of the foot.
  • Be flexible under the ball of the foot (where your toes naturally bend during walking and running) to prevent abnormal forces occurring at other joints of the foot during the toe-off phase of gait, which can lead to injuries.
  • Have thick rubber grips for support and to minimise sliding in order to prevent injuries.
  • Have a fairly rigid sole, as a sole that is too flexible can make the shoe and foot unstable.  Furthermore, an excessively soft sole will impair power transfer from the foot/shoe to the ground and result in poorer lifts.
  • Have some form of a fastening mechanism. This is very important as it helps to provide stability and support to the foot. A poorly fitting shoe with no fastening mechanism will make the muscles in the foot and leg overwork as they attempt to hold the foot in the shoe.
  • These are the main characteristics and structural features needed in a weight lifting shoe. Again, a shoe does not need to be expensive or be manufactured by a well-known shoe company in order to contain these characteristics.

Tips for Purchasing Shoes for Weightlifting (& in General)

  • Always shop in the afternoon (feet swell towards the end of day).
  • Wear similar socks to what you normally would wear (in the gym or just day to day).
  • Bring a previous pair of shoes in with you so that outsole/midsole wear can be assessed. This can help to determine the kind of shoe you need and even how much arch support you need.
  • Check length (allow toes to have some movement in toe box, approximately 1 thumbs length).
  • Check shoe width.
  • Make sure there is no heel slip or rubbing.
  • Try out the shoes the way you would use them (run in them if you’re buying them for running etc.).
  • Try various brands (each brand has their own characteristics).
  • Shoes should always be fitted for the larger foot (most people have one foot that is bigger).
  • Fit shoes with orthotics if you use them.
  • Do not rely on a ‘breaking in’ period. Shoes should generally feel comfortable as soon as you put them on, not after you wear them for a few days.
  • Leather material will expand; however, synthetic material will not expand. This therefore needs to be taken into account when looking at the material the shoe is made from.

Do I Have the Right Shoes for Gym?

This article should now give you a clearer understanding on the importance of proper footwear for weight training as well as some tips on what to look for when purchasing footwear for weight training. If the shoes you use during weight training do not contain most, if not all, the characteristics mentioned above, them it may be a good idea to think about buying a new pair.

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